Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Command Performance

In the comments below, my old message-board friend TW asks me to explain myself regarding the foreign policy of these United States. Well, when TW calls, I am ever his servant. Besides, I am happy to do so, for otherwise I might be credited with having had "original" thoughts. This is a good time to confess to the world in general, and to TW in particular, that "my" ideas are, in fact, borrowed. I am not ashamed to admit this; I try to borrow from the best of sources. Concerning foreign policy, I refer one and all to a "G. Washington," the first and best President of our formerly happy land. Click here to read his Farewell Address. If you're short on time, and would prefer not to read the whole text, I'll excerpt the foreign-policy part:
Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
On an unrelated topic, let us now refute the twin preposterous notions of "progress" and "evolution." Consider: George Washington not only delivered that address, but he wrote it -- every word, all by himself. After 230-odd years of "progress," can anyone imagine President Smirking Chimp even being able to read it without stumbling over "all them big words?"



itsmecissy said...

Foreign policy of the Bush White House = Deer caught in the headlights.

TW said...

Thanks for the response and for posting the foreign policy section of Washington's Farewell Address. I don't recall out and out reading it before, although, some parts of it seemed familiar.

Washington's Farewell Address is wise counsel in my humble opinion. Particularly for the year 1796. I truly believe that George Washington could provide us with wise counsel today as well. He was obviously a gifted man. I dare say today his counsel would be somewhat different today than what he espoused in 1796.

In 1796 the movement of things like men, materiel, trade goods, and raw natural resources like oil, metals, textiles, and such were not of paramount concern. In essence the United States was for the most part self-sufficient and insulated from the rest of the world's troubles by time and distance.

How would things like the world economy, as in the world's interdependence on products, services and natural resources from other parts of the world affect his advice? Those considerations are just for starters. How about things like chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons or even aircraft and machine guns? How would things like ICBMs, terrorism (both state and group sponsored), or asymetrical warfare modifiy his guidance? How about the ability of a person to travel halfway around the world in a matter of hours versus months.

I've just touched on a few of the major differences between 1796 and 2006. While I'm sure much of what he said would still hold true for today, I can hardly envision him making exactly the same Farewell Address for today's world.

And, while your answer was fairly good, I'm still left wondering about when you would become concerned about national defense, what sort of worldly events or actions would motivate you to action? Precisely at what point would you take action and what type of action is permissable in your view?

Bartleby said...

TW, those questions are both fair and thoughtful, and they deserve discussion -- which, regrettably, I do not have the time for today, and probably not tomorrow, either. Sometime this weekend, I'll plan to write a post in which I'll reproduce your above comment, and discuss the points you've raised. And the dialogue can continue. This must be what these internets were invented for, I think.

Soren: thanks for the reply; point noted. I'll go ahead and delete your comment, simply because (as you point out) it isn't related to the post.

Cissy: too true, all too true.

TW said...

Good! I'll look forward to our continuing discussion on these and other issues. You've got a perspective that is at times at odds with mine, but I admire the fact that you seem to be analytical and retrospective in nature. Warning: That being said I may still find you to be wrong in my humble opinion. One that isn't always very humble.

Do me a favor though! Don't impugn any of my sources while you have the chutzpah to use Counterpunch.org, Anti-war.com, and the like as references of your own.