From the November 2008 Idaho Observer:
Foreign policies and 41 presidents removed
Foreign policies and 41 presidents removed
While the times and technologies are forever fluid, the foundational principles that govern the relationships between people, governments and nations are not. Regarding foreign affairs, the Founders believed that the U.S. should trade equitably with all peoples, form political alliances with none and never meddle in the internal affairs of foreign nations. Any deviation from that, the most simple and honorable foreign policy, feeds the interests of opportunists who sow the seeds of conflict to reap the harvests to be had from human misery. Excuses may abound, but the crystalline truth of the above statement is proven over and over again as the world’s conflicts, economic woes and global expanses of human suffering continue widening and deepening.
At right is the only substantive position on foreign policy we could find attributed to Obama. As you compare the two, note the huge differences in the roles Jefferson and Obama believe are best for America. Note also that Jefferson wanted for our people to be free of the entanglements that get nations sucked into perpetual war and Obama embraces "reforming" the very institutions that create the conflicts that perpetuate war. Getting back to foundational principles, Obama is merely promoting the same interventionist policies of every president since Teddy Roosevelt.
Thomas Jefferson on U.S. foreign relations
"I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment. And I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe, entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of Kings to war against the principles of liberty."
~Letter to Elbridge Gerry (1799)
"I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people."
~Letter to James Monroe (1823)
"Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none, I deem the essential principles of our government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration." ~1st Inaugural Address (1801)
"On the subject of treaties, our system is to have none with any nation, as far as can be avoided... We believe that with nations as with individuals, dealings may be carried on as advantageously, perhaps more so, while their continuance depends on a voluntary good treatment as if fixed by contract which, when it becomes injurious to either, is made by forced constructions to mean what suits them and becomes a cause of war instead of a bond of peace... It is against our system to embarrass ourselves with treaties, or to entangle ourselves at all with the affairs of Europe." ~Letter to Philip Mazzei (1804)
"In national as in individual dealings, more liberality will, perhaps, be found in voluntary regulations than in those which are measured out by the strict letter of a treaty, which, whenever it becomes onerous, is made by forced construction to mean anything or nothing, engenders disputes and brings on war." ~Letter to Alexander, Emperor of Russia (1804)
"An injured friend is the bitterest of foes." ~Opinion on French Treaties (1793)
"We had better have no treaty than a bad one. It will not restore friendship, but keep us in a state of constant irritation." ~ The Anas (1807)
"Every nation is liable to be under whatever bubble, design, or delusion may puff up in moments when off their guard." ~Letter to Charles Yancey (1816)
"To cultivate peace and maintain commerce and navigation in all their lawful enterprises; to foster our fisheries and nurseries of navigation and for the nurture of man, and protect the manufactures adapted to our circumstances; to preserve the faith of the nation by an exact discharge of its debts and contracts, expend the public money with the same care and economy we would practise with our own, and impose on our citizens no unnecessary burden; to keep in all things within the pale of our constitutional powers, and cherish the federal union as the only rock of safety—these, fellow citizens, are the landmarks by which we are to guide ourselves in all our proceedings. By continuing to make these our rule of action, we shall endear to our countrymen the true principles of their constitution."
~2nd Annual Message (1802)
"Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible." ~Letter to Spencer Roane (1821)
"We are to guard against ourselves; not against ourselves as we are, but as we may be; for who can imagine what we may become under circumstances not now imaginable?" ~Letter to Jedidiah Morse (1822)
"I have never dreamed that all opposition was to cease. The clergy, who have missed their union with the State, the Anglomen, who have missed their union with England, and the political adventurers, who have lost the chance of swindling and plunder in the waste of public money, will never cease to bawl on the breaking up of their sanctuary." ~Letter to Gideon Granger (1801)
"If we find our government in all its branches rushing headlong... into the arms of monarchy, if we find them violating our dearest rights, the trial by jury, the freedom of the press, the freedom of opinion, civil or religious, or opening on our peace of mind or personal safety the sluices of terrorism, if we see them raising standing armies, when the absence of all other danger points to these as the sole objects on which they are to be employed, then indeed let us withdraw and call the nation to its tents. But while our functionaries are wise, and honest, and vigilant, let us move compactly under their guidance, and we have nothing to fear. Things may here and there go a little wrong. It is not in their power to prevent it. But all will be right in the end, though not perhaps by the shortest means." ~Letter to William Duane (1811)
Barack Obama on U.S. foreign relations
(Excerpted from Barack Obama’s article Renewing American Leadership, published in the Council on Foreign Relations July/August 2007 Foreign Affairs magazine).
Today, we are again called to provide visionary leadership. This century’s threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy. And they come from a warming planet that will spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.
To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. A strong military is, more than anything, necessary to sustain peace. Unfortunately, the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps are facing a crisis. The Pentagon cannot certify a single army unit within the United States as fully ready to respond in the event of a new crisis or emergency beyond Iraq; 88 percent of the National Guard is not ready to deploy overseas.
We must also consider using military force in circumstances beyond self-defense in order to provide for the common security that underpins global stability. But when we do use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others.
Here at home, we must strengthen our homeland security and protect the critical infrastructure on which the entire world depends. We can start by spending homeland security dollars on the basis of risk. This means investing more resources to defend mass transit, closing the gaps in our aviation security by screening all cargo on passenger airliners and checking all passengers against a comprehensive watch list, and upgrading port security by ensuring that cargo is screened for radiation.
Our alliances require constant cooperation and revision if they are to remain effective and relevant. NATO has made tremendous strides over the last 15 years, transforming itself from a Cold War security structure into a partnership for peace. But today, NATO’s challenge in Afghanistan has exposed, as Senator Lugar has put it, "the growing discrepancy between NATO’s expanding missions and its lagging capabilities." To close this gap, I will rally our NATO allies to contribute more troops to collective security operations.
In addition, we need effective collaboration on pressing global issues among all the major powers—including such newly emerging ones as Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa. We need to give all of them a stake in upholding the international order. To that end, the United Nations requires far-reaching reform. The UN Secretariat’s management practices remain weak. Peacekeeping operations are overextended. The new UN Human Rights Council has passed eight resolutions condemning Israel—but not a single resolution condemning the genocide in Darfur or human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. Yet none of these problems will be solved unless America rededicates itself to the organization and its mission.
Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: Climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide.
As the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip—by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil—by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.
For the last 20 years, U.S. foreign assistance funding has done little more than keep pace with inflation. It is in our national security interest to do better. But if America is going to help others build more just and secure societies, our trade deals, debt relief, and foreign aid must not come as blank checks. I will couple our support with an insistent call for reform.
Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.
Today it’s become fashionable to disparage the United Nations, the World Bank, and other international organizations. In fact, reform of these bodies is urgently needed if they are to keep pace with the fast-moving threats we face. Such real reform will not come, however, by dismissing the value of these institutions, or by bullying other countries to ratify changes we have drafted in isolation. Real reform will come because we convince others that they too have a stake in change—that such reforms will make their world, and not just ours, more secure.