Below is an excerpt from George Washington’s farewell address on the role the United States should play in the world – he specifically mentions Europe, which at that time (1796) was essentially the source of international contentiousness which, again, at that time, posed the biggest possibility of dragging our nation into conflict. You will notice that in this he is not an advocate of complete isolationism. The very first paragraph he states that he believes in having “commercial relations” with foreign nations; which of course means the trading of goods and services. Rather his stance is one of nonintervention, except under extraordinary circumstances. Our country largely followed this advice for roughly 121 years, until our entry into World War I. Following that extraordinary circumstance our nation returned to minding its own business; then World War II broke out, and upon its conclusion our foreign policy changed from nonintervention to almost repeated intervention. This is not to say that we, as a nation, should have immediately returned to our pre-war policy. I think doing so would have been irresponsible, considering that Europe was in tatters following this war, and abandoning them would have left them vulnerable to an aggressive Soviet Union. However upon the fall of that nation, and its satellite states, in the late 1980’s through today, I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that Europe no longer needs the nearly 80,000 US service personnel still deployed there, and the billions of dollars spent to maintain them and the bases.
That’s Europe, but what about the recent, continued, and spreading protests and attacks on our embassies in the Middle East, Libya, and now the Sudan? What should our policy(ies) be regarding this? There are a not too small percentage of people here that advocate some sort of retaliation, or retribution, and that is their right to believe this is the correct course of action to take. I have to ask of these individuals though, what do you think the results of a US military response would be? Given the fact that it is apparent that a not so insignificant percent of the people in these countries don’t really want us there to begin with, I doubt an increase in our presence, particularly should that presence be a military one, would go over too well, and would no doubt have the opposite effect.
Another line of thought is one of diplomacy, however as I mentioned in my article on Wednesday, the fact that those who are suspected of being behind these attacks are largely inspired by religious fervor, then I am afraid achieving a rational discourse and outcome would be highly improbable.
Which leads to a third line of thought; what if we simply ceased providing diplomatic aid (money) to these countries, brought our personnel back here, and closed these embassies? Some might see this as retreat, but why should we spend blood and treasure in places where we are not wanted? Wouldn’t that money be better spent here? Wouldn’t doing so prevent the potential loss of more American lives, as well as many lives in these countries?
Some will state that an American withdrawal from these nations would lead to the demise of Israel, and open our country up to more attacks; however, if you take the time to read the below excerpt of our first President’s farewell address, you will notice that he states we should honor our existing treaties, as well as maintaining a respectable defensive posture. The almost ubiquitous and permanent presence of our navy in the region should serve as a respectable deterrent against an unjustified attack on Israel, and I don’t think our country is in danger of being invaded by any of these countries, nor should they harbor a want to do so once we leave them to their own devices.
If the reports are true that all of these attacks are inspired by a decidedly low budget film, created by some in this country who, while exercising their rights of freedom of speech and expression, are blinded by their own religious intolerance by portraying a disparaging image Muhammad, and that because of this film, the protesters/attackers are now telling us, as a nation, to abandon our freedoms and acquiesce to their lack of freedom, then we are at a state where there is no seeing of eye to eye. We cannot force our wants on them, any more than they can, or should, force their wants on us. This basically leaves us no other choice but to let them go their own way.
I am as outraged as anyone should be over the deaths of four Americans at the hands of extremists; however, a course of retribution will lead to many more dead, and wounded Americans, and will only enflame the passions of the peoples in these countries further, and increases the likelihood that the passion will spread further and wider across the region, to where no amount of American military presence stabilizes the region and will only serve as a black hole that sucks in our money and not just American lives, but many lives of the people there. Isn’t it time we spend a little more of our money here, instead of in places where neither our money, nor our presence is wanted? Or should we continue down the road we are on, where our money meant for aid is often used to line the pockets of the ruling class in places such as these (at best), or some of it even finding its way to help finance protests and attacks against our embassies (at worse). Should we continue down this road, it will do exactly as Osama bin Laden always wanted, and that is to bankrupt America – certainly financially, but it could quite possibly bankrupt the founding ideals of this country too.
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 connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe [The World] 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 [The World’s] 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 [The World], entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European [International] 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. (George Washington’s Farwell Address – read it in its entirety here).