Our Modern Foreign Policy

It was with great unease, and not much surprise, that I recently listened to General George Casey’s strategy on foreign policy. In a July interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the US Army, chief of staff commented, “…the army forces will simultaneously employ, offense, defense, and stability operations to seize and retain the initiative and achieve decisive results,” or in other words, we will not succeed in our overseas operations, unless we participate in nation-building practices. Our nation building policies have become so second nature to most Americans, that many fail to see our overseas operations as overreaching anymore. In particular there seems to be a disconnect with many modern conservatives when it comes to limited government domestically, and expansionist policy abroad.

With all the recent talk of returning to our constitutional roots, and living within our fiscal means, why is it that we tolerate such a bloated foreign policy? Can conservatives, or liberals for that matter, claim a moral monopoly on the constitution and deny the principles upon which it was founded? Can it be merely coincidental that this document says nothing of the common offense, and specifically denotes that wartime appropriations from congress shall not exceed a period of greater than two years.

For those naysayers that feel this is not enough to imply our founders’ distaste for an overextended foreign policy, one need only read the farewell address of our first president, George Washington. Is it happenstance that he spends perhaps the greatest portion of this historic discourse warning against the “insidious wiles of foreign influence.” Just over four years later, Thomas Jefferson echoed this message when in his first inaugural address he penned the eloquent, and now famous phrase, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Even into 20th century we were warned by the exiting President Eisenhower, to avoid the influence of the “military-industrial complex.”

Passions run high for those of us living in the wake of September 11, but perhaps the memories of this horrific event should compel us to do more than mourn the loss of the fallen. Perhaps they should motivate us to contemplate our standing in the world, and seek the more peaceful and prosperous path our founders envisioned.