Global Quest for Monsters: Was the United States Founded Upon an Interventionist Foreign Policy?

It has become the norm and well-accepted that the United States has a role in shaping the geopolitical climate and determining the conduct that is permitted in our current global order. Any country that does not comply is sanctioned economically, invaded militarily, overthrown covertly, or destabilized rhetorically. In all of these scenarios, the United States government has taken it upon itself to be both an empire and the arbitrator of global rules. But, is this the type of nation that the United States was founded upon? Would the American founding fathers advocate for the type of foreign policy that has become commonplace in the United States?

War hawks will often claim that the United States, as the most powerful country to have ever existed, must stabilize the world through its policies in order to bring about lasting peace in the world. If the American military was not stationed across the globe spreading “democracy” and fighting for freedom, it is argued, Americans would be inherently less safe and unfree. Yet, for all of its efforts, the United States government has not brought about peace or democracy to the world, and in some places, it has actually brought more violence and destruction. Plus, Americans are actually less safe when fully engaged globally because we end up creating more monsters when we kill innocent people and destroy infrastructure abroad, as this leads to the desire for retaliation. Other countries feel threatened by our never-ending presence in their lands, and they often feel the need to utilize anti-American rhetoric to rally the people against what they view as an invading force.

In 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, made an Independence Day speech on foreign policy, and in it he said, “She [the United States] has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations, while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings….she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Adams, later the sixth President of the United States, was making an observation about America’s standing in the world and the principles in which it was founded. We can no longer claim that the United States follows these principles that were once viewed as vital to the interests of the country. Through its military and economic operations abroad, the United States government no longer respects the independence of nations that do not comply with its global order or its interests, and the United States involves itself in most conflicts around the world.

In 1801, during his inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson laid out the principles under which he believed the United States should adhere to and stated, “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Currently, the system of alliances that the United States maintains divides the world further and increases the possibility of conflict. NATO continues to expand, despite the Cold War having been over for many years, and corner Russia, which leads to worsening relations with that country. Our unwavering alliance with Israel puts us at odds with many Arab countries that disapprove of the Israeli government’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. George Washington in his farewell address stated, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” Yet, we believe that we are wiser than our founding fathers and above the idea that history repeats and that all empires come to an end eventually. This arrogance may lead to our demise.

To justify continuing conflict, perhaps to benefit the military-industrial complex, war hawks will argue that times have changed, so this means that the United States has to be proactive to avoid conflict. However, as I have mentioned previously, this proactive behavior is viewed as a threat by other countries, and therefore, it actually makes things worse for Americans. Technology and the borders of countries may have changed, but the quest for empire-building and competing for resources and wealth among nations has not. We like to pretend that we are more civilized than past empires, but in reality, American imperialism is being done in a more covert manner.

If you argue a position where the United States disengages from world conflict, you will erroneously be labelled as an isolationist. Just as Thomas Jefferson made it clear that the United States should trade and be friendly with other nations, we in the modern era should do the same thing. Advocating for trade and engaging in diplomacy with other nations is far from isolationism, but if this is what I am to be called because I desire peaceful solutions to world problems and the act of leaving other countries to govern themselves in a manner that they see fit, so be it.

As we approach Independence Day, let us think about the principles that led to our founding, the type of nation that we wish to be, and perhaps how we can alter what we have become. I realize that this is a difficult thing to think about when we grow up propagandized into believing that what our government does abroad is just and moral, but I urge you to take a minute outside of the news and the internet to at least consider these points.

Thank you for reading, and please check out my book, The Global Bully, and my website for more information on my work. In conclusion, I will leave you with a continuation of John Quincy Adams’ speech: “She [the United States] well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”
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Published on June 20, 2018 03:29
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