Protecting Family & Country: America Can Best Protect Her Own People and Their Freedoms by Embracing the Noninterventionist Foreign Policy Our Founding Fathers Envisioned

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Nowadays, anyone who calls for less U.S. intrusion into the affairs of other countries is labeled an isolationist, and isolationism has become a dirty word in today's foreign-policy parlance. Liberal and conservative internationalists who favor vigorous interference in global affairs have distorted the meaning and significance of a traditional policy that has successfully protected America's interests. In reality, for much of its history, America embraced not a literal isolationist approach, but an approach that offered the United States to the world as a universal trading partner and a model of virtue and liberty.

Beginning with the early years of the republic, America followed a foreign policy that was predicated upon its uniqueness. This approach was not isolationist, but instead sought to avoid actions undertaken to influence other nations and their sovereign affairs; it was non-interventionist, or a reflection of neutrality. Rather than isolationist, this policy was vigorously nationalistic in that it sought to protect American ideals by avoiding what George Washington called "entangling alliances" that subjected the United States to the corrupt influences of the Old World regimes. The policy served the nation well as America expanded its borders in the Western Hemisphere and saw to its own interests at home, and it was defended by an array of presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams. As late as 1899 at the First Hague Conference, an early internationalist peace conference, the U.S. delegation wrote:

   Nothing contained in this Convention
   shall be so construed as to require
   the United States of America to
   depart from its traditional policy of
   not intruding upon, interfering with,
   or entangling itself in the political
   questions or policy of international
   administration of any foreign State.

That foreign policy, however, has largely been abandoned as our leaders now favor an approach that champions an interventionist mode in which we seek to bring our standards to all people everywhere--whether they like it or not. Liberal and conservative internationalists, depending upon their respective agendas, have argued that any threat to peace or prosperity anywhere in the world is a threat to American interests. Both seek a collective security blanket that guarantees the protection of all nations and states in order to strengthen the international community. Many internationalists will also argue that America has a moral duty to foster and protect justice abroad. President Woodrow Wilson was an early outspoken proponent of this idea. After being reelected by promising to keep America out of WWI, he proceeded to argue for an opposite course:

   The world must be made safe for democracy.
   Its peace planted upon the
   tested foundations of political liberty.
   We have no selfish ends to serve. We
   desire no conquest, no dominion....
   We are but one of the champions of
   the rights of mankind.

The globalization of the American ideal is based upon the belief that our experience should be universal and that international justice can be achieved by erecting new governments based upon the same model that built American society. Interventionists see American principles as inherently virtuous. In Woodrow Wilson's terms they "are the principles of forward-looking men everywhere.... They are principles of mankind and must prevail." They may be, but nowhere in our Constitution does it say that they must be exported. Wilson's theory laid the groundwork for subsequent presidents.

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Where Interventionism Has Taken Us

During the 1980s, President Reagan unveiled what became known as the "Reagan Doctrine." Strongly interventionist, it posited that wherever there was a struggle between the Soviet Union and an opposing political or cultural entity, the United States must actively intervene to stop the spread of communism. …