If you voted for President Barack Obama, believing he would reverse the trend of militarism propagated by George Bush, you were wrong. Obama remains every bit as dedicated to the belief that America ought to meddle in the affairs of other nations.
Democrats are not any more opposed to war than Republicans. Politicians only oppose wars started by their opponents. Remember, Republicans excoriated Bill Clinton in the 1990’s for his nation-building escapades abroad. Bush campaigned in 2000 on the platform of a “humble foreign policy.” Look how that turned out.
But this isn’t only an indictment on the “Bush Doctrine.” While Obama may have opposed the Iraq War, he is not going to change the overriding principles of our foreign policy. Like Bush, Mr. Change remains open to economic sanctions and preemptive nuclear strikes on countries he dislikes, and has never entertained the idea of bringing our troops from around the globe home to defend our own borders.
In his recent State of the Union address, Obama triumphed that “we will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.” Out of Iraq? Maybe. Coming home? Not necessarily. Where will they be going? Will they be part of the 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan? Perhaps they will be redeployed to Kuwait. Or Germany. Or Japan. Or any of the other hundreds of military bases we occupy, the world over.
This is not a contrast in party politics; it is an ideological debate between interventionists – Republicans and Democrats who believe the U.S. should police the world through perpetual embroilments – and non-interventionists, who understand the virtue of armed neutrality.
Non-interventionism isn’t a foreign policy of weakness. It advocates a strong national defense to protect the homeland, repel attacks, and respond with brawn. It supports free trade with all nations, and diplomacy to forge peaceful relations. Threats from extremists do exist, but our military occupation and bombing raids have played a significant role in cultivating resentment toward us.
Conversely, brute intimidation and preemptive attacks are not tough. Or American. President Eisenhower dismissed preemptive war, retorting that it was the foreign policy of Hitler. Warmongering isn’t a sign of strength. It weakens our national defense and puts our security at risk through the hatred we engender. Interfering in the business of other countries hurts our sovereignty and creates blowback that harms us later.
The type of policy I advocate is not far removed from the kind envisioned by our Founders. Washington warned in his Farewell Address to “steer clear of permanent alliances.” Jefferson defined America’s foreign policy as one of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship toward all – entangling alliances toward none.”
Today’s leaders would be wise to listen.