So, what would a truly conservative foreign policy look at in light of the Founding principles of protection of our sovereignty and support of liberty? It’s perhaps appropriate that Rand Paul spoke to the Heritage Foundation on this subject recently. I don’t wholly agree with Representative Paul, though I consider him more realistic than his father, but he made some good points.
Isolation doesn’t work. The United States in the early 19th century couldn’t avoid interaction with the world around them. The Barbary pirates needed to be dealt with because they were a threat to our commercial capacity. The British and the French once again decided that America was a good place to beat up on one another and the British felt that our sailors were a good and lawful supplement to their own.
Non-intervention was not an early American policy either, as evidenced by the
Marshall Monroe plan and our limited support of the Hungarian and Greek democratic revolutions.
On the other hand, the United States since World War 2 has been far too involved in worldwide events and petty conflicts that often had nothing to do with liberty. Conservatives under the influence of the neoconservative arm of the Republican Party have been willing to support many of these adventures when we probably should not have.
I’m not a libertarian, though I have some libertarian leanings. I believe the United States involvement in WW2 was a good thing. There are wars worth fighting. Germany was attacking our merchant vessels in the Atlantic and even in Chesapeake Bay. We brought some of that on ourselves because we were supplying Great Britain with arms, but I honestly don’t think you can make the argument that we should have left a constitutional monarchy with a degree of self-government to defend against a totalitarian fascist regime. There was clearly a liberty side there, which negated any argument for neutrality. Once Germany began attacking our vessels, they were tacitly declaring war on us. I’m less convinced about our involvement with China that created the conflict with Japan. China’s imperial government was no better than Japan’s imperial government. Our government should have stayed out of it. If our merchants wanted to supply arms to China, they should have done so not as representatives of the United States government, but as private commercial ventures. Would Japan have still attacked Pearl Harbor? I don’t know. Once they did, our national sovereignty required that we respond.
Should we have rebuilt Germany and Japan following the war? I’m going to break with many conservatives and say “yes”. I’m a pragmatic conservative. It’s probably outside the scope of the Constitution, but there are limited times when America’s ideals of liberty need to be promoted. We can compare what happened with Germany after both world wars and say definitely that our rebuilding Europe was a good thing and our occupation of Japan was also a transformation force for good. In both cases, we supported a move toward liberty and republican self-government.
We shouldn’t still be there, spending our national treasure to protect countries that have robust economies and could afford to protect themselves. We should have exited both countries by the mid-1960s, trusting to our commercial and diplomatic relationships rather than our continued, albeit friendly, military presence.
Which leads us to the topic of alliances. George Washington warned against permanent alliances and I see no evidence that he was wrong. The United States shouldn’t be involved in the United Nations. Yes, it survived when the League of Nations didn’t in large part because we supported it. That’s still not a good reason to be involved in an organization that threatens our national sovereignty and frequently supports national movements that are not toward liberty. We provide more than 40% of the budget of the UN and we host their building. That is a permanent alliance that has frequently insisted that its authority is of greater validity than US sovereignty. The United Nations has set itself up as the watchdog of democracy in the world and yet supports anti-liberty movements such as the Arab Spring that has used the popular vote to put Islamic dictators in charge of several countries. We should withdraw from the UN and give them one year to remove their building from our soil. Deprived of more than 40% of its income, the UN would fold, which might make the world a more turbulent place, but that should not be our concern. The United States of America, in order to be true to our founding principles, should choose national sovereignty and liberty over international cooperation that threaten both our sovereignty and our liberty. There are other alliance organizations that would be much more effective than the United Nations at promoting regional peace.