Today, at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney offered his thoughts regarding U.S. foreign policy. The full text of his speech can be found here, but to follow is an excerpt:
The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us. Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. As one Syrian woman put it, ‘We will not forget that you forgot about us.’…
…I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination.
Now compare these ideas with those of John Quincy Adams, our 6th President. While serving as Secretary of State, on July 4th 1821, he said the following:
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her [America’s] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But, she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator of her own.
Quite a difference of opinion, don’t you think? Both seek to remake the world, but while Adams calls for a policy of peace and leading through example, Romney’s plan will invariably lead to bloodshed and is a call for either direct or covert military action, overthrowing regimes and installing ones more friendly to the United States and her ideals.
It wasn’t too long ago when both those on the left and those on the right would have rejected Romney’s plan of action and instead have embraced the reasoning of Quincy Adams. As recently as the presidency of Bill Clinton, Republicans condemned the president’s military adventurism in the former Yugoslavia due to the fact that the conflict in no way threatened the security of the United States or her citizens. In fact, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the group the United States supported in the conflict, had previously been declared a terrorist organization. But the “isolationist” line of thinking of people like John Quincy Adams and the GOP ought to have changed after the attacks of 9-11, right?
In order to answer that question, we must ask another; what motivated the airline hijackings on 9/11? Was it due to a rejection of our supposedly decadent American lifestyles and immorality? Perhaps it was…in some small part. But, if that reasoning alone was sufficient, why attack the United States? Aren’t there a variety of “evil” countries closer to the Middle East that could have served as a target just as easily? Could it be that there might be additional reasons?
It seems that a considerable number of Americans have little to no knowledge of Middle Eastern history prior to the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979 to 1981. However, if we turn back the clock several decades, we find a prime example of when the United States interfered in the internal affairs of a Middle Eastern nation with unfortunate results. Back in the 1950s, Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran sought to wrest control of Iran’s oil fields from the British. In response, the British and the United States governments teamed up to launch a coup against Mosaddegh and propped up the Shah, a man who many Iranians came to view as an increasingly brutal dictator and an unwelcome westernization of their nation. His overthrow in early 1979 led to the Islamic state, which now rules in Iran and remains hostile to the United States and her allies, as well as leading to the Iranian Hostage Crisis. I am also certain these actions taken in Iran by the United States helped fuel the hatred and actions of the hijackers on 9/11.
Now I know what you are thinking, two wrongs don’t make a right. And, of course, I agree. Regardless of any U.S. foreign policy, the 9/11 hijackers were in no way justified in their actions and ought to be condemned by every civilized people. But, if two wrongs don’t make a right, shouldn’t we also agree that three wrongs don’t make a right either? Doesn’t Romney’s plan repeat the mistakes we made in Iran? If we wouldn’t appreciate a foreign nation either overthrowing our leaders or propping up our despots, what makes us think that some other group of people would? And isn’t it also possible that if we overthrow either the government of Syria or Iran such an action could lead to blowback that is far greater than what we have seen?
We seem to have forgotten that the primary purpose of both the United States government and its military is to protect the lives, liberties, and property of American citizens. It is not intended to dole out taxpayer money to foreign governments, install puppet regimes, or promote the horribly misguided Wilsonian idea of “making the world safe for democracy.” Should we ask our soldiers to give up their lives in order to promote governments that very well might have ties to the same ideology and people who attacked us on 9/11?
Therefore, we must reject any foreign policy that deviates from the limitations imposed by the Constitution. Although it might be interesting to speculate how our government could mold a better world, we have seen far too many domestic failings of the feds first-hand through bailouts, subsidies, regulations, and overburdensome security at our airports. What would make us think that the rest of the world would either desire or appreciate the same treatment? As bad a leader as many of us think Barack Obama is, what would your reaction be if the Iranian government removed him from power and gave us a new president?
Haven’t we learned that we can no longer afford a neo-conservative foreign policy? More importantly, doesn’t stumbling down this path foster greater hatred of the United States and, in the long run, make us less safe? Don’t you think that it time to return to the wisdom of men like John Quincy Adams?