by: the Common Constitutionalist
Syria is neither a friend nor ally. The conflict in Syria is a civil war, an internal struggle, not a war of international aggression or imperial colonization. Yet those of the “we must do something” crowd are insistent of our entanglement and brand all others as “Isolationists”.
Once again, our governmental brain trust would be well served to consult our own history. More often than not, the answer can be found.
As The Heritage Foundation asserts, it is helpful to define what is meant by “isolationist.” The term isolationism applies to a policy of abstaining from economic and political relations with other countries. By this definition, the best examples of isolationist foreign policies are offered by 17th century China, 18th century Japan, 19th century Korea, or 20th century North Korea.
Let’s not confuse or commingle military abstinence with economic and political isolationism.
During an Independence Day speech, John Quincy Adams fervently argued that America had no inherent responsibility to intervene abroad (emphasis added):
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her 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 only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.”
Policies set forth by the founders were born of affection for republican self-government and their desire to preserve the country’s sovereign independence.
Washington advocated for a foreign policy that would allow America to, “choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.”
During Thomas Jefferson’s Administration, the United States, acting in our interest chose war, joining forces with Sweden and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the Tripolitan War against the Barbary Pirates. Such foreign military cooperation was essential in defeating the Muslim privateers (terrorists), loosely associated with the Ottoman Empire (surprise; present day Iran). It was the new nations first foreign war.
From the beginning, the primary purpose of U.S. foreign policy has been to defend the American constitutional system and the interests of the American people.
Jefferson summed it up in his First Inaugural Address as “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations—entangling alliances with none.”
And thus was a difficult decision to be made by our first president. The rebellion during the French revolution solicited Americas help as a military and political ally. The Marquis de Lafayette, who had been George Washington’s aide-de-camp during the American Revolution and had become a close personal friend, had personally requested the assistance of Washington and the Americans. Yet Washington knew that supporting France would likely drag America into a disastrous war against her will.
So in April, 1793, George Washington signed a proclamation declaring America’s neutrality, although the word neutrality is found nowhere in the declaration. In short Washington, like Jefferson feared an entangled alliance. He also did not wish to involve America in another nations internal struggle.
In 1822, President Monroe officially recognized the independence of Argentina, Peru, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. The United States was the first established nation to welcome these new republics into the community of nations. Thus was the Monroe Doctrine.
President Monroe stated of the Monroe Doctrine, “The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.”
The Monroe Doctrine would hardly be considered isolationist and it was the last major declaration blessed by both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Must have been nice and quite convenient to be able to seek direct council from the Authors of the both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. How cool is that?!
With the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. attempted to ban imperial ambition from one-third of the globe’s surface, thereby delegitimizing the accepted system of imperialism and attempting to fundamentally alter the international order – hardly an isolationist policy.
So how does all this “history” equate or relate to the upheaval in the Middle East? What would the founders have advised us to do?
That’s easy; stay out of it. We had our chances long ago to support freedom and liberty and we sat back and did nothing. Now all these uprisings have been high jacked by one terrorist group or another. There are no good guys, no freedom or liberty to support.
This is also an internal struggle. If Washington was able to say no his dear friend, The Marquis de Lafayette, during France’s bloody revolution, we sure as heck can say no to Syria, who are neither friend nor ally.