The proper concept of individual rights is the most fundamental ingredient of a free society. Nearly as important to a country is foreign policy. An unwise foreign policy leads to unnecessary violence and death on a massive scale. A society built on the concept of individual rights will logically have a foreign policy of nonintervention. It is important to understand what this involves and what happens when foreign entanglements are easily entered.
Throughout the twentieth century, the United States has steadily drifted from the traditional policy of nonintervention, neutrality, and independence to one of interventionism in the internal affairs of other nations, covert foreign activity, and broad international commitments.
This dramatic shift in policy, one of the major U. S. blunders of this century, is responsible for all of our overseas military conflicts of the past eight decades, which have resulted in more than 650,000 Americans killed and 1,130,000 Americans wounded. The last two major conflicts, Korea and Vietnam, were fought without a formal declaration of war. In modem language, they were “police actions.” Since war was not declared, there was no commitment to win. Clearly the efforts proved futile, serving only to tear at the seams of American society.
Policy shifts have since occurred, but reassessment of the overall foreign intervention policy has not taken place. Reassessment must occur if the senseless killing is to be stopped.
Many who frowned upon the Libyan bombing and the Grenada invasion did not do so from a principled position of nonintervention. And some who criticized the invasion of Grenada were supportive of the Libyan bombing. The only current debate is which faction of interventionism will be supported -- fascist or communist dictators.
A trend toward internationalism worldwide has characterized this century; the fact that some call the twentieth century the “bloody century” is not just coincidental. During this century, 35,000,000 people have been killed in war, but totalitarian regimes have murdered an additional 119,000,000 people. And we worry about a nuclear holocaust!
Modern weaponry certainly can be blamed for a great deal of the massive destruction of modern war, but the collectivist ideology that breeds totalitarianism is the root cause. Our job as concerned citizens of a free society is to do everything in our power to deter our own participation in the ghoulish killing.
Following the constitutional intent of the Founding Fathers would go a long way in achieving this goal.
The Constitution and Foreign Policy
The Constitution never mentions the term “foreign policy,” but today it is routinely heard that the Constitution grants the power to conduct foreign policy exclusively to the President.
It is also frequently heard in Congress, especially when foreign entanglements get serious, that we must fall in line and support a nonpartisan policy. In other words, they argue, there should be no real debate on what is going on when it comes to foreign policy.
Opposition to our involvement in the major conflicts of this century have elicited cries of treason for not supporting the consensus position. But if the Constitution is closely studied, one finds that the Founding Fathers never intended the President to assume total control over foreign affairs.
The President clearly was granted power “to make treaties … appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls,” but only with the advice and consent of the Senate. Two-thirds of the Senate must concur to ratify a treaty, whereas a majority can confirm an appointment. Clearly, the President is made the Commander-in-Chief of the military.
Nothing is said about monopoly power to pursue policy that involves invasion, intrigue, murder, blockades, conspiracy, and funding of foreign powers that has characterized the twentieth century.
The Congress, in contrast, was given much more say over foreign policy The Congress is instructed to:
… provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States …; to define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the laws of nations; to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water; to raise and support armies … to pursue and maintain a navy; to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; to provide for calling up the militia, to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasion; to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States….
In comparison, it is quite apparent that the Founding Fathers placed a greater trust in the people acting through Congress in determining precise policy. The President cannot declare war; therefore, he is not permitted, according to the Constitution, to wage war without the vote of Congress; and he has no authority to spend any money on foreign adventurism without the consent of Congress. Even treaties and appointments are only permissible after congressional approval.
Obviously the Founding Fathers feared a strong and aggressive presidency when it came to foreign and military affairs. The President is certainly the Commander-in-Chief of the military, fulfilling the desire of the Founding Fathers of guaranteeing civilian control over the military, but the idea of the military was that of having sufficient military strength to repel an invasion and defend the country. If it required calling up the militia, which only Congress was authorized to do, the President would be in charge of the military operations. It is impossible to argue from a constitutional viewpoint, that involvement in any conflict is the prerogative of the President.
This careless notion, so frequently repeated, that the President is in total charge of foreign policy, cannot be justified by anything read in the Constitution. Congress has the major responsibility for any foreign commitment.
It is now up to the people to reclaim this right, by insisting upon representation reflecting the people’s views, not the narrow view of the special interests who have benefited from both our military and economic intervention of the past eighty years.
Obviously the Founding Fathers feared a strong and aggressive presidency when it came to foreign and military affairs.
So often when objections to our foreign policies are finally heard, they are only for partisan or special-interest reasons. Rarely are these objections due to deeply held philosophic reasons grounded in constitutional history.
Because the politicians in this century have not followed the traditional policy of the Founding Fathers for avoiding foreign entanglements, America has suffered the consequences. We can expect continued foreign military conflicts, hostage crises, and terrorist attacks that solve nothing, while killing and maiming innocent Americans and our draft-age youth, until a policy of nonintervention is once again accepted as proper and wise.