In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson gave future generations strict counsel
: “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none... These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation… They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil instruction, the touchstone by which we try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” This speech, in its entirety, is one that every American should read; his advice was sound, especially regarding foreign policy. Many of the problems that America faces around the world today are a direct result of what Jefferson warned against: entangling alliances.
To understand the necessity of such a foreign policy, it is first important to give a clear definition of noninterventionism. Many people believe that the word is synonymous with isolationism, but this is not actually the case. A simple definition of noninterventionism is “the unwillingness to use military force overseas” while isolationism is “avoidance of overseas involvement” (Both terms defined in IR: The New World of International Relations
by Berry and Roskin).
The difference may not be clear at first, but it is very important. An isolationist believes that their country should be completely cut off from all other nations. A noninterventionist, however, believes that their country should be friendly and trade with all nations, but never form entangling alliances or act militarily unless threatened or acted upon first. This is exactly how Jefferson and the other founding fathers believed we should behave.
Many Americans want to have lower taxes and many presidential candidates, including the current president George W. Bush, promised to lower them. He promoted himself as a ‘true-conservative’ that will lower taxes and promised a foreign policy with no nation building. These claims turned out to be false as his record clearly
shows that his “Conservative” Administration has spent more money then the previous “Liberal” Clinton Administration.
The United States currently has troops in 135
countries with 702
permanent bases in about 130
countries. Getting our troops out of those countries, in concordance with a noninterventionist foreign policy, would save Americans an enormous amount of money. Just getting out of Iraq, in fact, would save nearly $2 billion
each and every week or $104 billion dollars each year.
The foreign policy of the United States directly affects the security of every individual in the country. Many people falsely believe that terrorists in other countries attack America because they hate our freedom. This, however, is far from the truth. The real truth is that terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden are able to channel anger that other individuals in the middle east have about America’s foreign policy. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit has spoken
on the subject: “His genius lies in his ability to isolate a few American policies that are widely hated across the Muslim world. And that growing hatred is going to yield growing violence. Our leaders continue to say that we're making strong headway against this problem. And I think we are not.” The only real way to make progress would be by adopting a noninterventionist foreign policy that got America out of the business of meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations around the world. Only then will America be safer from the dangers of terrorism.
If Americans truly want lower taxes and strong national security then it is imperative that they take the advice of the founding fathers and urge their government to readopt a noninterventionist foreign policy. Not only was it the position of Thomas Jefferson, but it was also the policy of former President George Washington and the former Secretary of State and President John Quincy Adams. Washington, in his farewell address said, “Observe good faith towards all nations: cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it.” Washington understood that foreign interventionism would appeal to politicians, but he strongly believed that leading by example was more important than using force. Adams once said, “America 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.” It seems as though the United States, with its constant nation-building and foreign interventionism, has “wandered from these principles in a time of alarm,” but, as Jefferson also said, “let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” By endorsing a noninterventionist foreign policy we can, once again, achieve all these things.