Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Foreign Policy That Wasn't There

NPR challenged its listeners the other day: write a brief essay detailing the best "foreign policy" candidate among the current slate of Presidential contenders. It's not a small list to choose from, though at this stage in the game we've certainly slimmed things down a touch.

Who do we choose? The obvious choices on both sides are Governor Bill Richardson - freelance diplomat, former Secretary of Energy, former UN Ambassador, 2-term border state Governor - and John McCain - has served in both the House (2 terms) and the Senate (4 terms and counting) on various committees, aside from his military service. You could pour thousands of words into dissertations heralding either as the best choice to "reintroduce America to the world," as some in the media have said.

But why not go a little contrarian, and choose Ron Paul. After all, his foreign policy exists of not having a foreign policy.

Revert our international outlook to the isolationist early 20th Century, and you have a glimpse of Ron Paul's America. He is for removing all assets on the ground from the Mid East. In this, we will promote peace, for they will certainly come to us for advice. In fact, that is the worldwide aim, to distance ourselves from entanglements, extricate our military forces from defending borders and regimes not our own and trusting to the power of the American Dream, that shining city on the hill, to draw the world's diplomats back to our door. [1]

He claims his withdrawal is not one bred of a desire to isolate us, but to reestablish our role in the world. Free trade and travel, open communication and diplomacy will still remain. We'll simply not be the world's police force. Another point he advocates as a part of this is removing ourselves from the UN - entirely - and NATO, backing out of any free trade agreements (which are "managed trade" plans, opposed to open borders) and any other diplomatic alliances that could endanger our interests down the line (such as those that existed throughout the 19th Century and led to World War I).

So is this lack of foreign involvement, the "sit back" approach the best approach, as asked by NPR? It is the most dynamic and aggressive foreign policy, certainly, for it poses a completely new modus operandi not only for our state department and military, but those of every other country the world over. Why aggressive and not bratty? By not being involved, by holding back our might and negotiating leverage, we send a stark message: our interests are our own, not yours - tread wisely.

In our global village, the rolls of various countries are changing as I write this. India and China are becoming superpowers, with the latter pretty well there. The EU is consolidating itself, under one banner, and for the first time since the Holy Roman Empire might just present a united front. South America could further fall under the pall of autocracy masked as socialism. And Africa is a warground, with no end in sight. The US stands currently as the sole superpower in the world, the one arbiter that, grudgingly or not, all eventually come before. Should we not use that leverage, Congressman Paul might argue, to reduce the thread on our citizens and assets abroad?

Or do we keep our military in play, our truces ensconced with dictators, our economic welfare dependent on the changing tides in countries that frankly dislike us? Congressman Paul is awaiting your answer.

-Hooper McFinney

[1] Think of it this way: he wants us to be the old man in the house behind the outfield fence of a sandlot baseball diamond. Let the kids play their game, let them skin their knees and charge the mound, but when that ball goes flying over the fence and drops in our yard - never mind what happens if it breaks our window - then we'll get off our rocking chair and see what the problem is. They come to us, asking for a favor. We are in a position of power; after all, we're the old man, the equalizer among the teams. Hat in hand, they approach and ask for their ball back, to see if it was a foul, where it dropped. And we can help them...or not.

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