Google


No, George Washington DIDN’T Say America Should Stay Out of Foreign Affairs

March 26, 2015 | Filed Under Anti-Americanism, Barack Obama, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democrats/Leftists, Ethics, Foreign Policy, Founders, George Washington, GOP, Government, Government Corruption, History, Islam, Islamofascism, Koran, Law, Liberals, PCism, President, Progressives, Republicans, Ron Paul, Society/Culture, State Department, Terrorism, Warner Todd Huston | Comments Off on


No, George Washington DIDN’T Say America Should Stay Out of Foreign Affairs

-By Warner Todd Huston

With the talk of how bad Islam is for civilization and the question of just what to do about it, we are seeing those lightly informed about American history claiming that our founders–in particular George Washington–warned us to stay out of “foreign entanglements.” In fact, however, Washington neither said this, nor meant for such a policy to be enacted.

Many on the left and the isolationist right try to use the father of our country to support their ideas against the GOP and to justify their hope that the USA will pull out of the Middle East. Specifically they cite Washington’s farewell address where a retiring president supposedly warned Americans against getting involved with foreign nations and getting caught up in those evil “foreign entanglements.”

On one hand, it is quite amusing to see lefties in love with a founding father or American history and principles for the first time in their lives, certainly, but it isn’t just the left revealing a sudden respect for a founding father with citation of Washington’s address. On the other hand those Ron Paulites and his isolationist wing on the right have for years been bandying about Washington’s farewell address as some sort of “proof” that one of our “first principles” was to stay away from foreign nations.

So, what was Washington really saying? Did he warn us against “foreign entanglements”? Did he think the U.S. should steer clear of all outside political situations and relegate ourselves only to trade with foreigners?

We have to point out, that Washington never used the exact words “foreign entanglements” in his farewell address. That has been a decades-long misconstruction of his last letter to the nation. He did ask why we should “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition,” but he never used the exact words “foreign entanglements.”

That dispensed with, we move on to the assumed isolationism of George Washington’s address. What did he mean and did he mean it to be a permanent principle from which the U.S. should never stray?

First of all we must realize that the U.S. had been up to its neck in “foreign entanglements” before it had even become a nation. With wars against the French decades earlier, then the rebellion against Britain with help from the French, pleas to the Dutch for loans, not to mention intrigues in Canada and clashes with Spanish holdings in the new world, the progenitors to the United States, with all that our nascent nation was already a key player on the international stage.

Further the United States had envoys in most of the major European nations long before Washington’s farewell address. So, to say that the U.S. was isolated from the rest of the world and that Washington’s entreaty meant for us to stay that way, to say that this was some axiomatic delineation of American foreign policy is a wrong headed claim. The U.S. was already so “entangled” that it couldn’t be untangled.

One of the important goals of Washington’s letter was to shore up his own foreign policy decisions. Washington had angered the Jefferson/Madison wing of the federal government when he decided not to side with France against England after our revolution ended. In fact, while leaning toward being an anglophile, Washington tried to tread a fine line of “neutrality” between France and England. His farewell address was in part meant to justify a policy choice he had made as president. It was less a doctrine for the ages and more an immediate act of politics.

There was also an important bit of reality that caused Washington and Alexander Hamilton to eschew full support of France and lean toward England. We didn’t have the naval power to back up any major involvement in Europe. In fact, if we had decided to jump in with France, there was no way at all we could have escaped major damage from the extensive and powerful British Navy if we sided too directly with France.

Washington’s idea of neutrality was based in part on the complete inability of the U.S. to back up its foreign policy. But even in that case he did not say in his address that we should forever stay away from any foreign involvement.

Here is the key section of his address:

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

To warn Americans against “permanent alliances” really should go without saying. Decades later a fast friend of the United States basically said the same thing when he, Winston Churchill, said there are “no eternal allies” and “no perpetual enemies” for any nation.

Washington went on to say, though, that sometimes we must form alliances. “Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture,” he wrote, “we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.”

Obviously he understood that always staying neutral–as Paulites and liberals maintain–is not possible.

It should also be realized that this was Washington’s (and Hamilton’s) vision. The farewell address was not an explication of standard practice even when it was written, but Washington’s ideals. Many founders disagreed with this vision. So to act as if an isolationist policy was a singular founding principle is a horrible misread of history.

In To the Farewell Address, the seminal book about Washington’s document and the era in which it was given, Felix Gilbert warned us all not to accept these flawed misconstructions we are discussing here as an explanation what was going on with Washington’s farewell address.

In the conclusion to his essay, Gilbert wrote:

Because the Farewell Address comprises various aspects of American political thinking, it reaches beyond any period limited in time and reveals the basic issue of the American attitude toward foreign policy: the tension between Idealism and Realism. Settled by men who looked for gain and by men who sought freedom, born into independence in a century of enlightened thinking and of power politics, America has wavered in her foreign policy between Idealism and Realism, and her great historical moments have occurred when both were combined.

In other words, today’s neo-isolationist view of America’s “real” foreign policy ideals is woefully incorrect. The U.S. was never isolationist as a first principle. Ron Paul and his isolationists are wrong and so are the liberals who have a sudden and uncharacteristic respect for a founding father.

Finally, it must be noted that this article of mine is discussing only one thing and that is the purpose of Washington’s farewell address when it was delivered in 1796 and what it means to American first principles. I have no interest in using this piece to excuse or justify anything that happened after Washington left the scene. This article is not meant to ascertain what amount of foreign policy is optimal, only that isolationism is not an American first principle.

If WWI or WWII were wrong or our Middle East policy is misguided, those are discussions for other articles, not this one.
____________
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Follow Warner Todd Huston on:
Twitter
Facebook
Tumblr

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing news, opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that wrote articles on U.S. history for several American history magazines. Huston is a featured writer for Andrew Breitbart’s Breitbart News, and he appears on such sites as RightWingNews.com, CanadaFreePress.com, Wizbang.com, and many, many others. Huston has also appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, and many local TV shows as well as numerous talk radio shows throughout the country.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

Comments

comments

Tags: , , , , ,


Fair Use: This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research, educational, or satirical purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site/blog for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

We use Facebook comments, but they can sometimes take quite a while to load. So, be patient. Thanks.

Social Networking


Help the Soldiers!



American Genius

Our Founding Ideas

"Governments are instituted among men,deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776





Enter your Email


Preview
Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a reader




Recently Written

  • Same Old, Same Old, Terrorism
  • Dear Conservatives, Supergirl Thinks You’re Stupid and She Doesn’t Want You Watching Her Show
  • Nate Boyer, NFL Player and Army Veteran Who Helped Colin Kaepernick Take a Knee During Anthem, Pens ‘Open Letter’
  • FBI Warns of Growing Domestic Terror Threat Posed by Black Extremist Groups
  • Video: PBS News Hour Victim of Violent, Senseless Attack
  • My Home and Car Vandalized Because I’m a Conservative Writer
  • Here are the Vast Differences Between a Conservative and a Liberal
  • No, NFL, You DON’T Have an Unassailable ‘Right’ to Protest the National Anthem
  • Pandering? Megyn Kelly Suddenly Says She Left Fox News Because of Trump
  • Famed ‘Raging Bull’ Boxer Jake LaMotta Dies at 95


  • What THEY Say:
    Foreign News In English




    Click HERE for information
    on my fedora collection.
    Antique Stetsons, hat history...



























    Contact Us

    Email Publius' Forum

    Archives

  • November 2017
  • October 2017
  • September 2017
  • August 2017
  • July 2017
  • June 2017
  • May 2017
  • April 2017
  • March 2017
  • February 2017
  • January 2017
  • December 2016
  • November 2016
  • October 2016
  • September 2016
  • August 2016
  • July 2016
  • June 2016
  • May 2016
  • April 2016
  • March 2016
  • February 2016
  • January 2016
  • December 2015
  • November 2015
  • October 2015
  • September 2015
  • August 2015
  • July 2015
  • June 2015
  • May 2015
  • April 2015
  • March 2015
  • February 2015
  • January 2015
  • December 2014
  • November 2014
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007
  • December 2006
  • January 2006
  • December 2005
  • November 2005
  • October 2005
  • September 2005
  • August 2005
  • July 2005
  • June 2005
  • May 2005
  • April 2005
  • March 2005
  • February 2005
  • January 2005



  • Add to Technorati Favorites


    Clicky Web Analytics