Foreign Military Policy – from The Thoreau Project

Henry David Thoreau is quoted as saying (Civil Disobedience) “That government is best which governs least”.  A good and natural extension of that theory is That Government is Best which Governs Not at all.

It is in this vein that several position papers are offered up for your consideration, as part of  The Thoreau Project.  Today’s examination is of Foreign Military Policy, generally.

Foreign Military Policy

I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

Through the course of American history presidents and statesmen have sought to emulate the emperor in respect to our foreign military policy.  Some have wisely suggested that we avoid foreign entanglements.  (I once heard an anecdote about Benjamin Franklin, that he opposed prayer in the Constitutional Convention because he wanted to avoiding foreign influence.  Just a story, but humorous all the same).

In the Constitutional Convention and the weeks that followed with the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers there is a recurrent theme.

The national government was being established first for the security and safety of the colonies.  The federal government was being established to ensure a military force capable of equitably defending the many states from foreign interference.  First, the ability to build a standing army and navy was requisite.  Second, the ability to fund the defensive role of a standing military was created.  Following much debate, public and private, the Constitution was adopted.

As noted above, ever since the Constitution’s adoption presidents, statesmen, and flamboyant rhetoricians have attempted to etch out a prominence for themselves through use of the government, specifically with respect to foreign policy.


Much to the fear of the ambitious everywhere our foreign policy should be simplified.  In the words of Thoreau, “Simplify, simplify”.

First and foremost The USA should be concerned with security and safety.  We need go not much further.

Secondly, we ought to be reliable.  Our proven friends may know that we will not deviate from their side for a “mess of pottage” and a “crust of bread”.  Our proven friends must know that we may be relied upon for our friendship’s experience, and not able to be bought for a price of thirty pieces of silver.  Further, our proven enemies may know that they can rely upon us to face any danger which they may lobe in our direction.

As isolationists, as is sounds, we ought refrain from all foreign entanglements.  We have no need of treaties that go beyond assuring mutual security and safety.

We should not engage our military might, which ought to be mighty, into any foreign nation’s affairs except in the face of a clear and present danger to our security and safety.  Retribution for one nations sympathies to another of our enemies is insufficient cause.

Our long-standing friends should rely upon us to come to their aid as far as it provides for the security and safety of their people.  Until such time as they have demonstrated such friendship is no longer warranted we ought to have no reluctance to support them as they have us, or as we would for ourselves.

Our longstanding, and new, enemies ought to know that we will tolerate no attacks on our people.  They need to recognize that anywhere an American lawfully stands rest the weight and force of the nation.  Minor and major infraction of this principle should be of equal weight.  Enemies who seek to ally themselves to us should be welcomed, with a recognition that the proof of time and experience will be essential.

All should understand that we will not negotiate away our security and safety for any supposed greater cause.  At the negotiation table our posture should Always be that the security and safety of The USA takes precedence over all other matters.  Those seeking to re-establish peace with us should comprehend that it is at the total and absolute surrender of all their aggressions, without exception.

We ought never to seek dominion over any foreign nation.  In war our only cause is to victoriously demonstrate that the security and safety of America is paramount.  Yet, we ought welcome any sincerely proffered peace.  The conditions which we lay before  any enemy is that we shall leave the battlefield last, victorious and with their demonstrated commitment to peace.  At which point we need to acknowledge that the conflict is ended.

The above stance is somewhat hard and inflexible.  But, it is the only rational policy for use of military might.  Both Friend and foe will come to rely upon it.  Our military commanders and privates alike will know with assuredness that protection of country and countryman is our only cause in war.

Just as all come to rely upon us in our own defense and that of our proven friends, they may be assured of another course as well.  It must never be the position of the United States to be first aggressor.  We must attend our affairs with diligence, foresight, and readiness.  But, never should we invade another in war without provocation.

Some men yearn to be free.  Others yearn to have dominion.  Some men sacrifice their lives for freedom.  Some are willing to sacrifice the lives other men for a moment in the spotlight of their own glory..

Now, is the time to set a lasting policy devoid of foolish ambitions.

“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it”. HDT


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