America stands at a critical foreign policy juncture. America must decide between two opposing courses. She can continue along the road of foreign intervention and expansionism, or she can turn onto the road she once traveled – neutrality.
Expansionism vs. Neutrality. This is the big issue that embraces many related issues whose scope is so broad as to affect every one of us. Their scope is so large and all-embracing that most Americans cannot see the big issue. Inside a huge valley of death, one hardly knows that there is a promised land beyond the surrounding peaks. Our vision is woefully obscure.
The number of important concerns grouped around these two poles, Expansionism and Neutrality, is astonishing. To mention a few:
- War vs. Peace
- Empire vs. Republic
- Inherent Executive Power vs. Constitutional Limits
- Police State vs. Free Country
- Surveillance State vs. Right to Privacy
- Foreign Invasions vs. Respect for International Law
- Interference in Foreign Domestic Affairs vs. Non-Interference
- Superpower vs. Multipolar World
- Utopian Spreading of Democracy vs. Minding One’s Own Business
- Fiat Money vs. Sound Money
- High Taxes vs. Low Taxes
- Unpayable Public Debt vs. Sound Finances
- Stagnant Income vs. Growing Income
- Military-Industrial Complex vs. The Public Good
- Crony Capitalism vs. Free Market Capitalism
- Standing Military Forces vs. Small Military Establishment
- Militarism vs. Business
- Jingoistic Patriotism vs. Healthy Scepticism of Government
- Government Secrecy vs. Open Government
- Government-Controlled Media vs. Free Press
- Government Propaganda vs. Truth
- Unlimited Government Power vs. Limited Government Power
- A Scrap of Paper vs. The Constitution
Expansionism vs. Neutrality is not a Democratic or Republican or Independent issue. It will warp one’s values to think of it in partisan political terms. Between the major parties, there is no Expansionism party and no Neutrality party. There is no War party and no Peace party. There is no Empire vs. Republic party. There is no Executive Power vs. Checks and Balances party. Between the major parties, there is no Anti-Constitution vs. Constitution party.
Between the doctrines of the major parties, there is no difference that counts on Expansionism vs. Neutrality. Only one doctrine is prevalent and has been officially prevalent for over 100 years: Expansionism. This is a policy of expansion of control, the aim being domination, be it by means of gaining territory, economic control or political control. The current aspect of it is a worldwide war on terror, slated to last forever. This is the doctrine by which America attacked Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and by which it engages in drone warfare in Pakistan and Yemen. Manifest Destiny was Expansionism, and now it is the official policy of the U.S. to go beyond the continent of North America to the entire world.
Expansionism is the policy by which Obama is now arming rebel factions in Syria and by which the CIA overthrew Iran’s leader in 1953. It is the reason for U.S. sanctions on Iran and for concocting frictions with China and Russia. It is the reason why American warmongers want war with Iran. It is the underlying reason why whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are demonized. U.S. leaders do not want any challenges to their Expansionism doctrine.
Expansionism is entrenched U.S. doctrine, defended by those who believe in it as good, just and progressive when it is none of those things. It has come to be what rules American thought, and its ramifications more and more are ruling American life. How good is it to have abandoned neutrality? Look at the fruits of expansionism listed above such as large scale war, empire, enormous executive power, a growing police state, a growing surveillance state, and stagnant income. Foreign Expansionism has encouraged Domestic Expansionism and the idea that there is no ill uncurable by government. Crony capitalism produces the 1% vs. the 99%.
Expansionism was not always the prevailing doctrine. In 1914, President Wilson, following a tradition that began in 1787, could issue a Declaration of Neutrality. He could write
“Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned.”
He could publicly proclaim
“…our duty as the one great nation at peace, the one people holding itself ready to play a part of impartial mediation and speak the counsels of peace and accommodation, not as a partisan, but as a friend.”
He could conclude with an appeal not to take sides for Great Britain or France or Germany or any of the powers in Europe:
“I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought, as well as action, must put a curb upon our sentiments, as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.”
Wilson did not live up to his own words. He took America into World War I in 1917. Many presidents have not lived up to the ideal of Neutrality and have instead embraced Expansionism. A timeline of American military operations shows continual injection of U.S. forces into foreign regions. Most were minor and did not undermine the neutrality principle. The major exceptions in the nineteenth century that heralded the eventual abandonment of neutrality were the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.
Despite these two wars, the period of America’s greatest peace, most extended liberty and fastest progress under the Constitution ran from 1787 to 1917. This was the period when the official policy of the U.S. government was neutrality to foreign powers.
The Spanish-American War in 1898 followed by the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) toppled the neutrality policy. It was buried when America entered World War I in 1917. Foreign intervention and expansionism, frequently involving military power, replaced neutrality. In the almost 100 years since America abandoned neutrality (1917-2013), she has been engaged in very large wars. American leadership shifted from being impartial, peaceful and mediatory to choosing favorites, intruding into the affairs of other nations and using large doses of force. One of the consequences is terror attacks against America and Americans. These can be expected to continue as long as Americans continue to butt into foreign nations, often killing and maiming civilians in large numbers.
The Vietnam War turned Americans against war for awhile, but America soon renewed its interventions, what with episodes in Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Serbia. From 2010 to now, the U.S. has also deployed forces in Uganda, Jordan, Turkey, Chad, and Mali.
Expansionism is the order of the day, but it is not producing either a better world or a better America. It has reached a point where retaliation against American expansionism has taken the form of terror attacks. Former Vice-President Cheney, one of the foremost advocates of expansionism, has recently warned of very serious possible attacks:
“‘Sooner or later, there’s going to be another attack,’ Cheney said, one that could include biological agents or even a nuclear devices.”
Neutrality is the only other option.
Americans are backed up into a corner. Obama is an expansionist who has surrounded himself with hawkish expansionists. McCain is an expansionist. Both parties have expansionists at their helms. Only if one of the parties sees political advantage in advocating a move toward neutrality and peaceful foreign relations with all nations will Americans have a voting choice. This cannot happen unless polls show that Americans want a new direction in foreign policy, namely, neutrality. This requires that Americans recognize neutrality as an option, realize that expansionism is bad for them and see that neutrality will be better.
The business of America has always been essentially business, invention and progress, operating in a free environment. We have not achieved that goal, and there has been no golden age in American history when it has been achieved. Yet it is a sound social goal. America’s business has not traditionally been to remake the world politically or by warfare or by domination. One hundred years of the latter is enough. These are crowding out business, freedom and peace. Neutrality reinforces the traditional goals of peace, liberty and free markets. Expansionism thwarts them, replacing them with war, force, militarism and controls. It’s time to call it quits with Expansionism and get back to business.