Foreign Relations: Applying Principles

Foreign Relations: Applying Principles

Your humble blogger got to be that way because of a conversation with his uncle. While discussing his recent trip to France, the nephew said casually to the uncle, who was in his nineties, “Have you ever been to Paris, Uncle Don?” The reply was the humbling part: “Not since we liberated it.” 

Come to find out, Uncle Don’s tour of France started in Normandy right after the D-Day invasion and proceeded to Paris from there. After that, he made his way further east to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, where Hitler’s troops made their last significant stand. Uncle Don, finally writing up his life story in his later years, noted, matter-of-factly, “There were an awful lot of people killed in the Battle of the Bulge.” 

America has a long history of sending its young to foreign places, where many of them indeed have died in war. To think about this should be humbling for all of us. 

A Strong America and Stronger Alliances

Until the attack on our naval base at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, America was not even directly involved in World War II. The United States had remained neutral while Japan and China fought, as Hitler’s power rose, when Germany invaded Poland, and even despite war being declared by Great Britain and France against Germany. Congress and the American people debated vigorously whether the United States should “intervene” in the war or remain “isolationist” in these overseas conflicts.

The foreign relations issue for today may not be as stark, but the debate between “intervening” and “staying isolated” remains. What role should the United States play, if any, in conflicts outside our borders? More broadly, what is America’s place in the world? Even when no world war is ongoing, the American public and our politicians debate these questions to this day.

In the realm of foreign relations, Principle Based Politics’ leadership principles of peace, understanding, service, and respect are most applicable, while our government principles of protecting the vulnerable, freedom, and free enterprise also aid the analysis. 

Starting with leadership principles, of course we all want peace-loving leaders; no reasonable person is eager for World War III. But our principle of peace also recognizes that strength brings peace. A strong America also will bring respect—the good kind of respect—if the world sees America and its values in a positive light. Dynamic, solid, principled leaders who seek first to understand and for America to serve the world will earn us respect from abroad. 

America also must be strong internationally to protect our people, as all of us could be more than vulnerable in the event of an attack on the U.S. homeland or when we are abroad. The governmental principles of freedom and free enterprise likewise depend on our federal government to secure our personal liberties, as well as for American companies to do business freely and fairly in the world marketplace.

There is no single principle that controls the issue of foreign relations. Instead, all of the principles discussed here point in the same direction: America can only be strong and protect our freedoms, our peace, and our values by engaging with the world. We must affirmatively promote peace and the interests of the United States. We should protect open markets for international trade. We should uphold the rule of law. We should protect human rights. We should lead a worldwide effort to protect the earth from climate change. And, we should sponsor, mentor, and defend democracies around the globe. This is the opposite of pursuing isolation. None of this is easy, but the United States can and should be in a position to be make a real difference in the world.

To address any global issues, America needs not only to be economically, politically, and morally robust as a country, but it must create sturdy alliances with other like-minded nations. Even at its best, America cannot do any of this by itself. We crave more friends, not enemies, and building international friendships takes open, understanding minds and hard work.

Our Constitution provides good places to start. The President, for example, “shall have Power, by and with Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties [and] appoint Ambassadors ….” If the presidential impeachment hearings in 2020 regarding Ukraine taught us anything, it was that America relies heavily on its foreign officers stationed in embassies throughout the world. Our elected politicians must ensure that those officers are the finest possible people to represent the United States in assembling the necessary coalitions. Ambassadorships cannot be granted as political favors, for we need eminently competent, trustworthy, and energetic foreign officers.

Treaties, as the Constitution suggests, can be helpful, too, but it is imperative that we garner global respect well beyond just what is negotiated and agreed to on paper. 

America must be engaged and strong to attain respect and achieve peace.

For All the Tea…

Since Uncle Don’s aforementioned 1944 liberation visit to France courtesy of the U.S. Army, the list of other countries to which America has been called to intervene are many. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan all have been the scene of major warfare. Iran and North Korea have been recent nuclear antagonists. Relations with an aggressive Soviet Union and now Russia have ranged from a Cold War to simply cold and wary. In nearly every decade, it seems the trouble spots are everywhere at once, and our military must be on constant alert.

In China is where America’s biggest foreign relations challenge is found today, however. So far, no beaches have been invaded and no rockets launched, but we are not truly at peace. Human rights, religious freedoms, and dissenters have been abused; democracy in Hong Kong has been stifled, intellectual property stolen, world institutions misled, espionage and technological spying practiced, and trade laws violated. Not to mention that China has built an arsenal of around 300 nuclear warheads.        

Oh, what America would give to improve relations with the world’s biggest producer of tea (among many other things). Through regional and worldwide alliances, strength, and diplomacy, we must overcome the challenge that is China.

Written by Quentin R. Wittrock, founder of Principle Based Politics. 

Look for his posts twice each week, as this blog will explore and promote the idea of principle in politics, both as to individual elected leaders and our federal government as an institution.

Other political issues we have analyzed under our principle-based method include: taxation, health care, nomination of federal judges, guns, national defense, immigration, climate change and the environment, regulation, abortion, education and student debt, benefits programs (including Social Security), law enforcement, and racial and criminal justice.

1 Comment
  • Luana Slettedahl
    Posted at 13:39h, 14 September Reply

    Your message reflects how proud our Uncles were to protect and serve the freedoms of the United States. They shared memories with pride and no regret. We can and should learn from these leaders from this era. If we all do so, the values carry on for everyone, together. Nicely written, cousin Quentin.

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