NOTE: Recorded at the close of Tenther Radio Episode 24, the following is a special message from Michael Boldin about next week’s show on Pearl Harbor Day, covering war powers and the Constitution..
The show airs live online every Wednesday at 5pm Pacific Time here. Find us on iTunes at this link.
I want to close the show tonight by – well – inviting you to tune in to next week’s show, at 5pm Pacific time on Wednesday December 7, 2011.
This is not your normal “tune in next week…” message. December 7 being the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor tragedy in 1941, we’re going to spend most of our time on something that’s not discussed enough in constitutional circles – war powers and the constitution.
We’ll be joined for nearly 40 minutes by someone who is probably the nation’s leading expert on war powers, Dr. Louis Fisher – who spent four decades working at the Library of Congress as Senior Specialist in Separation of Powers, and is currently Scholar in Residence at the Constitution Project.
Dr. Fisher has been invited to testify before Congress about 50 times on such issues as war powers, state secrets privilege, NSA surveillance, CIA whistleblowing, covert spending, presidential impoundment powers, and plenty more. When it comes to an understanding from the perspective of the founders – he’s got few equals.
This week, Tenth Amendment Center national communications director, Mike Maharrey, started this conversation with an extremely important article entitled “I love George Washington. Except for his Foreign Policy.” In it, he points out what I consider to be a troubling, and very glaring inconsistency in the views of many self-professed supporters of the Founders’ Constitution today – their views on the constitution and foreign policy.
Mike tells a personal story of his own views on foreign policy. He writes:
“Over the last year or so, I’ve been struggling to redefine my views on foreign policy. As a former neo-conservative, I enthusiastically embraced the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I readily accepted the notion that military force serves as a legitimate tool for nation-building.”
But it doesn’t take a doctorate in foreign relations to understand that U.S. policy has forged a tangled mess of contradictory alliances and obligations, and created a much more dangerous world. I’ve gradually come to accept that military intervention in foreign affairs typically causes more damage than good and that the whole concept rests on morally dubious grounds. Who am I to point a gun at another man’s head and demand he practice “democracy”?
Mike goes on to explain how he used to, like many others still do today, consider such foreign policy views, which are most commonly put forth by Ron Paul, to be quackery. But, in his study of the founding generation, he recognized that such views line up pretty closely with the stated positions of a president that’s actually revered by most Americans – George Washington.
Here’s a little of what Washington had to say about foreign policy in his 1796 farewell speech:
“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…”
Now, Washington, like all other humans, certainly had his flaws, and had flaws as a president too. But, how often do you hear people admonishing Washington’s foreign policy views? I never do.
So, while we hear many people today – especially conservatives – say that they really like the constitutional viewpoints of a person like Ron Paul, they’ll commonly turn around and say, well, “except for his foreign policy.” But the fact of the matter is this – virtually all of the founders held this kind of foreign policy viewpoint, and because of that alone, it should never be called quackery…unless you consider the founding fathers a bunch of quacks.
Thomas Jefferson summed it up perfectly in his 1801 inaugural address: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”
James Madison, father of the constitution, put is this way – “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”
Jefferson, Madison, Washington – they strongly opposed foreign policy interventionism. They all opposed wars that did anything but repel invasions here in America, and they also advised against the kind of favored-nation status that is used so often in American foreign policy today.. That should be convincing enough, but they were far from alone, and this was the highly prevalent view of foreign policy from the founding fathers.
Do conservatives today – who often say that they want to return to the constitution, to the vision of the founders…do they really mean it? Or, do they actually mean – “We need to get back to what the founders set up – domestically only.” Well maybe it’s just that the government-run school system in this country has done its job – hiding the true history and principles that made up the American Revolution. That makes sense to me, because I can’t think of any other reason why people who profess to revere the founders so much would find their foreign policy views to be…well, so foreign.
So please tune in next week – as we’ll dig far deeper into not only these personal policy views of the founders, but just how they intended our constitutional framework to be set up in regards to war and foreign policy. The future of liberty in this country just may depend on us learning about it.