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Fragments on Foreign Policy

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As I argue around the intertracks, I find it necessary to confirm, extend and adjust what I think I know. As Big Media and the Righty Establishment is apoplectic over what they think Ron Paul’s foreign policy is, I wondered what the current foreign policy of the United States claims to be. To Wikipedia!

The officially stated goals of the foreign policy of the United States, as mentioned in the Foreign Policy Agenda of the U.S. Department of State, are "to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community." In addition, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs states as some of its jurisdictional goals: "export controls, including nonproliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear hardware; measures to foster commercial intercourse with foreign nations and to safeguard American business abroad; international commodity agreements; international education; and protection of American citizens abroad and expatriation." U.S. foreign policy and foreign aid have been the subject of much debate, praise and criticism both domestically and abroad.

The essential test for all of that is: Is it Constitutional?

I think anything “for the benefit of the international community” is implicitly outside the powers granted to the Federal Government. Nuclear non-proliferation, as desirable as it may sound, also lacks Constitutional foundation. Would James Madison have thought it proper to prevent Britain from selling rifled cannon to Russia?

International commodity agreements may be part of regulating foreign commerce and making treaties. International education is clearly unconstitutional, as the FedGov was granted no power for even domestic education.

The framing has a positive tone, implying that the United States will provide certain services to the world. It is a policy of duties, akin to the Progressive concept of positive rights.

In the context of Ron Paul, what has everyone wrapped around the axle is the use of military force. I haven’t the time to dig into the Progressive Movement’s war socialism as evolved into the Bush Doctrine. But from my grade school years, I recall the first significant bit of foreign policy (not counting wars) was the Monroe Doctrine.

I had the basic idea right, that President Monroe said, “hands off the Americas!”. I didn’t have the time right; it came later than I thought, in 1823. Relevant to my present inquiries, the summary of the Doctrine is interesting:

The occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.
[emphasis added]

Since foreign policy discussions inevitable include the concept of “vital American interests”, I like that Monroe set out to put some definition to that concept. His Doctrine, although it extends to foreign nations is more fairly anti-interventionist than interventionist or expansionist. The United States was not seeking to extend its reach, but to prevent European powers from re-establishing dominance in the Americas. The doctrine is explicitly non-interventionist in regard to established nations of both the new and old worlds.

Is the Monroe Doctrine constitutional?

The question doesn’t really fit. Means by which the doctrine was enforced would be subject to the Constitutional test. If the majority of Congress thought some action under the doctrine was sufficiently important, they could go as far as declaring war to enforce the doctrine. I find nothing contradictory to the Constitution in a policy that says, “as long as you don’t do something, we will not respond.” It is a negative framing, aligned with the Founding concepts of negative rights.