A Note to Periwinkle on FP

         6 May 2014

Periwinkle,

          Well, it took the galling and contemptuous nature of two articles in The Economist, The Weakened West: What would America fight for? and Geopolitics: The decline of deterrence , coupled with Seib’s somewhat more practical piece this morning, Obama’s Task: Define New Foreign-Policy Mileposts, in the Journal to spur an impromptu note to you this evening, Periwinkle. I reckon I might as well throw in two additional current blurbs in Foreign Policy, Mead’s hawkish (or realistic?) The Return of Geopolitics and Ikenberry’s idealistic The Illusion of Geopolitics, as additional fodder for thought as well. I apologize for the links as I know in these epistles such details are usually unnecessary; however, at some point, you may choose to visit the cited works for yourself to note the present dilemma faced by the present administration. The chiding nature in the English Economist’s leader this week found me being grounded once more in the maxim “Trust The American People” who have moved the pendulum back at the moment to what appears to have been the original intent of the nation’s founders. Oh, by the way, should you read the English works above, you may wish to recall the sun having set on a particular British Empire. You may also wish to review Demosthenes who had some insight into these matters.
         Perhaps Mr. Obama has recognized this fact and is heeding the electorate’s call? For your perusal, I have clipped excerpts from Mr. Washington’s Farewell Address below, dated 1796 for further color on this matter. You may also wish to note the initial warning regarding the proper maintenance of the country’s fiscal affairs as the fount from which all else flows. Enjoy the read and recall while doing so the five dangerous words one should never utter, “Maybe this time is different” for as you know it rarely is.

         As always, I remain humbly yours,
                  Tetraneuris

Excerpts from President George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796):

“As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate…..

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all….

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

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. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation.

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”

United States
19th September, 1796

Geo. Washington

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