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  • November 2007
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United States Foreign Policy (Pt. 2)

by Ezra Taft Benson, Friday, June 21, 1968, Preston Idaho
The preservation of America’s political, economic and military independence–the three cornerstones of sovereignty–is the sum and total prerogative of our government in dealing with the affairs of the world. Beyond that point, any humanitarian or charitable activities are the responsibility of individual citizens voluntarily without coercion of others to participate.

The proper function of government must be limited to a defensive role–the defense of individual citizens against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude at the hands of either domestic or foreign criminals. But to protect our people from bodily harm at the hands of foreign aggressors, we must maintain a military force which is not only capable of crushing an invasion, but of striking a sufficiently powerful counterblow as to make in unattractive for would-be conquerors to try their luck with us.

As President Washington explained in his Fifth Annual Address to both Houses of Congress:
There is a rank due to the United States among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure the peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war. (December 3, 1793; Writings 12:352)

He had earlier, in his First Annual Address, strongly warned that:
To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace. A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined. (January 8, 1790; Writings 11:456)

To protect our people from international theft, we must enter into agreements with other nations to abide by certain rules regarding trade, exchange of currency, enforcement of contracts, patent rights, etc. To protect our people against involuntary servitude or the loss of personal freedom on the international level, we must be willing to use our military might to help even one of our citizens no matter where he might be kidnapped or enslaved.

For those of you who have never heard or do not remember it, the story of Ion Perdicaris instructs us what an American President can and should do to protect the lives of its citizens. It seems that in the early years of the century, a North African bandit named Raisuli kidnapped Perdicaris, a naturalized American of Greek extraction.

Teddy Roosevelt was our President at that time, and he knew just what to do. He did not “negotiate.” And he did not send any “urgent requests.” He simply ordered one of our gunboats to stand offshore, and sent the local sultan the following telegram: “Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead.” They say Raisuli didn’t waste any time getting a healthy Perdicaris down to the dock. (Review of the News, February 7, 1968, pp. 20-21)

Certainly we must avoid becoming entangled in a web of international treaties whose terms and clauses might reach inside our own borders and restrict our freedoms here at home.(2)

This is the defensive role of government expressed in international terms. Interestingly enough, these three aspects of national defense also translate directly into the three aspects of national sovereignty: military, economic and political.

Applying this philosophy to the sphere of foreign policy, one is able almost instantly to determine the correct answer to so many international questions that, otherwise, seem hopelessly complex. If the preservation and strengthening of our military, economic and political independence is the only legitimate objective of foreign policy decisions, then, at last, those decisions can be directed by a brilliant beacon of light that unerringly guides our ship of state past the treacherous reefs of international intrigue and into a calm open sea.

Should we disarm? And does it really make any difference whether we disarm unilaterally or collaterally? Either course of action would surrender our military independence. Should we pool our economic resources or our monetary system with those of other nations to create some kind of regional common market? It would constitute the surrender of our economic independence. Should we enter into treaties such as the U.N. Covenants which would obligate our citizens to conform their social behavior, their educational practices to rules and regulations set down by international agencies? Such treaty obligations amount to the voluntary and piece-meal surrender of our political independence. The answer to all such questions is a resounding “no,” for the simple reason that the only way America can survive in this basically hostile and topsy-turvy world is to remain militarily, economically and politically strong and independent.

We must put off our rose-colored glasses, quit repeating those soothing but entirely false statements about world unity and brotherhood, and look to the world as it is, not as we would like it to become. Such an objective, and perhaps painful, survey leads to but one conclusion. We would be committing national suicide to surrender any of our independence, and chain ourselves to other nations in such a sick and turbulent world. President George Washington, in his immortal Farewell Address, explained our true policy in this regard:
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…’Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world…Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments on a respectably defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies. (September 17, 1796; Writings 13: 316-318; P.P.N.S., p. 547)

President Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural Address, while discussing what he deemed to be “the essential principles of our government,”(3) explained that as far as our relations with foreign nations are concerned this means:
Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations–entangling alliances with none. . . (March 4, 1801; Works 8:4)

The world is smaller, you say? True, it is, but if one finds himself locked in a house with maniacs, thieves and murderers–even a small house–he does not increase his chances of survival by entering into alliances with his potential attackers and becoming dependent upon them for protection to the point where he is unable to defend himself. Perhaps the analogy between nations and maniacs is a little strong for some to accept. But if we put aside our squeamishness over strong language, and look hard at the real world in which we live, the analogy is quite sound in all but the rarest exceptions.

Already, I can hear the chorus chanting “Isolationism, isolationism, he’s turning back the clock to isolationism.” How many use that word without having the slightest idea of what it really means! The so-called isolationism of the United States in past decades is a pure myth. What isolationism? Long before the current trend of revoking our Declaration of Independence under the guise of international cooperation, American influence and trade was felt in every region of the globe. Individuals and private groups spread knowledge, business, prosperity, religion, good will and, above all, respect throughout every foreign continent. It was not necessary then for America to give up her independence to have contact and influence with other countries. It is not necessary now. Yet, many Americans have been led to believe that our country is so strong that it can defend, feed and subsidize half the world, while at the same time believing that we are so weak and “inter-dependent” that we cannot survive without pooling our resources and sovereignty with those we subsidize. If wanting no part of this kind of “logic” is isolationism, then it is time we brought it back into vogue.

Senator Robert A. Taft clearly explained our traditional foreign policy:
Our traditional policy of neutrality and non-interference with other nations was based on the principle that this policy was the best way to avoid disputes with other nations and to maintain the liberty of this country without war. From the days of George Washington that has been the policy of the United States. It has never been isolationism; but it has always avoided alliances and interference in foreign quarrels as a preventive against possible war, and it has always opposed any commitment by the United States, in advance, to take any military action outside of our territory. It would leave us free to interfere or not according to whether we consider the case of sufficiently vital interest to the liberty of this country. It was the policy of the free hand. (A Foreign Policy for Americans, p. 12)

“But that is nationalism,” chants the chorus. “And nationalism fosters jealousy, suspicion and hatred of other countries which in turn leads to war.”(4) How many times has this utter nonsense been repeated without challenge as though it were some kind of empirical and self-evident truth! What kind of logic assumes that loving one’s country means jealousy, suspicion and hatred of all others? Why can’t we be proud of America as an independent nation and also have a feeling of brotherhood and respect for other peoples around the world? As a matter of fact, haven’t Americans done just that for the past 200 years? What people have poured out more treasure to other lands, opened their doors to more immigrants, and sent more missionaries, teachers and doctors than we? Are we now to believe that love of our own country will suddenly cause us to hate the peoples of other lands?

It was the late Herbert Hoover who pointed out the social poison in the current derision of American nationalism:
We must realize the vitality of the great spiritual force which we call nationalism. The fuzzy-minded intellectuals have sought to brand nationalism as a sin against mankind. They seem to think that infamy is attached to the word “nationalist.” But that force cannot be obscured by denunciation of it as greed or selfishness–as it sometimes is. The spirit of nationalism springs from the deepest of human emotions. It rises from the yearning of men to be free of foreign domination, to govern themselves. It springs from a thousand rills of race, of history, of sacrifice and pride in national achievement. (Quoted by Eugene W. Castle, Billions, Blunders and Baloney, p. 259)

In order for a man to be a good neighbor within his own community, he had better first love his own family before he tries to save the neighborhood. If he doesn’t love his own, why should we believe he would love others? Theodore Roosevelt firmly believed that “it is only the man who ardently loves his country first who in actual practice can help any other country at all.” (P.P.N.S., p. 196)

[Ezra Taft Benson (August 4, 1899–May 30, 1994) was United States Secretary of Agriculture for both of the administrations of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.(1953-1961) and later became the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death.]

<Back to Pt. 1

Go to Pt. 3


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