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Pompeo: ‘America First’ Foreign Policy Is What the Founders Envisioned

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Unread 05.15.19, 04:04 PM
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Pompeo: ‘America First’ Foreign Policy Is What the Founders Envisioned

On 05.15.19 10:09 AM posted by Daniel Davis

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put forward a compelling case for an “America First” foreign policy last weekend, speaking as the featured guest at the Claremont Institute’s 40th Anniversary Gala in Beverly Hills, California.

The nation’stop diplomat argued that, rather than deviating from American norms, the Trumpadministration’s foreign policy is exactly the kind of approach that theFounding Fathers envisioned.

Though hedidn’t use these words, Pompeo essentially cast President Donald Trump’sforeign policy as a modern “return to normalcy,” just as Warren Hardingproposed in 1920 following World War I.

Pompeosuggested that in recent decades, presidents from both parties have deviatedfrom the norms set by the Founders and indulged grandiose visions that havelittle place in the American tradition.

On the left,presidents have elevated humanity over the nation-state, prizing globalconsensus over the interests of ordinary Americans and thus betrayingdemocracy. They also have sought to appease foreign powers, naively thinking thatgoodwill and friendship can override the raw power of national interests.

Meanwhile onthe right, some presidents have sought to remake the world in America’s imagethrough nation-building. Such projects ignore the unique cultural andhistorical conditions that allow ordered liberty to flourish in America, andnot elsewhere.

As Pompeoshowed, these visions go against the wisdom of the Founders. In particular,they abandon the Founders’ realistic view of human nature borne out throughhistory.

“The Founderswere keen students of human nature and history,” Pompeo noted. “They saw thatconflict is the normative experience for nations. … And in response to thisreality, the Founders knew the first duty of the federal government was toprovide for the safety of its citizens.”

The Foundersalso understood that foreign policy must be restrained—though that hardly meantpassivity in the face of threats. In Pompeo’s words, the Founders “sought toprotect our interests but avoid adventurism.”

An early examplewas the First Barbary War, fought soon after the War of Independence, which“was an effort of last resort to protect our vital commercial interests.” Pompeocited Thomas Jefferson, who advocated sincere yet realistic diplomacy:
Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it. But the temper and folly of our enemies may not leave this in our choice.

And finally, the Founders understood that they shouldrespect other nations, not act as a predator on the world stage. Imperialism isnot in the founding DNA.

As Pompeo noted, “The Founders had recently cast off thetyranny of an empire. They were not eager to subjugate others.”

To this point, he quoted President John Quincy Adams, whosaid America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” but instead is“the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.”

Pompeo recalled recent developments that vindicated theseinsights.

In the years after the Cold War, the secretary of statesaid, “hopes were high that enfolding the likes of China and Russia into aso-called rules-based international order would hasten their domestic evolutiontowards democracy.”

Yet decades later, he said, we can see that “the Putinregime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbors” while Chinadetains Uighur Muslims in labor camps and “uses coercion and corruption as itsprimary tools of statecraft.”

The Founders’ vision would have kept the U.S. chastenedabout global possibilities—even in the face of positive change. Yet post-ColdWar presidents took their optimism too far and expected unrealistic outcomes.

Pompeo stressed that the Trump administration understandswhat is attainable and what is not. He noted that while the president “wishesevery country enjoyed the freedoms we enjoy here, he has no aspiration to useforce to spread the American model.”

He also dinged past administrations for embracingglobalist priorities while neglecting the interests of ordinary Americans.

“We bought into trade agreements that helped hollow outour own middle class,” Pompeo said. “We sacrificed American competitiveness foraccolades from the U.N. and climate activists. And we engaged in conflictswithout a clear sense of mission. No more.”

Whereas past presidents let the “global good” dictatewhat is good for the United States, this administration operates under adifferent principle: “What’s good for the United States—a foreign policyanimated by love of our unique way of life—is good for the world.”

Practically, this means the U.S. supports nationalrenewal movements.

“Countries all over the world are rediscovering their national identities, and we are supporting them,” Pompeo said. “We’re asking them to do what’s best for their people as well,” because “love of one’s country forces leaders to better honor the will of their own people.”

Global elites pay lip service to “democracy,” but asPompeo pointed out, it is actually the nation-state that best protects truedemocracy and honors the will of the people. And the cornerstone of democracyis being able to fire your leaders.

“If democratic leaders are not responsive to the jolts ofpatriotism which are sweeping the world, they won’t be leaders for long,” hesaid. “Those who understand that nations are the best vehicle for securing therights of their citizens will have a much longer shelf life.”

At the heart of this “America First” vision is a recognition that the world is fundamentally violent and unstable—and that makes America utterly unique. As Pompeo put it, the president “believes America is exceptional—a place and history apart from normal human experience.”

The particularity and uniqueness of America mean that itcannot be replicated elsewhere—at least not easily, and certainly not by U.S.coercion. The best we can do is protect the rare jewel that we have in Americawith a foreign policy that is muscular but not adventurist.

“America First,” at its best, means defending U.S.interests within a realistic view of the world. If that’s destructive tocertain “norms,” they certainly aren’t the Founders’ norms.

The post Pompeo: ‘America First’ Foreign Policy Is What the Founders Envisioned appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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