George Washington Had It Right

Have you ever thought how peaceful and prosperous we would be if our national leaders had followed the advice of George Washington in his “Farewell Address“?

For starters, we would not be hopelessly in debt, and there would not be so many Americans buried in national cemeteries and in distant lands. Nor would we be as hated as we are today in so many countries, where new polls show people not only dislike American foreign policy and the American government, but are now deciding they don’t like the American people.

Washington’s recommended policy can be summed up as armed neutrality, the same policy Switzerland practices. While the rest of the world participated in a slaughterhouse during the 20th century, the Swiss remained at peace.

Washington was a very wise man. He said that no country can be trusted beyond its own self-interests. He said that habitual friendship toward a foreign country is as dangerous as habitual enmity. The policy of America should be trade with all but entangling alliances with nobody. The quarrels and vendettas in other parts of the world were none of our business, he said. As far as trade goes, all countries should be treated equal, with no favors granted to any of them.

He warned against foreign influence, calling it a poison to republican government. While he was no doubt thinking of the French, his advice applies to Israel. No foreign country should be allowed to influence American policy because that country will always seek to influence policy to favor its interests, not ours. If we followed Washington’s advice, the only thing we would be sending to the Middle East would be oil tankers and tourists.

We could build a military force that could deter attacks on this country for a fraction of the cost we spend on trying to maintain an empire with about 745 military bases in 120 foreign countries. The only people who might attack us are a gang of terrorists, and, of course, our massive military machine is not equipped to deal with them.

As for domestic policy, Washington said the best way to preserve the union was to obey the Constitution and to never tolerate any branch of government usurping the Constitution’s power. He said that a republican form of government required a virtuous people, and since religion is the best way to instill virtue in the masses, anybody who was an enemy of religion was an enemy of republican government.

All of that is pointless now, because we no longer have a republic – or a virtuous population, for that matter. We have an empire. We have a federal government that does nothing more than pay lip service to the Constitution, if that. Elections are decided by money, not by the people. Greed, self-indulgence, and commercial entertainment seem to be the main motivations of a goodly number of our people. We will, as all empires have, bleed ourselves in foreign wars and domestic tyranny until we collapse. President Bush is a heck of a lot closer to Nero than he is to George Washington.

Too bad, because we could be such a happy place if we had sense enough to mind our own business and to elect men and women who would obey the Constitution. We have no legal authority, no moral authority, and certainly no divine authority to interfere with the internal affairs of any other nation. It should not matter to us what kind of governments other people have or what their cultures are. There is nothing in the Constitution to authorize the federal government to tax Americans and then write checks to foreign countries. There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the president to take us to war. That is a power reserved exclusively to Congress. The Constitution also requires a warrant based on probable cause before the government can spy on us or search our homes and businesses.

Americans ought to read their Constitution, if for no other reason than to see what kind of government they are missing. It’s written in very plain English and is easy to understand.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.