By Jacob G. Hornberger
Among the big choices facing Americans is the role
of the U.S. government in foreign affairs.
Should the U.S. government have military bases in
foreign countries … have a navy patrolling waters
thousands of miles away from American shores … provide
money and armaments to foreign regimes … effect regime
change in foreign countries with coups,
assassinations, or invasions … involve itself in the
electoral process in other countries … kidnap,
incarcerate, and assassinate people in foreign
countries … sanction and embargo other nations …
invade and occupy foreign nations?
In other words, should the U.S. government have an
overseas military empire and a foreign policy of
Or to put it another way, should it be the role of
the U.S. government to be an international policeman,
judge, jury, executioner, intervener, meddler, fixer,
helper, and interloper?
One thing is for sure: America's Founding Fathers
ardently opposed such a role for the U.S. government.
Their position was that the U.S. government should
stay out of foreign disputes. They wanted the U.S.
government to be limited to protecting the United
States from foreign invasion.
In fact, that's one big reason that the Founding
Fathers fiercely opposed a professional, standing
army. They knew that if the president had such a force
at his beck and call, he would inevitably use it to
involve the United States in endless crises and wars.
The other reason they opposed a standing army is
because they considered it to be a grave threat to the
freedom of the domestic citizenry.
So, there is no question but that the current
system under which we live is directly contrary to our
nation's founding principles. It's also beyond dispute
that this revolutionary transformation of the federal
government was accomplished without even the semblance
of a constitutional amendment and the discussion and
debates that would have come with the proposal for
such an amendment.
The U.S. government has been extremely successful
in convincing Americans that if it were not permitted
to maintain an overseas military empire, the world
would devolve into total chaos and war. Even worse,
that it would enable some imaginary gigantic force,
such as communism or terrorism, to take over the
United States and subjugate the American people.
It's all nonsense — nothing more than an extremely
clever device founded on fear to maintain the
military's and the CIA's iron grip on the lives and
fortunes of the American people.
Would there be tyrants in the world? Of course.
Would there be disputes between nations? Of course.
Would there be starvation? Of course. But those things
exist notwithstanding the U.S. government's imperial
role in world affairs. One big problem is that the
U.S. Empire and foreign meddling make things worse
than they otherwise would be.
Consider Switzerland. It maintains no military
bases in foreign countries. It has no CIA operating
overseas. When it comes to foreign affairs, the Swiss
government minds its own business. Its foreign policy
pretty much mirrors the founding principles of the
U.S. government. The government focuses on genuine
defense of the country, not the type of imperialistic
"defense" that characterizes the U.S. government.
No one jacks with the Swiss. No nation would dare
to invade Switzerland, no matter how much gold is in
those Swiss banks. The reason is that invading
Switzerland would be like swallowing a porcupine. The
Swiss are probably the best trained and best-armed
people in the world.
Moreover, consider the root of the anger and hatred
that exists among so many people of the world against
the United States and the American people. No, that
root is not hatred for America's freedom and values,
as U.S. officials like to claim. The root of the anger
and hatred — and resulting threat of terrorism — is
the imperialistic and interventionist role of the U.S.
government in foreign affairs.
Thus, by dismantling the U.S. government's vast
foreign empire, the threat of anti-America terrorism
disintegrates. That in turn would mean an end to the
"emergency" dictatorial powers that the president
assumed after the 9/11 attacks — i.e., the power to
arrest suspected terrorists without warrants,
incarcerate them forever without trial, torture them,
execute them after a kangaroo tribunal, or assassinate
them. It would mean a restoration of the civil
liberties of the American people.
The dismantling of the U.S. Empire would also mean
a tremendous savings of money, which would help
relieve the endless upward pressure on taxes, debt,
and inflation. Don't forget what conservatives used to
always remind us — that Ronald Reagan brought down the
Soviet Empire by making it spend its way into
bankruptcy. Like it or not, the same principle applies
to the U.S. Empire.
We can debate all the day the issue of how large a
domestic military establishment is necessary to
protect the United States from a foreign invasion. But
that's a separate issue from the one at hand: whether
the U.S. government should be permitted to extend its
military dominion around the world through foreign
bases, foreign aid, coups, assassinations, invasions,
occupations, sanctions, embargoes, and the like?
What about foreign citizens suffering the ravages
of tyranny, economic destitution, or war? Is there
nothing Americans can do to help them except send U.S.
military forces to assist them?
Actually, there are three ways.
One is by freeing Americans to travel overseas and
join up with the resistance in such countries. In that
way, Americans have the opportunity to take personal
responsibility for the dictates of their consciences.
A good example is the Spanish Civil War, when lots of
Americans traveled to Spain to fight for the republic.
A second way is by voluntarily sending money,
goods, and services to people whom Americans want to
A third way, one that characterized our American
ancestors, would be to simply open the U.S. borders to
open immigration. The message to the world would be:
If you are suffering tyranny, starvation, oppression,
or war, our government will not send military or
intelligence forces to help you. But if you can get
out, know that there will always be at least one
nation that is willing to accept you — the United
States of America.
Historically, we have now had two different roles
for the U.S. government in foreign affairs.
The first role — that of a limited-government,
constitutional republic — brings a society of freedom,
peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the
The second role — that of a giant military empire —
brings death, destruction, loss of liberty, economic
chaos, and financial bankruptcy.
After a century of war, invasions, occupations,
coups, torture, assassinations, foreign aid,
sanctions, embargoes, death, destruction, crisis,
chaos, taxes, debt, debasement, and infringements on
liberty, isn't it time to go back to our nation's
founding principles in foreign policy?
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the
Future of Freedom Foundation.