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Can Rand Paul Turn America into Less of a Global Busybody?

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign is drawing new attention to his “libertarian-ish” views and his less-interventionist foreign policy. His preference for avoiding new wars may set him apart from most of the other Republican candidates, as well as from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, but it’s in keeping with traditional American foreign policy.

The classical liberals whose ideas shaped America always regarded war as the greatest scourge that government could visit upon society. They abhorred the killing that war entailed, and they understood something else as well: War destroyed families, businesses, and civil society. Preventing kings from putting their subjects at risk in unnecessary wars was one of their major goals. Adam Smith argued that little else was needed to create a happy and prosperous society but “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”

The American founders, happy to be free of endless European wars, made peace and neutrality a cardinal principle of the new government. In his farewell address, George Washington told the nation: “The great rule in conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.” And Thomas Jefferson described American foreign policy in his first inaugural address this way: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”

Our never-ending military involvements around the world are enormously expensive and make us less safe.”

In the 20th century, however, the United States became entangled in world affairs and foreign wars, from World War I through Korea and Vietnam. For 50 years U.S. foreign policy was directed at defeating two totalitarian powers, first Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia. That great crusade ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991; no other superpower remained to threaten U.S. sovereignty or world peace. But the huge diplomatic and military establishment that grew up during World War II and the Cold War refused to declare victory and return to peacetime status.

The American military remained large and expensive. Instead of celebrating the nation’s peaceful triumph, American policymakers expanded their ambitions. Even before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we were told that the post–Cold War world was even more dangerous and unstable than the world that had been threatened by the Soviet Union and its 30,000 nuclear warheads. American troops remained deployed in Europe, Japan, Korea, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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