Syria: What would George Washington do?

George Washington set great foreign policy precedent. America’s response to the civil war in Syria is thus far example of what not to do. Photo: Washington with Congress/ Public Image

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2013 — Using principles that established this nation, George Washington set great foreign policy precedent that in many ways laid the foundation for America to become a world leader. America’s response to the civil war in Syria is thus far example of what not to do.

George Washington considered three foundational American principles when dealing with defense and foreign policy.

#1        There must be a strong defense capability.

#2        The civil authority must be supreme over the military authority.

#3        Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; permanent alliances with none.

Each step taken thus far by President Obama exudes weakness not the “peace through strength” mantra that has guided our great leaders. Weakness does not command respect nor does it win the day on the battlefield of ideas, morals or combat.

America is not in a position to draw red lines and enforce moral high ground. We are not ready for even the itty bitty little bombing Secretary Kerry spoke about, let alone the potential fallout of un-strategic intervention. We’ve now turned our foreign policy fate over to the Russians.

We are weak due to continued cuts in military preparedness.

Congressman Buck McKeon wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Obama has reduced our military funding by $1.2 trillion over the last five years and has initiated another $50 billion cut under sequestration for 2014. This is all while sending more troops to Afghanistan, bombing Libya in 2011, and more recently a focus on placing Navy resources in Asia.

We are weak when our leaders talk tough about military strikes against a country that has not attacked us.

Syria’s fate is part of the larger Middle East hornet’s nest of unrest and human rights are being violated in unthinkable ways, but they have not attacked us. A stronger argument is that Libya attacked us a year ago on 911 in Benghazi. We’ve done nothing. Americans are dead.

We are weak when messages indicate our fighting forces are for sale.

At one point, the Administration talked about the Saudis or other Middle East countries helping to pay for the intervention. As Pat Buchanan suggested in Town Hall on September 6, this proposition makes U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen look like “mercenaries of sheiks, sultans and emirs, Hessians of the New World Order, hired out to do the big-time killing for Saudi and Sunni royals?”

In his fifth message to Congress (1793), George Washington said, “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 peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

In other words, talk is cheap. Be ready to go fully into war if attacked. Otherwise, keep out of the skirmishes among nations.

Paul Carrese, professor of political science at the Air Force Academy, writes for Public Discourse on Washington’s approach to formulating foreign and defense policy. Washington patterned a practical judgment over doctrines or “isms,” avoiding either an amoral expediency or an impractical moralism, Carrese writes.

Carrese groups Washington with Lincoln and Churchill as statesmen “guided not by abstract moral principles alone but by prudence that connects larger moral ends with particular actions and policies.”

Successful foreign policy from Washington on has rested on principles of maintaining our sovereignty and safety balanced with human justice. President Obama’s vacillation between talking nice one day and tough the next based on a political calculus has only emboldened the world’s bullies from Putin and Assad to Kim Jong Un and Iran’s former president Ahmadinejad. They are all running rough shod over us and their own people.

Carla Garrison follows current events with one eye on history and the other on the future.  Her goal is to encourage people to know the truth and use it as a call to personal action. Read more Truth be Told.

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Carla Garrison

Carla writes about current issues and events with an aim toward telling the truth, using the writings of great thinkers, dead and living, as well as common sense.

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