Military genius is winning wars without fighting battles. In the same way, foreign-policy genius is masterly inactivity: eschewing capers abroad in search of monsters to destroy, while avoiding meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.
In practice, masterly inactivity means spending billions on self-defense and deterrence while promising a second edition of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to any aggressor. It means refusing one cent for empire, which includes establishing military bases in 150 countries manned by 200,000 U.S. soldiers, and weapons sales and bribes disguised as foreign aid. The United States has neither a moral nor a legal obligation to undertake the fool’s errand of ridding the world of tyranny by making Americans play global Good Samaritan. That is a role for volunteers who covet a Nobel Peace Prize.
Masterly inactivity preserves American lives, saves vast sums in Pentagon spending, and creates no enemies. It was the foreign policy of President George Washington and his first five successors throughout the Napoleonic Wars, North African piracy, as well as the Central and South American upheavals against Spanish and Portuguese colonialism.
The modern day foreign policy of empire has squandered the lives of courageous American soldiers under the banner of world domination in places like Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has created enemies by providing material assistance to rulers who oppress or terrorize their peoples, which makes the United States morally complicit in their oppression or terrorism. In the Middle East alone, the United States has provided assistance to Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, the King of Bahrain, Kuwait’s al Sabah family, Saudi Arabia’s House of Saud, Iran’s Mohammed Reza Shah, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh and Jordan’s King Hussein. 9/11 might have been avoided if the United States had refrained from aiding and abetting the criminal acts of Middle East governments against their peoples.
If left alone from external threat, nations typically convulse from internecine warfare or strife. The causes vary, but the most common are religious, tribal, racial or ethnic animosities. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, China, Russia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Lebanon and Myanmar are exemplary. Muslims kill each other far more frequently than they kill Jews or Christians. Even homogenous nations like Somalia or Bangladesh routinely splinter over struggles for power. Chairman Mao killed more Chinese in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution than is conceivable by any invader. Moreover, wars of aggression or occupation of foreign lands typically destroy or weaken the aggressor or occupier. The Soviet Union was bankrupted by occupying Central and Eastern Europe and the Red Army was preoccupied with suppressing chronic revolts in Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. China’s 1979 aggression against Vietnam was sharply rebuffed. India is bleeding from its occupation of Kashmir.
The United States is the most invulnerable nation in the world. Its annual national security expenditures approximate $1 trillion, dwarfing the defense spending of every other nation on the planet. Its weapons are vastly superior to the arms of any rival, and its military personnel are more highly trained, skilled and motivated. No other state or nonstate actor endangers United States sovereignty. None would even contemplate an attack or revenge unless provoked by United States efforts to manipulate or control their domestic politics or international relations. Illustrative was the U.S.-orchestrated overthrow of Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in favor of the brutal and corrupt Mohammed Reza Shah in 1953. A more recent example was a $30 billion arms sale to the House of Saud.