A fellow named George Washington has written up some pretty bizarre foreign policy recommendations. I don’t know anything about Mr. Washington, but he has published what he calls “Washington’s Farewell Address” on the Internet. It is available at countless places there, so at least Mr. Washington must be somewhat media-savvy, to get his ideas widely distributed. Exactly what he is saying farewell to, and where he plans to go next, I am not quite sure. Is he leaving the country, deserting us in our hour of need? I don’t know.
This is a somewhat lengthy document–Mr. Washington, sometimes less is better than more; remember that if you write again–but I was struck especially by the unusual nature of the foreign policy recommendations which are made.
Why Mr. Washington thinks we should listen to him is not quite clear, but I guess we all like to think our ideas are of value. I write something weekly at this blog, for example, with probably less encouragement than Mr. Washington has received. So it ill behooves me to be unduly critical of Mr. Washington for trying to reach people with his ideas, unusual though those ideas may be.
I will quote a few of the things in Mr. Washington’s “Farewell Address.” Some of them have to do with foreign policy, others are of a more general nature–but still odd. All ellipses are mine.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. And can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? . . . Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?”
“So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political [political is italicized in the original] connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.”
“Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. . . . Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?”
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.”
“Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; . . . constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; . . . There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.”
Thus far Mr. Washington. As you can see, he expresses some novel notions. Still, I thought it worth your while to alert you to the existence of such ideas, and of such a document. At the worst we can have a good giggle at reading such stuff. When one decides to publish things on the Internet, one must be prepared to accept the consequences, as I am sure Mr. Washington fully comprehends. If you find the above quotes entertaining, the full document is splattered all over the Internet.