The United States is a great power. With great power comes great responsibility. Two world wars demonstrate that we ignore at our peril the forces at work in the balance of the world. Our experience in Vietnam demonstrates that we can not afford to be drawn into conflicts without a legitimate reason, or without the full support of the American public. We must be constructively engaged, to defend our own interests, and those of like-minded nations. And when we work with others, to advance common interests, we do not engage in a zero-sum game: both sides, all sides, can and must gain. I believe our foreign policy should be based on several principles.
The most fundamental obligation of our federal government is to assure our territorial and economic security. This means secure borders, access to raw materials and trading partners, freedom of the seas. These goals can only be achieved within a framework of law, working with the willing and active support of other like-minded nations, and backed by a convincing defense.
Our relations with other nations should be grounded in mutuality: what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
The United States should not seek to impose on others our own systems of belief, whether governmental, economic, religious or philosophic. We should not crusade, but neither should we retreat when our own systems of belief are threatened. Peoples have a right to choose their own forms of government, and over time, they do. We believe in democracy; not all do. Democracy is not inevitable. It can be imported, but not exported.
We should promote fundamental human rights wherever possible. Those are more than the Four Freedoms articulated by Franklin Roosevelt: freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in each person’s own way, freedom from want, freedom from fear.
Fundamental rights include the right to life, liberty and security of their person. The right to be treated as a person without distinction based on factors beyond their control, such as race, sex, ethnic or national origin. The right not to be held in slavery or servitude, or subjected to torture or degrading treatment. The right to recognition as a person, equal to every other person before the law. The right to due process and an impartial tribunal to hear and determine any charge against him. The right to leave any country, including his own, and to return. The right to seek asylum to avoid persecution. The right to a nationality, and to change it. The right to freely marry and found a family, and to enjoy equal rights within marriage and at its dissolution. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to a standard of living adequate for himself and his family, including medical care. The right to an education.
We can not impose upon other nations our notions of fundamental human rights, but neither are we compelled to commerce with those who do not share our ideals. We certainly should not aid those nations that actively deprive their citizens of their fundamental rights, even where to do so may yield a short-term advantage to the United States.
I support the long-standing United States policies of discouraging the proliferation of nuclear weapons and working for world-wide de-nuclearization. Unhappily, I conclude that the train long ago left the station on the first, and the time is not yet come for the second. We should continue to oppose proliferation, and do what is required to continue a realistic deterrent force.
Special attention is warranted for the cases of Russia and China. There is nothing that requires that we be enemies, and we should make every effort to work with them as our interests coincide. Both present danger, however, largely for their neighbors, as they seek to regain control or dominance over what they consider their historical spheres of influence. In the case of Russia, this is the territory controlled by Peter the Great. In the case of China, it is the realm effectively controlled by the Qing Dynasty. Neither vision is consistent with the modern reality of multiple, independent nation-states, many of which honor or are moving toward our notions of fundamental human rights. We should do what we can to resist the forcible expansion of the zones of control of either Russia or China.
International terrorism, whether grounded in some twisted religious notion or something else, is a scourge. We should do everything in our power to suppress it.
Finally, we should recall that bullying, not responded to, begets more bullying.