Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Naive Organizing Principle For Foreign Policy

PNR asks an important question:
The world needs a cop quite often.  What should dictate when we answer the call and when we leave it ringing?  What should principles should set the priorities among the competing calls that come in?
He has proclaimed "don't do stupid stuff" as insufficient. (I'm going to be in the first day of faculty meetings in an hour, so I'm trying to cut back on summer language.) One could contend that the aphorism is still a necessary element in any foreign policy principle or set of principles. The Princess Bride offered two pithy phrases, one of which the United States frequently ignores: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line." Those principles also seem  insufficient even though following the former might have have dramatically altered the history that has occurred during my lifetime

In light of the fact that most aphorisms, including "first, do no harm" will be found wanting, I humbly offer a rather naive principle with the accompanying plan.

Every time a foreign policy is presented to the President, he or she should ask the presenter(s) two simple questions.

First, will proposal x, plan y, act z help provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity? (The phrases "form a more perfect union, establish justice, [and] insure domestic tranquility," seem better suited to domestic policy.)

Second, can you explain how it will do so in a manner that an 8 year old can understand?

Granted, Barack Obama and John McCain might answer the questions differently, but neither of them would agree about what constitutes stupid stuff.

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