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Literary Saturday: More Foreign Policy Poetry

As regular readers know, I’m teaching a class for aspiring young writers and thinkers at Bard this semester, and one of the exercises I’ve asked them to do involves using heroic couplets to write satires and expository essays. Looking at the way that writers like John Dryden and Alexander Pope were able to use the constraints of meter and rhyme to make compelling arguments that captured the attention of readers can help writers today become more conscious of language as a medium and of the consequences of the word choices they make.

To help them get started I decided to dust off some old skills and write a poem about American foreign policy. The first section ran last week; in this week’s excerpt I look at the first three steps in the ‘five point plan’ that the Hamiltonian school of American foreign policy thinks should form the core of our global strategy. I’ll be back with more, and also perhaps some student essays in the next few weeks.

The Hamiltonian Five Point Plan: Steps One Through Three

Step One: in your domestic policy
Rest all your hopes on social liberty.
In commerce and religion stay the hand
Of the officious bureaucratic band;
Let every person do as each thinks best
So far as can be managed; for the rest
Make laws impartial, institutions fair,
Enforce the rules of contract everywhere.

Step Two:  This social dynamo you’ve made
Now needs to step out globally and trade.
The products, concepts, management techniques,
The gadgets crafted by your world class geeks,
Financial market assets, movies, shows
Will make you richer as your power grows.
No despots ruling o’er a race of slaves
Can duplicate the intoxicating waves
Of innovation freedom ever draws
From dynamic people under liberal laws.
Let trade prevail, send all your wares abroad
And as the wealth flows home, give thanks to God.

Step Three: While other powers concentrate
On their immediate neighborhoods, your fate
Demands a wider vision; pole to pole
You’ll find America’s vital interests roll.
Those interests, though they everywhere extend
Do not require our country to contend
In every theater for the leading place;
An offshore balancer often wins the race.
Yet some important issues will demand
A focused effort and a steady hand.
Free navigation of the seas must be
A permanent object of your policy;
So too you must eternally take care
To win and hold the mastery of the air.
The flow of information, too, requires
A constant vigilance; he who acquires
The power to hack your data or block your trade
Can quickly cause your global power to fade.

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