Is a military strike the best way, or any way, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear-tipped missiles? Does the turmoil in Ukraine, or the Syrian civil war, threaten American interests or values? These are just some of the thorny foreign policy questions the United States faces in our day. How can the United States prevent North Korea from engaging in nuclear blackmail? As American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, will the country fall into the hands of the Taliban again, or those of al-Qaeda? Are drone attacks a wise way to destroy or degrade the capacities of terror networks? Should the United States ally itself with dictators who serve its material interests, or those who represent a lesser evil in thwarting a more dangerous foe?
None of these international problems, or others we could list, admit of simple answers. Some are interconnected. Their difficulty is increased by the fact that the world has changed radically since the end of the Cold War. The alliances that the United States established after World War II are no longer particularly well suited to the most serious problems that we face, or to sustaining the international order we built together; yet significantly altering those alliances or building new ones hardly seem possible. China and Russia are resurgent as great powers (the former after several centuries of relative weakness), but they are neither liberal nor republican. Moreover, America as a constitutional republic was founded in war but has been devoted to peaceful aims of protecting and enjoying natural rights, which largely has meant rejecting war or militarism (at least until recently). All this bewildering complexity has revived an American instinct to turn away from international affairs as of secondary importance or as an arena from which we should hold ourselves aloof, either in the “exceptionalist” belief that we embody higher standards of justice and progress, or through some calculation that we meddle abroad too much to no good effect.
In short, we are living through an awkward period. The liberal democracies won the Cold War, but this brought no reprieve from America’s global interests and burdens. We know that something new and different is afoot, but we are not sure what it is or will be, and we lack a national consensus on how to shape it. Whom should we consult for common-sense guidance, to try to rebuild some degree of national consensus?
The Inadequacy of Off-the-Shelf Answers
Unfortunately, the established schools of thought regarding foreign policy are as outmoded as our alliances, and in many ways are themselves Cold War relics. On university campuses, two foreign policy schools dominate: realism and liberal internationalism. Realists tell us to pursue the national interest by first considering calculations of relative power and interests among states, with limited, if any, concern for moral values. Liberal internationalism, by contrast, emphasizes the importance of moral principles and international law and thus of working through global institutions, the United Nations especially. As different as the two schools are, they hold one attitude in common: foreign policy as largely the domain of experts, based on universal principles that experts understand even if they disagree about what those principles are. Each school, in its own way, therefore regards the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy as an unwelcome intrusion. Neither is concerned with distinctively American principles when considering U.S. foreign policy options and behaviors. The realist concern with power and interests speaks to a people from anywhere, since all states supposedly think alike about international affairs (even though they don’t). The liberal internationalist emphasis on ideals and international law speaks to a people from nowhere, since all thinking should rise above specific places, interests and histories of any given people (even though it doesn’t).
This universal or theoretical attitude alone ensures that such schools will have only limited influence on flesh-and-blood American leaders, for whom it is axiomatic that a successful foreign policy is one that will pass the test of the ballot box, or consent of the governed, as guided by fundamental and enduring American principles. Precisely because American principles aspire to a kind of universal status, by invoking basic rights of individuals and states that are accessible to all reasonable peoples everywhere, a proper attention to these principles need not forsake justice for an exclusive focus on interest.
Outside the academy, two additional schools of thought are worthy of note. The first of these is neoconservatism, which has only a small following in the professoriate, but which is deeply influential in the Republican Party. At the heart of the neoconservative perspective is a belief in American exceptionalism: the conviction that the United States has a uniquely beneficial role to play in the world. Among the benefits that it offers is the spread of liberal democracy, the best form of government. George W. Bush’s decision to make democracy promotion a mainstay of Middle East strategy owed much to the influence of neoconservatism, which is currently in retreat. In the past decade the United States has supported the removal of four Arab dictators: Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia) and Muammar Qaddafi (Libya). The ensuing turmoil has left the American people wary of deep engagement in Middle Eastern politics. These complications, combined with the long war in Afghanistan to build some form of constitutional government after deposing the Taliban in November 2001, also have left many American leaders and citizens leery about nation-building or democracy promotion as a prominent element of U.S. foreign policy.
The decline of neoconservatism has certainly benefited the realists, but it also has opened up a space for what might be called neo-isolationism, which at this stage is more a mood than a fully articulated school of thought. In the 2012 presidential election, Representative Ron Paul expressed this mood more explicitly than any other candidate, but it is by no means confined to the libertarians or, for that matter, to the political Right. His son, Rand Paul, now serves in the Senate and has given new energy to such ideas (though in somewhat tempered form). His voice is joined by some on the political Left who believe America largely has been a force for ill in world affairs in the past century. Together, they seem to be converging on an inversion of an old Cold War doctrine: American self-containment as the best path for America (and everyone else). Only time will tell how influential this impulse toward disengagement will prove to be. But the fact that the two Pauls enjoy particularly strong support among young people suggests that it may be a significant voice in foreign affairs for years to come, no less so, perhaps, than the post-World War I isolationist pulse, which lasted for nearly three decades.
While each of these schools has its attractions, all of them have obvious defects. Realism enjoins us to pursue our interests in a pragmatic fashion. While this sounds commonsensical, the school offers few clear principles about how to define and rank interests, particularly for a rule-setting, order-guarding great power with expansive and diverse interests like the United States. “Self-preservation” or “economic interests”, for example, don’t clarify whether the country should focus on short-term calculations at the expense of long-term sustainablity as the best means. Moreover, in a liberal democracy, realism’s rejection of values-based policy will inevitably meet with strong opposition. Indeed, America has thought of itself as exceptional since its Founding in the 17th century, and not only for separating itself from the great-power wars of Europe. Alexander Hamilton voiced the first arguments for an American navy that could be a world power, precisely in order to liberate the Americas from European powers and thus “vindicate the honor of the human race”, in Federalist no. 11 (1787)—three decades before the Monroe Doctrine was announced.
Liberal internationalism also has a political tin ear. It cannot explain persuasively why the will of the United Nations, packed as it is with unrepresentative autocrats, is superior to the will of the American people. Liberal internationalists will never convince Americans that the workings of the collective-security machinery of the United Nations, or any other inter-governmental treaty or set of norms, will protect them better than action by their own elected President and Congress, directing their own military. Unlike realism and liberal internationalism, neoconservatism does appeal to the democratic nature of the American people, but its emphasis on democracy promotion, the assumptions of which are highly questionable from a social science perspective, looks like a recipe for endless foreign adventures. It asks us to invest in the “democratic peace” theory —that democracies are stable and reduce the chances of war—but it doesn’t address the republican tradition in America that warns of the excesses and temptations of militarism.
Isolationism—or, to avoid offense, an inclination to disengagement and a focus on “America first”—is certainly on the rise. However, this is an era of globalization. The dark side of our world includes weapons of mass destruction, global terrorist networks, and cyber attacks that could disrupt our economy and threaten millions of lives. Those threats alone guarantee that America will have to remain deeply engaged in global affairs given the common-sense principle that threats are best opposed by steady mitigation, and a respected reputation, rather than waiting for attacks to arrive on our shores or those of our close allies. Moreover, whether one’s views incline toward retrenchment or assertive internationalism, we are still the primary guarantor of the global order defined by peaceful commerce, mutual recognition of states under international law, and prevention of great-power war and use of weapons of mass destruction. We cannot withdraw from our leading role in sustaining this free, dynamic, and predominantly peaceful global order without endangering the prosperity and stability it brings. Many realists, and the isolationists or restraintists, apparently think this global order can sustain itself and will survive an American retreat from leadership. They either trust in the magical efficacy of the balance of power, despite the somber history of those balances, or they suppose that illiberal great powers will somehow be eager to support liberal ideals and multiple-sum security arrangements that serve our interests and principles as well as the larger aim of global peace and prosperity. Liberal internationalists have not figured out how to give American leadership the latitude it needs to enforce international law and norms rather than be bound by legalisms and ineffective institutions (including a Security Council stymied by Russia and China). The neoconservatives join these other schools in overlooking the moderation, or sense of proportion, in the distinctively American tradition of balancing interests and justice, and balancing exceptionalism and obedience to international standards.
The Allure of Disentanglement
This brief survey of the major schools suggests that, as we attempt to answer the thorniest foreign policy questions, we will not find any ready-made solutions. We seem to be on our own, forging a new path in a dangerous age. Fortunately, we have before us the example of our forebears, who also faced unprecedented challenges. And we have not only the advice of the Founders, but also Abraham Lincoln’s example of consulting that advice.
Though Lincoln’s problems were more domestic than foreign, he showed how the Founders’ experience of guiding the colonies out of the British Empire and into a brave new experiment bore lessons for his own time. Lincoln understood that America was the first polity in history to be deliberately founded upon ideas, and that our subsequent rise to prosperity and global prominence hardly justified amnesia about our original aims. Lincoln’s greatness lay in a strategy of rededication to the principles of the Founders, which included a commitment to prudence rather than rigid doctrines in navigating the ship of state toward high ideals, and a commitment to balancing military power and the higher ends it should serve. We can do the same.
One lesson for the 21st century to be gained from reconsidering the Founding is that today’s temptation toward isolation or disengagement is nothing new. Our continent-sized republic has been blessed with natural resources and waves of immigration, making it uniquely self-sufficient and safe in comparison with all other great powers. The protection provided by geography convinced some Founding Fathers that it was possible to separate the United States from the rest of the world. George Washington was aware of this temptation and resolutely sought to guide the new republic to avoid both militarism and isolationism. This is especially true of his Farewell Address of 1796, the first great statement of American foreign policy principles.
Many pundits and academics persistently misinterpret Washington as warning against “entangling alliances” in the Address. He did no such thing. Those words are Jefferson’s from his First Inaugural Address of 1801, and they express a characteristically Jeffersonian idealism: If only we could avoid all political engagement with the great powers of the old world, and avoid a standing army and navy, we could peacefully develop in isolation while still enjoying the benefits of international commerce. By contrast, Washington warned against “permanent alliances” that would subordinate our fledgling republic to any great power, while recommending “temporary alliances” and a permanent military capability to weather the storms of international affairs. He did defend his policy of “neutrality” regarding the European wars provoked by the French Revolution, but indicated that the “predominant motive” for restraint toward Europe was to “gain time” for our young nation, and new Constitution, to “mature” toward a position of “strength.” Thus the Farewell expressed hope that America, if it followed these prudent and balanced policies, would become “a great nation.” By sticking to a principled prudence our republic could develop the “strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, command of its own fortunes.”
The wisdom of Washington’s more balanced view, as opposed to Jefferson’s idealistic isolationism, became apparent soon enough—indeed, during Jefferson’s two terms as President. In what is among the clearest of history’s judgments on non-intervention or disengagement as a valid strategy, it was Jefferson who sent the young U.S. Navy and Marines to North Africa to suppress the Barbary pirates. Indeed, to eliminate a threat to American commerce he deployed a blue-water navy that he once had resisted creating. Jefferson’s deal with Napoleon to purchase the Louisiana Territory, which doubled the size of the republic (and put vast sums of money in Napoleon’s war machine), was a similar retreat from the idealistic principles he hoped would forestall potential American militarism and international engagement. To raise the capital to pay Napoleon and manage the whole transaction, Jefferson turned, in part, to the national bank—the creation of which he had opposed as both a violation of strict constitutional interpretation and as inviting the easy financing of wars and a militaristic political culture.
Jefferson’s followers fared no better than he in their attempts to toe the disentanglement line. We might use the fresh memory of our bicentennial commemorations of the War of 1812 to reflect on why America entered that war, and what we immediately learned from it. The first severe price America paid for holding to isolationism—by cutting its minimal army and navy still further—was the lack of respect the Royal Navy showed for American commerce on the high seas. British harassment and impressment provoked an outraged America to declare war on the British superpower and to set fire to York (today Toronto), which resulted in the disaster of the British invasion and burning of our nation’s capital on August 24, 1814. It was the profound shock of this foreign policy threat that led Jefferson, and other Jeffersonians such as Madison, to change their minds about the constitutionality of a national bank and the need to re-charter it. Its absence had proven (as Hamilton and Washington originally had argued) that it was indispensable for financing an army, navy and an adequate national defense that could deter threats by signaling our capacities. (Alas, the argument, sound as it was, did not persuade Andrew Jackson.)
In our contemporary foreign policy debate, we frequently hear restatements of Jeffersonian idealism. Its unassailable origins and its purity of principle give it an air of unique authority and timelessness, especially after American power encounters setbacks or frustrations abroad. Those who have recourse to it, however, almost invariably forget the early tests that unadulterated Jeffersonianism failed to pass. For example, those who argue against a more forward-leaning American posture in the world frequently quote John Quincy Adams, as Jefferson’s most important foreign policy heir. They especially like the description by Adams of America’s attitude toward the struggles for freedom of other peoples, in a July 4 address in 1821, which is a perfect distillation of the Jeffersonian ideal of non-entanglement:
She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. . . . Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
Those who invoke this passage rarely remind us that Adams had as much difficulty as Jefferson in living up to these ideals. Two years later, he was emphasizing his Washingtonian, Federalist roots, for it was none other than Secretary of State John Quincy Adams who formulated what became known as the Monroe Doctrine, which effectively proclaimed America the great-power hegemon of the Western hemisphere. The context is revealing, since this declaration was, in part, another response to the War of 1812 and the sacking of Washington. It was, in short, a response to vulnerability. The successful British invasion, and America’s general incapacity to deter a war given the international awareness of our passivity and lack of military and financial capability, taught the Americans a simple lesson of the sort that Trotsky, a century later, captured in his famous dictum: “You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Protecting the American experiment in republican government and promotion of international peace required a forward-leaning foreign policy, backed by a credible military capability.
As the historian John Lewis Gaddis recently has argued, the American response to the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington followed a similar pattern to the shocks of 1814 in Washington and 1941 in Pearl Harbor. Rather than retreat from the world beyond its shores, the United States became more deeply engaged in it. After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pendulum is obviously swinging back toward American disengagement and the self-containment of the world’s foremost power. Still, if history is any guide, many contrary forces eventually will weaken this isolationist impulse. To be assertive and vigilant about international affairs is simply a predominant trait in our national character, although we occasionally grow weary of and frustrated by its burdens. Even after expenditures of blood and treasure, and mixed success, we must remember that assertive vigilance is also our most prudent trait. Our best leaders have followed the example of the Founders who, in words and deeds, sought to find a balance between forward engagement and restraint.
Four Principles for U.S. Foreign and Security Policy
Of all our foundational documents, Washington’s Farewell Address provides the clearest commonsense guidance about the principles needed for our time. It is evergreen, not least because Washington was contending with heated arguments between versions of realism, idealism and isolationism among his own advisers, including Hamilton and Jefferson as well as Madison. He sought a moderation or balance among principles, and a prudence to apply principles to murky circumstances, that would accord not only with America’s highest ideals but also its practical interests. With these ideas in mind, one can glean from the Farewell Address four broad principles for strategic thinking and a distinctively American strategy.
The primacy of natural rights and religious ideals. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity”, Washington stated, “religion and morality are indispensable supports.” A republic, in his view, should neither ignore the mutual influence between governmental and private morality nor adopt religious zealotry in its policies. The Declaration of Independence called upon “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” as well as “the protection of divine Providence” as sources of our highest ideals. Two decades later Washington applied these principles to foreign affairs, arguing that religion enjoined America to behave with “good faith and justice towards all nations” and to “cultivate peace and harmony with all.” Thus America should “give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.”
Washington, of course, was no pacifist. Like the other Founders, he defended the Revolutionary War with legal and philosophical principles that are applicable to today’s problems. The Declaration of Independence, for instance, carefully justifies rebellion on the basis of natural rights and the legitimacy of constitutional government. At the same time, it specifies unacceptable forms of warfare. Americans have at times fallen short of these standards of protecting human dignity even in war, but we have never suggested that the standards themselves were wanting.
Nor was he a stranger to public affirmations of religion. From the time of Washington’s leadership in the Revolutionary War, the military has always provided chaplains and conducted religious services, not only to console and comfort troops and sailors but also to remind them of the higher ends that force and war must serve. Moreover, to this day our Presidents and other national leaders invoke divine guidance about decency, perseverance, and honorable conduct in war and crisis. Adherence to republicanism, natural justice, and transcendent truths about humankind made Washington confident that America would be “at no distant period, a great nation.” If such discipline brought about the Founding of America, and was adhered to by his successors as we rose to become a world power, on what grounds should we ignore it now?
Maintaining civilian authority and military readiness. In his Farewell Address Washington speaks disparagingly of “overgrown military establishments.” They are, he says, “inauspicious to liberty” in general, but “particularly hostile to republican liberty.” Throughout Washington’s career he noted the dangers of both militarism and weakness. A professional military, he believed, was necessary to protect liberty. At the same time he was mindful of the question posed by the collapse of the ancient Roman Republic: Who will guard the guardians? Rome devolved into dictatorship when the military became too prominent, and took it upon itself to rule. Washington therefore insisted on civilian authority in deciding how to achieve the distinctively moderate aims of American foreign policy.
In Washington’s day, fear centered on “military establishments”, but today we might think more in terms of striking a balance between civilian authority and the entire “national security establishment.” In an age of cyberwarfare and global terrorism, it is inevitable that much of the important work of national defense will take place in secret, and secrecy and liberal-democratic government are potentially antithetical. The recent revelations by Edward Snowden regarding the National Security Agency’s internet surveillance programs illustrate the difficulty of maintaining civilian oversight of intelligence organizations. While few would suggest that the United States is teetering on the brink of tyranny, it would be equally fanciful to suggest that the rule of law and liberal-democratic institutions simply will take care of themselves.
Maintaining a healthy balance between the citizenry and the military requires constant vigilance and education. Citizens must be educated not only to respect the virtues of public service, but also to understand the details of the challenges that confront those who are responsible, professionally, for defense and national security. While a professional class of foreign policy experts is necessary to the health of the republic, we also need an active citizenry capable of guarding the guardians. We might ask ourselves, therefore, whether our current educational system, and our broader political culture, is living up to its national duty. If not, how should it be reformed?
Wariness of faction, but adherence to constitutional rules. One method of amassing power unjustly, Washington warned, was “to misrepresent the opinions and aims” of others. “You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.” Moderation in our rhetoric and debates, as well as in our policy aims, is a difficult but necessary discipline.
In this vein, Washington believed that the President should represent all the American citizenry, not any one “faction.” The presidency embodied the common principles and highest ideals of the entire nation. Especially with respect to war and foreign affairs, he therefore counseled moderation as striking a sober balance between rival ideas or courses of action. He exemplified respect for diverse viewpoints, and a confidence that allowed consultation of a wide range of intelligent advisers leading to decisive policy choices. He selected a Cabinet that formed the original “team of rivals”, which included Hamilton and Jefferson, while also seeking the advice of other leaders similarly accomplished in both domestic and international affairs, such as John Adams, James Madison, and John Jay. For this former General, moderation did not mean mushy compromise, or merely splitting the difference, but finding the higher middle ground in addressing difficult problems.
Guided by these principles, Washington set the model of a strong, moderate, and faithfully constitutional President, justifying decisions with principles and working patiently with an increasingly divided Congress. He sought to ameliorate the factionalism gripping America—and gripping his own Cabinet and advisers given the French Revolution and its aftershocks—by calling his countrymen to the enduring interests and higher ends that united them. For Washington, this culture of constitutionalism was indispensable for a sound foreign policy. A complex structure for formulating policy was the best way to balance liberty and security. His example of wide consultations, prudence and flexibility is difficult to emulate today, since we now embrace populism, partisanship, and permanent campaigning, not to mention, among most intellectuals, a reflexive adherence to off-the-shelf foreign policy doctrines. Nevertheless, American office-holders could do worse than to strive to meet the standard of the first Administration, which launched a new Federal republic and safely navigated the great-power conflict then engulfing Europe, all while faithfully adhering to constitutional ideals.
In common with all the leading Founders, Washington sought to safeguard liberty and security by dividing responsibility for defense between the branches of government, thus applying the principles of both checks and balances and division of labor to foreign policy. The President would lead in articulating particular policies given the advantages of Executive Branch secrecy, speed, and unity, but would do so while consulting Congress (especially the Senate) and striving for a high-minded national consensus on the best means to achieve American interests. Vetting policies through both the Executive and Legislative branches is almost always tedious and sometimes feels as if it is catering to the lowest common denominator. More often than not, however, it actually generates the highest possible consensus on means and aims.
Statesmanship: balancing interest and justice. The approach to formulating foreign policy that Washington favored required the president to balance speed and secrecy against consultation and transparency. Moreover, he argued that an American policy must balance our distinctive domestic political ideals with the realistic international interests held by any state. We might sum up this complex approach in one word: statesmanship.
The concrete benefits of this traditional ideal were noted by no less than the great philosopher of liberal democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, who credited Washington with preventing disaster as the French Revolution and Europe’s great-power struggles roiled American politics. In Democracy in America he wrote, from the vantage point of the 1830s, that “nothing less than the inflexible character of Washington” could check popular opinion and “prevent war from being declared on England” in the 1790s. Although “the majority pronounced against his policy; now the entire people approves it”, and if not for Washington’s prudence, “it is certain that the nation would have done then precisely what it condemns today.” Tocqueville was gracious enough, as a foreign visitor, not to mention that between Washington’s statesmanship and his later observations stood the disastrous War of 1812, which apparently had taught Americans to think more highly of Washington’s prudent approach.
Washington’s advocacy of practical judgment and moderation over doctrines or “isms” would be Machiavellian if the aims were immoral or amoral, or if the ends were thought to justify any means. The pattern throughout his career, however, was to avoid either amoral expedience or an impractical moralism. Both as general and President he employed hard-nosed intelligence and covert operations, while stopping short of ruthlessness.
Like Lincoln and Churchill after him, Washington is a model for successfully yoking day-to-day policies to larger moral ends. He managed to strike a balance between interest and justice, through prudent recourse to just war principles. The just war tradition, first developed in medieval Christianity and then adapted by more secular Enlightenment thinkers, articulated principles about the ends and means of war to ensure that states held legitimate and largely defensive aims, and sought to limit the carnage and passions of war. This high level of statesmanship is difficult to achieve. It is the product of education, native intelligence, character, and experience. But if Washington could manage it when the fledgling nation was still surrounded by stronger powers, it is certainly not impossible in the present day, when the country is more powerful than ever.
Republican Prudence for a Globalized World
The Farewell Address ends by declaring that Amer-ica should seek both independence and justice in foreign affairs. Tocqueville discerned that this was the basic charter of American foreign and defense policy, and he saw a national principle of enlightened self-interest in Washington’s declaration that a truly independent, capable America would be able to “choose peace or war, as our interest guided by justice shall counsel.” Washington argued that a secure, independent nation should surrender neither to crude pursuit of interest nor to abstract justice, but, rather, must balance and find moderation among these rival propensities.
Washington’s counsels do not fit neatly into any of the established schools of foreign policy today. On the basis of that fact, one might argue that his thinking is inappropriate to the 21st century. On the other hand, it might be wiser to conclude that nothing is more characteristically American than Washington’s blend of realism, idealism, and constitutionalism. Perhaps it is more fitting to argue that today’s foreign policy schools simply fail to fully comprehend the essential nature of the United States. Perhaps we should revise such theories accordingly, and rediscover our original American school.
In many ways, our challenges are indeed new, but the highest consensus of the Founders is still the unified aim of both political parties: to benefit mankind and ourselves by respecting, as Washington stated, “the obligation[s] which justice and humanity impose on every nation.” This advice is no snappy slogan and is difficult to follow in practice, because it cannot possibly provide us with a clear roadmap for every situation. But no sort of advice can do that properly or reliably. Nonetheless, it does allow us to find true north—the fundamental balance of interest and justice—better than any alternative. Indeed, it indicates some of the failings of the existing maps while also alerting us to some of the worst hazards along the way.
Moreover, the Founders’ school of foreign policy encourages us to maintain a flexible but principled disposition. Washington hoped his moderate, balanced principles would “prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations.” This presupposed civic vigilance by citizens and leaders alike. The Farewell Address thus calls his “friends and fellow citizens” to take up the hard work of learning about and debating difficult issues, while avoiding passion and partisan rancor to the degree humanly possible. In foreign policy, as in all aspects of political life, neither the experts nor the public have a monopoly on insight. Both are capable of error. A successful, long-term American strategy toward any given problem, or any given era of international realities, will command the respect of a large portion of the public and a significant portion of the experts. Such strategies must be a product of co-creation, and must be rooted in our deepest principles and values.