15 Lessons for a Peaceful and Prosperous Foreign Policy

On pages 108 and 109 of the book Endless Enemies, written in 1984 by Jonathan Kwitny, we read the following brilliant lessons about a proper foreign policy:

“1. The legitimate international interests of any country are first, to be secure from external attack, and second, to be free to engage in peaceful commerce – to buy what it needs and sell what it makes at a fair price.

2. Each country and region has peculiar problems and sources of conflict to which cold war considerations are irrelevant.

3. Intervention by major outside powers in the affairs of smaller countries is usually based on a misunderstanding of what’s going on.

4. Forceful intervention by a big power in a Third World country, no matter how well intentioned, is almost always dramatically harmful to the people who live in the country being intervened in.

5. Intervention by either major power, regardless of what the other is doing, usually tends to be counterproductive for the intervener.

6. Most of the world is in flux, current governments or economic models can’t be assumed to be enduring, and stability in a bad situation is not only elusive but not particularly desirable.

7. Even when a big power marries a charismatic leader seemingly as strong as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana or the shah of Iran, the marriage, as often as not, ends in divorce.

8. Force creates enmity. It creates respect as well, that is less enduring.

9. Most countries not threatened by attack will tend to gravitate over time toward systems that by example provide the best lives for their people, and toward countries that make the best trading partners.

10. While forceful intervention tends to be wasteful and futile, real advantage lies in the peaceful intervention of good example, and in looking for ways to reduce the use of force in international relations in general.

11. So long as each big power can deliver nuclear weapons to the other, no significant military edge will be gained or lost through local conflicts, except as it might directly halt commerce in vital goods.

12. For purposes of foreign policy, all people share two basic traits: first, resistance to foreigners who try to apply a cosmetic solution to local problems, and second, a desire for peaceful commerce, both in their personal lives and in the lives of their nations – a desire that develops a momentum of its own if let be.

13. The best way the United States can insure access to vital resources is to make itself a trading partner that any country seeking peaceful commerce would naturally want to deal with. This can be achieved in two ways: first, by maintaining a strong domestic economy, and second, by making sure that any leader who comes to power over foreign resources has never been shot at by an American gun.

14. A focus on peaceful commerce as the objective of foreign policy could save enough money from military expenditures, and divert it into the private market for goods and services, to strengthen the U.S. significantly as a commercial entity – and thus to strengthen in as an international power, while providing a substantially better life for the American people at the same time.

15. In short, while the U.S. needs an armed force capable of rebuffing attacks on our territory or our commerce, the loose application of that force only puts our truly vital interests more at risk.”

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