Even if the United States had a Congress and Administration disposed to disentangle this country from the senseless conflicts of the world, the task would be fraught with great difficulties.
Wanton wrongs and injustices breed lasting animosities, as is evident in all parts of the world.
The sadistic British mistreatment of the Irish left unhealed wounds, reflected in the attitude of the Irish toward Britain's peril in two world wars.
Wrongs endured for centuries by both Catholics and Protestants in the religious conflict in Northern Ireland still breed continuing injustices there.
Cruel abuses by the British of the Afrikaner people in the concentration camps during the Boer War, left lasting hatreds which came back to haunt the British when the Afrikaners gained control of South Africa's government in 1948.
The people of black Africa, since independence, still harbor enmities against their European colonial oppressors.
Hindus and Moslems still vent their ancient hatreds along the borders of India and Pakistan.
Ethnic, religious, and political hostilities in Eastern Europe's Balkan region continue to engulf the area in bloody turmoil.
The holocaust of World War II has left deep and lasting scars in the Jewish community, scars which will persist unhealed for generations.
The Middle East is aflame today as centuries old conflicts combine with recent injustices to produce a continuum of awful violence. Palestinians blow up Israelis, and Israelis blow up Palestinians, and a legacy of lasting hatred is the result.
The cited list is not exhaustive; only illustrative. Nor is a heritage of animosities restricted to foreign lands and peoples.
Lasting long into the 20th century were political and social attitudes shaped by the American Civil War and its aftermath, reconstruction. Southern memories of the evils of Federal occupation framed the views of Southerners on American political issues, casting a large influence on national politics for over 100 years.
American society still grapples with black resentment of slavery, and racial discrimination.
Fear and hatred of Catholics helped shape this country's public education system, and it was only fifty years ago that the nation abandoned the unwritten rule that neither a Southerner nor a Catholic could be elected president.
The war by which the United States acquired the Southwest from Mexico left deep seated Mexican distrust of the United States which still impacts relations between the United States and Mexico.
And, not long ago, pay-back time came in Panama for the arrogant manner by which the United States acquired the land for the Panama Canal, in the period of America's experimentation with imperialism.
Over the 20th century, the United States translated itself from a republic, essentially tending to its own affairs, to a swaggering world-empire. Americans tell themselves that the United States is a super power, that it can run the world, conforming a multitude of disparate cultures to America's own image, at a profit, of course, to the multi-national corporations whose greed dominates governmental decisions.
The United States is enmeshed in entangling alliances on all parts of the globe. Congress passes resolutions telling foreign governments how to run their business. American troops are stationed in a myriad of foreign lands. United States sovereignty is daily compromised by the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, and other multi-national agencies. The government sends troops to try to straighten out conflicts in southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Persian Gulf area, Somaliland, Central America, and Afghanistan. And American taxpayers pay $17 billion or more a year to try to bribe foreign peoples to obey the wishes of the United States.
Each time this country involves itself in some foreign land, however, there are injustices, real or imagined, which engender animosities, and a thirst for vengeance against the United States.
There is no conceivable justification for the horrible terrorist conflagration inflicted on Americans on September 11, 2001. But Americans need to think: would it have happened had the U.S. not been so deeply enmeshed in the politics and conflict of the Middle East and other parts of the world?
American internationalism did not save this country from terrorism. Quite the contrary. Internationalism brought terrorism to America's shores.
It is not as if the people had no warning. This country's founding fathers urged Americans to avoid foreign entanglements. The danger these enlightened leaders then perceived was a European involvement. Would they, however, have advised differently if they could have perceived the then unimaginable U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, or Central Asia? The answer is, doubtless, no.
No one, today, pays very much attention to George Washington, his farewell address, or the other admonitions of the founding fathers. They are too old; too remote; no longer taught.
Just because a message is old, however, does not necessarily mar or eradicate its efficacy. The admonitions, "thou shalt not kill," "thou shalt not steal," and "thou shalt not commit adultery," are as efficacious today as when brought down from the mountain on tables of stone by Moses.
And so are the timeless words of President Washington's "farewell address":
"Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. And can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?.
"Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connections as possible.
"Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
"It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard."
These are words to live by, but words which our nation has tossed to the wind for a century, and with what results? Today, the earth rings with hostility toward America and her people - - enmity which foreign aid and stationing troops abroad cannot and will not cure. Read the daily news coverage for confirmation:
July 26, 2002: The Bush Administration reviewed the use by Israel of American made weapons in an attack on Palestinians in which fourteen were killed, including nine children. Explain how this will make the United States loved in the Middle East!
July 5, 2002: "A U.S. military planning document calls for air, land and sea-based forces to attack Iraq from three directions. The document envisions tens of thousands of Marines and soldiers probably invading from Kuwait." [New York Times News Service]
Iraq has not attacked the United States. How is a U.S. attack on Iraq calculated to win friends for America in the Moslem world?
July 3, 2002: The government of Afghanistan demanded that the United States review its attack procedures after a misdirected U.S. assault blew up a wedding party, killing over 40 Afghans, and wounding 100 more. One doesn't have to blow up many wedding parties to generate long term animosities.
July 2, 2002: "The unexpectedly strong showing of radical Indian agitator Evo Morales in Bolivian elections promises to deal a blow to the nation's successful U.S. backed efforts to halt cocaine production.
"Morales campaigned on an anti-U.S. platform and the promise to reverse Bolivia's efforts to eradicate coca, the plant from which cocaine is made." [Knight Ridder News Service]
Now the United Nations has created a world court through which every hostile group in the world with a grudge against the United States may seek "legal" vengeance.
Most of America's present problems in the world could have been averted if this nation had only followed its first President's moral and practical advice, but for 100 years the U.S. government has moved in the exact opposite ["internationalist"] direction.
Disentangling the country from 100 years of world-wide intervention and empire building will not be an easy undertaking. Because of the nature of U.S. commitments, the task cannot be accomplished with a wave of the wand, or the twinkling of an eye. And, sadly, disentanglement will not automatically end enmities created over a hundred years. These may not die for generations.
At least, the country should not continue to enflame the old wounds, or embark on new hostility creating adventures. As Edgar Guest wrote:
"Oh sorry men, so much to know And yet to learn one truth so slow: That reason, if we dared to try, Would save the boys war calls to die."
William K. Shearer, whose tenure as Chairman of the Constitution Party ended in 1999, is a resident of Lemon Grove, California. He is an activist in the American Independent Party http://www.AIPCA.org which is the California affiliate of the Constitution Party. http://www.ConstitutionParty.com