Apparently trying to one-up President Barack Obama, who last month twisted American history and logic to equate US government mass spying with Paul Revere and other revolutionaries’ actions to protect Americans from an oppressive government, House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is claiming President George Washington and the American founders would support Cantor’s world-wide interventionist agenda.
Cantor made the laughable assertion a key theme of his “An America That Leads” speech Monday at the Virginia Military Institute. The agenda Cantor proposes in his speech, and that we can expect the Republican leadership of the House to push, can be summed up as war, war, and more war. Here are some ways Cantor proposes America “leads”:
• Cantor laments any easing of sanctions on Iran and suggests imposing new sanctions, as well as employing the “credible threat of the use of military force” in diplomatic talks with Iran;
• Cantor laments that the US has forgone a military attack on Syria and calls on the US to take action to “change the balance of power on the ground” in Syria;
• Cantor laments that the US military may soon exit Afghanistan and calls for the military presence to continue;
• Cantor laments the easing of US intervention in Libya and calls for the US to “bolster the capabilities of the Libyan security forces and, as necessary, be willing to engage in and support counter-terrorism efforts;”
• Cantor laments that North Korea has, despite US sanctions, “yet to pay a meaningful price” and calls for increasing the sanctions and conducting joint military actions with “regional allies;”
• Cantor laments the US government’s failure to more aggressively challenge China regarding sea lanes in the vicinity of China and several other nations and calls for the US to provide “guidance, security, and coordination” in Asia;
• Cantor calls for “equipping security forces” in countries around the world for use in those countries and in their respective regions;
• Cantor laments that “we cannot continue to blindly reduce defense spending” (throwing aside the reality of a decade-plus of huge increases in military, intelligence, and “homeland security” spending) because the US needs to “project adequate military power in any theater, be it the Middle East, Latin America or Asia;” and
• Cantor calls on the US to “invest” in a “more lethal military” -- to “promote peace and stability,” he says.
In the introduction of his speech, Cantor suggests that George Washington would support his foreign policy agenda.
Today, we celebrate our nation's first Commander-in-Chief George Washington. Since Washington led our armed forces and this nation, America has relied upon a strong military to defend our homeland and our freedoms.This assertion by Cantor is as ridiculous as Obama’s assertion a month before, at the beginning of Obama’s mass spying speech, that the National Security Agency bureaucrats scooping up every bit of personal information they can find about us are the same as Paul Revere riding through the countryside to warn that an invading army of “redcoats” are coming. Today the NSA is the redcoats, exercising via intrusive, high-tech means the general warrant powers that the British redcoats used in a clunkier, old-fashioned manner in violation of liberty, property, and privacy.
America's military strength, global leadership combined with a benevolent purpose helped spread the promise of democracy to the oppressed, a message of hope to the destitute, and the blessings of security to the weak. In doing so, we have earned new allies, vanquished old foes, and further secured our own nation. But today, that formula that has served this nation and the world so well is very much in doubt.
The NSA is the redcoats anew. And Cantor is espousing the foreign interventionism that Washington terms in his farewell address “European Ambition, Rivalship, Interest, Humour or Caprice,” the embrace of which Washington said would endanger the “peace and prosperity” of the US.
Washington almost appears clairvoyant later in his farewell address when he ponders that his warnings against foreign intervention will likely not count for much in the long term and cautions against “Impostures of pretended patriotism” -- a spot-on description of Cantor’s effort to turn Washington’s foreign policy counsel on its head:
In offering to you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression, I could wish--that they will controul the usual current of the passions, or prevent our Nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the Destiny of Nations: But if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now & then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign Intriegue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism--this hope will be a full recompence for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.Five years later, President Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, phrased the non-intervention maxim memorably with the succinct phrase “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” Jefferson considered this principle so important that he included it in a short list of “the essential principles of our government, and consequently those which ought to shape its administration.” This principle is diametrically opposed to just about everything Cantor’s speech claims furthers the American founders’ foreign policy.
Cantor, in the conclusion of his speech, says:
I strongly believe that if we champion the values this country was founded on and we embrace our role as a world leader, America won’t just be a beacon of hope and freedom for the next 100 years, but for centuries to come.Of course, the values Cantor champions in his speech are not the values of the founding. Rather, as explained by Washington and Jefferson, the founding values explicitly reject Cantor’s interventionist values.
The Republican leadership in the House appears poised to push a foreign policy agenda aiming to eliminate the remnants of the American founders’ nonintervention principles. Yet, likely because this agenda is the opposite of what American public opinion supports, the leadership is advancing the agenda with a deceitful claim of sanction by the American founders. Time will tell if modern day George Washingtons, Thomas Jeffersons, and Paul Reveres are able to alert the people and if a new revolution can reinstate values more in line with the peace and prosperity Washington endorsed in his farewell address.