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Chapter IX THE NATIONAL WELFARE THE PREAMBLE to the Constitution assigns the government the responsibility to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare.” There is no doubting that any design to achieve the former also bears upon the latter. Every security strategy has significant consequences for the nation’s welfare. The consequences may entail benefits and losses, costs and opportunity costs; they may be of a short-term and long-term kind, direct and indirect in being mediated by the economy and the political process; and they may be played out domestically and internationally . This chapter considers all the national-welfare values that have been, could have been, and might be affected by the national and international security strategies. The national strategy promises the maximum possible contribution to the national welfare, a markedly greater one than any variant of strategic internationalism. It cannot be improved upon as it affects each of the material and social values that have been or could be affected by any security strategy. This claim applies “directly” at home. Abroad, the national strategy does more to bolster the most promising economic diplomacy , the assertive and affirmative economic internationalism of the concurrent foreign policy. The historical isolationists addressed most of the country’s welfare values: Extensive and profitable trade relations, economic development, financial stability, economic growth, low taxes, and (to some extent) the public funding of social programs. Their arguments, warnings, and predictions are reviewed and assessed in the following section. Since the 1970s isolationists and many internationalists have been highly critical of Western Europe and Japan for their cheap riding as allies and their less than free and fair trade practices. Besides making for extra financial costs and commercial losses in any single year, they have contributed to America ’s quasi-chronic economic ills and relative economic decline. The second section examines these claims from the perspective of an alliance-free national strategy and the concurrent foreign policy. Since the Vietnam War isolationists and many internationalists have bemoaned high defense budgets for slowing economic growth, hindering international competitiveness , cutting into social programs, and for imposing other opportunity costs. The final section assesses these and some related claims. THE NATIONAL WELFARE 215 I In his stately valedictory, Washington was not above discussing commercial relations and profits. He was much concerned that these would be uncertain and limited if the United States allowed itself to become part of a European alliance. Only a politically and militarily neutral posture would allow for fulsome trade. “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest . . . even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand . . . diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing . . . in order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the Government to support them.”1 This did not, of course, preclude the use of force to protect our shipping and commerce. At the beginning of the nineteenth century American neutrality and navigation rights were secured by naval actions against French, British, and Barbary pirate ships. During the nineteenth century strategic isolationism was virtually unquestioned in its bestowal of great welfare benefits: profits abroad and economic development at home. Geopolitical and commercial interests were at one; a low political-military profile abroad made for free and extensive trade. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams viewed the “Principle of mutual treatment upon a footing of equality with the most favored nation . . . [as] the great foundation of our foreign policy.” Absent the demands of an expensive military establishment, and not being taken up with or politically divided by foreign policy (i.e., European) issues, the country’s energies could be concentrated upon economic expansionism and development in North America. As late as 1885 few Americans took exception to this part of President Cleveland’s inaugural: “The genius of our institutions, the needs of our people in their home life, and the attention which is demanded for the settlement and development of the resources of our vast territory dictate the scrupulous avoidance of any departure from that foreign policy commended by the history, the traditions , and the prosperity of our republic.”2 When isolationism was first set aside in any major way, economic and security interests were about equally salient. Commercial expansionism and strategic internationalism were linked together by way of the Pacific annexations that were to serve as way stations for the China trade and by a world...


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