Nov 5, 2007

Joe Kennedy on post-war foreign policy

Half of this world will never submit to dictation by the other half. The two can only agree to live next to each other because for one to absorb the other becomes too costly.

An attitude of realism such as this is, I submit, in accord with our historic traditions. We have never wanted a part of other peoples’ scrapes. Today we have them and just why, nobody quite seems to know. What business is it of ours to support French colonial policy in Indo-China or to achieve Mr. Syngman Rhee’s concepts of democracy in Korea? Shall we now send the Marines into the mountains of Tibet to keep the Dalai Lama on his throne? We can do well to mind our business and interfere only where somebody threatens our business and our homes.

The policy I suggest, moreover, gives us a chance economically to keep our heads above water. For years, I have argued the necessity for not burdening ourselves with unnecessary debts. There is no surer way to destroy the basis of American enterprise than to destroy the initiative of the men who make it. . . . Those who recall 1932 know too easily the dangers that can arise from within when our own economic system fails to function. If we weaken it with lavish spending either on foreign nations or in foreign wars, we run the danger of precipitating another 1932 and of destroying the very system which we are trying to save.

An Atlas, whose back is bowed and whose hands are busy holding up the world, has no arms to lift to deal with his own defense. Increase his burdens and you will crush him. . . . This is our present posture. . . . The suggestions I make . . . would . . . conserve American lives for American ends, not waste them in the freezing hills of Korea or on the battle-scarred plains of Western Germany.

~ Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, "Present Policy is Politically and Morally Bankrupt," Vital Speeches 17, no. 6 (January 1, 1951): 170–73.

(This quote was found in "The Postwar Renaissance II: Politics and Foreign Policy," Chapter 8 of The Betrayal of the American Right by Murray Rothbard.)

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