It's time to end the progressives' love affair with the Wilson Doctrine
One of the most incongruous things about leftists is that, even as they decry both colonialism and "neo-colonialism," it is they who believe that it's America's responsibility to meddle in every upset around the world — provided, of course, that doing so provides no benefit to America. The latest to articulate this worldview, albeit in the most ignorant way, is Bill Kristol, an erstwhile "conservative," who has now emerged as a full-blooded progressive.
George Washington, the first and, arguably, greatest American president, famously warned in his Farewell Address against getting involved in Europe's politics and disputes:
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 connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
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 in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Americans heeded those words for over a century, venturing beyond our shores for wars only in the belief (rightly held or not) that these wars conferred a direct benefit on America. That all changed in 1917.
When World War One began, Americans were grateful to be an ocean away from the fray. By 1916, that desire to avoid the European war was why President Woodrow Wilson, a progressive, successfully campaigned for re-election with the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War." However, for a multitude of reasons too complex to discuss here, as the war progressed, American sentiment swung strongly to the British.
Image: American troops heading to battle in WWI. Public domain.
In 1917, the British produced the Zimmermann Telegram, which informed Americans that, if they entered the war, Germany would have a military alliance with Mexico. The pro-war faction became too strong for Wilson to resist, so he went before Congress to make the case for America joining the war.
In fact, America didn't have a case for going to war. If it stayed out of the war (and stopped using backdoor means to fund Britain), Germany would stay out of Mexico. Wilson, therefore, made up the idea that America had a moral obligation selflessly to make the world safe for democracy:
The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
And so America, for the next 100 years, became the world's democracy policeman, fighting Germans, communists, Islamists, and more. (Incidentally, we didn't volunteer to fight the Nazis. Two days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on us. And of course, the Nazis were an ultimate evil that needed to be destroyed.)
Under Obama, we went in the other direction, getting involved in wars when there was no benefit at all to us, and abruptly pulling out of relatively peaceful regions in ways that created dangerous vacuums that extremists filled. The goal wasn't to make the world safe for democracy, but to make it safe from America.
Trump was just a lovely interlude during which America minded her own business and acted for her own benefit.
With Trump out of the White House, Biden has wasted no time in trying to get us involved in a European fight that Europe does not support, that Ukraine (our ostensible ally) does not support, and that the American people do not support. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, in one sentence, pitted Washington's doctrine against Wilson's:
Our founding fathers did not intend for America to be the police force of the world.— Rep. Madison Cawthorn (@RepCawthorn) February 13, 2022
And Bill Kristol, now officially a Democrat, tried to rebut this by referring to the Barbary War:
The shores of Tripoli would like a word. https://t.co/mYQzVGdhbl— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 13, 2022
Other equally dimwitted chimed in:
It's probably necessary to explain to @RepCawthorn, our home schooled college 1st year flunk out, that "the shores of Tripoli" is a reference to the First Barbary War in 1805, truly during out Founding Fathers.— Nicholas Lefevre (@nlefevre) February 13, 2022
What these two leftist geniuses don't seem to know is that the Barbary War of 1805 was not a foreign entanglement or a Wilsonian exercise; it was a targeted strike to destroy North African pirates who were raiding American ships and enslaving their sailors or holding them for ransom. That is, it was fought for reasons Washington and the other Founders would support.
At some point, we must decide as a nation whether we're following Washington or Wilson in our foreign policy. Currently, I vote for the former.