A Foreign Policy Bible for America: A Review of Peter Schwartz’s “The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America”

by | Jul 5, 2004 | Foreign Policy, POLITICS

I have just finished reading, with great pleasure, Peter Schwartz’s new booklet, The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America (published by ARI Press). In just 60 clear, hard-hitting pages, Mr. Schwartz lays out the essentials of a proper foreign policy, with ample illustration of the radical difference between what we have been […]

I have just finished reading, with great pleasure, Peter Schwartz’s new booklet, The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America (published by ARI Press).

In just 60 clear, hard-hitting pages, Mr. Schwartz lays out the essentials of a proper foreign policy, with ample illustration of the radical difference between what we have been doing for 60 years vs. what is right and practical.

Objectivists are certainly familiar with the idea of national self- interest as the pole star of foreign policy; but what I found particularly admirable about this work is that it goes several steps further, answering the questions: What actually constitutes the national self-interest? How is it to be defined? What are the derivative principles (analogous to the virtues derived, in ethics, from the standard of value)? How does concern with national self- interest differ from “realpolitik”?

The booklet is topical, drawing its illustrative concretes from current affairs, centering on the war against Islamic totalitarianism. In fact, there are a couple of (horrifying) facts cited that were news to me.

In style, the writing is sure-footed, adroit, and precise. The abstractions are fully concretized by the citations from current events. Here is a sample paragraph from the section entitled “The Shackles of Self-Sacrifice”:

“We did whatever it took, including jeopardizing our own troops, to show how selfless we could be in Iraq. We allowed Hussein to make Americans feel responsible for the deaths caused by his own evil. We let ourselves be neutralized by his saying, in effect: ‘My soldiers will fire at you to preserve my dictatorship, and if you fire back, I will make sure that Iraqi civilians are killed.’ After Hussein’s government was toppled, we refrained from disarming a prominent cleric’s private militia, even after it had fatally attacked American troops; we did not want to anger the Shiites. We allowed gun-toting Hussein-supporters to incite crowds to take up arms against Americans–an act that would be a crime if committed on a peaceful street in the U.S.A.–in the middle of a war in Iraq; we did not want to displease the Sunnis. We did nothing to stop Syria from permitting Baathist and jihadist killers to cross its borders to fight Americans in Iraq; we did not want to upset any other Arab nations.”

Writing of the pragmatism-induced blindness to principles, Mr. Schwartz aptly characterizes the insanity of our current internal fault-finding approach, as in the 9/11 Commission:

“Yet even now, the only concern our concrete-bound pragmatists have is why some particular dot of information was not combined with some other dot of information to give us advance notice of the planned September 11 hijackings. They are preoccupied with playing ‘connect-the-dots,’ while they remain blind to the actual big picture–the picture revealed by understanding the relevant principles, without which no quantity of dots would suffice.”

Without harangue, shrillness, or needless polemics, this booklet makes a case–and defines a program–so solid and complete that it could serve as the foreign policy Bible for America and any other free society. It ought to be read, studied, and internalized by all our political and intellectual leaders, from President Bush on down. And it would be a wonderful thing to get into the hands of our troops.

Available through the Ayn Rand Bookstore.

Dr. Binswanger, a longtime associate of Ayn Rand, is an professor of philosophy at the Objectivist Academic Center of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is the author of How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation and is the creator of The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Dr. Binswanger blogs at HBLetter.com (HBL)--an email list for Objectivists for discussing philosophic and cultural issues. A free trial is available at: HBLetter.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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