Rebirth of Reason


Foreign Policy
by Joseph Rowlands

A rational foreign policy must ultimately be based on an individualist ethics. Looking at Objectivist ethical principles, we should be able to examine their implications for a foreign policy. Here's a beginning.

There is no conflict of interest between rational men.

There is a harmony of interests between rational nations. This is why democracies don't go to war with each other. Free countries benefit from other free countries. Any gain that might be achieved through violence is vastly outweighed by the advantages gained through peaceful cooperation.

When someone initiates force against another, he's a threat to all.

When a man initiates force against another, anyone may come to the defense of the victim. Retaliatory force is not limited to just those who had force initiated against them. Foreign policy must recognize this fact. A nation may legitimately come to the defense of another. And since any foreign policy must be based on an individualist ethics, it's no surprise that a nation may come to the defense of citizens who are being oppressed by their government.

Justice requires you to judge.

Governments must be judged. It's harmful to all if a tyrannical dictatorship is put on the same moral ground as a semi-free democracy. Obscuring the difference not only benefits the dictatorship, but harms the democracy. The biggest victim is justice, though. When you claim that you can run your country any way you want, and all ways are equally good, you attack the objective value of a free society. You destroy its moral foundation by dismissing the standard of value-life.

Evil wins by default.

It is in your interest to make your judgment known. Evil wins when the good refuses to name it. By staying silent, you're saying that your moral judgments won't get in the way of policy. That you won't act upon them. This lets the evil know that you won't resist them. It also makes the good fear that you won't defend them. It fosters an environment where evil can act without fear of opposition, and the good are unable to work together to oppose them.

It is in the interest of the individual to foster an environment of justice.

It is in your interest to defend the good, and oppose the evil. The security of a free nation is enhanced by having free neighbors. Notice the US does not need armies stationed at its borders to protect against the onslaught of vicious Canadians. Aside from the threat of terrorism, we live in relative security. Now look at Taiwan or South Korea. It is in the interest of the civilized world to oppose dictatorships, communism, and any other form tyranny.

That's only half the story, though. It does no good to oppose tyranny while you allow it to conquer other peaceful semi-free nations. Every attack on a friend is a weakening of your own position, and a strengthening of your enemies.

A virtue is a consistent moral policy.

It's not enough to occasionally protect the good and oppose the evil. It needs to become a policy of action or you lose the larger benefits of it. It may be true that in any particular situation, the cost of defending a good nation may be higher then the value gained from having them around. If some tiny island nation was attacked by a neighboring dictator, you may decide that saving the island is not worth it. After all, if you were ever attacked, it's unlikely that they'd make a difference.

What this loses sight of is that there is an enormous benefit gained from having a consistent policy of action. A clear policy of opposing evil will let everyone know that certain actions will not be tolerated. Ambiguity in one's policy can only serve to encourage actions opposed to it. This is the same as the famous "we do not negotiate with terrorists" policy. If we ever decide to negotiate, it would just encourage more such actions.

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