Cal Thomas: What is U.S. foreign policy?

If there was a side benefit to the Cold War, it was that Democrat and Republican administrations were consistent on their approach to Russia and communism.

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For the third time since becoming president, Joe Biden has said he would send U.S. forces to defend Taiwan should mainland China launch an attack. And for the third time, White House staff and the State Department had to “walk back” (diplospeak for deny) that the U.S. position has not changed from its “one China” policy.

Perhaps President Biden means to dissuade Beijing. But this is the same president who too rapidly withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan and promised not to send troops to Ukraine to help that government repel Russia’s invasion. The excuse given was that Russia is a nuclear power. So is China. What’s the difference?

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, now 98 years old, has now jumped into the fray. In an address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger said Ukraine must give up some of its territory to Russia for the war to end and to avoid a wider conflict.

Kissinger has it wrong. If Ukraine surrendered territory to Russia, it would likely invite Vladimir Putin to move against other countries once under control of the Soviet Union. Would he be OK with ceding those territories to Moscow to avoid global “destabilization” and a wider conflict?

If there was a side benefit to the Cold War, it was that Democrat and Republican administrations – along with most members of Congress – were consistent on their approach to Russia and communism. Moscow knew where we stood and that contributed to what Ronald Reagan called “ peace through strength .” It also led to the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and freedom for millions of people.


I understand the feelings of those who say we can’t be the policemen of the world and with our $30 trillion debt we can’t afford sending troops everywhere. But – and this is a large but – if evil is not opposed, it will spread. That is a lesson from history that will be repeated if it is not addressed.

Doing nothing and turning a blind eye to evil is what allowed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to wreak havoc on the world. Exhausted by the carnage of World War I, the West was reluctant to fight again and the consequence of that reluctance was more carnage that might have been reduced had we acted sooner.

Yes, George Washington warned against the danger of “ foreign entanglements ,” but that was a far different era. And yes, Dwight Eisenhower warned against the “ military-industrial complex ” that always seems to find wars it wants to fight and demand new weapons to fight them.

On the subject of war, John Stuart Mill is worth quoting: “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. … A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.” (Principles of Political Economy)

Somewhere between isolationism and intervention there must be a middle ground. Finding it is up to our leaders. Where are those leaders and what is our foreign policy? Those questions had better be answered quickly, or the consequences from delay could be severe.

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