A First Amendment Foreign Policy

Introduction

Even though I write largely about American domestic policy, I think a lot about foreign policy. Those who follow my blog know I have lately been reading a lot about America’s terrible history in Latin America. Facing that terrible history and thinking about Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and more, has led me to feel confident in sharing what I hope is a new, interesting foreign policy idea.

Since I’m not a politician in practice or mindset, I’m not going to mislead. The truth is I have no idea of all the consequences of what I’m proposing. Nor can I guarantee some of the possible consequences wouldn’t result in outcomes I would hate. Still, I’m proposing this idea because we need something different. We need something that gets us closer to living up to our founding ideals. We need something that rejects exceptionalism and imperialism in favor of respect and openness. We need an approach to other nations that understands foreign policy based on military might and massive amounts of cash, especially when that might and cash was too often created by exploitation and is too often used to exploit–is wrong. We need the humility to admit we don’t have all the answers. We need the confidence to acknowledge we have much to learn from others. And, we need the character to stick to our principals when immediate results challenge our idea that we know best.

If our ideas are the best, we shouldn’t be afraid to work with those who think differently. If our ideals really are the most just, we shouldn’t be afraid of ideals we don’t support. If our system of government really is the envy of the world, we shouldn’t have to force people to adopt it.

Baseline Concepts

There are three baseline concepts that go beyond the general scope of this idea:

  • The Department of Defense will once again be the Department of Defense. No more wars of preemption. No more endless war. No military industrial complex.
  • Congress will reassert its constitutional right to declare and maintain war.
  • The Pentagon and CIA will regularly undergo audits that will be delivered to Congress. Congress will make public as much of the audits findings as possible.

A First Amendment Foreign Policy

The idea is very simple: America will do its best to live up to the ideals we say we hold so deer. In doing so, America will acknowledge and support any government that makes a good faith effort to live up to the ideals we say we hold so deer.

If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will recognize that government. If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will treat that government as an equal. If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will not openly or secretly support overthrow. If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will trade fairly with that government. If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will not sanction that government. If a truly socialist government is freely, fairly elected, America will respect its laws and sovereignty.

I have no idea how it could happen, but if a truly nationalist government is freely, fairly elected, America will treat that nationalist government exactly as it would treat the socialist government or any other freely, fairly elected government that believes in our six basic ideals of freedom as set forth in the First Amendment.

  1. Government shall favor no religion.
  2. People shall have the freedom to practice the religion of their choice.
  3. People shall have the freedom of thought and to responsibly speak their mind.
  4. The press shall be free.
  5. The People shall have the right to freely assemble.
  6. The people shall have the freedom to petition their government.

Conversely, any government that does not make an effort to live up to the six ideals of freedom set forth in the First Amendment will not receive the full support of the United States. This doesn’t mean total compliance is needed. America doesn’t totally comply. This doesn’t mean perfection is demanded. America is far from perfect. But if you consider the six ideals of freedom set forth in the First Amendment, they go a long way to creating and promoting the kind of society that safely allows for an exchange of ideas and social acceptance of difference.

Let’s briefly look at how each of the six basic freedoms should work.

Government will not favor a religion

It may surprise you that I, as someone who doesn’t believe in a higher power, would be so concerned with the idea that government should not favor a particular religion. Even though I’m not religious, I respect the right of those who are to practice the religion of their choice. History has repeatedly shown how efforts to restrict religion, which is a critical piece of the lives of many, ultimately leads to dictatorship and oppression.

Freedom of Religion

An open society is one that truly respects the rights of anyone to practice their faith while respecting the rights of others to not have faith in a higher power. If a society is free to be religious or not–that society is exposed to different ideas and encouraged to consider different perspectives.

Freedom of Speech

The key here is government doesn’t punish for anti government thought or restrict the ability of someone to speak negatively about government.

Freedom of Press

A free press is one where journalists aren’t jailed for writing negative things about the government. A free press is one that can publish without random raids on its offices, and seizure of its offices and equipment. A free press is one where government doesn’t own, in name or through loyalty, almost every news outlet. A free press has the right to regularly question the country’s leadership about anything and to share unedited versions of the questions and answers. A free press has the right to demand documents from government, with some restrictions, and publish its findings. A free press has the right to, again with some restrictions, access government buildings. For example, military installations, intelligence offices, and prisons should not automatically be off limits to the press.

Freedom of Assembly

People must have the right to gather and protest government. The right to assemblle must also protect the right to create and coordinate protests. Obviously, some restrictions designed to protect public safety are justifiable, but government must regularly allow anti government protests. And, of course, people must not be retaliated against for exercising their right to protest.

Freedom to Petition Government

The right to petition government has basically been eliminated as a separate piece of constitutional law by the Supreme Court. My view is the founders created the right to petition government to give people means to make sure government listens to them. Obviously, most of us know government is currently not listening to us. Since this post is not about the right to petition, I will eave it there. For now, let’s say the people must have the right to be heard by their government.

Conclusion

Again, I don’t claim to have all the ideas needed to create a coherent, just foreign policy designed to stand the test of time; that is why I’m favoring openness, an exchange of ideas, and the recognition that we have lots to learn. What time teaches will strengthen this idea into a better, stronger policy. I acknowledge I can’t predict all of the consequences of a First Amendment foreign policy. But I know America’s efforts to better comply with the six basic freedoms of the First Amendment while working closely with any government that works toward better compliance with these six basic levels of freedom will make America and its foreign policy better and fairer. I’m equally convinced focusing on six basic levels of freedom, rather than the interests of corporations, will achieve better outcomes for the world.

As always, I would love your feedback.

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