The President’s State of the Union Address
January 27, 2021
- Foreign Policy / Arms Policy
I would like to say a few words about our relations with other nations—what we usually call “foreign policy.” Many times over the years it has seemed as if we didn’t really have a clearcut policy on how we would interact with the other nations of the world. It has often seemed as if we were drifting along in a sea of ever-changing tensions, reacting to whatever situation arises as the crisis of the moment.
U.S. foreign policy is not an easy subject to sum up, but we should all be aware that there have always been, and always will be, two alternative approaches to our relations with other nations. One approach is based on principle, the other on pragmatism.
For example, if we always acted exclusively on principle, we would define right and wrong according to our values, and then judge the conduct of other nations accordingly. We would be friendly to nations that do right, and oppose nations that do wrong—as we define right and wrong. Now we’re all pretty sure we know right from wrong, but… This simplistic approach would probably have us at war with somebody all the time, because no two people on earth agree on right and wrong in every situation—and it’s harder still to get whole nations to agree on anything. What’s “right” to one side may be an outrage to the other. This is the dilemma of foreign policy based on principle.
On the other hand, if pragmatism guided our foreign policy, we would find ourselves supporting some nations that unquestionably do wrong, which is unfair to those that do right—again, as we define wrong and right. For instance: if you have a dictator who is protecting Americans, against another dictator who is trying to harm Americans, which dictator are you more likely to tolerate? Both are dictators who rule as despots over their own citizens, but—as a practical matter—we cannot ignore the reality that one is helping us while the other is trying to harm us. This is the dilemma of pragmatic foreign policy.
In real life, our foreign policy is influenced by both principle and pragmatism. The United States slid down an awful slope into the Vietnam War based on the principle that communism must be opposed anywhere and everywhere, because it seemed to be taking over the world’s nations, one by one, and Vietnam was next. In principle, the domino theory seemed real, at the time. But today, as we look at the world in modern perspective, we see the domino theory as a principle that was simply misguided—and it led us astray.
But foreign policy based on principle isn’t always wrong either. For example, the principle of free elections is sacred to Americans. When any other nation tries to influence our elections, by misusing the internet or by any other means, you can safely bet there are going to be consequences which make that nation sorry they tried. Foreign nationals with ideas about interfering in our elections should be reminded of the principle in an old American saying we sometimes use, and we mean it: Don’t tread on me.
I also have a pragmatic example. We got into World War II in 1941 because the people then ruling Germany and Japan openly intended to take over the world and subjugate every nation, including us. The threat to our freedom and survival was real—and our mighty response was an ultimate example of pragmatic foreign policy.
Historically, American foreign policy has sometimes been guided by pragmatism, sometimes by principle. It depends on each unique situation. This is unlikely to change during my Administration. Using the best advice I can get, I am always going to choose whatever course I believe is best for America and Americans. That is your President’s first responsibility.
In this context, let me now describe a few policies that are probably going to guide most of our dealings with other nations.
- First. There are few disagreements between nations that cannot be resolved if each is willing to sit down and talk long enough to understand the other’s point of view. Where intelligent reasoning and wisdom prevail, large differences can be resolved peacefully. This will always be our first choice.
- Second. Armed conflict is always an extreme last choice that reflects the failure of intelligence, reasoning, and wisdom by one side, and often both sides. But let no person or nation doubt this: while I am Commander in Chief, if he United States is drawn unavoidably into an armed conflict, we will be the victor.
- Third. American troops are presently engaged in over a dozen countries, and by “engaged” I mean in war-like combat or the potential for military combat raids. The American public has not been informed about many of these ventures, the Congress was not asked to declare war or give permission for these ventures, and in many cases the ultimate purpose of the venture is not clear. The reason our troops remain in harm’s way in Afghanistan after sixteen long years is by no means clear. Two actions follow. One, I have directed the Department of defense to bring all combat troops home within six months. And two, I hereby commit that no American troops will be sent into any combat situation anywhere without the prior consultation and approval of Congress—excepting only true military emergencies where necessity for a President to act quickly has been established and well defined since World War II.
- Fourth. It is unacceptable that we have spent so many American lives, for so many years, first fighting and then trying to rebuild, in countries where the very culture makes democracy unthinkable—countries where mindless revenge, brutality, and even slavery are a way of life. It’s never easy to withdraw from quicksand, but there is evidence that our never-ending fight against terrorism—in a multiplying number of countries on several continents—is creating two fanatic terrorists for every one it eliminates. I hold it unacceptable to send our sons and daughters, year after year, into dangerous situations that are not clearly winnable, while our very reason for being there becomes more ambiguous every year. I want to assure all concerned: Sending our troops to these intractable places—most of which are at the outer limits of our genuine national interest—is going to be brought to a quick end. There are other ways to combat terrorism originating in countries that may never understand democracy, and we’re going to take a new look at them all.
- Fifth. The United States is not the world’s cop. It would be unacceptably costly if we were, and we’re not going to be. It’s not a bad idea to expect other people to behave like mature adults, while we set the example with our own behavior. I am perfectly willing to watch from the sidelines as other nations work out their disagreements—however they wish to do that. We will of course be most alert when one side is small and the other is a big bully, and U.S. Military action is never ruled out. And while it is true that U.S. business interests extend to every last place on the globe, it is equally true that the interests of some businesses are not always the same as the best interest of our nation as a whole. The days of gunboat diplomacy are thankfully dead and gone, and our modern foreign policy serves our people, not corporate profits. Our foreign policy will promote peace and human rights throughout the world, while looking out for the best interests of all our people, not just some of us.
- Sixth. I intend that the United States will not needlessly provoke other nations with belligerent actions that unnecessarily raise tensions. The golden rule applies to nations as well as individuals. If we don’t want other nations building radar sites or conducting military exercises near our borders, then it seems prudent that we not build radar sites or conduct military operations near their borders. I have an image of a schoolyard bully, the tough guy, swaggering around showing off his muscles, trying to intimidate others by showing off how tough he is. Well let me tell you: the United States is so genuinely tough we don’t need to advertise it. But know this: If we take deliberate measures to avoid needlessly provoking others, others should prudently avoid needlessly provoking us, for—I say again—if the USA is drawn unavoidably into an armed conflict, the USA will be the victor.
- Finally, our advocacy for human rights, peace and justice everywhere around the globe will continue without a wrinkle. Selective foreign aid will continue as one tool in our foreign policy toolbox. However… After seventy-five years of American generosity, it is obvious that giving away cash merely invites corruption and creates as many problems as it solves. From now on our foreign aid is probably going to be only in the form of surplus food hungry people can eat. Let all parties understand: Foreign aid in the form of cash transfers just ended.
- It is equally unlikely that we will be sending any more military hardware and calling it “foreign aid.” And to foreign self servers who might like to step in and sell arms to all those petty tyrants who so love to spend their people’s taxes on military hardware, I offer this advice: Don’t. It is far past time that all nations undertake the task of stopping armed conflict around the world, instead of constantly feeding it with big-money arms sales. And to those greedy arms sellers reckless enough to ignore this advice, I say don’t be surprised if your shipload of military hardware mysteriously ends up sunk to the bottom of the sea.
My fellow Americans, as we pull back from foreign sales of guns and military hardware, a dark form of foreign policy which often makes small problems get worse, let us apply the same medicine here at home. For years now the urge to make a profit by selling guns has brought carnage and heartbreak across America.
How many thousands of innocent schoolchildren and adults are dead today because we have allowed millions of guns to be sold across America? Each week brings new dread about which innocent school or happy public gathering will be the next scene of murder by some deranged fool who got his hands on a high-powered weapon that should never be used by anyone outside our trained military forces.
Here too, the tension is between principle and pragmatism. The argument from principle says: We must defend the Constitution’s second amendment right for anyone to keep and bear arms, because that right is “so utterly important”—it is a holy right—no matter how many innocent lives are taken by lunatics bearing arms—the second amendment forever!
The pragmatic argument says this is nuts! We have something called a National Guard nowadays, so we don’t need citizen militias, armed to the teeth—ready to run out like Minutemen, and defend our villages against impending attack by Redcoats and Indians. In the horrible context of nearly weekly slaughter in our schools and public places, any urge to keep spreading guns and ammunition must be considered a mental sickness.
No more! In coming weeks I will send legislation to the Congress to do these things:
- Throughout the United States, every weapon confiscated for any reason will be destroyed. This will keep guns from going back into circulation, and will begin the long, long road to reducing the millions of firearms out there today.
- No military-grade weapons of any nature whatsoever may be owned by anyone outside our armed forces. Owning, or firing, a military-grade weapon is going to be outlawed. Citizens who now own these weapons will be fairly compensated. In carrying out this change we shall seek advice from our Australian friends, who took this sensible move many years ago.
- All existing privately owned weapons shall be registered, very much the same as the law requires us all to register our cars. The crazy idea that there’s something holy about keeping a personal arsenal just in case you might someday want to defend yourself from oppression by your own government, or invading Martians or whoever, is so clearly ludicrous as to border on insanity. We are a civil nation founded on the idea of helping each other, and with God as my witness I say we are going to restore this level of civility in the United States of America.
- Anyone desiring to own a weapon for hunting or sport target shooting must first pass a comprehensive screening and obtain a federal firearms license. The license will permit ownership of one hunting shotgun of 12-gauge bore or less, and one non-military-grade single-shot hunting rifle. Automatic and semi-automatic weapons of every nature will be outlawed for civilian use. Purchase of any pistol or handgun will require obtaining a more stringent version of the federal license.
- Failure to register any gun, or to obtain an appropriate license, will be a violation of federal law subject to substantial fine and confiscation of all weapons.
- A constitutional amendment will be promulgated to clarify—in the language of modern English—that the frontier circumstances which made the Second Amendment desirable in 1790 no longer prevail here in the 21st century, and that every level of governmental jurisdiction in the United States has complete authority to regulate sales and ownership of guns and ammunition as it sees fit.
I ask both houses of Congress to pass these arms control measures on an emergency basis and send them quickly for my signature. I ask all state legislatures to ratify the second amendment replacement this year. I ask every American citizen to support these legislative measures, and to tell your elected officials of your support.
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…to be continued…
To enjoy details of how the new president converts these policy pronouncements into practical legislation, refer to POPULIST CORRECTIONS on this blog