A United Front

Usually works a million times better than a divided one…

“But whatever may be our situation…certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act toward us accordingly. If they see that our national government is efficient and well administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment. If, on the other hand, they find us either destitute of an effectual government…what a poor, pitiful figure will America make in their eyes! How liable would she become not only to their contempt but to their outrage, and how soon would dear-bought experience proclaim that when a people or family so divide, it never fails to be against themselves.”

~ John Jay, The Federalist Papers, No. 4, 07 November 1787


America has an interesting brand of foreign policy these days.  Instead of a single united front presented to the world through the skill of our diplomats and senior foreign liaisons, we have a motley assortment of politicians who seem to think their role is to engage in foreign diplomacy.  (News flash: this is NOT their job).  That is not to say that members of Congress and our elected representatives should not be actively engaged in debating and shaping national foreign policy, they certainly should be.  But they should be doing it here.   And once Congress and the President select a course of action, the world should see a single, coherent policy being executed.  What should NEVER happen is foreign nations or groups talking to one politician or a specific political grouping in an attempt to gain traction for their cause.  Our elected representatives should know better than to engage in this type of conduct, and foreign groups should know that such activities won’t work because America has one unified foreign policy.  Unfortunately, in recent years, this has become less and less the case.  And even more ironically, it was this type of behavior that was one of the founding fathers’ biggest fears: that America and Americans could be exploited by foreign groups and powers based on our internal divisions.

For the Founders, they most worried that the individual states might try to engage in separate dealings with foreign powers.  After all, not too long before they had been individual colonies with their own individual relationships with the mother country, foreign nations, and one another.  But as a new nation, it was obvious that such a disjointed approach would not only never work, it would invite the interference of foreign powers into the new America’s affairs.  Or basically, to gain a strong footing as a nation in its own right, America had to present a united face to the world.  In fact, the very reason Congress was given the powers to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations”, “declare War”, “support Armies”, and “maintain a Navy”, was so that the one, national Congress could do these things in a unified fashion, and the individual state Congresses could not.  And it is the President who was given the duty of making treaties and engaging in foreign diplomacy with the “Advice and Consent of the Senate”.  “Advice” doesn’t mean that Senators are supposed to be diplomats.  Far from it.  And the thing that sends a bad message to the world isn’t when we authorize or refuse to partake in certain international events; it’s when some members of our government take it upon themselves to signal that different portions of the government are willing to go around the policies of our government as a whole.  That’s what truly signals weakness.  And just as in the days of our founding fathers, foreign groups will always take advantage of any weakness they can exploit.


Res Publica


Documentation without Representation:

John Jay, The Federalist Papers, No. 4, 07 November 1787


Electronic Text Courtesy of The Avalon Project at Yale Law School

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