Friday, February 10, 2017

Donald Trump and the Sharon Statement

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the Sharon Statement? You'll want to read it first. You can find it here.

No, really, go and read it. It's brilliant and it will take you only five minutes. You're more likely to have heard of the Port Huron statement. Try reading it. I dare you.

Much as I admire the Sharon Statement, I would argue that one line in it is outdated. This line:
THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties
Well, not outdated as the writers had the good sense to add the line "at present". But we should take them on good faith and ask ourselves whether the "forces of international Communism" really are such a threat any more. I don't think they are.

And that raises another question: Is it time for the right to break with Wilsonian foreign policy? Wilson wanted to make the world safe for democracy. He had only limited success during his presidency with this notion and it was rapidly dropped after he was defeated. But it became a central part of the foreign policy of western liberal democracies after the second world war and has stuck since then.

I'm not entirely certain it ever made complete sense to promote democracy abroad. The experience of George W. Bush in Iraq tends to support skepticism. What did make sense was to unite with other nations to fight against Naziism and Communism because they were spectacularly evil ideologies that threatened all of humanity. They're both dead letters right now. There are still communists about and there are even a few Nazis out there but neither group constitutes the threat they once did.

The world is still full of bad guys. Putin is a nasty piece and Islamic terrorism is also a threat. But neither is a threat to liberty in the way Naziism and communism were.

I have serious reservations about Trump but I was humbled by his victory. I think we can learn a few lessons from him and I think one thing he grasped is that the sort of foreign policy that both the left and the right embraced from the second world war on is now no longer worth pursuing. It will be worth resuming if another evil along the lines of Naziism or communism arises but, until then, I think it's time to back to non-interventionism

1 comment:

  1. I agree that it's a good statement, and I agree with most of it. This part, however, has proven false:

    That liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

    A pretty reasonable thing to think in 1960, but since then we've seen that India, New Zealand, and all the Scandinavian countries went socialist and yet retained their democratic freedoms. Of course, because socialism is a terrible system, all of these countries eventually gave it up. But there was no Swedish gulag.

    I don't know of any cases of countries that started out with democratic socialism and eventually became politically repressive. Maybe Venezuela? The communist countries whose history I'm familiar with all started out with politically repressive revolutions.

    I make a point of this because I think democracy is really valuable, so valuable that it can even mitigate the terrible effects of socialism.

    As for this:
    That the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

    Unequivocally true at the time it was written. Now, of course, communism is no longer a military threat. But I would argue that the long-term effects of communist infiltration and propaganda on our society are so great that this constitutes the greatest threat to our liberties, even today.

    There's been no reckoning even with the atrocities of communism, much less the effects of having hundreds of Soviet spies in the highest levels of American government. I highly recommend the book American Betrayal by Diana West on this subject.