- - Thursday, November 24, 2011

As a conservative and Marine Corps firebase commander in Vietnam in 1968-‘69, I had a mental list of things I was willing to fight and die for when I went there. When I came back, I still had a list of principles I was willing to fight and die for. But it was a much smaller list.

The first principle is about alliances.

President George Washington, in his farewell address in 1796, warned his countrymen to “steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.” This admonition was further focused by President Thomas Jefferson in his inaugural address, when he declared his devotion to “peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

“Entangling alliances” — not just alliances — are ones that ensnare us in the intrigues of other nations. A comprehensive review — nation by nation and region by region — of the “Saints” (our friends and allies) and the “Ain’ts” (our enemies and opponents) should be followed by a total global realignment of all our foreign programs and priorities.

Our first and best strategic weapon is the U.S. dollar. It is the most powerful weapon in the world. And, how we use that dollar shapes the very world itself. We can create, maintain and destroy entire governments with it. We can reward friends and punish enemies. We should use it carefully. We can’t — and shouldn’t — try to do everything.

Then there’s the issue of U.S. interests.

Britain’s great statesmen, Lord Palmerston, declared in 1848: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.”

At this very moment, America has troops in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and lesser known places all over the globe. It’s hard to believe that we have permanent interests in all these places.

What is in our permanent interest is the security of this nation itself. And it is fundamental to our security that we regain our independence from oil-producing nations who don’t like us very much and who fund our enemies. It is foolish and dangerous to send trillions of petrodollars overseas when we have the means of self-sufficiency right here in oil, shale oil, natural gas and other energy supplies. The Chicken Little industry of so-called “environmentalists” should not be allowed to keep America living with energy blackmail.

The “big stick” represents another principle.

We believe in “peace through strength” and “trust but verify.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower reminded us just before he left office that “a vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.”

Yet “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

Eisenhower went on to warn against the entangling interests of the entire American scientific and research establishment of academic institutions, think tanks and corporations that have been co-opted into supporting the military-industrial complex through billions of dollars in government grants and loans.

So, to let no one doubt our resolve, we must abide by President Theodore Roosevelt’s admonition to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” We must also remember the practical advice of the great storyteller of the American West, Louis L’Amour, that “you never need a gun, until you really need a gun.” When we do, it had better be there.

• Larry L. Eastland is a Los Angeles businessman, a Mormon bishop and a national director of the American Conservative Union.

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