Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Washington on China

 

Yesterday’s Quote of the Day was Solzhenitsyn on China shared by @richardeaston. In the conversation that followed, @hangon replied:

If you follow Solzhenitsyn’s logic, no alliances would ever be formed since all countries and governments at some level have diverging interests. To defeat the Soviet Union, we tacitly allied with not only China but with fundamental Islam. (Remember them?) Solzhenitsyn’s idea is extremely naive.

That reminded me of another quotation, specifically this bit:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

That is from George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796. Washington does speak of “temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies,” and I don’t think Solzhenitsyn would have disagreed. After all, Solzhenitsyn was speaking of “Western democracy,” which would have included the US, Britain, and other countries in WWII. But we cannot trust that even the “best of our friends” among nations will always be by our side. Britain has fallen to a dictator before, for instance. Yes, it was before the United States existed, but it proves they are not immune. Germany was on the other side in WWII, but has been part of Western democracy these last few decades. That does not mean that they are on our side for various issues even now.

Solzhenitsyn was neither wrong nor naïve. George Washington urged us along the same path nearly two hundred years before, and his advice remains the course of wisdom today and will be the same in a hundred or thousand years.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVeyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’ve been looking over movie montages that have to slip in a little of the old Basil Exposition while still being absorbing and entertaining. The Charge of the Light Brigade has some of the best, done in the style of newspaper cartoons of the 1850s. They remind us of the quaint facts that by then, France was England’s plucky, brave partner in war against the lumbering Russian bear. 

    But only 38 years earlier, it was the English plus the stoic, rugged and deeply Christian Russians against the godless (or worse, Catholic) French. 

    We backed China against Japan through 1945, then from 1949 on, Japan against China. Ditto Russia and Germany. 

    • #1
    • June 1, 2020, at 2:09 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  2. KentForrester Moderator

    Nice pairing, ‘hant. Very instructive. By the way, do you suffer from insomnia? I’ve had an almost lifelong case of it. It’s now 2:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I’m working on my post for the June 3rd Group Theme.

    • #2
    • June 1, 2020, at 2:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    By the way, do you suffer from insomnia?

    I don’t suffer a bit.

    • #3
    • June 1, 2020, at 2:47 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. KentForrester Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    By the way, do you suffer from insomnia?

    I don’t suffer a bit.

    I don’t “suffer” much myself. Do you “have” insomnia?

    • #4
    • June 1, 2020, at 3:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I see Washington’s and Solzhenitsyn’s quotes as being very much in opposition to one another precisely because of the temporary alliances clause in Washington’s address. There is no such statement in Solzhenitsyn’s. You may surmise that Solzhenitsyn would have agreed with Washington but I do not because he didn’t state it and he seems to be making a moral statement about the conduct of foreign policy. All alliances should be temporary for the purpose of achieving a foreign policy goal. There shouldn’t be lots of sentimentality about them as there is with European countries. Our mistake with China was that when the Cold War was over the lazy thinking of our diplomats was to keep going while the business elites saw a billion people waiting to buy consumer goods. They have taken us to the cleaners.

    • #5
    • June 1, 2020, at 3:55 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    By the way, do you suffer from insomnia?

    I don’t suffer a bit.

    I don’t “suffer” much myself. Do you “have” insomnia?

    Let’s just say I sleep at odd times for short periods.

    • #6
    • June 1, 2020, at 7:43 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Hang On (View Comment):
    There is no such statement in Solzhenitsyn’s.

    If you reread his statement, you’ll find that he was not speaking of a particular nation. He spoke of Western democracy. He wasn’t against alliances, just alliances with countries run by evil people and governments, as opposed to what we call other “democracies.”

    • #7
    • June 1, 2020, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Our mistake with China was that when the Cold War was over the lazy thinking of our diplomats was to keep going while the business elites saw a billion people waiting to buy consumer goods. They have taken us to the cleaners.

    Amen and amen. But also don’t forget when the Cold War with the Soviets ended and what came next. Does the phrase “no controlling legal authority” ring a bell? China was happy to funnel money to corrupt US politicians who were happy to take it and give them even more access to our markets.

    • #8
    • June 1, 2020, at 7:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang OnJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    There is no such statement in Solzhenitsyn’s.

    If you reread his statement, you’ll find that he was not speaking of a particular nation. He spoke of Western democracy. He wasn’t against alliances, just alliances with countries run by evil people and governments, as opposed to what we call other “democracies.”

    Exactly. That is why I talked about the moral component and see his statement as being naive. During World War 2, it was a matter of surrounding Germany from two sides (just as it had been in World War 1). That on one side was the Soviet Union, just didn’t matter at that time nor should it have.

    In the Cold War, we didn’t require (nor we should have) countries to be democratic to be in an alliance whether official or tacit. Spain, Portugal, and Turkey were members of Nato and not at all democratic. There were others such as South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia among others who were repressive, but with whom we were aligned.

    To now require allies to be democratic to me is naive. What we have to count on is Xi being a rather doctrinaire communist who will destroy the capability of his own people and scare democracies such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, because otherwise, they would align with China for economic reasons. But we should also be concerned about Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan (who either have zero grasp or minimal grasp on democratic institutions) being drawn into an alliance with China through the belt and road initiative and economic incentives. And then there is India, who China is trying to intimidate.

    • #9
    • June 1, 2020, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce CawardJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    China was happy to funnel money to corrupt US politicians who were happy to take it and give them even more access to our markets.

    Yep. I remember names like Johnny Chung, James Huang, the Lippo Group (Indonesian, but still . . .). Thanks, Clintons.

    • #10
    • June 1, 2020, at 9:39 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. The Reticulator Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Nice pairing, ‘hant. Very instructive. By the way, do you suffer from insomnia? I’ve had an almost lifelong case of it. It’s now 2:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I’m working on my post for the June 3rd Group Theme.

    Did you know that yesterday was Sunday, and there was no post from you? We should all demand a refund.

    • #11
    • June 1, 2020, at 5:59 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. KentForrester Moderator

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Nice pairing, ‘hant. Very instructive. By the way, do you suffer from insomnia? I’ve had an almost lifelong case of it. It’s now 2:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I’m working on my post for the June 3rd Group Theme.

    Did you know that yesterday was Sunday, and there was no post from you? We should all demand a refund.

    I do like Sundays, Retic. I’m surprised you knew. But this week I’ll be posting on Wednesday morning. 

    • #12
    • June 1, 2020, at 6:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Nice pairing, ‘hant. Very instructive. By the way, do you suffer from insomnia? I’ve had an almost lifelong case of it. It’s now 2:30 in the morning and I’m still wide awake. I’m working on my post for the June 3rd Group Theme.

    Did you know that yesterday was Sunday, and there was no post from you? We should all demand a refund.

    I do like Sundays, Retic. I’m surprised you knew. But this week I’ll be posting on Wednesday morning.

    Better be some Bob in there. 😉

    • #13
    • June 1, 2020, at 6:24 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Mim526 Member

    Hang On (View Comment):
    To now require allies to be democratic to me is naive. What we have to count on is Xi being a rather doctrinaire communist who will destroy the capability of his own people and scare democracies such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, because otherwise, they would align with China for economic reasons.

    Seems to me that those people like Solzhenitsyn and the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong who have lived directly under the effects of totalitarian evil are more realistic than naive in their belief that such regimes are not/must not be ally material. Japan has centuries of mutual hatred and an appreciation of what individual liberty has brought them to fuel their resistance to China.

    I would not count on the other nations to resist Chinese domination. Even after seeing and initially condemning the Chinese craven disregard for human life in the rest of the world regarding COVID-19, more than one is succumbing to Chinese lures and economic pressure (they hold too much of these countries’ debt) to align with/acquiesce to China.

    It’s coming to the place it was always headed but globalists idjits in our government (and people like me who bought into — or didn’t know enough about — what they were doing,) were too stupid (or too venal themselves) to realize they were taking us: the US and maybe a few allies like Israel and Japan against tyranny. Which is why I have no tolerance for people who for any reason mention we should vote for any Democrat: Democrats like Pelosi (not classical liberals) and Republicans like the Democrats will hand us over to China without blinking an eyelash.

    Bottom line: IMO we have been naive in not knowing where to draw the line, and that failure may lead to our demise. We have allowed China to infiltrate our every institution in order to destroy us from within, we have aligned our commerce and indebted ourselves to a regime that refuses to trade reciprocally and is using debts to force other countries into compliance. Whatever else he may or may not be, Donald Trump has successfully unmasked China and is right to resist that regime to our last breath.

    Thanks for this post, @arahant. Its core subject cannot be emphasized/discussed enough among free people who wish to remain free, I think. There’s no American more qualified to make the argument here than the one who knew best and firsthand exactly what it took to gain our freedom and keep it during its infancy.

    No personal criticism intended in my [rather lengthy] comment, @hangon.

    • #14
    • June 2, 2020, at 7:25 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.