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Ron Paul deplored the situation in Iraq during a recent debate, and invoked the founders of the United States as advising non-intervention in foreign affairs.
That's arguably true. The sentiment is best encapsulated in George Washington's farewell address of 1796. "The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave," Washington wrote. "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."
Though many of the founding fathers advised avoiding foreign entanglements, in most cases they were thinking of the circumstances of their own day, said Mary Jenkins, a program specialist with the Independence National Historical Park. After the Revolutionary War, many of the founders were worried about the nation's resources, both financial and military, and did not want the young nation to become embroiled in the French Revolution or other European issues. "Certainly for that time period, that was their advice," she said.
Historians over the years have debated whether the founders' advice should be extrapolated as appropriate for circumstances more than two hundred years later. That debate continues today.
Interestingly, another piece of advice Washington had in his farewell address was to avoid party affiliations, especially parties based on regional distinctions. (Red states, blue states, anyone?)
Louis B. Wright, "The Founding Fathers and 'Splendid Isolation'," The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 2. (Feb., 1943), pp. 173-196.
Interview with Mary Jenkins, interpretive program specialist at the Independence National Historical Park, Oct. 22, 2007.
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