Vital Signs

Lincoln’s Legacy: Foreign Policy by Assassination

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  For proof of this axiom, we need only look at the foreign policy pursued by the U.S. government since the end of World War II.

The United States emerged from World War II militarily victorious but politically deformed.  Instead of a republic, it was now a superpower with military and economic capabilities previously unimagined.  In place of a constitutional government of limited powers and official accountability was a national-security regime of executive orders, the CIA, and plausible deniability.  Instead of “no entangling alliances,” the U.S. government not only entered such alliances but created and fostered them—the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1948, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954, and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), originally known as the Middle East Treaty Organization, in 1955.  Instead of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, Washington subscribed to the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism, the belief that the United States is politically and morally superior to other countries and, therefore, entitled to intervene in their domestic affairs.

Such vast powers exercised as a moral imperative unencumbered by constitution-al restraints were intoxicating to American politicians...

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