(This is the 3rd of a series of articles posted in the commentary section on Freedom, beginning with "The Agenda").

National defense is the first and foremost duty of government. This country was formed with a limited, decentralized government in order to foster the greatest amount of individual freedom, and the least amount of government interference. For a century after we declared our independence from England, about all the government was involved in was foreign diplomacy, trade policy, and developing a defense against invaders. Defense against domestic criminals was left to the states, and defense of individual and property rights was the implied law of the land and handled by the courts.

My guiding principle in foreign policy is that we should have the right to help a nation to defend itself, its individuals, and its sovereignty from the initiation of force, but not the obligation to do so. The standard should be whether such action is in our national interest, and whether it is supported by our congressional representatives.

This guiding principle rejects outright isolationism, but also rejects the hawk’s moral obligation argument imposed by interventionists. This principle allows for choice. We should neither be the policeman of the world, nor isolationist. Each decision should be made on its merits.

What makes choice so important to foreign policy is that it is revocable. We live under a form of government where any foreign policy decision can only survive with continued bipartisan support. Further, it must be ratified by popular support; otherwise, the people will vote out the incumbents and replace them with representatives whose stance on foreign policy is more to their liking.

Recently we saw Syria use chemical weapons which killed over 1400 helpless individuals. These weren't soldiers on the battlefield, but defenseless men, women, and children. Assuming we had reasonable proof that Basher al-Assad launched the attack, which we had within two days according to sources, I would have immediately lobbed a few missiles into the highest echelons of the leadership that initiated the massacre. This would have been a surprise attack. It would have come as a surprise to the world, to the US Congress, and especially to Assad.

My objective would have been to try to kill Assad, a mass murderer, and as many of his generals and lieutenants as possible. Had I missed, I would announce that if Assad was not brought to justice by the people of Syria, more attempts would follow, and I would follow up with bombing the rich and the powerful associated with Assad and his militant machine wherever I could find them until Assad met the kind of end that other dictator-murderers have met. This would cost America almost nothing to implement.

And then I would declare that the US will hold the leaders of other nations such as Iran and North Korea personally responsible for any use of weapons of mass destruction that can be linked to them. This I trust would give pause to dictators who think about the use of such force against their people, or others, in the future. I have little sympathy for military responses that wipe out thousands of soldiers just for following orders. To me, justice resides in wiping out those that order and commit atrocities. It is the leaders of such nations that should be the main target and wiped out.

But that's not what happened. That’s what I think should have happened. But I, like all other Americans, have delegated these decisions to the President and our representatives. I will support this government’s right to seek retribution on dictators who commit mass murder – or not. Unfortunately, the opportunity for a surprise attack was botched from the outset. The amount of leaks that were fed to the press regarding when we might attack and when we won’t, with which weapons, as well as which targets, were so great a breach of security it would have made even Edward Snowden cringe!

Such a display of indecision combined with incompetence sent a message to all of our adversaries: proceed with caution, but proceed. It's like a child that was told not to do something then sent to his room after disobeying his parents. He knows if he disobeys them again but keeps his infractions at a minimum, nothing really bad will happen and little by little he'll get more and more of what he's not supposed to have.

Enter Russia. Russia has always lived by the strategy, “two steps forward one step back.” That's how they conquered so much of the world and became the Soviet Union. Given the US's obvious reluctance to get involved in any other conflicts, the "children" of this world are on the move. Several nations are becoming more and more aggressive in their goal to control more and more of the world.

Unlike Syria, Iran, North Korea and many other insignificant nations, countries like Russia possess devastating military capabilities. What we can do against the force of puny nations is a lot; what we can do against muscular ones is much different. Countries like Russia must be dealt with, but not with military force unless we are attacked.

So, given the fact that we will not use military force against these nations and they know it, is it true that nothing can be done to stop their aggression? Well, we can retaliate with sanctions – the response of choice today --but I would choose a much more devastating option.

If the goal is to stop aggression of countries with nuclear weapons in their tracks, we must impose such measures that it will raise the stakes sufficiently to make them squirm. Here's what I would do to restrain Russia: first, I would call for Russia to be expelled from the United Nations Security Council, then the UN itself. If they were not immediately expelled, I would give notice that the United States will leave the UN. If the world's nations will not expel a nation that initiates force and aggressively takes over another country’s territory, it is not an organization interested in civilized behavior or peace. So why does it exist? Probably, it  is only interested in nice meetings and dinners. Therefore I would withdraw all funding from the UN and return the money spent there to American citizens. 

I would then demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) drop them as a member, thereby cutting off all special treaties and subsidies gained by such an association. If the WTO refused to drop Russia from the organization, I would then withdraw any funding from them and return the savings, again, to the American people. Such a move would devastate Russia economically and benefit us.

If Russia continued to use force against its neighbors, I would then assert that an uncivilized nation has no business being in the International Monetary Fund( IMF) and that the IMF should expel them and never do business with them again. This would crush Russia in many economic and financial ways. If the IMF refused, I would withdraw from that organization, take the funding we give them yearly that supports the organization and return it to the American taxpayer.

And down through the list I would go until either Russia was expelled from all civilized organizations based on free trade and the non-initiation of force among nations, or that America was no longer involved with international organizations that permitted such acts.

Now obviously this would come as a greater shock to our friends than to Russia. But that's the point. Either we live in a world that permits aggression and allows the "children" of the world to continue their mischief to the point of going wild and killing and plundering, or we put our foot down. By insisting that the world follows our lead is forcing such a choice. It’s either the civilized world that unifies against tyranny and force, or it will be every country for  itself. And in that equation the US will do just fine. The worst that will happen is that our taxpayers will get a handsome rebate. As for all the other nations that refuse to take actions to prevent aggression, they will be left to deal with that aggression on their own.

Now I know this sounds extreme. But how many American politicians today belong to a club that prevents blacks or Jews from being members? Zero, I imagine. Why then are the same politicians sitting down with thugs and murderers internationally? Why do we allow a nation that seeks domination of its neighbors, the prestige of being on the United Nations Security Council primarily whose responsibility it is for the maintenance of international peace? And this goes for other security and peace-loving organizations. 

Moves such as the ones I mentioned above are simply an illustration of the kind of thing that can be done above and beyond sanctions, to change the foreign policy of the world to one where either nations behave themselves and abstain from killing their citizens and taking other nations’ territories by force, or become isolated as criminal nations and outcasts of the civilized world.

Russia is a Third World nation with a First World military. Cut off its trade, its ability to deal financially in the world and to travel and communicate with civilized countries, and Russia is reduced to the economic status of a North Korea. This move will antagonize the Russians, to say nothing of many of our friends that would lose trade with Russia should it ever happen. But on the other hand, Russia may just not want to endure the future of an economic depression for as far as the eye can see, and virtual isolation in the modern world.

If any non-military action can possibly succeed in changing the way such criminal nations think about the use of force…I think it would be this one.

Paul Nathan