We are about to enter another era of foreign policy debate and history teaches us about the usual babble that comes from the political party that must give consent to the foreign policy initiatives of the other party's POTUS. 'Tis all a matter of whose ox is being gored. If this is (fair & balanced) Kabuki theater, so be it.
[x St. Paul Fishwrap]
A Brief History Of Hating Treaties
By David H. Montgomery
Tag Cloud of the following piece of writing
The preliminary agreement announced today [4/2/2015] over Iran’s nuclear program drew quick and blistering criticism from Republicans, alleging that the U.S. gave everything up without accomplishing its goals.
History will judge whether this agreement — if successfully finalized — was a success or failure. But history also tells us that plenty of U.S. treaties and accords have been met with firestorms of criticism and controversy. Here’s a quick, non-comprehensive sampling:
— 1796 “Jay Treaty” between U.S. and Great Britain: Critics objected to this treaty for forging closer ties with England, which had fought the colonies in the extremely recent past, and for giving up too much and obtaining too little. Southerners in particular were incensed that it obtained compensation for (largely Northern-owned) American shipping confiscated, but not southern slaves taken by the British during the Revolution. (Indeed, 19th Century historian and great-grandson of treaty supporter John Adams Henry Adams called it a “bad” treaty and said “There has been no time since 1810 when the United States would not prefer war to peace on such terms,” while modern historian Joseph Ellis said it was “one-sided in Britain’s favor” though a strategic good move on America’s part.)
Though George Washington’s prestige helped get this treaty confirmed, chief negotiator John Jay — the chief justice of the Supreme Court! — was particularly vilified. One newspaper editor wrote: “John Jay, ah! the arch traitor – seize him, drown him, burn him, flay him alive.” Jay “joked he could travel by night all the way from Boston to Philadelphia just by the light of his burning effigies.” While he was joking about the extent, he really was hanged in effigy. Jay actually was hanged in effigy (right).
— 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty: This treaty, also with Britain, settled a violent boundary dispute in Maine, and did so in part by conceding land America had formerly claimed. This was not popular in certain camps, to say the least, though people were also glad to avoid war with Britain over a stretch of Maine wilderness.
Future Congressman and Maine governor Israel Washburn Junior later said of the treaty [PDF]: “Never was there such a history of errors, mistakes, blunders, concessions, explanations, apologies, losses and mortifications.” To win approval, negotiator Daniel Webster forged a map to allegedly show Benjamin Franklin had drawn the Maine boundary close to the terms of the deal, when in fact Franklin had claimed rather more territory.
— 1867 Alaska Purchase: Dubbed “Seward’s Folly,” many critics wondered why the U.S. would spend any money buying such a far-off, noncontiguous and frozen piece of land.
From a summary of criticism: “The purchase price was small; the annual charges for administration, civil and military, would be yet greater, and continuing. The territory included in the proposed cession was not contiguous to the national domain. It lay away at an inconvenient and a dangerous distance. The treaty had been secretly prepared, and signed and foisted upon the country at one o’clock in the morning. It was a dark deed done in the night… The New York World said that it was a “sucked orange.” It contained nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift....”
— 1919 Treaty of Versailles: Famously never ratified by the United States Senate, after concerns about the League of Nations the treaty set up.
— 1949 North Atlantic Treaty: The Senate eventually ratified the pact that created NATO by wide margins, but not before it took criticism from both sides. Some internationalists thought it would undermine the United Nations and attempts to negotiate differences peacefully, while some isolationists opposed NATO binding the U.S. into foreign entanglements, as well as its cost. Both sides argued that NATO could provoke the Soviet Union instead of deterring it.
Sen. Robert A. Taft at the time, explaining his opposition: “It thus becomes an offensive and defensive military alliance against Russia. I believe our foreign policy should be aimed primarily at security and peace, and I believe such an alliance is more likely to produce war than peace… Furthermore, can we afford this new project of foreign assistance? … We are spending $7,000,000,000 a year on economic aid to build up those countries to a condition of prosperity where communism cannot make internal progress. Shall we start another project whose cost is incalculable, at the very time when we have a deficit of 1,800,000,000 dollars and a prospective deficit of three to five billion?”
1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties: The U.S. agreed to surrender the Panama Canal to Panama. This was criticized for surrendering a vital strategic asset. Sen. Jesse Helms “declared it a constitutional crisis” and “accused the U.S. of submitting to Panamanian blackmail”; polls consistently showed [PDF] the American public opposed the treaties by a margin of “five to three.”
1994 North American Free Trade Agreement: Unlike most of the other treaties here, this was criticized not so much on nationalist grounds as on economic grounds. It remains controversial to this day.
Here’s presidential candidate Ross Perot’s famous 1992 critique: “We have got to stop sending jobs overseas. It’s pretty simple: If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,... have no health care—that’s the most expensive single element in making a car— have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south… When [Mexico's] jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it’s leveled again. But in the meantime, you’ve wrecked the country with these kinds of deals.” Ω
[David H. Montgomery is a political reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He received a BA (political science) from Grinnell College.]
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