Quotations about   foreign policy

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The best foreign policy is to live our daily lives in honesty, decency, and integrity; at home, making our own land a more fitting habitation for free men; and abroad, joining with those of like mind and heart, to make of the world a place where all men can dwell in peace.

Eisenhower - honesty decency integrity - wist_info quote

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Inaugural Gabriel Silver lecture, Columbia University (23 Mar 1950)

Eisenhower was President of Columbia University at the time. The quote was widely used in an "I Believe" advertisement for Eisenhower during the 1956 election.

(Sources 1 and 2)
Added on 21-Jun-16 | Last updated 21-Jun-16
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When I think about all the money we spent on bombs and munitions, and our failures in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world … Instead of advancing our agenda using force, we should have instead built schools and hospitals in these countries, improving the lives of their children. By now, those children would have grown into positions of influence, and they would be grateful to us instead of hating us.

George Shultz (b. 1920) American economist, statesman, businessman
(Attributed)
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Quoted in In Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind (2014).
Added on 30-Nov-15 | Last updated 30-Nov-15
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Better perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared — this must someday become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880)
Added on 3-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Nov-15
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Physicists and astronomers see their own implications in the world being round, but to me it means that only one-third of the world is asleep at any given time and the other two-thirds is up to something.

Dean Rusk (1909-1994) American politician and diplomat
Speech, American Bar Assoc., Atlanta (22 Oct 1964)
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-Oct-15
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We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow.

Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) British statesman, Prime Minister (1855-58, 1859-65) [Lord Palmerston]
Speech, House of Commons (1 Mar 1848)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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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.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Farewell Address (17 Sep 1796) [with A. Hamilton]
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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If crisis management requires cold and even brutal measures to show determination, it also imposes the need to show the opponent a way out. Grandstanding is good for the ego but bad for foreign policy. […] Many wars have started because no line of retreat was left open.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
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Added on 22-Sep-15 | Last updated 22-Sep-15
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Law and Justice play no role in the relations of peoples of unequal strength.

Gustave LeBon (1841-1931) German psychologist
Aphorisms of Present Times, 2.6 (1913)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government’s decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him — but to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing — but controlled and purposeful violence.

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Starship Troopers, ch. 5 [Zim] (1959)
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Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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In foreign policy one must make do with what one has.

Henry Kissinger (b. 1923) German-American diplomat
Years of Upheaval, ch. 12 (1982)
Added on 1-Sep-15 | Last updated 1-Sep-15
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International relations are governed by interests, and not by moral principles.

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
“The Illusion of Treaties,” Why Don’t We Learn from History? (1944)
Added on 25-Aug-15 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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The question [is] asked, “Is it common for a nation to obtain a redress of wrongs by war?” The answer to this question you will of course draw from history. In the meantime, reason will answer it on grounds of probability, that where the wrong has been done by a weaker nation, the stronger one has generally been able to enforce redress; but where by a stronger nation, redress by war has been neither obtained nor expected by the weaker. On the contrary, the loss has been increased by the expenses of the war in blood and treasure. Yet it may have obtained another object equally securing itself from future wrong. It may have retaliated on the aggressor losses of blood and treasure far beyond the value to him of the wrong he had committed, and thus have made the advantage of that too dear a purchase to leave him in a disposition to renew the wrong in future. In this way the loss by the war may have secured the weaker nation from loss by future wrong.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Noah Worcester (1816) [ME 14:415]
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 17-Mar-15
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But to those who expect us to calculate whether a compliance with unjust demands will not cost us less than a war we must leave as a question of calculation for them also whether to retire from unjust demands will not cost them less than a war. We can do to each other very sensible injuries by war, but mutual advantages of peace make that the best interest of both.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
State of the Union Message (8 Nov 1804) [ME 3:369]
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Added on 10-Mar-15 | Last updated 10-Mar-15
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A respect for the rights of other people to determine their forms of government and their economy will not weaken our democracy. It will inevitably strengthen it. One of the first things we must get rid of is the idea that democracy is tantamount to capitalism.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
Tomorrow Is Now (1963)
Added on 18-Feb-15 | Last updated 18-Feb-15
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The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.

First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations.

Third: Any nation’s right to form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
“The Chance for Peace,” speech to American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington (16 Apr 1953)

Also known as the "Cross of Iron" speech.
Added on 5-Feb-15 | Last updated 23-Jun-18
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Always a friend to peace and believing it to promote eminently the happiness and prosperity of mankind, I am ever unwilling that it should be disturbed as long as the rights and interests of the nations can be preserved. But whensoever hostile aggressions on these require a resort to war, we must meet our duty and convince the world that we are just friends and brave enemies.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Andrew Jackson (1806) [ME 19:156]
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Added on 30-Apr-14 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961)
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Added on 12-Sep-07 | Last updated 27-May-16
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