Foreign Policy and the Constitution

Tom Cotton
U.S. Senator from Arkansas and Author, Sacred Duty: A Soldier’s Tour at Arlington National Cemetery

Tom CottonTom Cotton was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arkansas in 2014, following one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the Senate Banking Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Armed Services Committee. A graduate of Harvard College, he studied government at the Claremont Graduate School and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2002. In 2005, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, rose to 1st Lieutenant, and served deployments in Iraq with the 101st Airborne and in Afghanistan with a Provincial Reconstruction Team. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and Ranger Tab. He is the author of Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on September 15, 2015, at Hillsdale College’s Sixth Annual Constitution Day Celebration in Washington, D.C.

The Founders and generations of statesmen since have recognized the unique advantages with which the United States is blessed. We are a continental nation, and we enjoy the protection of two oceans that separate us from the historic cauldrons of conflict in Europe and Asia. We have abundant natural resources and an industrious society, making us a powerful trading partner. Ours is a people slow to anger, but imbued with a martial tradition and a fighting spirit. Our democratic culture is vigorous, resilient, and cherished by the people. These strengths are channeled by the Constitution into our foreign policy tradition. U.S. strategy abroad—while not successful in every instance—has brought us from being a world-affairs backwater to being the world’s superpower.

As we think about our future and new strategies, it would serve us well to look back at old truths. We must hold fast to foundational principles. We must continue our rich foreign policy tradition, and vigorously fight any efforts to undermine it. While each Congress and president will have particular differences, we should all share the same goal: a world of peace and freedom, of prosperity and opportunity, of hope. We have a duty to be true to our beliefs, to use our great power wisely on behalf of freedom, guided by constitutional principle. As Ronald Reagan admonished in his speech to the British Parliament in 1982, “Let us go to our strength. Let us offer hope. Let us tell the world that a new age is not only possible but probable.”