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I am writing in response to the Aug. 15 letter, "Our country needs a new foreign policy." The first sign that the author does not know what he is talking about is when he says: "At present, the U.S. government does not have a foreign policy."

How is it possible to have dealings with other countries without having a foreign policy? If the author would have stated that he feels the United States has a bad foreign policy, then his initial position would be more defensible.

What the writer is suggesting is a return to the isolationism that dominated American foreign policy from 1776 through World War II. The problem with isolationism is that it does not work. Did isolationism keep us out of the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, World War I or World War II? No, it did not.

The writer uses Switzerland as his prime -- and only -- example of "a foreign policy of neutrality, non-intervention in foreign affairs and free trade with all countries of the world." Switzerland, a nation about one-half the size of Maine, is not a good country to make a comparison with the United States.

The center of his point is that "history tells us that if goods aren't allowed to cross borders, troops usually do." That is not true. Just take a look at the Soviet Union, which continued to export goods to Germany until the day of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

For more contemporary evidence, remember that the United States traded goods with Iraq in the 1980s, but this still did not stop Iraq from invading Kuwait in 1990.

The writer specifically advocates "free trade with all countries of the world." This begs the question: Why don't we have that now? The answer is that one nation can influence the behavior of another by directly rewarding or punishing it for what it does. One of the most effective methods for reward or punishment is through the regulation of trade with that nation.

In the post-Cold War era, the United States is unquestionably the foremost economic and military power in the world. If we wish to keep those things that we hold dear -- freedom, high standard of living, etc. -- it is vital that we maintain our military presence and willingness to use trade as a method of influence.

Stephen L. Quackenbush Buffalo

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