Two hundred thirty years have elapsed since Jefferson's document was signed in Philadelphia, declaring the 13 colonies to be independent forever of the England of George III.
In his Farewell Address, Washington defined independence in a single sentence: "It is our true policy to steer clear of any permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world."
Jefferson echoed the father of his country, declaring America's policy to be one of "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none."
Adams thought his greatest achievement was that he prevented a naval war with France from degenerating into all out-war with Napoleon, and had severed America's 1778 alliance with Paris. Not for 150 years would the United States enter another permanent alliance, NATO, in the extraordinary situation that was the Cold War.
It was because America remained independent of the alliances of Europe -- the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia, and Triple Alliance of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy -- that Americans did not arrive on the battlefields of the Great War of 1914-1918 until six months before the Armistice. America lost 116,000 soldiers in that bloodbath, but avoided the horrendous casualties that killed the Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian and Ottoman empires, and forever wounded the British and French.
America emerged the most powerful nation and greatest creditor on earth, as a Senate wisely rejected both the Versailles Treaty and a League of Nations set up to enforce its dishonorable terms.
World War II began Sept. 3, 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany to honor a guarantee Neville Chamberlain had given to Poland. France fell in the late spring of 1940, as the British were hurled off the Continent. Stalin's prison house of nations was invaded in June of 1941. Untold millions in Central and Eastern Europe perished.
Free of alliances, the Americans did not even land in France until five years after the war began, only 11 months before its end in Europe.
No European empire survived these wars. No great European nation was left undiminished. These wars ended Europe's role as shaper of world history.
Thus it was that America emerged as first nation on earth, the most self-sufficient republic in history, undisputed leader of the West. For 40 years of Cold War against a Soviet Empire, America drew a red line across Europe and told Moscow not to cross it. Nor did we cross it the other way to liberate Eastern Europe, when the Hungarian Revolution broke out in 1956, the Prague Spring was crushed by Russian tanks in 1968, or Solidarity was smashed on Moscow's orders in 1981.