WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – For the first ten years of the 21st century, the Republican Party supported a foreign policy that contradicted everything that conservatism stands for. The party had been hijacked by neo-cons and big government conservatives who cared little about limited government or fiscal responsibility.
The figurehead of this change was President George W. Bush, with Vice-President Dick Cheney at his side. Along with many of their advisors, they waged two unconstitutional wars which cost this nation over a trillion dollars, thousands of lives, and created many enemies.
Throughout the eight years of the Bush presidency, Republican foreign policy was more similar to Woodrow Wilson’s than to Robert Taft’s or Barry Goldwater’s.
This is quite a contrast from the foreign policy that Bush ran on in 2000. When running against Al Gore, Bush urged a humble foreign policy which was less aggressive. He said, “If we’re an arrogant nation they’ll resent us.”
President Bush proved how right candidate Bush was. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he also revealed how much Republican foreign policy had changed since the days of Taft and Goldwater. Both of these statesmen promoted policies of non-interventionism which were consistent with the conservative philosophy of a strong national defense, limited government, and fiscal responsibility.
After the attacks on 9/11, it was very popular for elected officials to call for a straight up retaliation and to support the War on Terror. Unfortunately, Republicans didn’t realize that it was their abandonment of non-interventionism that led to the U.S. being attacked in the first place.
Republicans dismissed the idea that our foreign policy was partially responsible for 9/11, and many even claimed that those who thought this way were anti-American and wanted the terrorists to win. It is difficult to argue, however, that being stationed in over 135 countries around the world hasn’t caused problems or made the United States a target for those angry at us. The government’s main function is to defend the country. At this task, they did an extremely poor job.
Our conquests oversees are also financially irresponsible. Billions of dollars are spent in foreign nations which would be better spent by citizens in this country. In this way Republicans forgot their principles of lower spending and fiscal conservatism.
Probably the greatest lesson learned by Republicans was that a nation cannot have limited government and also maintain an empire oversees. Over the past decade, Americans have learned this with regards to the USA Patriot Act, the TSA and their destruction of the 4th amendment, and other violations of individual privacy that conservatives used to find deplorable.
Slowly but surely, Republicans seem to be regaining their credibility and returning to conservative consistency on foreign policy. They realize that with a debt of over 14 trillion dollars, there is no way to maintain a military presence oversees.
Unfortunately it took a multi-trillion dollar debt, a warmongering Democrat in the White House, and a new group of Constitution-minded freshman Republicans to reverse the foreign policy trend of the past decade.
This change in attitude became more noticeable after President Obama committed to the conflict in Libya. This sparked an amazing bipartisan effort from both parties against the President. Who would have expected over 80 Republican lawmakers to vote for a bill written by Denis Kucinich – one of the most liberal members of Congress – to withdraw military forces from the North African region?
Some might claim that the Republicans only changed their position in order to criticize Obama in yet another partisan battle. This critique is weakened by the fact that Democrats have also been attacking the President on this issue. It is also worth noting that the moderate Republicans – those often seen as representing the establishment, such as John McCain and Lindsay Graham – have taken up arms with Obama and backed his actions in Libya.
It’s a very telling sign when Republicans like Rand Paul, Ron Paul, and Mike Lee are viewed as some of the most conservative and influential members of Congress, and yet are still some of the biggest anti-war voices on the hill. This would have been almost unthinkable in 2004, when any Republican who even expressed doubts about the war in Iraq would have been considered a traitor.
While Republicans are still split on this issue, the party has come a long way from its position of “shoot first, ask questions later.”
Will Republicans remain steadfast and continue their anti-war sentiments, or will their resolve crumble if and when a Republicans returns to the White House? Only time will tell.
Conor Murphy is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in political science. As a former radio talk show host on WVCW, Conor hosted two popular shows, Murphy’s Law and Son of the Revolution. You can read more of his columns in The Political Pro-Con at The Washington Times Communities.
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