In light of Obama’s morally indefensible and dyslexic policies regarding Egypt, Iran, Israel, Libya, and Syria, it is important that our eventual presidential nominee articulate a bold distinction in the realm of foreign policy.
Conservative domestic policy doctrine is quite indubitable and lucid (except among many elected Republicans); limited government, free enterprise, protection of individual liberties, limitation of criminal liberties, secure borders, and a robust civil society. Foreign policy is more ambiguous because it is governed more by prudence than by doctrine. Even though the overarching principle of any foreign policy initiative is American exceptionalism, the murkiness of America’s security interests has long blurred the distinction between divergent foreign policies.
During the Bush years, the distinction between “liberal” and “conservative” foreign policy was obfuscated even further due to President Bush’s embrace of neoconservative principles such as democratization and human rights interventions. Also, the only opposition from the right which percolated into the media was the voices of those like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan, who believed that our involvement in the Middle East and support of Israel served as the impetus for Islamic terror.
As such, the average political observer was presented with a false choice of conservative foreign policy between the so-called neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and so-called paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan. Moreover, many conservatives, desiring to emphatically repudiate the detestable behavior of the anti-war movement, became inclined to reflexively support foreign intervention at any cost simply to “stay the course” and oppose the anti-war left. These conservatives continue to injudiciously support an open ended commitment in Afghanistan and Libya, despite serious concerns to our national interests.
Earlier this week, Sarah Palin articulated the principles of a foreign policy that are neither neoconservative nor paleoconservative; rather plain old conservative. Speaking at the Colorado Christian University for a military charity fundraiser, Governor Palin outlined the following commonsense principles for foreign intervention:
There’s a lesson here then for the effective use of force, as opposed to sending our troops on missions that are ill-defined. And it can be argued that our involvement elsewhere, say in Libya, is an example of a lack of clarity. See, these are deadly serious questions that we must ask ourselves when we contemplate sending Americans into harm’s way. Our men and women in uniform deserve a clear understanding of U.S. positions on such a crucial decision. I believe our criteria before we send our young men and women—America’s finest—into harm’s way should be spelled out clearly when it comes to the use of our military force. I can tell you what I believe that criteria should be in five points.
First, we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.
Second, if we have to fight, we fight to win. To do that, we use overwhelming force. We only send our troops into war with the objective to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. We do not stretch out our military with open-ended and ill-defined missions. Nation building is a nice idea in theory, but it is not the main purpose of our armed forces. We use our military to win wars.
And third, we must have clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into harm’s way. If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly and concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period.
Fourth, American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. We will fight side by side with our allies, but American soldiers must remain under the care and the command of American officers.
Fifth, sending in our armed forces should be the last resort. We don’t go looking for dragons to slay. However, we will encourage the forces of freedom around the world who are sincerely fighting for the empowerment of the individual. When it makes sense, when it’s appropriate, we will provide them with material support to help them win their own freedom.
We are not indifferent to the cause of human rights or the desire for freedom. We are always on the side of both. But we can’t fight every war. We can’t undo every injustice around the world. But with strength and clarity in those five points, we’ll make for a safer, more prosperous, more peaceful world because as the U.S. leads by example, as we support freedom across the globe, we’re going to prove that free and healthy countries don’t wage war on other free and healthy countries. The stronger we are, the stronger and more peaceful the world will be under our example.
Obama’s continued obduracy in support of the Egyptian, Libyan, and Yemeni rebels, in conjunction with the full throated cooperation of the neoconservatives, has provided most conservatives with a sense of clarity on foreign policy. The ironic bond between the anti-colonialist left and neoconservatives vis-à-vis the Arab uprisings, has shown conservatives that we must indeed oppose some interventions, even if they are incidentally opposed by the anti-war crowd as well.
Unfortunately, there has been less vocal concern from conservatives regarding the situation in Afghanistan. While we continue to support the eradication of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, we must begin to pay closer attention to the mounting casualties in a war that is being waged with egregious rules of engagement and costing us hundreds of billions. It appears that once Obama acceded to the troop surge and appointed General Petraeus as commander, conservatives have opted to largely remain silent on Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, a rash pullout, as the anti-war folks suggest, would be detrimental to our security interests. However, we must remain vigilant and keep up the pressure to clearly define our mission in Afghanistan in order to preclude a permanent commitment to nowhere. And no, Bin Laden’s demise doesn’t change the dynamic in Afghanistan either way.
With Republicans like John McCain credulously supporting the Libyan rebels, it is imperative that our presidential candidates offer a clear and bold-colored distinction from Obama (and McCain), not just on domestic policy, but on foreign policy too. In addition, he/she will need to articulate a set of coherent principles for our future in Afghanistan other than “stay the course.”
A foreign policy that is merely anti anti-war is not conservative. Sarah Palin’s general principles should serve as the catalyst for a much needed dialogue on the application of conservative foreign policy doctrine to today’s geopolitical issues.
Cross-posted to Red Meat Conservative