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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What if the Republicans go isolationist?

The prospect of a libertarian/Paleo-conservatism alliance is real. And as a general election strategy running to the left of Obama on foreign policy and the right on domestic policy might be tempting. In his brief pre-campaign campaign, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour seemed inclined to go down that path. Sarah Palin has now discovered her inner Robert Taft. And most distressingly, the otherwise highly capable and thoughtful Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is suggesting, much like Obama, that the Pentagon could use some chopping and, like the liberals in Congress, that we need to pare down our overseas commitments, not for national security reasons but simply on the basis that they cost too much.

A nominee sporting such an outlook, I would suggest, will tear the GOP asunder. Religious conservatives (who take seriously the unique role and obligation of the United States in the world) and defense hawks would be aghast to hear a Republican nominee trying to match (or even outbid) Obama’s defense reductions. And those Republican lawmakers who are bravely resisting the drumbeat in favor of slashing defense would be undercut by their party’s standard-bearer, leaving them vulnerable to attack by Democrats eager to throw the presidential nominee’s positions up in their faces.

In sum, there are substantive and political reasons for Republicans to resist the temptation to abandon modern conservatism’s foreign policy (one that is grounded in moral values as well as a canny assessment of the danger of inaction). Whether they will do so depends in large part on the quality of the candidates and the strength of their arguments. If the internationalists are not forceful and effective in debunking the isolationists, as well as successful at the primary ballot boxes, the country and the party will suffer.
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At 8:20 AM, Blogger yzernik said...

I don't think it's very likely, as Ron Paul and Mitch Daniels don't have much charisma. But even if they could get elected, it would be better to have someone neutral to Israel, rather than someone openly hostile to Israel like Obama.

At 2:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Ron Paul thinks that the American Civil War was a despotic military campaign the tyrant Lincoln waged against the foreign power popularly known as the Confederacy. HIs isolation is fed by an equally virulent strain of secessionism, so his act is hard to match.


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