Foreign Affairs

Special Feature: Carrying Out the MandateA Call For Conservatives to Debate Foreign Policy

[Editors Note: The editors of HUMAN EVENTS asked a group of well-known conservative leaders to outline what they believe the public policy priorities ought to be for the conservative movement following last week's Republican election victory.] PART 7: Now that the election is over, it is time for a serious debate within the conservative movement. It is a fact that certain elements within the Bush Administration, the so-called neo-conservatives, have taken America’s foreign policy in directions that are very different from what conservatives have traditionally supported. I will be the first to praise the neo-cons for their many past contributions to American conservatism. They played key roles in sustaining America’s opposition to the Soviet Union in the latter stages of the Cold War. Without them our country might have made some sort of compromise that would have kept the Communists in power. I count many leading neo-cons as personal friends. It is also true that the re-direction of American foreign policy toward utopian, Wilsonian goals began not under President George W. Bush but under President Clinton. The Clinton Administration started an unprovoked war against a country that did not threaten us, Serbia. In the name of democracy and human rights, NATO’s air bombing campaign killed as many as 5,000 Serbian civilians and wrecked much of that country’s economy and infrastructure. In the year 2000, George W. Bush ran on a platform that renounced such adventures. He said, "I just don’t think it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you. . . . I think the United States must be humble . . . in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course." Then, after 9/11, President Bush’s views seemed to change. While our invasion of Afghanistan was a necessary response to al-Qaeda’s attacks on America, it is clear that America’s attack on Iraq reflected a different agenda. Specifically, it reflected the neo-cons’ belief that the whole world should be democratized on the American model, by force if necessary. That is a radical departure from what conservatives have stood for ever since Edmund Burke. Consequences of Iraq Adventure The consequences of the neo-cons’ adventure in Iraq are now all too clear: America is stuck in a guerrilla war with no end in sight, our military is stretched too thin to respond to other threats, and our real enemies, non-state organizations such al al-Qaeda, are benefiting from the Arab and Islamic backlash against our occupation of an Islamic country. In coming months, I intend to work with other conservative leaders to bring about the debate over foreign policy and grand strategy that both our nation and the conservative movement clearly need. Offensive or Defensive? What should our foreign policy goals be if we are realists, not utopians? Should our grand strategy be offensive or defensive in a world where non-state, Fourth Generation war (fought by non-state entities) is spreading? Is our military oriented toward Fourth Generation war, or are we still focused on war with other states? If President Bush’s second term is to be successful, these questions must be addressed. As much as I admire the neo-cons and appreciate their past contributions, it is not clear that the strategic direction in which they have sent the country is correct. I am hopeful that the Bush Administration will welcome this debate and participate in it with an open mind. President George W. Bush’s place in history may depend upon his having done so. More:

  • Part 1: Enact School Choice, Cut Taxes, Improve Cultural Climate
  • Part 2: ‘Ownership Society’ Will Limit Growth of Government
  • Part 3: Fiscal Restraint, Marriage Amendment, Constitutionalist Judges
  • Part 4: Great Opportunity to Revitalize Reagan Republican Party
  • Part 5: Ten Steps Toward Smaller, Better Government
  • Part 6: Keep Moving Toward Lower, Flatter Tax Rates
  • Part 7: A Call For Conservatives to Debate Foreign Policy
  • Part 8: Get Borders and Illegal Immigration Under Control
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