Republicans love to wax poetic about America's founding documents. Read anything by popular conservative pundits to get up to speed on how our precious Constitution has been shredded by liberals and why America desperately needs to return to the principles contained therein.
The major Republican presidential contenders all share that view as well. Newt Gingrich's website, for example, tells readers that religious liberty and life are unalienable rights “contained in the Declaration of Independence.” Mitt Romney has similarly ripped on “advocates of “secularism” for taking the idea of separation of church and state “...well beyond its original meaning.”
The problem, however, is that Republicans don't endorse their own back to basics argument when it comes to foreign policy. Conservatives, historically speaking, don't endorse the idea that America is the world's police force, and for the sake of consistency and the good of the country, today's Republicans need to abandoned this interventionist mindset.
This may sound like a strange argument if you don't know your history, so let's briefly put it context. The idea that America should cross the globe solving every nation's problems is a progressive one. And it makes sense when you think about it. The left generally accepts that the government ought to have a very active role in society, alleviating poverty, ensuring a level playing field or the little guy, and so on. So why wouldn't the same be true of foreign policy as well?
Historian Thomas Woods points out that liberals have endorsed an interventionist foreign policy since the Spanish-American War of 1898. “The Progressive movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries …” Woods says “...Was overwhelmingly sympathetic rather than hostile to the tendency toward... foreign policy assertiveness. Domestic reform and foreign intervention...were simply two sides of the same coin.”
Guess who you'll find advocating such a policy today? Gingrich's website explains that “... America’s foreign policy must be to ensure our own survival and protect those who share our values.” Romney's website also argues “It is only American power — conceived in the broadest terms — that can provide the foundation for an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies.” Ironic.
This isn't just a matter of consistency in an abstract sense. The contradiction here has serious practical implications. Every Republican contender has preached about the need to cut the size of government, yet only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has discussed the need to cut back our military spending, which consumes one-fifth of the federal budget. The right-to-life argument comes into play here as well. The candidates all take a hard line stance against abortion, but the casualties of war, unfortunate as they war, are one of the necessary evils of achieving our international goals.
This very well may be why Paul has been able to gain on the other two contenders for the White House, and why he may actually have a shot in January. Though this is a development I welcome, it could spell trouble for the GOP. Without actually doing what they say they will, they risk falling out of step with what voters are looking for.
If events don't pan out that way, and Gingrich or Romney win the nomination and presidency next year, that means we get more of the same – bigger deficits, more wars, and more people around the world willing to attack us. Either way, the Republicans have very good reasons to be consistent about their conservatism.
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