A conservative foreign policy: 10 basic principles

Here’s my proposal of a conservative foreign policy, or at least of 10 basic principles for it, along with practical examples of how these principles should be applied. This is a foreign policy approach that every conservative, moderate, independent, and even some libertarians should support.

1) The US must always maintain a strong, generously funded defense. Deep cuts to defense spending must be prevented.

The Constitution makes it clear that providing for a strong, generously funded defense is the highest duty of the federal government, and one of the reasons the federal government was created and the Constitution adopted in the first place. But defense cannot be maintained on the cheap (European countries have tried to do so and have failed); deep defense spending cuts would cripple the US military. Therefore, sequestration and part of the BCA First Tier budget cuts must be cancelled and replaced with spending cuts elsewhere, as the Ryan Plan, the Toomey Balanced Budget Plan, and the RSC’s Budget Plan would all do.

2) Unless there is an imminent threat to America’s national security, the President cannot go to war without a Congressional declaration of war.

If a British naval squadron was coming close to attack USN ships stationed in Norfolk by surprise, would President Madison wait for the Congress to declare war? Of course not. If there is an imminent threat to national security, the President is authorized and even obligated to act immediately.

But the key word here is “imminent”. If there is no immediate threat, the President cannot go to war without a Congressional declaration of war, John Yoo’s fantasies to the contrary notwithstanding.

3) The US should not go to war unless there is a serious threat to its national security, its crucial interests, or its key allies. Furthermore, US troops should be committed to war only with clear goals, a clear strategy to achieve these goals, full resources to accomplish them, and an exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement, and should be deployed only if non-war means have failed.

This is a summation of the Weinberger and Powell Doctrines, which were good guidelines as to when and how use military force and should be reinstated.

4) When it’s necessary to intervene militarily abroad, the US military should come in, smash its enemies, and then leave. No nationbuilding, no peacekeeping operations Kosovo-style, and no democratizing of defeated countries.

Had the Nation followed this principle after 9/11, it would not have become entangled in Afghanistan.

5) American troops should be used only to defend America and its allies, deter aggressors, and punish them if they attack. They are not, and must never be treated as, politicians’ toys. Their mission is NOT to topple all dictators, democratize the world, nationbuild, referee civil wars, keep peace between warring ethnic factions in irrelevant countries, or right every wrong in this world.

The DOD should issue a Mission Statement for the US military along these lines.

6) The US should honor its treaty commitments to its allies.

If the US wants other countries to honor their obligations, it must honor its own obligations. At the same time, America’s allies must start contributing more to their own defense and to missions they undertake together with the US.

7) America’s global military deployments need to be periodically reviewed and adjusted as necessary.

While it would be foolish (and extremely expensive) to withdraw all US troops from all foreign countries, some deployments (in Europe) are relics of the Cold War.

8) The US should always side with its allies against its foes, rivals, and unhelpful actors.

Therefore, for example, in the dispute over the Falklands, the US should side with Britain (which is America’s #1 ally), and not with Argentina, which is a corrupt, badly-run, irrelevant country closely allied with Hugo Chavez.

9) No US troops should ever be under foreign command.

10) The US does not need the permission of the UN, NATO, any other multilateral organization, or of any foreign country to act militarily abroad. It needs the permission only of its own Congress. While allies’ opinion should be considered and given some weight, ultimately, America’s own interests and needs must prevail.

Therefore, Sec. Panetta’s garbage that the US government would seek the UN’s or NATO’s permission to act militarily, but not that of the US Congress, needs to be repudiated.