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.


3 thoughts on “A conservative foreign policy: 10 basic principles”

  1. Zbigniew, an excellent summation of conservative principles for national defense, but permit me to suggest one or two more. First, despite establishment boilerplate and Pentagon PR to the contrary, the AVF force structure has not received a critical and non-partisan appraisal since its inception. Such an appraisal should form an important part of the next GOP/conservative president’s defense agenda. The AVF was instituted, it was hoped by legslators, to solve problems found in the Vietnam-era “hollow force,” which was in part conscripted. However, in practice, the AVF has come with many problems and flaws of its own – including but not limited to rampant political correctness, multiculturalism run amok, feminist and gay-rights ideologues in the ranks, Muslim infiltration of sensitive positions, technology theft by Chinese and other parties, careerism, parochialism, and much more. The AVF also has a weak officer corps by historical standards- at least according to some measures, and the senior flag/general ranks are corrupted by bureaucrats. The warrior ethos is not fostered as it should be. Critically, under the AVF, the burden of national defense is not shared equally, but instead placed disproportionately on the backs of a very small percentage of Americans. Second, our defense policy badly needs a coherent grand strategy that identifies our enemies and would-be enemies, and formulates the best-possible plans for opposing them. The U.S. and the west, for example, are de facto at war with Islam, in the sense that Muslims the world over are waging jihad against us – but our senior officers and policymakers are not even permitted to use the word “Islam” in referring to these opponents. Others, including some who know of the threat by Islam, are too afraid of repercussions to speak out. Even the best military in the world cannot triumph if it is sent into battle without knowing itself and its enemies well. Judging by the statements of some of our senior policymakers and officers, they not only don’t know who America’s enemies are, they do not even want to know. Our forces are tactically and operationally some of the best in the world, if not the best, but that matters little if our grand strategy is flawed. Since elected civilian policymakers sets this grand strategy, the duty of the military and its senior-most officers on the JCS is to be truth-tellers to those in power. They have failed miserably in this task over the last 15-20 years. That must change. Perhaps part of doing that can be accomplished by changing the rules underwhich military officers can be censured or forceably retired if they disagree with the political leadership. Specifically, no officer should be threatened with loss of his pension and rank and possible dismissal from the military for disagreeing with the CIC or Congress or their policies – which is precisely the dynamic at work now. The consequence is a senior officer corps disinclinced to voice unpopular or politically-incorrect views.

    1. We agree 100% on that, GB. I’d only add that:
      1) US officials – civilian and military – cannot speak critically of Islam partly because of America’s dependence on ME oil.
      2) Political correctness and allowing feminist and gay rights ideologues in the ranks has resulted in “sensitivity training” for the troops and in allowing women to serve on ships, including (now) even submarines, and this policy is turning submarines (including SSBNs) into submersible love boats (to borrow words from Jed Babbin). In 1994 alone – the first year when women were allowed to serve on carriers – 39 female sailors on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower alone got pregnant.
      3) Our #1 enemy, however, is not Islam, and not even Russia, but an aggressive, expansionist China, the most populous country in the world. China is a far more sophisticated civilization than Islam or Russia and and constitutes a far more dangerous enemy. They have over 700 people fit for military duty; Hitler and Tojo combined didn’t have as many soldiers. Whether the US defeats China or is superseded by it as the world’s leading power will be the grand question of the 21st century, just like who would win the Cold War was the grand question of the second half of the 20th century.

      1. Zbigniew, we are in agreement concerning China. I am considerably older than you, and even as a teenager in the 1970s, I was very troubled by the detente with Beijing (Peking as it was then known); I have never trusted the communists, and still do not. We are in a very precarious position vis-a-vis China, because we have allowed them to off-shore much of our manufacturing capacity (or aided them in doing so ourselves, which is effectively the same thing). Our military power derives directly from our economic power; if we lose the latter, we will lose the former. Given the hundreds of millions of men the PRC can call to arms, we should engage in strategic alliance building with others concerned about China’s growing hegemony. India recently announced that it has a missile system capable of reaching Beijing, a tacit warning not to triffle with New Dehli. Recently, Vietnam has made overtures to the west and America that it seeks closer defense cooperation; to them can be added nations that are already U.S. allies, such as Japan, the ROK, the Philippines, and the ANZACS. Naturally, if we can partner with India on good terms we should do so. These allies could constitute an alliance that would contain China’s more bellicose impulses. Russia is the wild card. During the Cold War, China and the USSR fought several military skirmishes along the disputed Amur (Black) River border region in eastern Siberia. These nearly escalated into full-blown wars. China, vastly populated and now hungry for natural resources, may seek to acquire the vast mineral and natural wealth of sparsely-populated Siberia, for herself. Cash-heavy, Beijing can afford to buy those resources for now, but if conditions change, she may decide simply to take them, which would be a casus belli for Russia. For now, Putin and Russia gain more by opposing the U.S. alongside of China, than by being antagonists or enemies of Beijing. However, if Washington plays its cards right, it could drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing. But – we must tread softly; encircling China with nations she perceives as enemies or potential enemies may provoke her to war, instead of lessening its prospect. “Blowback” and the law of unintended consequences are always in play.

        I regard the Islamic threat as perhaps the main asymmetric defense problem we face; the Chinese have made common cause with many of the bad actors in the Islamic world, and use them as proxies – so China is involved here also, as well as Russia (though Russia to a lesser extent). It is imperative that the U.S. begins to handle its petroleum needs in a strategic light; in my view that means green-lighting more refineries, as and ramping up domestic and shared Canadian production. None of this can happen with Obama in charge; hence the need for new management at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The realities of our energy markets may dictate a certain degree of restraint in our dealings with the ME OPEC powers, but we certainly needn’t be lapdogs to the sheiks, as we have been too often in recent years.

        Re: PC, feminism, etc. in the ranks… these concern me greatly because they add what military theorists call “friction” to on-going operations, which is to say they make things more difficult than they would otherwise be. Friction acts as a sort of reverse force multiplier, which makes a force of say, 500,000 people, only as effective as one perhaps 3/5ths that size. Obviously, the more resources our armed forces devote to nonsense like diversity training, pregnancy workshops and childcare for single mothers, and Islamic and gay outreach programs, the less time, money and effort is being devoted to raising, training and equipping our forces for combat.
        The end result is a “hollow force,” which appears formidible on paper, but proves to be brittle in action. Undoubtedly, our military is formidable – my concern is simply that it is not as formidable as it appears.
        The trends currently changing the face of our armed forces for the worse will not, in my view, be changed by tinkering or marginal improvements; what is needed is a comprehenisve review, and rolling-back of decades of leftist social engineering that have degraded our forces. Obviously, such an event isn’t happening until Obama is out of the picture.

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