Since the 2012 presidential election, there has been a fierce debate about which way the GOP’s foreign policy stance should go. Isolationists (who prefer to call themselves “noninterventionists) have predictably called on the GOP to adopt an isolationist foreign policy and advocate deep defense cuts.
AEI Vice President Danielle Pletka begs to differ and has written a dissenting article (Think Again: The Republican Party) on the ForeignPolicy.com website. That article, in turn, has spurred a roundtable of conservative FP.com bloggers who have weighed in on the issue. While all of them appear to agree on the need for a strong national defense and to stand by America’s allies when they’re threatened, they’re wrong on two important issues (as is Mrs Pletka herself).
Firstly, all of them seem to agree that the GOP (and the US government) should continue to support the foolish policy of free trade. I will explain below why it’s a grave mistake.
Secondly, all of them also seem to agree that the US should be spreading democracy around the world and that the GOP should advocate such policy. This is also a mistake. The US government does not have the resources, the patience, the time, or the consent of its citizens to spread democracy around the world; there are many countries where democracy cannot ever be implanted; and democratic elections often produce governments hostile to the US (e.g. the pro-Iranian Shia government of Iraq, the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip, and the socialist, populist governments of most Latin American countries). Furthermore, if the Chinese could democratically elect the CCP’s General Secretary, anti-American leftist Bo Xilai would’ve probably won, instead of the more practical Xi Jinping.
“Mitt Romney missed a large and obvious opportunity to differentiate himself from the president by going on the attack on Afghanistan. Republicans can and should be out front explaining what our interests are and how we can win. Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates was absolutely right when he insisted that the Pentagon focus on the wars we were fighting rather than the hypothetical wars of the future. That is still true. If Republicans want to win back their foreign-policy credentials, they should stop their scripted apoplexy over Syria, Iran, and China and say something intelligent and relevant about the war in which American troops are still dying.”
He’s completely wrong. Firstly, there are no American interests at stake in Afghanistan, and the war over that country is utterly unwinnable. True, American troops are still dying there – but it’s time to stop that waste of American blood by ending the war ASAP. Secondly, Republicans are not engaging in a “scripted apoplexy over Syria, Iran, and China”, they are rightly sounding the alarm over China’s huge military buildup (which long ago exceeded China’s legitimate self-defense needs) and Bashar al-Assad’s genocide of his own people. But I guess that Mr Miller would prefer for American troops to continue to die in the totally irrelevant quagmire of Afghanistan instead of defending America’s Pacific Rim allies (or America’s southern border).
Thirdly, Bob Gates was completely wrong when he said that the DOD should ignore the needs and threats of tomorrow, stop preparing for them, and instead throw good money after bad by spending billions of dollars in pursuit of an unachievable victory in Afghanistan, a strategically irrelevant country, and Iraq, a country the US should’ve never invaded in the first place. As a result, thousands and thousands of brave American troops have died, and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent, thanks to that smiling idiot Robert Gates.
Meanwhile, China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea have been building up their militaries, at a neckbreaking pace in China’s case, and now, the US has to catch up with Beijing and Moscow.
What Gates derisively called “next-war-itis” was actually farsightedness and preparedness for the lethal threats of the future – far more lethal than Al Qaeda has ever been or will ever be – and far more important than the irrelevant country called Afghanistan. Those of us who advocated such a farsighted policy knew back then that the Afghan and Iraq wars were a) wrong and b) going to end in a few years, while future threats such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea were only going to grow and would be present for the foreseeable future. Everything that has happened since then has vindicated us. The Iraqi war ended in 2011. The Afghan war is winding down. The American public has no stomach for any new nationbuilding crusades anywhere. Meanwhile, the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are growing.
Fourthly, if Republicans want to be popular again, or to regain their foreign policy credentials, they need to advocate withdrawing from Afghanistan ASAP, which the vast majority of Americans support.
A New GOP Foreign Policy
So what should the GOP do? To regain its reputation as competent on foreign policy, the GOP can easily make the following three changes.
Firstly, it needs to completely reject so-called “free trade” and atone for supporting this disastrous policy in the past. “Free trade” has been nothing but a disaster for the US, as all evidence demonstrates. America’s trade deficit with China is the largest ever between any two countries in history. America’s trade deficit with Japan is the largest ever with that country in US history. America’s trade deficit with South Korea tripled in April 2012 alone – the first full month under the KORUS Free Trade Agreement. As for Mexico, before NAFTA was ratified, the US had a trade surplus with that country. Since 1993, the US has had a trade deficit with that country every year, and the 2012 trade deficit is the highest ever recorded with Mexico.
This is because successive American administrations and Congresses have signed and ratified unequal, unfavorable “free trade deals”: NAFTA, joining the WTO, the GATT, granting Most Favored Nation status to China and Russia, and bilateral FTAs with many countries, including Japan and South Korea. Furthermore, the US tolerates the fact that foreign countries routinely cheat on trade. China devalues its currency more than the Fed devalues the dollar, subsidizes its exporters, and taxes all imports into China. Similarly, Japan levies a VAT on all imports, while rebating its exporters for every product they export. Thus, for example, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda get a rebate for every car they export to the US, while every American car imported into Japan faces a stiff VAT tax.
Of course, China, Japan, and the rest of the world don’t give two hoots about “free trade”, Hayek, Friedman, or the opinions of pro-free-trade think-tanks.
The GOP should completely and utterly reject “free trade”, pledge to withdraw the US from free trade agreements, and return to Hamiltonian principles: Manufacturing, not finance, is the muscle of the economy. Trade surpluses are preferrable to trade deficits. The nation’s industrial base must be protected and nurtured.
Secondly, the GOP should learn, and publicly recognize, that not every country in the world is strategically important to the US and that the US should intervene militarily abroad ONLY when its national interests are at stake. Not in case of “genocide” or to “spread democracy”. Only when its key allies or its crucial national interests – such as freedom of navigation, crucial mineral resources, a crucial geographic location, or its own security – are at stake. And even then, the US should try to solve the problem by nonmartial means first. If the US does have to go to war, US troops and their commanders should be free to do whatever is needed to win. No punches pulled. No restrictive rules of engagement.
President Reagan and his Defense Secretary Cap Weinberger (the best SECDEF America has ever had) have set a good example in that regard. The Weinberger doctrine should be reinstated.
To apply these rules to today’s world, the US should withdraw from Afghanistan ASAP; not intervene in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, nor Central Africa; and stop dreaming about spreading democracy.
Thirdly, the GOP should utterly reject and denounce the utterly failed, destructive policy of “arms control”, whose proper name is “disarmament”. Those in the West who advocate disarmament – including its nuclear variety – don’t mean total global disarmament, however; their sole goal is the disarmament of the West. They don’t mind China’s and Russia’s huge military arsenals. All they seek is the West’s unilateral disarmament.
“Arms control” has been an utter failure and has made America and the world dramatically less safe. At the Cold War’s end, in 1991, only seven countries (the five powers recognized by the Non Proliferation Treaty plus India and Israel) had nuclear weapons). Since then, the US, France, and Britain have dramatically reduced their nuclear (and conventional) arsenals.
This has made them, the entire West, and the world at large dramatically less safe. By now, Pakistan and North Korea have joined the nuclear club (North Korea now even has an ICBM capable of reaching the CONUS), and Iran is well on its way to it. China has dramatically increased its nuclear arsenal since the 1980s (contrary to the lies of disarmament advocates), from a few hundred warheads then to at least 1,800 and potentially up to 3,000 nuclear warheads now, according to Russian General Viktor Yesin and former DOD nuclear strategist Professor Philip Karber.
Similarly, the Obama-negotiated New START treaty obligates only the US (not Russia) to cut its nuclear arsenal. Russia is actually allowed to grow its own, and the treaty has several loopholes allowing Russia to field additional ICBMs despite New START ceilings. Nor does it count Tu-22M bombers as strategic delivery systems.
The GOP needs to completely reject and firmly denounce “arms control” and pledge to withdraw the US from any “arms control” treaties, including New START.
Those three steps would dramatically improve the GOP’s foreign policy credentials and, although the GOP does not currently control the White House or the Senate, at least adopting them declaratively, as pledges, would significantly help the GOP regain its reputation as the more competent party on foreign policy.