Daily Archives: May 21, 2010

Foreign Policy and National Security: A Deep Schism Re-Emerges in the GOP by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Until their 2008 re-emergence, anti-war protesters within the GOP had disappeared in 1941.

The major issues dominating the 2010 campaign are the economy, jobs, health care and energy. Unlike 2004 and 2006, foreign policy and national security are not at the top of voter concerns. The past year has witnessed a significant increase in Republican support, and the party is certain to make gains in 2010. GOP unity and enthusiasm are both high.
The old battles between the fiscally conservative deficit hawks and social conservatives (who are concerned about abortion, gay rights and gun control) are now on the back burner. Every survey indicates the Republican Party will not be divided in 2010 and its members are intent on a comeback.
Nevertheless, a deep schism is developing within GOP ranks regarding foreign policy and national security issues. The GOP has been remarkably united on foreign policy issues since the early 1950s, but those days are coming to an end.
The Republicans had a strong isolationist and anti-war wing prior to World War II. Prior to the emergence of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and the libertarian movement, the last gasp of power for the isolationists was during the 1952 presidential campaign. The nomination battle was between Sen. Robert Taft (R-OH) and General Dwight Eisenhower. They agreed on most domestic issues and the major conflict was defense policy. Eisenhower firmly believed in NATO and was committed to the U.S. supporting anti-Communism in the Cold War. Eisenhower was NATO’s first Supreme Allied Commander.
Eisenhower met privately with Taft prior to the campaign, and had a withdrawal statement in his jacket. He was ready to announce he would not be a candidate if Taft would support the NATO Treaty. The Senator’s opposition made Eisenhower realize the importance of his candidacy for the GOP and the nation.
Ike was successful in 1952 and the GOP avoided isolationism for the next half century. Today Congressman Paul justifies his viewpoint by pointing to Taft and NATO. However, Paul is far more of an isolationist than the late Ohio Senator. Taft fully supported the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and military and economic assistance to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Even though Taft opposed NATO, he was still in favor of keeping six U.S. infantry divisions, or 90,000 troops, in Europe.
Beginning in the late 1960’s, anti-war sentiments in the GOP were centered on liberal Republican Senators who were opposed to the U.S. mission in Vietnam and advocated reductions in the defense budget. The prominent anti-war Republicans of that era were Senators Mark Hatfield (OR), Jacob Javits (NY), Clifford Case (NJ), John Chafee (RI), Ed Brooke (MA), Charles McC Mathias (MD) and Lowell Weicker (CT).
A unique feature of the 2010 campaign is the rise of the Tea Party movement. These activists have turned out in large numbers at numerous protests against the 2009 stimulus, the GM, Chrysler and AIG bailouts, and the 2010 health care reform bill.
Their name is a reference to the historic Boston Tea Party of 1773, a protest by American colonists against taxation by the British government when the colonists had no representation in the British Parliament. Tea Party participants have a wide range of views and a significant number oppose the U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq as a waste of taxpayer funds.
The division caused by the Tea Party movement was described by Naftali Bendavid of the Wall Street Journal,

On one side are pragmatists like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), who insist that uncompromising conservatives aren’t good bets to win swing states. On the other are purists like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) who want to field as many conservatives as possible to recapture the public’s trust at a moment when faith in government is at low ebb. History suggests Mr. Cornyn’s approach is a safer bet. But recent polls suggest that in a number of states this year, the purist conservative could defeat the Democrat in the general election.

In opposition to the NRSC, DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed numerous GOP primary challengers, including Rand Paul (KY), Chuck DeVore (CA), Marlin Stutzman (IN), and Ken Buck (CO).
Republicans are also having a debate on the proper role for the United States in world affairs. This time the anti-war forces are not from the eastern seaboard, but they are being led by some of party’s most conservative members.
There is growing tension in the party as four prominent candidates for the U.S. Senate are in sharp disagreement with the 2008 Republican Platform on foreign policy and national security. The GOP candidates and their outlook is described below:

  • Rand Paul of Kentucky is against the Iraq War and opposes the Afghan surge, the Patriot Act and FISA (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). He advocated closing the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and is one of the few Republicans who has tried to justify the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.
    Paul wants to reduce the defense budget by closing overseas bases. Paul has made many misleading statements about the Patriot Act and falsely claims, “The Patriot Act gives the government the right to search your home without a warrant, when you’re not home, leave listening devices, and use any and all information to create a prosecution on any charge regardless of their original reason for the search.”
  • Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of California does not want to continue the war in Afghanistan. He says there is no need to “employ conventional forces,” he opposes the Obama troop surge, and says the mission can be handled by “special forces, drones and better human intelligence.” DeVore goes on to say “the Taliban and Al Qaeda do not present an existential threat to the U.S. I am an intelligence officer and a Lt. Colonel and have studied this issue.”
  • Mike Lee of Utah says “I’m concerned with reports that I am hearing from Afghanistan in particular that we may have 100 or fewer active militant Taliban in Afghanistan. . . If that is true, I ask the question: what on earth are we doing subjecting our brave men and women who need to be supported to that kind of danger, day in and day out, if they have as many thugs there as we have right here in Utah county?”
    According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, there are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Taliban fighters. Some estimates are as high as 25,000. What Lee is referring to is an interview last October with National Security Adviser James Jones where he told CNN there are fewer than 100 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
    Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty says Lee “Advocates a non-interventionist foreign policy and says our military should be used for defensive purposes only. He considers the Patriot Act one of the worst pieces of legislation enacted during the Bush years. He despises the Federal Reserve.”
  • Former Congressman John Hostettler of Indiana was defeated in the May 4th primary, but for several months he was the GOP frontrunner. Hostettler is a former six-term Member of Congress and probably would have won this race without a last minute major recruitment effort by the GOP establishment. They were able to convince former Senator Dan Coats to move back to Indiana from his retirement home in North Carolina, and Coats won the primary.
    Hostettler was one of only six Republicans to vote against the Iraq war resolution. His book, “Nothing for the Nation: Who Got What Out of Iraq” advocates an isolationist foreign policy, and says America was in Iraq because of oil. Hostettler was endorsed by Libertarian leader Ron Paul and he admires paleoconservative leader Pat Buchanan. The former Congressman says we were in Iraq because of the influence of people “with Jewish backgrounds.”
    The Evansville Courier and Press quoted him as attacking Obama because the President had abandoned the anti-war lobby. The Republican “accused Obama of abandoning his anti-Iraq War views. ‘The one person, the one person who can get us out, who has unilateral authority to get us out, doesn’t want to,’ he said.” Many of Hostettler’s appearances were sponsored by “Veterans for Peace.”