It’s been a banner week for non-interventionist Republicans.
On Tuesday, Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina was featured on the front-page of The New York Times, in a story that revealed even the most reliable GOP districts are amenable to a less interventionist approach. As a Times reporter sent out to the provinces over Memorial Day weekend found
Conversations with voters in Mr. Jones’s district, which embraces much of North Carolina’s Atlantic coastline, suggest that many who were baffled or infuriated by his opposition to the Iraq war in 2005 are liking his views on Afghanistan in 2011.
At a Memorial Day event in Beaufort on May 28, August Braddy, 68, declared that Mr. Jones — who over eight terms has voted with the American Conservative Union more than 80 percent of the time — was too liberal. But on Afghanistan, Mr. Braddy, who was wearing a red Tea Party shirt, said he thought Mr. Jones was right.
“We’re broke; we can’t afford it,” he said. “We did what we went there to do: get Bin Laden.”
Then on Wednesday morning, Senator Rand Paul addressed the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), one of Washington’s leading training centers for foreign policy practitioners. In front of an audience inclined to be a great deal more hostile than, say, the Cato Institute, Senator Paul nevertheless held his ground — even keeping his cool when a British journalist, implying that Paul was some kind of Kentucky bumpkin unqualified to hold views on international affairs, asked if he’d traveled to the Middle East or had audiences with foreign leaders there. “I’ve only been here four months, and so no foreign leaders have invited me to visit with them yet,” Paul replied.
Paul’s address, titled “A Conservative Constitutional Foreign Policy,” was bold and remarkably clear, with Paul insisting that the requirements of both the Constitution and War Powers Act have too long been ignored by both the President and a Congress that refuses to acknowledge the gravity of armed conflict:
Since the Korean War – I mean conflict – Congress has abdicated its role in declaring war. This administration, in an ode to Orwell, now even calls war a kinetic activity.
War has been defined down to further abdicate everyone from responsibility.
War is not random, kinetic motion. Recently, the Libyan war has been further downgraded to be described as intermittent kinetic activity.
Paul attacked the “isolationist” bugaboo, clarifying that he is for limited, Congressionally-sanctioned use of military force:
What would a foreign policy look like that tried to strike a balance? First, it would have less soldiers stationed overseas and less bases. Instead of large, limitless land wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy, strike with lethal force, and leave.
Finally, if Paul’s Constitutional and theoretical arguments for less intervention were not enough, he presented a third prong that few can argue with — an appeal to fiscal sanity:
If it weren’t for the looming debt crisis, I would say there might be no hope for any debate over foreign policy. But our debt crisis is real and will force us to reassess our role in the world.
And of course, the question we are forced to ask today is: Can we afford this?
The fact that someone named Paul was invited into establishment halls like SAIS (a former home of luminaries such as Francis Fukuyama) — and a Republican skeptic of Iraq and Afghanistan merits a front-page NYT story — provides hope that a sane conservative foreign policy may be gaining ground.