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Non-Interventionist Conservatives Go Mainstream?

It’s been a banner week for non-interventionist Republicans.

[1]On Tuesday, Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina was featured [1] 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.”

[2]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.

(You can read Paul’s prepared remarks here [3], and listen to audio of his address on the SAIS website [2].)

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#1 Comment By cfountain72 On June 9, 2011 @ 9:06 am

I highly encourage folks with the time to listen to the audio of Senator Paul’s speech and Q&A at SAIS. He does a good job of fleshing out his foreign policy thoughts and calling BS on the hyper-interventionists.

Peace be with you.

#2 Comment By don On June 9, 2011 @ 11:55 am

Paul is the answer! To hell with Mideast wars for the Bilderberg’s. Bilderbergs are disgusting filth! INFOWARS.COM

#3 Comment By angelatc (@AngelaTC) On June 9, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

The 2006 election was the referendum on foreign policy. Neither party will talk about that though. But now that both parties are hawks, we don’t have a prayer of returning to sanity.

#4 Pingback By Rise of the Noninterventionist Right? | Ron Paul On June 9, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

[…] The American Conservative Magazine has a new post asking if noninterventionsm has gone mainstream.  It’s an interesting question.  A few years ago, the country was unwilling to consider a debate about our foreign policy.  However, “the times they are a changing.”  […]

#5 Comment By emes On June 12, 2011 @ 5:24 am

If only the father made half as much sense on foreign policy as the son. Out of the mouths of babes. I am not a Ron Paul guy (I think his affiliations border on treasonous at times), but his son makes a lot more sense on foreign policy and seems to articulate positions that do not result in defeat, unlike the father. His speech was an example of true realpolitik.