Speaking at the Center for New American Security — a motley crew of would-be, Washington national security reformists — Josh Hawley, the nation’s youngest senator, laid out his vision for America’s place in the world Tuesday.
Hawley has been keen to align himself with the wing of his party, the GOP, that wants change: America should rebalance, away from the Middle East and towards China. On this score, he did not disappoint.
“China’s bid for domination is the greatest security threat to this country in this century,” Hawley told those gathered. “And our foreign policy around the globe must be oriented to this challenge and focused principally on this threat.”
The China challenge divides restrainers and foreign policy thinkers of all types: those who think China is a peaceful trading partner, those who think China is a house of cards, those who think the U.S. shouldn’t deal with the regime because it’s a house of cards, and those who think the fascist regime is, in some ways, actually outpacing the West.
The recent protests in Hong Kong have been emblematic: should America avert its eyes, or if gets involved, to what end? Hawley made the case for Washington to be a less didactic force: “Let me be clear, our task is not to remake China from within. Rather, it is to deny Beijing’s ability to impose its will without, whether it be upon Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or our allies and partners–or upon us.”
Still, those who wish for U.S. foreign policy recalibration found elements of his address in need of more clarification—for instance, why the standard-line, Republican focus on Iran, a middleweight power in a middleweight region? “Senator Hawley said all the right things about the bankrupt foreign policy consensus in Washington,” said Gil Barndollar of the Center for the Study of Statesmanship. “But talk is cheap. It’s not clear yet whether he will confront his party or the president on issues of war and peace.”
Overall, like President Donald Trump’s ex-UN envoy, Nikki Haley, Hawley didn’t break with his party’s standard-bearer, even as he’s likely to be impeached. Haley, who’s gained a following among neoconservatives, nonetheless has chosen to keep in step with her old boss, as evidenced by her memoir’s rollout this week. Haley and Hawley are likely rivals for the 2024 presidential nomination, and both appear to have concluded, for good or ill, Trump’s changed things for good.