Will Inboden is a Distinguished Scholar at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas-Austin, and a Contributing Editor at Foreign Policy magazine.
So what do Republicans believe on foreign policy, anyway? The recent mid-term elections brought an impressive, dynamic, and energized new class of Republicans to Congress. Moreover, these Republicans also bring to Washington a mandate from the American people to cut spending, downsize government, and help reignite the economy. Yet one set of issues was almost completely absent from the recent election: foreign policy. Aside from the Obama White House’s risible (and quickly discredited) accusations of “foreign money” supporting Republicans, concerns beyond America’s borders almost never came up in the campaigns.
On one level this is understandable, given the dire economic conditions and persistent unemployment facing so many Americans. But once they take their oaths of office, new members of Congress will very soon find themselves confronting some important national security issues. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the global terrorist threat, Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, the rise of China, Mexico’s drug war, global trade imbalances, and a host of other issues will demand Congressional attention – all in the midst of severe budget austerity. Put it this way: the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, and Osama bin Laden don’t care about repealing ObamaCare, but they do care about doing America harm.
Where is a new Member to turn for insight? Asking “What would Reagan do?” is usually a good start, but probably won’t always yield the needed answers in the 21st century – in part because al Qaeda didn’t yet exist when Reagan was confronting the Soviet Union. Here I might humbly suggest that the new Members and their staffs – and what the heck, prospective presidential candidates as well – could do worse than bookmarking the Shadow Government website at ForeignPolicy.com. Written by Republican foreign policy experts who have all served previously in national security positions in the executive branch, Shadow Government contributors offer daily insight on current and emerging national security threats and opportunities. The website doesn’t have a formal creed and our members reflect the diversity of views on national security that will be found in the Republican Party – just as ConservativeHome.com is a forum for exploring a range of views within the family of conservatism.
Here are five recent posts I’d recommend, all on front-burner issues that will confront the new Congress, and the coming presidential cycle as well:
- Kori Schake on Afghanistan: Almost as soon as they move into their new offices, new Members are going to be faced with hearings and important appropriations votes on the war in Afghanistan. One seductive policy alternative they will hear about is called “off-shore balancing,” which calls for the US to substantially withdraw its forces from Afghanistan while leaving small counter-terrorism teams in the region for occasional retaliatory strikes. Kori demonstrates why this is a bad idea – and will probably lead to defeat in Afghanistan while not making America any safer.
- Peter Feaver on Iran: The Iranian regime shows no sign of pulling back from its nuclear weapons program, and the Iran issue will also be an inescapable concern in the coming year. Sifting through the bumper stickers and platitudes of “engagement,” “diplomacy,” or “getting tough,” Peter takes a clear-eyed look at the different approaches on Iran and clarifies what the real choices and trade-offs are among a difficult set of options to stop the Iranian drive for the Bomb.
- Mike Green on Asia: Amidst the headline-dominating rise of China as a global power, the United States can’t forget that it has important allies in the region as well, including Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Mike lays out some essential principles for maintaining our Asian alliances while constructively managing China’s growing influence – all with an eye towards preserving a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia.
- Phil Levy on global economic imbalances: Rare is the wise economist, and rarer still is the wise economist who can write clearly in ways that non-economists (read: the rest of us) can understand. Phil is just that, and brings a singular combination of insight and experience to global economic issues. Here he takes up the vexing issue of global trade imbalances, a topic that concerns everyone from G-20 summit leaders to unemployed American workers.
- Dan Twining on India: The Bush Administration’s strategic partnership with India might turn out to be one of its most important legacies, and the US-India relationship will be instrumental in shaping Asia’s future. Dan lays out here just why the relationship is so important – and why after its initial neglect, the Obama Administration may now be getting it right.
I doubt that national security issues will be as absent from the 2012 campaign as they were from the 2010 campaigns. But whether or not foreign policy emerges as a campaign issue over the next two years, it is always going to be a governing issue, and in the coming decade as much as ever. American conservatives have a strong record of ideas and achievements on our nation’s role on the world stage, and going forward should not neglect that debate – or that leadership. In that regards, ConservativeHome.com promises to be a welcome new forum.