‘What does a conservative foreign policy look like?’ is more of a question today than it has been most of my adult life.
The last two Republican presidents left behind very different foreign policy legacies. George W. Bush was the Republican responsible for America’s calamitous war in Iraq and her longest one in Afghanistan. Donald Trump would get elected calling by calling the Iraq War the ‘worst decision’ in U.S. history and for American troops to come home from Afghanistan.
Post 9/11, loyalty to Bush and his War on Terror agenda largely defined American conservatism. Today, Trump and loyalty or disloyalty to him are more important to many in the GOP base than any particular issue.
They are not alone. Among writers and activists who focus on foreign policy, non-interventionist conservatives who don’t like Trump have tried to emphasize areas where the 45th president was aggressively hawkish, while realist and anti-war conservatives who are more comfortable with Trump have highlighted how much of a break he was from his neoconservative-tinged predecessor, particularly in his rhetoric.
If ‘we have to fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here’ was the Bush-era refrain, it has now been supplanted by “America First.” There are still plenty of right-wing hawks in Congress and conservative media, but the biggest ratings getter, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, regularly promotes foreign policy stances that anti-war icon and former Congressman Ron Paul would love.
Yet the neocons haven’t gone away. In fact, many now are featured guests on left-leaning MSNBC and CNN, where hawks and Democrats teamed up for four years to criticize Trump for wanting to withdraw from Afghanistan and any other signs of reluctance for war. Former Ambassador John Bolton and Sen. Tom Cotton aren’t any less hawkish than they’ve always been, but the ability of each man to influence foreign policy debates today depends far more on what side of Trump they have landed on than their actual, similar ideas.
Trump. Trump. Trump. You can get mad at it or love it, as a hater or admirer of the man. But his importance remains, for the foreseeable future.
Why not use it for good, where possible? Foreign policy is one such area.
At Based Politics, we will pick up where anti-war libertarians Ron and Rand Paul began over a decade ago and capitalize where we can on the disruption Trump brought to the definition of Republican foreign policy. While the man’s foreign policy track record is far from flawless from a non-interventionist perspective (see Saudi Arabia), if ‘America First’ is what history has handed us, we intend to speak to conservatives where they are.
Based Politics will stand for free markets, limited government, constitutional liberty—and peace. Or, as Trump Republicans might call it, “America First” foreign policy that rejects nation-building, forever wars, and the establishment’s failed foreign policy consensus. This fight matters now and will matter moving forward, in 2022, 2024, and beyond. Count on Republican hawks to do what they can to try to reset the Bush-Cheney model in their party.
Count on us to not let them.