January 14, 2016

MAX BOOT: Is a New Republican Foreign Policy Emerging?

This, then, is the choice confronting Republican primary voters in 2016: Whether to continue the traditional, Reaganesque foreign policy that has been championed by every Republican presidential nominee for decades or to opt for a Jacksonian outlook that is as crude and ugly as it is beguiling.

Cruz and Trump claim they can project power, keep America safe, and destroy our enemies without putting troops into harm’s way or getting embroiled in long, costly occupations or nation-building exercises. They argue that they can defeat our foes simply by killing lots of people, without worrying about setting up more stable governments that will ultimately become American allies.

If only all this were true. But long experience shows that America has been most successful in achieving its objectives in precisely those places—such as Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Bosnia, and Kosovo—where it has kept troops for decades and fostered new regimes to replace the old. Occasionally, as in Grenada or Panama, the U.S. can achieve its objectives and pull out. But in numerous other instances, such as Haiti, Somalia, Lebanon, and Iraq, an overly hasty pullout has sacrificed whatever gains U.S. troops have sought to achieve.

But as both Congressional Democrats in 1974-’75 demonstrated by hamstringing America in Vietnam and Obama in 2011 by unilaterally choosing to abandon Iraq after bragging about the success of George Bush’s surge, how can Americans have a foreign policy that isn’t something other than short-term oriented, when leftists and conservatives have such differing worldviews?

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