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Why Conservatives and Republicans Must Resist the Isolationist Temptation

Today, the Obama administration is based on a return to defeatism. The Sun editorial concludes with this warning:

But it would be another kind of folly were the Republicans now to abandon the high ground they’ve won in years since Vietnam just because Mr. Obama has led us into a fight in Libya for which he failed to seek permission, a permission that he deserved to get. That failure was a not a moral mistake but a political one.

The second important article that addresses these issues is in today’s Wall Street Journal, and is penned by its important foreign affairs columnist, Bret Stephens. His column calls for a  Republican foreign policy based on credibility. Instead of seeking consensus based on the Arab League and the UN, as Obama has done, Stephens suggests that Republicans base their policy on “[t]he credibility of our arms, and of our willingness, when decision is made, to use them to decisive effect.”

Stephens proceeds to both dissect and intellectually destroy Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Here’s one of his examples:

It is not credible to demand within days that Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, an ally of 30 years, step down—but make no such demand, after months of unrest, of Syria's Bashar Assad, an enemy. It is not credible to assure Israel that the U.S. will not expect it to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas—and then push Israel to adopt Mr. Obama's negotiating formulas even as Hamas negotiates the terms of its entry into the government. It is not credible to promise support for democracy in Latin America—and then score Honduras for stopping a Chavista putsch while playing every excuse to delay ratification of a free trade agreement with Colombia.

Asking what credible alternative Republicans can come up with, Stephens argues that

It doesn't help that Republicans in Congress are hamstringing the presidency itself by going on about the War Powers Resolution, one of the worst congressional abuses of the post-Watergate era. It doesn't help, either, to hear Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann regurgitate, as they did at the New Hampshire debate, Moammar Gadhafi's talking points about Libya's rebels being tools of al Qaeda.

And here is what is to me his most essential paragraph:

What would help is a Republican who says: Mr. Obama's failure in Libya isn't that he intervened to stop mass murder; it's that he's intervened so half-heartedly. It would help to explain that bin Laden's death does not mean Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan and that an abrupt U.S. withdrawal would simply turbo-charge the Taliban on both sides of the AfPak border. Credibility requires that wars should be fought to a winning conclusion or not at all.

So I ask my critics once again: please think through the issues carefully. Avoid the temptation of defeatism and declinism and avoid getting on the Rand Paul-Pat Buchanan bandwagon. Let’s not adopt the left-wing Democratic position that America’s budgetary problems can be solved by simply cutting Pentagon spending. If you really do believe that, why not suggest that the Republicans nominate George McGovern as their standard-bearer?