Blogs: The Skeptics

A Neoconservative Plan That Will Cripple U.S. Interests

Congress Is Ignoring Its Most Important Constitutional Duty

Why Hillary Clinton Will Be a Foreign-Policy Nightmare

Is Donald Trump Good for the Cause of Foreign-Policy Restraint?

The Skeptics

Rep. Ron Paul challenged the GOP’s prowar orthodoxy for years, but never could break out of his niche and threaten to grab the nomination. Sen. Rand Paul was more nuanced in his views this election cycle, unfortunately attracting far less public attention and winning far less electoral success. Beyond them there has been no other responsible Republican presidential contender going back to 2004. Even the seeming rational John Kasich went rogue, advocating a fifteen-carrier navy and proposing to shoot down Russian planes in Syria. Everyone else might as well have performed the Maori Haka before talking about foreign policy, when they inevitably threatened to bomb, invade and occupy much of the known world.

At least there now is an advocate of sorts for restraint, and one headed for a major party nomination. It is hard to see how supporters of a more reasonable international approach could end up worse off. Imagine Trump living down to expectations and losing badly. Then the usual war-happy crew would insist that his foreign-policy approach has been discredited and seek to squelch any further debate. Yet it might not be so easy for them to eradicate from the public arena proposals for a more sensible foreign policy. And even if so, everything would simply go back to normal: proponents of restraint would be limited to writing occasionally for the National Interest and elsewhere, while their views were excluded from any government office that mattered. Just like today.

If Trump does respectably but loses narrowly, he will have demonstrated popular discontent with a policy in which average folks pay and die for utopian foreign-policy fantasies advanced by Washington policy elites. That would encourage future political leaders to seek votes by challenging today’s interventionist consensus. And likely would spark an ongoing debate over the future of U.S. foreign policy. Those whose policies have consistently failed might still dominate the commanding heights of the think tank and publishing worlds, but they would face meaningful competition.

Finally, if Trump triumphs he will be in a position to transform U.S. foreign policy. What he would actually do is anyone’s guess. But he would not likely accept the status quo. In which case for the first time in decades there would be a serious debate over foreign policy and a meaningful opportunity to change current policies.

Given his avowed hostility to the existing elite which he blames for today’s manifold problems, Trump likely would open positions to people breaking with conventional wisdom. No doubt, the result would fall short of a noninterventionist nirvana. But at least some advocates of restraint might grace some corridors of power in Washington. Almost anything would be an improvement over the situation today.

There are lots of reasons to oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy. However, he offers restraint advocates their best opportunity in a generation to challenge today’s interventionist zeitgeist. The end of global communism did little to change U.S. foreign policy. It might take the election of Donald Trump to make a real difference.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image: Donald Trump speaking in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Max Goldberg, CC BY 2.0.

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Forgetting Phase IV All Over Again in Iraq

The Skeptics

Rep. Ron Paul challenged the GOP’s prowar orthodoxy for years, but never could break out of his niche and threaten to grab the nomination. Sen. Rand Paul was more nuanced in his views this election cycle, unfortunately attracting far less public attention and winning far less electoral success. Beyond them there has been no other responsible Republican presidential contender going back to 2004. Even the seeming rational John Kasich went rogue, advocating a fifteen-carrier navy and proposing to shoot down Russian planes in Syria. Everyone else might as well have performed the Maori Haka before talking about foreign policy, when they inevitably threatened to bomb, invade and occupy much of the known world.

At least there now is an advocate of sorts for restraint, and one headed for a major party nomination. It is hard to see how supporters of a more reasonable international approach could end up worse off. Imagine Trump living down to expectations and losing badly. Then the usual war-happy crew would insist that his foreign-policy approach has been discredited and seek to squelch any further debate. Yet it might not be so easy for them to eradicate from the public arena proposals for a more sensible foreign policy. And even if so, everything would simply go back to normal: proponents of restraint would be limited to writing occasionally for the National Interest and elsewhere, while their views were excluded from any government office that mattered. Just like today.

If Trump does respectably but loses narrowly, he will have demonstrated popular discontent with a policy in which average folks pay and die for utopian foreign-policy fantasies advanced by Washington policy elites. That would encourage future political leaders to seek votes by challenging today’s interventionist consensus. And likely would spark an ongoing debate over the future of U.S. foreign policy. Those whose policies have consistently failed might still dominate the commanding heights of the think tank and publishing worlds, but they would face meaningful competition.

Finally, if Trump triumphs he will be in a position to transform U.S. foreign policy. What he would actually do is anyone’s guess. But he would not likely accept the status quo. In which case for the first time in decades there would be a serious debate over foreign policy and a meaningful opportunity to change current policies.

Given his avowed hostility to the existing elite which he blames for today’s manifold problems, Trump likely would open positions to people breaking with conventional wisdom. No doubt, the result would fall short of a noninterventionist nirvana. But at least some advocates of restraint might grace some corridors of power in Washington. Almost anything would be an improvement over the situation today.

There are lots of reasons to oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy. However, he offers restraint advocates their best opportunity in a generation to challenge today’s interventionist zeitgeist. The end of global communism did little to change U.S. foreign policy. It might take the election of Donald Trump to make a real difference.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image: Donald Trump speaking in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Max Goldberg, CC BY 2.0.

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