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  • A Tea Party Foreign Policy?

    The Tea Party has had an extraordinary effect on American domestic policy. They have raised interest in policy debates, rallied public opinion, and given it a voice on various spending and constitutional issues.

    On foreign policy, though, the Tea Party has been largely silent. But with the United States currently involved in three wars on foreign soil, the Tea Party needs to think about foreign policy.

    Silence on foreign policy issues has allowed isolationist voices to claim to speak on the Tea Party’s behalf.  That’s unfortunate, because those voices discredit the movement’s relevance to American diplomacy.

    Ron Paul, for instance, advocates a strict non-interventionism.  (Non-interventionism means that America would not be politically or militarily involved with other countries affairs.) He claims that to be the Founders’ foreign policy.  It isn’t.

    Not only is non-interventionism potentially detrimental to America’s security, it is at odds with the principles of America’s founding. While a policy of non-intervention is sometimes appropriate, the doctrine of non-interventionism severely limits the foreign policy options available to America, weakening its ability to defend freedom. It is a limitation the Founders did not adopt, and neither should today’s lawmakers. The Tea Party has the opportunity to reject isolationist policies and to reinforce America’s indispensable role in the world.

    America stands for the principles of liberty, independence, and self-government.  Those principles define and shape our national interests. The Founders did not believe that America had a duty to spread the ideas of liberty by waging wars that might be detrimental to America’s interests and security.  They did, however, welcome opportunities to prudently support the principles and practice of liberty around the world, even at times through military force. George Washington recommended choosing “peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.”

    The Tea Party should look to the Founders in foreign policy as it has done in domestic policy.  In doing so, it should resist the temptation to oversimplify America’s early foreign policy.

    The true consistency of American foreign policy is to be found not in its policies, which can prudently change and adapt, but in its guiding principles, which are unchanging and permanent. From the Founders’ perspective, then, a prudent foreign policy means never excluding the possibility of strong military action at a moment’s notice.  This, of course, requires maintaining a strong military.

    Embracing the Founders’ understanding of statecraft also means promoting America’s political principles whenever possible through the conduct of foreign policy. The ideas of liberty and self-government were not just true for Americans but for all people. America’s early diplomats considered the defense and spread of America’s principles fundamental to their task of representing the people of the United States abroad. At times, the American military was engaged to support those seeking liberty. It rescued refugees and leveraged American support to tip the balance in favor of economic, civil, and religious freedom around the globe.

    There are no easy answers to the hard questions of foreign policy. As George Washington recognized, policy based only on material interests would harm America’s ideals, while a policy based only on ideals would ignore the realities of the world. Prudence allowed the Founders to navigate the complex circumstances of international affairs while protecting America’s interests and promoting America’s principles.

    This approach, balancing interests and justice, remains essential to securing the blessings of liberty for the American people and enabling America to stand resolutely for the cause of freedom around the world in the 21st century. The Non-Interventionism doctine ignores justice and misunderstands America’s interests.

    In arguing for individual liberty and constitutional government, the Tea Party has shifted the paradigm of domestic politics. Such a shift is needed in foreign policy, and the Tea Party can and should help reshape America’s role in the world. By correctly understanding of the Founders’ foreign policy, the Tea Party can successfully advocate an approach that is compatible with America’s founding principles.

    This article first appeared on the Daily Caller.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    11 Responses to A Tea Party Foreign Policy?

    1. Daniel, North Caroli says:

      What you say about Ron Paul simply is not true. George Washington said we should not form alliances with anyone but we should trade with everyone. Ron Paul would not cut us off from the world like you try to claim. He supported the war in afghanistan to go after Osama so he is all for defending the nation. We can not police the world and tell others how they need to live through military force, it hurts our image around the world and thus is an ineffective foreign policy. Sure we may do those things with the best of intentions but it does not matter because we are the only ones who see it that way. If another country felt like america needed new morals and a new government and tried to use military force against us we would not welcome it and other countries do not welcome it when we do it to them.

    2. Daniel, North Caroli says:

      Also, supporting other countries trying to bring about liberty and revolution is not our responsibility when we can not pay our own bills! America first!

    3. Roger Baxter. Batavi says:

      There seems to be a massive misunderstanding on your part of exactly what the tea parties stand for. There are only three tenets. 1) Fiscal Responsibility. 2) Constitutionally Limited Government. 3) Free Markets. We, in terms of our loosely affiliated, local organizations do not stray from the three principles. We cannot dilute our efforts to reform our governments at all levels, and drag them toward our three principles. Foreign policy would only be a diversion for which we have no expertise. Maybe someday, in the distant future, but not now.

      I have been with the tea party since March, 2009, when it was born. We have never deviated from the three principles since then, and our work is still in its infancy.

    4. Jason, California says:

      I would say that it is important for the Tea Party to understand how foreign policy impacts 1) Fiscal Responsibility. 2) Constitutionally Limited Government. 3) Free Markets.

      In my opinion, the current foreign policy, known by some as the "Bush/Obama Doctrine", is in complete opposition to the policies of the Tea Party. If foreign policy is not changed, the Tea Party goals will never be achieved. The Tea Party should demand Congress to seriously debate war declarations, rather than passing their congressional responsibilities on to the President via the War Powers Resolution.

      Have a nice day!

    5. Redfray, Pea Ridge, says:

      Apparently, Marion Smith, you have missed one important part of isolationism, what happens if the domestic disappears?

    6. Tammy J, VA says:

      The Founders believed that freedom at home and abroad were linked. Our founding principles don't stop being valid when they cross over the U.S. border. Thanks for pointing it out, MrSmith

      @Roger: Who made you president of the tea parties?! Seems like youre the one that massively misunderstands since it's a grass roots movement and you're basically only speaking for yourself or your group.

    7. Jake J, Salt Lake Ci says:

      "America stands for the principles of liberty, independence, and self-government. The ideas of liberty and self-government were not just true for Americans but for all people."

      Then let people govern themselves. People can't govern themselves when the US is governing them or propping up their dictators. Countries can't be independent when the US is manipulating them through foreign aid. Liberty cannot be forced upon people with guns and bombs. They must want it. We must lead by example.

      This whole article is a contradiction.

      As Roger said, the Tea Party is about fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets. When the US spends over a Trillion dollars we don't have invading Afghanistan to get Bin Laden when we could have done it with small strike forces, that is not being fiscally responsible. When the US invades other countries without declaring war, that is not being constitutionally limited. When the US manipulates other countries through aid and trade restrictions, then markets are not free.

      What you are saying, Marion Smith, is that the Tea Party should give up the principles on which it was founded in order to support your own misguided ideologies.

    8. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Daniel and Redfray pretty much summed it up – America First. Roger adds the specifics with the three simple principals.

      Everyone I know who associate themselves with the Tea Party has a devout gratitude for our military and wants the best for them. I think the Tea Party has a collective appreciation for what they do.

      I am speaking mostly for myself but others as well, when I say this however. When we are so deep in debt, we should not be “spreading freedom” in other lands while we are losing ours. When our defense budget is 57% unfunded, we should not be using that military as a nation building entity.

      I think most would agree that we need to keep an eye on things and collect necessary intel to keep ahead of events. And I also think most of us would like to see some level of military activity in the same line as what the Navy Seals Team 6 were credited to have done with OBL. I am fully in favor of quick hits against oppressors. These things are cost effective and have far more “bang for the buck.” But what we keep on getting is engagements like Libya. What was supposed to last only days – we are now counting in months! We get stuck in costly and endless wars. Since 9/11, we have spent over $7 trillion on defense and it is quickly approaching $8 trillion.

      For lack of a better analogy, the way I see Foreign Policy is the same kind of thing the Air Stewardess tells us to do in the event of a plane crash. Put on your oxygen mask before helping others. America has to be strong fiscally, politically, emotionally and morally before engaging in activities that effects others in the same way. Fiscally we are already dead. Politically, we have no discernable direction. Emotionally, we are drained. Morally – well all we have to say is Weiner.

      This country has passed the early stages of decay and in approaching its end – as long as nothing changes. The current climate is unsustainable – financially, politically, emotionally, and morally. The Tea Party is all about putting on the oxygen mask – as I see it. It is not a movement for “hope and change.” It is a movement about going back to what has PROVEN to work – no more experiments. It is not about rosy projections and 10 year plans. It is about fixing things NOW – with real numbers and real cash – before it is too late.

      We live in an era of public worker greed and we see it especially in DC and places like Wisconsin. This greed has consumed this nation’s wealth and they are going after more. It takes a visit to every high-end mall in the greater DC area at 10:30am (long after break time) and see thousands of federal workers with their dangling badges – shopping! Why? Because that is where their offices are! Where do you see this more than others? Right where the DoD offices are in Crystal City and Pentagon City. A few days ago at a stop light, four guys with dangling DoD “PNT“ (Pentagon) badges walked in front of my car laughing it up while walking back to their office at 3:30pm with slushies (no – they were not going home)! It is just one of thousands of cases I see living here in DC. This is what the DoD is today – recreational employment.

      The Tea Party wants to ensure that every dollar spent for the defense of this country IS being spent on the defense of this country. We do not want an “unworkable” bureaucracy at the Pentagon and elsewhere – as Sec Gates alluded to. We do not want weapons and other purchases marked up 5 to 10 times their true costs as Sec Gates alluded to. We do not want to spend $280,000 to move ONE DoD federal worker from one building to a new one that resembles a palace as is what is happening with the 2005 BRAC currently underway. DoD federal jobs are coveted and sought after with vengeance. Once obtained they are never let go. The DoD is nearly cut free within the federal ranks. Job security in the DoD is near cemented.

      I think before we dig our selves any deeper in any other conflict – at least me anyway – wants hearings on this mess. I want to know where the money went. I want heads to roll so to speak. Adm Mike Mullen has referred to wasteful spending since 9/11 and has commented on the loss of priorities within the DoD. I have a lot of respect for Mullen but I see him and Gates leaving the DoD is the worst shape it has ever been in – out of total lack of leadership. Obama replaced them with liberally minded people. This wasteful spending will be exposed and will be used as justification to gut the military.

      The argument of foreign policy has been lost in the lack of priorities in the DoD. Over the last 6 years they spent $35 billion building palaces for their federal workers – yet could not get enough cash and human resources together with this massive bloated department to get a missile defense system ($1.5 billion) off the ground before it was canceled. It bothers me to say this since Mullen was the one speaking. The DoD’s spending priorities are in this order: (1) personnel and programs; (2) Weapons contracts; (3) Soldiers. The cuts they have been discussing, as of late has been the pay and benefit package of soldiers – who are among the least paid people in this nation! It seems to me until we reverse that list, we will not have the morale to fight yet alone uphold a foreign policy.

      As I see it, before we help anyone else, we need to put on the mask and strengthen ourselves in every way.

    9. Henry says:

      Any nation that stays in war, as has AMERICA will be broke. AMERICA is broke! AMERICA is broke from all the war games. From shipping all manufacturing jobs to foreign countries. By allowing open borders to anyone and everyone, and allowing them to stay and fed off the AMERICAN tax payer.

      The only ones getting rich, are the ones using the illegals. We have not cleaned up WASHINGTON. TEA PARTY WE MUST GET MORE INVOLVED.

    10. Justin, Virginia says:

      RE: Daniel, IT's not that Ron Paul's foreign policy would cut us off from the world, it that is makes America less safe and makes America less able to defend Freedom. Seems pretty clear to me. George Washington understood this, why can't you? It's common sense conservativism.

    11. Bobbie says:

      The tea party is a national movement to regain the American founding principles which in turn, would reflect foreign policy if the leader has respect for individual freedom.

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