Geo-Conservatism; Why Conservatives Are Better Than Liberals at Foreign Policy

By Holmes, Kim R. | Policy Review, Winter 1995 | Go to article overview

Geo-Conservatism; Why Conservatives Are Better Than Liberals at Foreign Policy


Holmes, Kim R., Policy Review


The congressional elections of 1994 were a stunning rejection of liberalism in foreign policy as well as domestic policy. The Democratic Party lost control of the Senate and House, not only because Americans thought the country was economically and culturally on the wrong track, but also because congressional liberals and the national Democratic party were closely identified with President Clinton's foreign policy. Bill Clinton has been a disaster at foreign policy not primarily because of incompetence, indifference, or inexperience, but because he is a liberal--a liberal who sends Jimmy Carter to negotiate with dictators, who responds to North Korean nuclear blackmail by sending billions in tribute money to Pyongyang, who invades Haiti on behalf of an Americahating left-wing demagogue, who abdicates American sovereignty by putting U.S. troops under United Nations command, who jeopardizes American credibility by laying down an ultimatum to China he did not intend to enforce, and who dangerously weakens America's defense capabilities.

RECKLESS CONFRONTATION

All these foreign policy errors of the Clinton administration were made at the behest of the liberal-left wing of the Democratic Party. This is the same crowd that got America into Vietnam and then, when the going got tough, cut and ran and opposed the war. It is the same crowd that opposed standing up to the Soviet Union in Central America and the in Euromissile crisis of the 1980s. It is the same crowd that opposed going to war with Saddam Hussein in 1991. From John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, this crowd has vacillated between appeasement and reckless confrontation that gets America into wars. Voters did not think this crowd could be trusted with foreign policy in the Cold War. Now they don't trust it with the post-Cold War world either.

And for good reason. The perception of Clinton as a weak foreign policy president is encouraging America's enemies to test his resolve and challenge the United States in ways they wouldn't have dared with Ronald Reagan or George bush. Who can doubt that Fidel Castro released his boat people because he saw how Clinton panicked when refugees began streaming out of Haiti? And who can doubt that the North Koreans dragged out the nuclear weapons talks, ultimately gaining important U.S. concessions, because they saw how Clinton was mishandling Haiti and Bosnia? And who can doubt that Saddam Hussein's decision to mass troops on Kuwait's borders was motivated in part by the suspicion, raised by Jimmy Carter's various peace missions, that the Clinton administration may be weak enough to strike a deal on lifting the oil embargo on Iraq? All of these crises and problems were created by Clinton's weakness, and even when he was forced to act tough to correct his earlier mistakes--as when he rushed U.S. forces to kuwait--his subsequent toughness could not erase the perception of weakness that had caused the crises in the first place.

PRINCIPLES OF VICTORY

In contrast to Clinton's failed liberalism stand the conservative principles and practices that led America and the West to Cold War victory. These principles include the strategy of peace through strength, a toughminded realism on behalf of democratic ideals, an unshaking commitment to alliance-building under American leadership, and an abiding respect for American sovereignty and interests. These principles were tried and tested over 40 years by the great conservative presidents of the Cold War--George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman, who despite his domestic liberalism, was deeply conservative in his hatred of Communism, his tough-minded defense of American interests and values, and his sound understanding of the proper role of military force. Indeed President Clinton and his White House aides, who are reportedly studying how Truman faced a Republican Congress in 1947-48 and went on to re-election, would be well-advised to focus on Truman's foreign policy rather than his domestic policy. …

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