Security

Neoconservatives Fight Back Against Isolationism Wing Of GOP

John McCain and Lindsey Graham


While House Republicans have spent the past few days threatening to defund the U.S.’s military involvement in the NATO mission over Libya, prominent neoconservative pundits and politicians are taking to the airwaves and oped pages to cajole, bully and threaten the GOP into a return to the aggressive foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an early supporter of the mission in Libya and an opponent of a withdrawal timetable in Afghanistan, picked up a familiar neoconservative talking point and invoked the history of the Great Depression and U.S. resistance to entering World War II. He said:

We cannot repeat the lessons of the 1930s when the United States of America stood by while bad things happened in the world. We are the lead nation in the world and America matters and we must lead, and sometimes that leadership entails sacrifice, sadly.

And both he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have suggested that congressional opposition to the U.S.’s involvement in Libya might embolden Gaddafi.

Indeed the GOP primary field has shown growing ambivalence over the U.S.’ missions in Libya and Afghanistan. And neoconservatives are clearly attempting to reframe the right-wing U.S. foreign policy positon in a manner closer to how the George W. Bush administration operated abroad.

A letter by the Foreign Policy Initiative — i.e. Project for the New American Century (PNAC) 2.0 — warned against GOP support for defunding U.S. operations over Libya and lashed out at the White House for taking an insufficiently aggressive stance against Qaddafi. They wrote:

For the United States and NATO to be defeated by Muammar al-Qaddafi would suggest that American leadership and resolution were now gravely in doubt — a conclusion that would undermine American influence and embolden our nation’s enemies.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens did his best to lay out what a more aggressive GOP foreign policy might look like and offered a laundry list of neoconservative policy prescriptions:

The U.S. would be credible if it desisted from pouring more diplomatic wine into the punctured jar that is the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Or if it took serious steps to help overthrow the Assad regime, thereby depriving Iran of its principal ally in the Arab world and its link to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Or if it abandoned its nascent efforts to negotiate with the Taliban and instead published the names of Taliban leaders on the drone-strike list. Or if it dramatically increased the size of the U.S. Navy to counter China’s naval buildup. Or if it desisted from all rhetoric suggesting that it can solve its budget woes by further cutting Pentagon spending.

While neocons are making a full court press to offer an alternative, hawkish foreign policy that stands in contrast to both the positions expressed by House Republicans and the policies pursued by the White House, war weariness appears to be the dominant sentiment in the U.S. While a handful of neoconservative politicians and pundits will continue to beat the war drums, their efforts are starting to smack of desperation.