Foreign Policy

Republican Party Continues as Party of Foreign Intervention


There's been talk of hints of possible hopeful signs that just maybe perhaps the Republican Party could conceivably be ready to look the Pentagon and the foreign policy establishment square in the eyes in pursuit of fiscal sanity. Cato's Benjamin Friedman finds that doesn't seem likely:

The Cato Institute has scored the positions of House and Senate Republicans on the war in Afghanistan and defense spending, which are a good proxy for general foreign-policy views. We examined members' statements, websites, and votes….

Of the Republicans' 47 senators and 242 representatives, only 5 percent (15 members) expressed support for cutting defense spending. Adding those in the "ambiguously for" category makes it 13 percent. Forty-one percent are against cutting defense spending; with those ambiguously against, it's 60 percent.

Only 10 Republicans, or 4 percent, are against the war in Afghanistan, and none are senators. Including the skeptical members, 10 percent are somewhat antiwar. Eighty percent support the war.

The tea party is not mellowing Republican militarism. If it were, freshman Republicans, who mostly proclaim allegiance to the movement, should be more dovish than the rest. That's not the case. Five of the 101 Republican freshmen and 10 of the 184 who aren't newcomers support cutting defense spending. That's about 5 percent of each group.

No new Republican opposes the war in Afghanistan outright. Including skeptics, 9 percent of freshmen and 11 percent of the rest are against the war.

One possible silver lining: the newer Republicans are less likely to have any clear-cut position on these foreign policy matters:

Veteran Republicans are more likely to be in the clearly "against cuts" and "for the war" categories; freshmen are more likely to be ambiguous or have no position. This ambiguity is a silver lining for advocates of military restraint: Many tea-party Republicans were elected without saying much about foreign policy and may yet emerge as non-interventionists.


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  1. Non-headline of the day comes in at 11:24 pm. Was anyone really expecting it to go otherwise? Sadly, the two wars have been conveniently forgotten by everyone. Except for the occasional lip-service reference to heroes or something like that, most people really believe we are fighting a monolithic global terrorist machine operating out of a giant cave like Batman used to. Arguing against the war is about as futile as arguing for open border policy: the Left and the Right will denounce you with venom. It’s a sure vitriolic argument starter.

    1. Like he used to? Did Batman close down the Batcave for good? I assumed he was having it rebuilt at the same time he was rebuilding Wayne Manor.

      Is Nolan working on the third installment yet?

      1. I’ve heard they just started some early work on it and it should be out in late 2012. Also, found the end of Batman Begins:

        Alfred Pennyworth: I thought this might be a good opportunity for improving the foundations.
        Bruce Wayne: In the south-east corner?
        Alfred Pennyworth: Precisely, sir.

        1. I thought that scene was from TDK. I do know he operated from his penthouse/the shipyard in that film.

          I just hope they don’t bring Robin in for the third film. It would fuck it up like the last series did.

  2. We could lower the cost of Foreign Interventions by being a little more Shermanesque.

    1. It would also make our Foreign Interventions victorious.

      1. Sorry. Not part of our Euro-Defeatist-Philosophy.

    2. How would following a talking dog into a time machine make filibustering less expensive?

  3. So, what’s then to distinguish the incoming “tea party” freshman from standard conservatives? If they want more money for guns, and less for crack mothers, I suppose we’ll have to see what they think about gays getting married. My bet? They ain’t fir it, they agin’ it.

  4. Tea Party-affiliated politicians are principally opposed to wasteful government spending. Except when they aren’t. Is that clear enough for you?

    1. Of course, it’s all so clear now! Orwellian doublespeak, just like the “defense” department that hasn’t fought a war in self-defense in 60 years.

      1. and the Department of Re-education and the Department of Windmills and the Department of Statism, etc.

  5. This just in: libertarian leaners get to congress, spend money just like the rest of them…

    …oh, and Japan bombs pearl harbor.

    Now, can we finally have a rational discussion of how we should spend the money, instead of pretending anyone will actually stop spending it?

    Thanks, a progressive.

    1. I think this turn of events revealed that the libertarianism was illusory (really, at best they were fiscal conservatives).

      Frankly, we should attack the defense spending forthwith; just demand, over and over, that military spending be cut. I don’t care what happens after that; this country should wash it’s hands of responsibility for world peace.

    2. Look, libertarians just spent the past two years convincing themselves and everyone else that this right-wing populist movement was at all libertarian. A barbaric yawp.

      We should have been dismissive from the start. I mean everyone. Cato, Reason, LRC, Mises, the whole damn lot to hell with it all!

      1. right-wing populist movement was at all libertarian
        >Strawman of how the TP was viewed by pro-TP LPs.

        “We should have been dismissive from the start. I mean everyone. Cato, Reason, LRC, Mises, the whole damn lot to hell with it all!”

        -Yes, lets continue failing changing the world by reading Reason from our basements.

        1. Quit kidding yourself. Us? Change the world? In an instant? You are high. The only kind of impact we can have is by criticizing events from the outside. It’s thankless, but slow cumulative effects matter.

          Changing the world means identifying which things will advance our goals and which ones won’t. A right populist or left activist movement won’t do that. Libertarians are in too small numbers to have activism or politics as an option.

          1. Well, at least we all still fit in the basement.

            Good thing. We might embarrass someone if we ever overflowed.

    3. Well, if we have to stop pretending that anyone will actually stop spending it, then we also have to stop pretending that anyone will actually raise taxes.

      And at that point, I’m pretty sure that it’s not too much of a rational discussion, once we just agree to have ever increasing deficits.

      1. Well, if you’d just believe in a 2% inflation target and fix long run health care entitlements (gasp! single payer!)…we wouldn’t have to raise taxes…it would decline as a percentage of gdp for decades and decades…

        …but that doesn’t fit any of your ideology, so i don’t know what to tell you…congress is going to spend. It is what they do.

        Your best chance would be to get them to spend it on education and hope that everyone becomes rational and decides libertarianism is the greatest thing since sliced bread…

        …other than that…i think you guys realized you’re fuct…now you know how we feel.

        Signed, a progressive

        1. “Well, if you’d just believe in a 2% inflation target…”

          Like a true progressive, your solutions are unsustainable and screw the poor. But it’s okay. Because you’re making investments in green energy and welfare to make up for it.

        2. We’ve been fucked for a long time. Perhaps we know how you guys felt for almost as long as you guys.

          Another way to attack health care costs:
          -Abolish drug patents; this would bring generics to market much faster, thus lowering drug costs

          -separate insurance from employment; basically, losing one’s job wouldn’t mean the loss of insurance

          -open immigration for high skilled doctors from other countries; this would put a downward pressure on doctors salaries, thus lowering health care costs further (got this idea from Dean Baker)

          -allow people to buy across state lines

          There are others, but these are a start.

          1. If you abolish drug patents, you kill the development of all new drugs, effectively stopping medical advancements in their footsteps. Do you have something against the intellectual property rights of everyone, or just those who develop life-saving drugs?

            The rest of your ideas are spot-on. In addition to opening borders for skilled medical workers, I would propose taking away med school certification from the AMA. By restricting access to med schools, they help create an artificially high cost floor for medical services that serve only to line their pockets, and keep the ratio of providers to patients much lower than it should be.

            Also, massive tort reform is a must to rein in medical costs.

            1. I disagree with tort reform; get rid of the AMA, a strong tort law is needed. I am an anti-IP libertarian. So, it isn’t directed at medical companies in particular. Another critical thing is to abolish all laws that mandate coverage for certain things.

              If one takes a free market approach, one has to fix a lot of things at once or it won’t work. I would need to write a book to detail every needed reform.

              1. An anti-IP libertarian? WTF does that mean, that you are for liberty except when it comes to personal property?

                Intellectual Property rights are a cornerstone of liberty. If they can take what comes from your mind, what can they not take from you?

                Do ypu also believe Microsoft should open their code to any other operating system developer? Should Google be forced to release their code? Should Toyota and GM be forced to release their R&D dept docs? How about Lockheed, Boeing and MM? Perhaps Dr. Pepper should be forced to release their formula? And Colonel Sanders?

                God forbid they would profit from the fruits of their labor and have rights to their Intellectual Property.

                What you propose is Intellectual Socialism. How can you call yourself a libertarian of any stripe?

                1. My God, where have you been? Benjamin Tucker took this position. So did Samuel Edward Konkin III. You clearly are more in line with Rand, Spencer, and Spooner on this issue.

                  Okay, how can you “own” an idea? An item of tangible property I can understand, but an intangible…what?

                  1. Patent law actually prevents someone from owning an idea.

                    If I think of an idea, it is mine. But patent law says otherwise if someone else thought it first and filed paperwork.

                    If you dont even own your own thoughts, you arent a free man.

                  2. I think being anti-ip is also rothbardian… Something along the lines of a government monopoly.

                2. IP is anti natural law.

                  That is why there is a specific mention of copyright and patents in the constitution, they knew it wasnt really property so they had to make an exception for it.

                  Whether its a good or bad exception is another question altogether, but to pretend intellectual property is equal to real property is insanity.

                  Even the law recognizes this, which is why copyright infringement is not in the theft category.

                  1. Another proof that IP isnt property. The law says its for a limited time.

                    If I really owned it, why would it expire?

                  2. And another thing: the IP exception in the constitution is even justified on pure utilitarian grounds…and, well, my view on utilitarianism is clear.

                    1. Just in case any of you are interested, I’m going to be showing the Star Wars trilogy in my theater this week until the 28th. I will then be showing The Rite and The Mechanic from the copies I dubbed from a buddy who works for the studio. I will be charging $5 per adult and you can bring your own snacks.

                      I will not be compensating the production companies for any of these films as they are not real property and have no realizable value for the creators/developers/actors/etc.

                  3. So the fact that the compound developed by a company or person is turned into a pill does not constitute real property?

                    What defines property to you? Only physical property that was here before man and can be transferred between men? Or those things that can be fashioned strictly from raw materials and manufactured?

                    Can a car design be real (protected) property but the program that runs the antilock brakes not? Can a surgical instrument like a cardiac catheter be real (protected) property but an anti-coagulant drug not?

                    I think I’m gonna go in my garage and start producing Viagra for sale. Fuck the people who spent loads of money and time developing it (and the considerable amount of failed research that wasn’t free along the way).


                    1. Someday you will come around to understanding this. Actually, my long term plan is to start a pharma company with no intellectual property. I call it ‘straight-to-generic’. What it means is that you have to be really kick-ass at your manufacturing, and operate on smaller margins to stave off competition.

                    2. sloopy:

                      How is it that the operating system that runs the internet, and the operating system that runs the fastest-growing cellphone platform, are both free of intellectual protection?

                    3. or, wikipedia, for that matter. Which is odd, since Jimbo wales is known to be a huge randian.

                    4. I suppose it’s free because he chooses for it to be free.

                      What OS is free from intellectual protection? Certainly not anything from MS or Apple. I do believe we’ve been going back and forth with the Chinese for theft of just such properties our corporations developed and own.

                      And if you want to start a pharma company without any intellectual property, that’s up to you. Just don’t take the drugs another company spends time and money developing and make the same decision for them.

                      Sorry, but I believe in ownership of creations (i.e.: patents). What people create should be theirs to do with as they see fit…to profit off of if they so choose to market it against other products that may come to the same result but through different means (or compounds of drugs, etc).

                    5. Linux? I’m typing on ubuntu right now. And you’re a fool if you don’t think that Linux and BSD don’t run the internet.

                    6. “What people create should be theirs to do with as they see fit.”

                      Right, so if I can make a drug better than a drug company can, why am I prohibited from doing so if the drug company has a patent on it? I create it, why can’t I do with it as I see fit?

                      The justification for property rights (in my opinion) comes from the fact that there needs to be an ordered prevention of the tragedy of the commons. In other words, prevention of overutilization of scarce resources. The domain of the human imagination is NOT a scarce resource. Ideas are a dime a dozen and you shouldn’t be able to make an injunction preventing me from executing an idea just because you thought of it first. Especially if you just sit on the idea and do nothing with it (as happens so often with IP these days)

                      I think typically the idea of IP derives more from the Lockean “Labor theory of property”, which, IMO comes with a lot of problems – if you decide to leave a land fallow as an environmental preserve, should someone else be able to squat on it, make a factory, and claim property rights on it because it’s “being put to good use”?

                    7. I mean my other point is that your notion that “people wouldn’t do anything without IP” is completely bollocks.

                      No-IP software (linux, GIMP, Android, OSX’s darwin core)
                      No-IP movies (sita sings the blues)
                      No-IP music (

        3. Well, if you’d just believe in a 2% inflation target and fix long run health care entitlements (gasp! single payer!)…we wouldn’t have to raise taxes…it would decline as a percentage of gdp for decades and decades…

          So what you’re saying is, is that it’s impossible to cut spending, but all we have to do is cut spending? Great.

          Single payer wouldn’t fix long run health care entitlements. Medicare is the problem, and Medicare is single payer already. The supposed cuts that (probably won’t stick) but improved Medicare’s long-run health care numbers had nothing to do with adopting single-payer, since it’s already single-payer.

  6. I think, deep down in our guts, knew this to be the case. I mean, you think this is bad; check out some other nasty stuff TP candidates have promised on the domestic front alone. Ignore for a moment their commitment to balanced budgets; look at the whole of their platforms. Definitely not anything libertarians can endorse.

    1. Examples, please?

      And not off the wall examples by lone whackos. I mean examples supported widely by TP folks. Hell, we could point out a few from the progs [cough – windmills – cough] that are pretty stupid and costly.

  7. There’s a war? There’s two?!

    1. Three if you count our Yemenies.

  8. Hmm, I think that those two excerpted paragraphs contradict each other. “Ambiguous or have no position” is more dovish than “strongly supports.” At the very least, it’s certainly more “mellow.”

    1. But….but…..Reason has been saying for a long time that there’s no way anything could possibly change.

      And they ain’t changing that line!

  9. As soon as new congresscritters get elected the arms dealers, defense contractors, party apparatchiks and think tank scum get in their ears about jobs in their districts, climbing up the ladder, getting re-elected and how to look and think ‘respectable’. All of which means maintaining the warfare-welfare state under the kabuki that they are radicals and something new and different from the people in that other party across the aisle.
    People like Ron Paul aren’t just the exception in Congress – they are the once and only once in a generation exception.

    1. I would even be skeptical of Ron Paul. I mean, he’s only human. If he’s our best chance, we effectively have no chance.

      As for Gary Johnson, he was booed off the stage at a TEA PARTY event. Guys, admit this was a wasted effort.

      1. Okay [cowers]. I’ll go back to the basement.

  10. WRT shepharding the newbies away from endless warfare, it would be helpful to come up with an alternative the infinitely stupid ‘non-interventionism’ canard.

    1. Yes, let’s abandon our principles so that we can “win”. You’re different from a Republican…how?

      1. Besides, why must we go for the whole enchilada? (Nominating people for office)

        Lots of ways to influence politics besides electing people or marching in the streets. Lots of single issue groups out there to advance specific goals.

    2. We could play the “hey, this shit costs us so much money, we could damn near balance the budget by going back to a pre-WWII level of military spending (adjusted for inflation)” card.

      Really though, we have to constantly remind people that the oft-cited “defense” budget doesn’t include the cost of the wars; they’re included seperately under special appropriations. We should be tossing around the real number…much closer to 1 trillion, than the few hundred billion the Pentagon claims each year.

      Also, there was a good chart in another story on this website showing the relative military expenditures of each of the top ten nations on earth (ranked by “defense” spending), and the US was more than the other 9 combined. We are not under that kind of threat.

      Think the terrorists are liking it? They spend a few grand, and terrify us into spending BILLIONS on bullshit, invasive security. Talk about a return on investment!

      1. Umm, might want to use a different example. The weakness of the pre WWII US military was a major factor in encouraging the Japanese expansionism of the time between the Battle of the Tsushima Straits and the Battle of Midway.

        That doesn’t mean Team America World Police is better, but I think that America should be keeping the sea lanes open and maintain the capability to interdict the air, sea, and space bordering the homeland.

        1. With all due respect, who cares if the Japanese expanded? It was our cutting off scrap metal and oil exports to them that eventually provoked them to attack us. Why is it our business what they do to China?

          I know that may not be a popular view amongst those who prefer interventionism, but why should we have any more than we need to do exactly what you stated: keep the space around the nation secure, and that’s it. Just enough navy to keep our ships from being harrassed on the high seas.

        2. > I think that America should be keeping the sea lanes open

          It’s not at all clear to me why my tax-dollars should be used to subsidize the operating costs of private shipping firms.

        3. Also, it wasn’t the actual weakness of US forces (which weren’t weak at all) it was the perceived weakness, much of which stemmed from our inaction when the Japs sank the USS Panay in 1937.

          1. And, of course, Yamamoto knew it was only perceived and tried to convince the Japanese leaders otherwise.

            1. Someone explain to me what an American warship was doing upriver in China in 1937 (and the prior 10 years) to begin with?

              Just curious.

  11. I have a great idea – let’s judge the freshmen Republicans in Congress two weeks into their term. That’ll show how “no-nonsense” and “uncompromising” we are!

    1. Hahaha, where have I heard that before…

      1. I’m pretty sure those exact words were on every progressive’s lips as Obama proceeded to sell out out their interests time and time again.

  12. Many tea-party Republicans were elected without saying much about foreign policy and may yet emerge as non-interventionists.

    Yeah man, that’ll do it. And libertarians have been elected to The Basement in part because, they have nothing of substance to say about foreign policy. Instead they live in foreign policy Lalala Land and twist words and events to fit their Dream.

    Iraq is an intervention. Should never have happened. Now it’s done, I don’t see any way back out that doesn’t leave an even bigger mess than it was to start with. I’d invoke Occum’s razor and say “the simplest solution is to pick up our toys and leave now”. Unless somebody has clear evidence that some other path is definitely going to lead to a better ending.

    But nobody listens to us basement dwellers.

    But Afghanistan is not simply an “intervention”. I trust we don’t need to spell the details out again. It’s equally clear that what we’ve done since invading Afghanistan, isn’t working and should be ended. The problem is, what do we do?

    The Taliban are ready to set up shop again the minute we pull out. They’ll repeat 9/11 history if we let them. It’s not clear to me how we prevent that.

    We’re going to be in Afghanistan until a) we run out of people willing to give the Fed another loan or b) somebody comes up with a better idea. Until then, The Great Congressional Herd shall merrily continue its deliberate plunge off the proverbial cliff.

    Because they don’t know what else to do.

    If it was me, I’d give a long hard look at pulling the ground pounders out of there, and developing neat new advanced technologies with which to sufficiently harass the living shit out people in remote places (perhaps Afghanistan) who were trying to train new waves of terrorists. I bet for a fraction of the cost of maintaining a standing army in Asia, we could come up with some really neat-cool new technology. Which would almost certainly have some civilian spin-offs sooner or later that would benefit our economy at large.

    Can we come up with technology that will do the job well enough? Dunno. But it’s no less certain (and certainly much cheaper) than what we’d doing now.

    But who listens to basement dwellers.

    1. Oh, I forgot. Somebody really has to put the Let’s Nation-Build A Democracy dream out of its misery.

      Can we just restrict this whole damned venture to genuine American security interests?

    2. Which would almost certainly have some civilian spin-offs sooner or later that would benefit our economy at large.

      Yeah that’s why local PD’s are using drones. They will “benefit our economy at large” by creating more ways for the cops to ticket and fine people for going about their daily routine, thus helping the economy!

      Ex.: Twenty cars speeding down the freeway doing 75 in a 70 zone. Drone catches them all and issues a ticket by mail. Voila! Economy boosted to the tune of $80 fine each + $250 court and “admin” fees each for a frand total of $6,600. Not bad for a few minutes work.

      Yeah, no thanks. I say we just pull out of there and let them sort their own shit out.

    3. “””The Taliban are ready to set up shop again the minute we pull out.””””

      So, nobody claims that the Taliban attacked the US.

      Al-Qaeda is accused of attacking the US and its an international group including members inside the US. I don’t worry about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, I worry about them in the USA and the US being in Afghanistan does nothing to stop them coming to the USA.

      1. I do remember a certain president proclaiming, “If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist.”

        Expliciting allowing a belligerent group to use your land as a staging ground for attacks on a foreign land and expressing full support for their actions might make you complicit.

  13. Since there is no difference between libertarians and Republicans, this means that all libertarians support all wars all the time. And they also support generalizations.

  14. A modest proposal to all the progressives and libertarians reading this:

    All of our debates about the proper economic policy our country should have are premature; don’t we know that there’s two wars on? Don’t we know that our civil liberties remain compromised by the PATRIOT Act? Don’t we know that innocent people are being tortured and held without trial or charge? Don’t we know that corporations are the ones making out like bandits while we bicker?

    Let’s put universal health care, inflation, and tax rates aside: as long as the warfare state marches on, none of our goals can be achieved. We disagree on economics, and that is okay. We agree on civil liberties, giving all those accused a proper trial, that people who are already fucking rich don’t need welfare, and that there’s a better foreign policy than our imperialistic status-quo. Isn’t all that more important? If we could just focus on these things, and return to debating economic policy at a later date…we’d get a lot of what we both want. Who’s with me?

    1. Oh, by the way: our opponents, the liberal hawks and neoconservatives (not to mention their theoconservative allies) are winning the day; let’s focus our energy against them.

    2. So, the enemy of my enemy is my friend?

      Yeah, no thanks. You progressives want to take freedom away from so many people in so many other ways than team red or team blue. Let’s never “put that aside for the moment,” but always keep it at the forefront of our mind when we decide who to ally ourselves with.

      1. I’m a libertarian. Jeez.

        1. I’m a libertarian. Jeez.

          Except when it comes to property rights, which makes you a….well, something other than a libertarian, I can assure you.

          1. First, not all libertarians are propertarians when it comes to ideas and other intangibles. Some aren’t propertarian in land (geolibertarian). Individual liberty is the common denominator.

            1. Individual liberty except in instances of intellectual property, is the common denominator.

              This could be the start of a Monty Python scene from Life of Brian. “All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?” (I put quotations around their intellectual property for you all)

              1. Sloopy, there are literally shit-tons (and yes, that is a scientific unit of measure) of libertarians who are anti-IP. You’re engaging in factionalism of the worst kind by trying to cut them all out of the libertarian fold.

       has a lot of great articles on this subject. Specifically, check out the work of Stephan Kinsella; I’m not saying I always agree with him, but he writes the best articles on this topic. Usually a lot of comments between the pro and anti IP factions, also.

  15. Considering the almost total lack of focus on foreign affairs by the tea party movement, who expected otherwise? Talk about seeing something that just isn’t there.

    Is there an potential opening to reduce defense spending in order to reduce the budget? Sure, but if it happens it’s going to be part of a wider compromise to reduce spending. Cutting defense for its own sake is not going to be a goal for Republicans, tea partiers, or even most Democrats.

    1. “Talk about seeing something that just isn’t there.”

      And it ain’t just in foreign policy!

  16. All the evidence that I’ve seen paints the Tea Parties as pro-war “support the troops”. Basically not that much different than run of the mill Republicant’s.

  17. Militarism, along with beliefs in national exceptionalism, is traditionally a core element of conservatism so this is little surprise.

    1. As a libertarian, I am inclined to agree; with a few honorable exceptions (like Bacevich and Jack Hunter), the logic of national exceptionalism leads to militarism.

      1. By honorable exceptions, I was referring to the Right.

    2. Sure.

      There’s absolutely positively no elements of “exceptionalism” in liberal beliefs. Nosiree none, nada.

      Liberals just don’t believe in themselves or their anointed vision.

      That must explain why they shoved ObamaCare through congress in spite of popular opposition.

  18. The war in Afghanistan is deplored by the left and yet continues in full force and will probably extend past the July 2011 deadline. It’s very obvious that even another Madrid train bombing or Moscow airport bombing in the US will end his chances at a second term.

    Nobody address the obvious point of why the war continues: we fear leaving Afghanistan will return it to the militant Islamic haven it was in 2001, and cause another terrorist attack within a few years. Most people disagree the relationship is so direct, but the military brass believes otherwise.

    1. I imagine so; they want to come home heroes after all and be decorated.

  19. We’ll never really know their true colors until we have a republican president. Some of these guys might be non-interventionist on anything Obama wants to do (please see the GOP congress under Clinton) but the second George Bush III takes office they are all warmongers again.

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