Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy Confusion in the Age of Trump

Foreign policy realism provides a way forward for the U.S. in the world, as seen at CPAC.

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Reason

Two panels on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) dramatically underscore the tensions over foreign policy among conservatives in the Donald Trump era.

The first was conversation on foreign policy realism sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute (CKI) and the second was a panel on "China's expansion." There were a number of other panels and addresses related to foreign policy during the conservative conference, mostly focused on threats abroad, like North Korea, China, and Russia, and threats at home (from abroad), but rarely advocating constraint. (Disclosure: Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, receives support from CKI and David Koch sits on its board of trustees).

Addressing the main hall earlier in the day on Friday, John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, defined a conservative foreign policy as one that addressed "foreign threats and ideologies and protecting American interests around the world." The phrase "American interests" (or "national security interests") in that statement, and statements like it, is doing a lot of work in the definition because it remains mostly undefined and therefore malleable to whatever particular agenda whoever is using it wants to advance.

At the CKI conversation, where American Conservative's Daniel McCarthy interviewed CKI Vice President of Research & Policy William Ruger, Ruger explained that within the context of foreign policy realism, national interests are "narrowly defined," largely around territorial integrity. Ruger also explained that there wasn't really such a thing as conservative foreign policy. Instead, "there are foreign policies that fit for a time, a place, a threat environment that make sense to secure a state."

Ruger highlighted the compatibility between foreign policy realism and conservatism, saying that contemporary foreign policy suffered from Friedrich Hayek's knowledge problem and and ignored constraints like human nature, balance of power, geography, and even unknown unknowns, relying instead on a hubris exemplified by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albrights's statement that the U.S. stands taller and can "see further" than other countries (it can't). "Conservatives should recognize those things," Ruger told the audience. "because they're fundamentally a part of realism and conservative principles."

Ruger stressed that "isolationism and the foreign policy of the Weekly Standard" were not the only options. "There are many options between those two." Ruger also rejected the idea that realist foreign policy was isolationist, pointing out that it relied on free trade, because of the understanding that economic power is tied to military power, and that realism would also "suggest certain views about grand strategy—the use of military power to secure our ends—but it does not say that we have to stick our head in the hands."

"The United States should stand up in its diplomacy and rhetoric for values of democracy and liberties," Ruger added. It should not, he explained, seek out monsters abroad to slay, pointing out that America's founders recognized that foreign policies of meddling had the effect of threatening the experiment of liberty at home, in part by "giving up the advantages of the new world [and the constraint of geography] by getting embroiled in the old." War, the founders understood, "would make us more like those old, corrupt European countries, and less the glorious city on a hill."

"The United States used to have a more realist foreign policy," Ruger explained, "From Washington's farewell address to 1898 and the Spanish-American war, the U.S. pursued a very restrained, very realist, very prudentialist foreign policy. The United States eschewed general peacetime alliances, and did not intervene aggressively abroad, particularly for liberal causes." He pointed out the U.S. declined to get involved in the European revolutions of the late 18th century, because its leaders "differentiated between those things that were necessary for America's safety, and those that were unnecessary or even harmful."

Interventionist foreign policy put "conservative principles at stake," Ruger noted, stressing that it did not mean that any conservative should be "against all war period—the U.S. has to defend itself," but that it was crucial to understand there are unintended consequences.

"Realism is about the use of military power and support for liberalization and free trade," Ruger explained. "That's very different from spreading democracy or liberalism through the bayonet or the sword. We aren't even making the world safer for the people we say that we are helping." Ruger pointed to Libya as a prime example of the U.S. intervening in a foreign country and leaving it far worse off than it was before, adding that the Iraq war was also a failure (Ruger, who served in Afghanistan, points to the 2001 invasion as an example of a war justified under a realist foreign policy because of the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban's support for and sheltering of Al-Qaeda).

"The idealism you see in liberal internationalism and neoconservatism doesn't take the world as it is," Ruger pointed out, even though outside of foreign policy such a view is often a conservative one. Ruger pointed out that had President Reagan made the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Lebanon after the Beirut barracks bombing in today's political climate, he would be called a surrenderer.

"War is the health of the state, war grows budgets, war grows government, war grows the surveillance state, war threatens liberty," Ruger stressed. "We have to make sure it's absolutely necessary for our safety."

"7,000 Americans were killed since 9/11 in our wars, that's a consequences, that's a cost we have to work through," Ruger said. "We have to be clear-eyed about what those costs (of war) are."

Addressing the issue of NATO, the alliance President Trump questioned the fairness and usefulness of on the campaign trail, Ruger explained that one had to "look at alliances not in a kind of ideological fashion but in a sense of do these alliances help make us safer. Are they necessary for our security, relative to the costs (not just manpower and budgetary) but also the potential of being dragged into a war, or have an ally act in a way that provokes war?"

Ruger said he had a hard time seeing how NATO expansion makes America safer. "Sometimes you can stimulate conflicts you don't intend." Ruger acknowledged there were many reasons NATO made sense,. "Does it make sense now?" Ruger asked. "We ought to have a real conversation about that, because they commit us potentially to war."

Ruger discussed illiberal regimes abroad, including Russia and China, and how the U.S. ought to relate to them. "U.S. foreign policy should be aimed at making America safer," Ruger explained. "Sometimes that means that you have to tolerate other states doing things internally that we don't love… because there's nothing we can do about it." The U.S. had to be "kind of hardheaded" about the limits of the power to effect regime change.

"A realist approach isn't a naive or pacifist approach," Ruger stressed. "We don't have to love Russia or Putin… but what could the United States have done [over Crimea]? Were we supposed to fight a war to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine, which is not an ally of the United States?"

Ruger highlighted the importance of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a deterrent, and that it shouldn't be undervalued. "That should give us some confidence that it would have to be a very, very foolhardy and irrational set of leaders in another country" to threaten the U.S. Ruger said it was important to talk about modernizing nuclear capabilities, including asking questions like whether all three legs of the nuclear trident were necessary. "Maybe not," he offered, pointing out that China has an effective nuclear deterrent with a far smaller nuclear arsenal. The most important part, according to Ruger, was demonstrating that the U.S. has the capacity and the credibility on its nuclear arsenal, and that it has the commitments that "sends the signal to the world, if you do X, then this could happen to you." Ruger pointed to the role of nuclear proliferation and deterrence in India and Pakistan had as a "pacifying effect in those relations."

Asked about China's expansion, a fear that ran through a number of the CPAC events, Ruger suggested that the U.S. should "try to command the global commons… what that means is that the United States should have a robust blue water navy, it should be able to do presence patrols in key areas in the world," and make sure that sea lanes of vital trade routes are open. "We should be able to have protection of government systems from cyberattacks," he added. "We should be sure we're very alive to new challenges."

Neverthless, given all that, Ruger continued that "in some cases, we don't have to worry so much about China threatening our blue water capability. China is a rising power but still not a peer competitor, and certainly not a peer competitor in open water."

"We have a lot of ability to cramp the style of China if it tried to break out," Ruger explained, "there are also other powers in the region that want" to be a balance to China.

"It's not as if China's course is obvious," Ruger continued. "The progress and the rate of change does not predict that it will go on forever. They're not going to grow at the same economic rate forever." Ruger recalled a line by President Calvin Coolidge that the thing to remember when looking to deal with 10 problems coming down the road is that "you don't have to deal with all 10 at once—nine could end up in the ditch."

"You don't want to undermine our economy today," Ruger warned, "in case China does become a peer competitor in the future." Less government spending now, then, Ruger explained, could help make a necessary build up in the future possible. Ruger stressed that increased military spending did not mean increased defense, and told conservatives they ought to stop treating the military bureaucracy as an "honorary member of the private sector," saying it was prone to the same problems any other part of the government is.

"Let's try to spend the money we do allocate better before we spend more," Ruger offered, suggesting that that was something the American people would support. He pointed to polling by CKI on military defense spending that showed the public in general underestimating how much the U.S. spends on defense but believing that that low-ball amount was sufficient. "We're not, as conservatives, treating the Defense Department the way we treat other government spending," Ruger noted. "Terrorism is a threat, it's not the same kind of threat the Soviet Union posed during the Cold War." Some of the best counterterrorism, Ruger explained, is "done through policing and police cooperation," not regime change and/or large-footprint military excursions.

Ruger was also asked about Iran, another country whose threat ran through other events at CPAC. Bolton called on Trump to abrogate the Iran nuclear deal—the president was one of a few Republican candidates who declined to tear up the deal on day one of his administration, and his defense secretary, James Mattis, has expressed support in the U.S. continuing to make a good-faith effort to honor the deal so long as Iran does. The questioner pointed out Iran was a "theocratic regime," and in his answer Ruger stressed that that "doesn't necessarily matter for what the U.S. should do" because it "can't just deal with countries that look like" the United States. "We shouldn't think of the regime type of another state" to determine how to deal with that state, Ruger explained. "The American national interest is territorial integrity. That should be number one."

Ruger warned about the "fatal conceit" in contemporary U.S. foreign policy that "you can control the world and achieve the results" you want, and pointed out that it was necessary in order to defend and protect the country.

"The United States is the greatest country in the world," Ruger told the audience, "but it doesn't mean we're responsible for every good or bad thing that happens in the world."

Earlier in the day, John Bolton boasted that the U.S. had created its "own world order," saying the U.S. had to fight ISIS in a way that would not only destroy them but keep Iran from taking advantage of that. "Our worldview rests on the exceptionalism of America," Bolton told the crowd in the main hall, "faced often with a hostile world that neither understands nor appreciates what makes America different. We are not looking to be a part of an international world order." Bolton and his fellow-travelers just want to shape it. Ruger's want to engage the countries of the world where it works, but avoid engagements that end up putting America's homeland at greater risk. Bolton echoed another fear common at CPAC, about globalists looking to tell the U.S. want to do. But foreign policy realism—which focuses on America's national interests in a narrow way and sees the rest of the world as full of potential partners—not as one giant playground for the U.S. to reshape in its image—is the surest way to protect the country from bulwarking. A world in which you don't meddle will likely not be as interested in meddling with you.

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  1. The phrase “American interests” (or “national security interests”) in that statement, and statements like it, is doing a lot of work in the definition because it remains mostly undefined and therefore malleable to whatever particular agenda whoever is using it wants to advance.

    What are “compelling government interests”, chopped liver?

  2. The typical self-identifying conservative American wants to kick ass around the world.

    (And so do a lot of liberals, secretly.)

  3. The idea that you should always do the same thing in every situation because of some guiding ideological principle is ridiculous. Effective strategies change, facts on the ground change, and reversing course as expectations change should always be an option.

    That reasonable and honest people can disagree about what’s really in our national interest doesn’t mean that our national interests shouldn’t be the guiding force of our foreign policy. Incidentally, the neoconservatives who seem to think that consorting with dictators and other bad people is never in our national interests have only led the country into one disaster after another.

    Incidentally, it should also be clear to conservatives everywhere that pragmatism and realism are fundamentally incompatible with torpedoing Trump’s attempts to establish a working relationship with Putin.

    If and when it’s in our best interests to work with Stalin to defeat the imperial Japanese and the Nazis, to work with the mujaheddin to defeat the Soviet Union, or to work with Putin to defeat ISIS, then that’s exactly what we should do. I’m open to the argument that doing any particular thing is not in the national interest, but don’t tell me we shouldn’t do what’s in our own best interests only because we might have to work with people who don’t have hearts of gold.

    1. If and when it’s in our best interests… to work with the mujaheddin to defeat the Soviet Union… then that’s exactly what we should do.

      You mean when we armed and trained Osama Bin Laden? Remember, no one can know what the long term consequences of their actions may be (Utilitarians, eat your heart out).

      Why not, I don’t know, just not get involved with anything unless they’re actively trying to invade?

      1. Considering all the pressure Afghanistan put on the Soviet Union and contributed to the USSR collapsing as peacefully as it did, yeah, supporting the mujaheddin was in our best interests.

        Communist systems have only two ways to perpetuate themselves–expansion or letting people starve periodically. Resisting their expansion by supporting locals was hardly a mistake, and it helped lead to their collapse.

        Certainly, anybody who argued in 1979 that we shouldn’t support the mujaheddin because if we did, a terrorist (that didn’t yet exist) might attack us on September 11–some 22 years later–would have been off their rocker.

        Regardless, I’m open to arguments that any particular course of action isn’t really in our best interests. What I’m not open to is the argument that we shouldn’t ever pursue our best interests if doing so means we’ll be consorting with bad people.

        1. yeah, supporting the mujaheddin was in our best interests.

          Counterfactual. Perhaps true in the short term.

          Certainly, anybody who argued in 1979 that we shouldn’t support the mujaheddin because if we did, a terrorist (that didn’t yet exist) might attack us on September 11–some 22 years later–would have been off their rocker.

          And yet, that person would have been right.

          1. If you bet your life’s savings on one hand of blackjack and win, that doesn’t mean it was smart.

            And like I said, if frustrating Soviet expansion in Afghanistan significantly contributed to the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, then you’re betting an awful lot of America’s security on one hand of blackjack–and losing.

            1. If you bet your life’s savings on one hand of blackjack and win, that doesn’t mean it was smart.

              I didn’t say it was a good thing to bet that precise thing. I said it was right. After opening Japan to trade and creating Imperial Japan, arming Mao and Ho Chi Minh, you’d have thought we would have learned our lesson about ignoring the long term.

              And like I said, if frustrating Soviet expansion in Afghanistan significantly contributed to the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, then you’re betting an awful lot of America’s security on one hand of blackjack–and losing.

              It most certainly wasn’t self-defense. And not helping Afghanistan didn’t really seem to prolong the war any more than it already would have. Which superpower is helping the Taliban fight the US right now?

      2. “Why not, I don’t know, just not get involved with anything unless they’re actively trying to invade?”

        There’s an excellent argument that our interests aren’t really at stake unless it’s some form of self-defense. That was an excellent argument for not supporting the occupation of Iraq circa 2004 and people made the argument that invading Iraq in the first place wasn’t in our best interests, too.

        I will say that ICBMs complicate that picture. Once a country has nukes and the means to deliver them, whether they can physically invade us with ground troops becomes a moot point and undermining an adversary like that through proxies becomes more of an effective strategy.

        The Soviet Union collapsed the way it did (without a direct engagement or exchange of warheads) because of some of the things we did. Deploying Pershing missiles with our allies in western Europe, for instance, was one of those things. Frustrating Soviet expansion in Afghanistan and elsewhere was another.

        Soviet missiles were certainly a bigger security threat than Al Qaeda ever was, and if engaging with proxies effectively helped remove that threat, then that was almost certainly the right thing to do.

        1. There’s an excellent argument that our interests aren’t really at stake unless it’s some form of self-defense….

          I will say that ICBMs complicate that picture. Once a country has nukes and the means to deliver them, whether they can physically invade us with ground troops becomes a moot point and undermining an adversary like that through proxies becomes more of an effective strategy.

          Attempting to have your cake and eat it too. By this thought process, they aren’t an “adversary” in any meaningful sense. So simply having ICBMs (which, granted, are a terrifying invention) doesn’t mean they are an adversary, therefore we shouldn’t be acting against them in any way (it’s not self defense).

          The Soviet Union collapsed the way it did because of some of the things we did.

          Perhaps, but do you think they wouldn’t have collapsed anyway? Also, as we know governmental actions are all bad for the economy, how much worse off were we because of what we tried to do against the USSR, when they weren’t even really our adversary (by the self-defense definition)?

          1. “So simply having ICBMs (which, granted, are a terrifying invention) doesn’t mean they are an adversary, therefore we shouldn’t be acting against them in any way (it’s not self defense).”

            Are you saying that the Soviets weren’t really our adversary?

            “Perhaps, but do you think they wouldn’t have collapsed anyway?”

            What’s the expiration date on North Korea?

            They can’t expand, but they can starve off however many hundreds of thousands of their own people periodically. Couldn’t they go on like that forever?

            Even if they can’t, another important question is whether they’ll go peacefully or flatten Seoul and launch nuclear weapons at us and our allies, as well.

            The Soviet Union both collapsed and collapsed relatively peacefully (from a U.S. security standpoint) because of what we did. If we hadn’t done what we did, things might not have happened as they did.

            If the Soviets hadn’t been frustrated in their expansion efforts, the results probably would not have been the same as they were when the Soviets were frustrated in their expansion efforts.

            1. Are you saying that the Soviets weren’t really our adversary?

              You said, “There’s an excellent argument that our interests aren’t really at stake unless it’s some form of self-defense.” But that depends on what you mean by the term. They may be an “adversary” that isn’t an immediate threat or a threat under control (nukes) that you have really no reason to try to attack through proxies.

              What’s the expiration date on North Korea?

              Eventually. Or did you plan on attacking them through proxies?

              The Soviet Union both collapsed and collapsed relatively peacefully (from a U.S. security standpoint) because of what we did.

              Counterfactual. You don’t know how they would have gone under had we just ignored them. That’s the same as arguing “Roosevelt got us out of the Depression because we don’t know what would have happened without him.”

              If the Soviets hadn’t been frustrated in their expansion efforts…

              Invading Afghanistan is frustrating regardless if someone else helps the Afghanis.

              1. “Counterfactual. You don’t know how they would have gone under had we just ignored them.”

                I know the future isn’t inevitable. It will happen as it does because of the things people choose to do.

                And the future has always been like that. The future was like that in 1979. The peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union was never inevitable–until after it had already happened. That the decisions that contributed to making it happen as it did contributed to making it happen seems too obvious to state.

                Other decisions than the ones that helped lead to its peaceful demise might have led to a different outcome. And the Soviets being frustrated in their expansion efforts helped lead to both its peaceful demise and its demise.

                1. The peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union was never inevitable–until after it had already happened.

                  Collapse was certain, peaceful was not.

                  That the decisions that contributed to making it happen as it did contributed to making it happen seems too obvious to state.

                  Again, counterfactual. Our involvement in Afghanistan may have made that more likely or it may not have. What we know from history (and logic) is that government spending is counterproductive to economic growth, so we know that bit did hurt us (as far as one can know something like this).

                  And the Soviets being frustrated in their expansion efforts helped lead to both its peaceful demise and its demise.

                  Non Sequitur. I have seen no evidence that a “successful” invasion of Afghanistan would have kept the USSR around long or made it’s dissolution more peaceful. Perhaps you have some evidence you haven’t shown here?

                  1. “Collapse was certain”

                    When will North Korea collapse?

                    The Soviet Union might easily still be around today. They survived far worse than the 1980s.

                    And I haven’t seen any evidence that unchecked Soviet expansion would have led to the same outcome as frustrated Soviet expansion.

                    You’re being ridiculous.

                    1. When will North Korea collapse?

                      Eventually.

                      The Soviet Union might easily still be around today. They survived far worse than the 1980s.

                      No, it couldn’t be. Communism doesn’t work. It has a life span.

                      And I haven’t seen any evidence that unchecked Soviet expansion would have led to the same outcome as frustrated Soviet expansion.

                      See above. Making the Communist state bigger actually leads to it collapsing faster, as government control freaks don’t know what to make, what quantities, where to send it, or even how to make it. See The Fatal Conceit.

                      You’re being ridiculous.

                      Not an argument. Ignored.

          2. This is a favorite debate tactic used by conservatives. When arguing for military might, they claim that it was the military build up and aid like that given to the Afghans that caused the Soviet Union to collapse. Yet they will turn around and argue that socialism doesn’t work in the next sentence when they want to cut entitlements, without acknowledging that may be the Soviet Union collapsed primarily because socialism is unsustainable. They will also never admit that military spending is just another form of socialism, or corporate welfare for the military-industrial complex.

            1. This is a favorite debate tactic used by conservatives.

              I know, I used to be one.

              Or, in the words of Patton in the film:

              “Rommel, you magnificent bastard. I read your book!”

            2. Anybody who says that frustrating Soviet expansion efforts didn’t contribute to the Soviet Union collapsing as it did is being willfully blind.

              Socialism, meanwhile, doesn’t work to bring prosperity, but if you think being economically devastated inevitably leads to revolt and the demise of the government, look at North Korea or the Ukraine under Stalin.

              I don’t know how long North Korea can last like that. I don’t see why they can’t last forever–despite the fact that socialism doesn’t work to bring prosperity or even produce enough to feed its people over time.

              1. Anybody who says that frustrating Soviet expansion efforts didn’t contribute to the Soviet Union collapsing as it did is being willfully blind.

                Then I am willfully blind (apparently).

                Socialism, meanwhile, doesn’t work to bring prosperity, but if you think being economically devastated inevitably leads to revolt and the demise of the government, look at North Korea or the Ukraine under Stalin.

                Time is the great disprover. Just because A hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean A won’t happen.

                I don’t see why they can’t last forever…

                Because humans have free will. They will eventually decide to do ANYTHING other than that evil nonsense.

                1. Everyone thought the Soviet Union was gonna last forever too.

        2. Presumably the Soviets didn’t want to see nukes lobbed into the Kremlin washroom, so mutual assured deterrence worked. What do you think about the Norks? They blast Kyoto or Anchorage and, one guesses, all of North Korea gets vaporized by just one of our Ohio-class subs. Does MAD work with them?

          1. MAD works to practically guarantee proxy wars. The Cold War wasn’t cold. It was World War III with battles fought all over the world over a period of decades often through proxies. Think Iraq/Iran war, Israel’s wars, or the Cubans fighting the South Africans in Angola. MAD worked to prevent a nuclear exchange in that situation that we created.

            How much of that MAD working as the USSR was collapsing was due to us taking away any hope of a first strike capability by deploying Pershing missiles in western Europe? Again, if we hadn’t done what we did, it’s a different situation and things might not have gone as they did.

            I don’t think MAD works the same way with North Korea, but we have a more constructive relationship with China–and that dynamic is probably more important than MAD.

            China doesn’t want a humanitarian disaster on their doorstep. On the other hand, they’ve always used North Korea as a counterweight to our support for Taiwan. If North Korea launched, we’d annihilate them, but if that government ever faces extinction for other reasons, I don’t know.

            They might rather go out in a blaze of glory or make an example out of somebody.

  4. Remember, before China joined the WTO, when the Democrats used to hold up China’s MFN status over their human rights record? Never mind the benefits to the American economy of trade with China, never mind that China’s trade with the U.S. makes war between us significantly less likely, or that trade with the international community turned China away from financing anti-American Maoist rebels all over the world and towards becoming a force for international stability. No, we should hold our breath on America’s interests until China treats its prisoners better and capitulates to the Dali Lama?

    What America’s national interests are will always be a preliminary analysis predicated on more data to come in the future–just like with any individual or corporation. However, American interests should never be sold short solely to appease the prudes.

    1. I agrew but Trump seems to endorse the authoritarianism of these foreign depots not out of some grand strategic design to advance human rights, freedom and our national interests, but instead because he admires strongmen govts.

      1. I think that’s the way it’s been portrayed in the media–as if Trump were somehow an admirer of Putin the way Chavez admired Castro or the way Hitler in the early days admired Mussolini.

        The fact is that Putin is in a much weaker position than is generally appreciated, especially given the price of oil and the U.S.’ new emergence as an exporter of oil.

        Trump wants to work with Putin against ISIS the way FDR worked with Stalin to defeat the Nazis and chase the Japanese out of China. The Obama administration has an especially acrimonious relationship with Putin, and Trump has been trying to repair that.

        Various interests don’t want to see us work with Putin–and have worked to undermine Trump’s attempt at coordinating with Putin. People like McCain want to see the U.S. take the lead in Syria, and the deep state is apparently right in line with that. There are neocon lite Democrats who don’t want to see America consorting with Putin, too, since Putin doesn’t support a free press, undermines rights for LGBT, etc.

        Again, if somebody wants to make the argument that working with Putin isn’t in our best interests for whatever reason, I’m all ears–just don’t tell me that Putin is icky and leave it at that.

    2. So you support the Chinese Communist Dictatorship and its police state?

      1. For what it’s worth, among other things, I think trade with China undermines communism and the police state.

        Regardless, do you support pursuing America’s best interests?

        1. I have been hearing that for 30 plus years.

          Yet the Communist and their police state seen more entrenched then ever. They have trillions of dollars, high technology, a massive industrial complex and they have no real challengers for power except inside the communist party

          1. Whether the communists have fallen from power and whether the Chinese people are freer today than they were 30 years ago are two different questions.

            To the extent that the CCP has allowed more freedom, it has not been in spite of trade with the United States–and maybe partially because of it. The Chinese are, to some extent, sensitive to criticism. Meanwhile, trade with the United States has created a Chinese middle class of hundreds of millions that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

            Trade with the United States isn’t about to overthrow the CCP, but then refusing to trade with China wasn’t about to topple the CCP either. Trade still has brought great benefits to the Chinese people, but ultimately, the problem of the CCP was always their problem to solve.

            And America’s problems are ours to solve. I’m glad what we did helped the Chinese people, but that’s icing on the cake. Can you guess what I’m more concerned about?

            That’s right–how trade with China helps the American people.

            1. You mean the ones who have lost their jobs?

              Or the ones who live under massive debt that keeps that trade going?

              Or the one who have to pay while the US military “pivots” to the Pacific because the same government which has allowed such fake free trade also says that China is becoming a big threat due to the buildup of its military

              1. The primary benefits of free trade with China are probably to the American standard of living. When consumers are able to buy the same things with less money, it means they have more left over–and can buy more and live better. Another way to look at it is all those Americans who can afford to buy things because they’re made in China that they couldn’t afford otherwise.

                There is a system of government that tries to maximize employment by closing their markets off to the world, but I thought you didn’t like communism.

  5. Seems interesting. But ENB said CPAC was nothing but “liberals are dumb, conservative are being censored, socialism is evil, guns are good, and God Bless America”, so obviously Ed’s delusional and made this whole thing up.

    1. She never said it was 100% that. She said it was like 90% that. This panel was the other 10%.

      1. At panel after panel, people’s talking points?liberals are dumb, conservative are being censored, socialism is evil, guns are good, and God Bless America?could have come direct from many CPAC stages past.

        That reads like 100% to me.

  6. did Reason miss the DNC’s decision to address the hole in which the party finds itself by resorting to a bigger shovel, or did I miss a story on the selection of the new Chairman? Maybe it’s in the Lynx.

    1. Why shouldn’t the Democrats double down, they won the election except for those twin evils, the electoral college and Putin.

  7. Don’t conflate having more than one answer to issues as confusion. I prefer groups that are not in lockstep agreement, when that happens is when you have problems

  8. RE: Foreign Policy Confusion in the Age of Trump
    Foreign policy realism provides a way forward for the U.S. in the world, as seen at CPAC.

    How about non-interventionism?
    Oh, that’s right.
    That’s not the American way.
    My bad.

  9. This will be ignored. Such a policy would stand in the way of a lot of people making a lot of money, and harder for politicians to get reelected if they could not arouse fear and call their opponent “weak” on defense. If war is the health of the state, it is not going to give it up without making war on its own people.

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