The coming GOP civil war over foreign policy
Over the next few weeks, Republicans will begin the painful self-examination that follows electoral defeat. That process is likely to reveal new schisms in the party on domestic issues like immigration and possibly even gay marriage. But in Congress, the last redoubt of the party’s national power, a fight is brewing over foreign policy as well.
During the 2012 campaign, it was often difficult to figure out where Republicans stood on foreign policy. Romney got national-security advice from neocons like Eric Edelman (a former top Cheney aide) and Dan Senor—but he also tasked Robert Zoellick, a bête noir of neocons who is generally associated with the realist (i.e., less interventionist) wing of the GOP, with leading his national-security transition. Romney himself sounded contradictory notes. He sometimes employed tough rhetoric in discussing Russia and China. Yet during the third and final debate—which focused on national security—he often sounded indistinguishable from Obama.
But the coming intra-Republican debate won’t pit realists against neocons so much as it will pit both groups against the Tea Party. While neocons and realists may differ on how frequently and where America should deploy its power, they are generally in agreement that America should have a military befitting a superpower.
This is not, however, the case for many (though not all) Tea Partiers. As Dean Clancy, the legislative counsel for Freedom Works, an advocacy group closely aligned with the Tea Party, told The Daily Beast, “We think defense should contribute its fair share toward balancing the budget over the next 10 years.” In other words, the military, like the welfare state, needs to be cut.