For some of us conservatives, the neocon label has become problematic. The name has been sullied in the media, dragged through the mud by the left, and honestly the neocons themselves have not helped their own cause. Under President George W. Bush we saw a massive increase in government spending, government power, and government intrusion on the lives of citizens. Legislation like the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act”, which spent 700B$ on a general bailout of the economy, was clearly not a conservative measure. The Bush administration also authored the first auto bailout of over 17B$. The Patriot Act, which was meant as a noble measure to help protect Americans, nonetheless allowed the government far more power in our daily lives than they’d ever had before. Conservatives have long lived by the sage words of Benjamin Franklin, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The neocon era seemed to spurn the motto.
It was with these issues in mind that many conservatives have moved away from the neocon label, which for some brings to mind a moderate conservative perspective. Well, Newt Gingrich may be looking to change some basic presuppositions about the neocons. “I am a neoconservative. But at some point, even if you are a neoconservative, you need to take a deep breath to ask if our strategies in the Middle East have succeeded.”
Gingrich has listened to the arguments of Republicans like Rand Paul (R-KY), Justin Amash (R-MI), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and sees merit in their arguments for nonintervention. Rand Paul drew the ire of Chris Christie after recently saying, “Well, guess what, after 12 years, trillions of dollars, more than 2,200 Americans killed, and perhaps more than 50,000 dead Afghan civilians and fighters, the Taliban is coming back anyway!”
Gingrich was not happy to see Governor Christie’s attack on Senator Paul but believes that it’s just the first one that the non-interventionists will face. “I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but, frankly, they’re hysterical because they have no answers,” Mr. Gingrich said. As they grow more influential among the Republican rank and file, Gingrich believes the attacks will grow in volume and strength. Which, in his estimation, is sad because the party should be having these discussions about our foreign policy.
Mr. Gingrich is still a devotee of the strategy used to fight Soviet expansion in the 70’s and 80’s, but he’s come to believe that the same strategy may not be as useful against the radical Islamist forces arrayed against us. He believes that the best course of action today “should begin to focus narrowly on American interests” instead of attempting to mold these diverse nations into our image.
Mr. Gingrich’s seeming embrace of the libertarian “non-intervention” strategy would be an important first step in legitimizing the foreign policy perspective among mainstream Republicans. Senator Paul and Representative Amash have long argued that non-intervention is not “isolationism”, and having a supporter like Newt Gingrich would make it much harder for their opponents to slander them with the label. I cannot imagine too many Republicans who would be willing to challenge Newt Gingrich’s foreign policy credentials by calling him an “isolationist.”
Embracing a shift from the neocon foreign policy to a more non-interventionist policy could open many electoral doors for the Republican Party. The Democrats have become just as hawkish on intervention as Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, leaving a large portion of the voting public, who would prefer not getting involved in the problems of other nations, without a natural voting home.
Non-interventionism can also appeal to fiscal conservatives, as it would allow us to save billions of dollars that we don’t have to give away. Imagine cutting of funds to nations like Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and so on. Billions of dollars kept out of the hands of governments and peoples who hate us and would do us harm at the first opportunity.
Gingrich is the second conservative icon in recent days to come out in support of Rand Paul. Just yesterday George Will took up his defense against Christie on ABC’s “This Week.” “What libertarianism says — it comes in many flavors and many degrees of severity, and it basically says before the government abridges the freedom of an individual or the freedom of several individuals contracting together, that government ought to have, A) a compelling reason and B) a constitutional warrant for doing so. Now, if Mr. Christie thinks that’s a dangerous thought, a number of people are going to say that Mr. Christie himself may be dangerous.”
All of this leads me to wonder if Newt Gingrich’s turn away from an aggressive interventionism towards non-intervention is a sign of things to come within the party.
Rand Paul must be very happy today to have another ally in his corner, especially one as influential as Newt Gingrich.
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