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The GOP on Foreign Policy: Rhetoric v. Reality

March 14, 2013 in Economics

By Malou Innocent

Malou Innocent

As thousands of young true believers gather this weekend for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement continue to operate on a fundamental contradiction. Despite their rhetoric, many supporters of limited-government still embrace unchecked government power in one respect: war. A movement that opposes the leviathan state at home but empowers the government to centrally plan the world muddles its message and compromises its principles.

For many compelling reasons, conservatives and Republicans distrust the “nanny state.” They argue that government intrusions and wealth redistribution programs harm the free market, curtail individual freedoms, and concentrate power in the hands of incompetent bureaucrats. Government, they often claim, cannot do anything right. They often invoke President Ronald Reagan’s aphorism: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

The broader conservative movement must understand that its inclination for war is an inclination for more government.”

Conservatives and their major political party of choice, the GOP, recognize the limitations of the government’s ability to manage health care or educate America’s children. But that skepticism of centralized power and state-led social engineering apparently do not apply beyond America’s borders.

It was telling when Tea Party champion and Florida Senator Marco Rubio said last April, “I always start by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business.” For years, President George W. Bush boasted of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to build schools, roads, and hospitals — in Iraq.

Conservatives and Republicans generally argue that the federal government’s primary constitutional function is national defense, and that America’s security and prosperity is linked to stability abroad. Few see the contradiction between their grandiose global ambitions and their principled opposition to the welfare state. Nation-building in the name of the “war on terror,” itself a counterproductive tool against terrorism, entails what conservatives deride: nationalist collectivism, curtailed due-process rights, and huge, open-ended fiscal commitments supported by government borrowing.

Economic historian Robert Higgs has long argued that the biggest increases in the scope of government power have historically been during times of war. Militarism has brought with it new federal bureaus, the nationalization of private industries, price and wage controls, and, most importantly for conservative proponents of limited constitutional government, the erosion of civil liberties and the suppression of dissent and free speech. As early 20th century progressive writer Randolph Bourne famously warned, “War is the …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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