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Is There A "Tea Party" National Security Policy?

Rand Paul Allen West Ted Cruz

Forbes.com contributor David Adesnik posted an interesting article “The Tea Party's Surprisingly Hawkish Foreign Policy” that got us thinking about the Tea Party movement and national security policy. (Link to David Adesnik’s piece at the end of this article.)

Mr. Adesnik cited two Fox News polls to support the premise “that Tea Partiers are actually the most hawkish demographic on issues ranging from Israel to Ukraine to Iraq.”

In July, the Fox poll found that the country as a whole disapproves of Obama’s foreign policy by a margin of 56-36. Independents disapprove 63-29. Conservatives disapprove 71-23. Self-identified Tea Party supporters disapprove 87-10. In August, the results were similar. Of course, the meaning of those numbers is unclear. It could mean that Obama is too aggressive, because of his actions in Afghanistan, Libya, and now Iraq. So, said Adesnik, “you have to dive down into the particulars.”

In late July, says Adesnik, after Moscow-backed separatists shot down Flight MH-17, killing all 298 passengers on board, Fox asked whether the US should or should not be more involved in Ukraine. By a margin of 61-32 Americans said the US should NOT get more involved.

However, notes David Adesnik, Tea Partiers were split 48-48. No other demographic showed as much interest in a more active American role.

In July, Fox also asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as the war in Gaza was heating up.  By a margin of 56-29, Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue says Adesnik.

But, notes Adesnik, the split for Tea Partiers is 89-10, again leaving other demographics in the dust.

In theory, one could say that Tea Partiers disapprove of Obama for being too pro-Israel. Yet, concludes Adesnik, the results as a whole show that disapproval of Obama on this issue tracks closely with support for Israel.

On Iraq, 52% disapprove of Obama’s efforts, versus 32% who approve. For Tea Partiers, the margin is 78-13. Again, in theory, one could say this represents disapproval of Obama being too aggressive, rather than too passive, but the answers provided by other demographics suggest that disapproval reflects concern about weakness, not excessive intervention.

Now, here’s the key takeaway from David Adesnik’s article:

In all of the cases cited above, one can compare the response of Tea Party supporters to those of all conservatives or all Republicans. Not surprisingly, conservatives are consistently more hawkish than liberals or independents. But on all the questions mentioned above, they tend to be around 10 points less hawkish than Tea Party supporters.

We found that to be interesting in the extreme because we talk to people who identify with the Tea Party movement every day and would not necessarily have broadly characterized their views on national security and foreign policy as “hawkish.”

So we decided to take a look at what some of the major figures associated with the Tea Party movement – Senator Rand Paul, LTC Allen West and Senator Ted Cruz – have had to say about Ukraine, Israel and the decent of Iraq and Syria into chaos and the rise of the Islamic State.

Senator Rand Paul, because of his father’s association with the non-interventionist views of libertarians, might be expected to be the premier spokesman for that point of view among those associated with the Tea Party movement.

But here’s what Senator Paul told Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro about the U.S. – Israel relationship back in January of 2013: “…what I think we should do is announce to the world, and I think it is well-known, that any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States.”

Ted Cruz and Allen West have made very similar statements.

Where Senator Paul, Senator Cruz and LTC West seem to start to diverge is in relations with Russia.

Senator Paul’s view might be best summed-up with this comment found in the February 25 edition of The Washington Post, “Some on our side are so stuck in the Cold War era that they want to tweak Russia all the time and I don’t think that is a good idea.”

In contrast, LTC West told Breitbart’s AWR Hawkins, “…we don't have the kind of resolute leadership that can stare this former KGB bully, bad-guy dictator in the face then we're going to get more of this."

"It will encourage others like China, and we'll see more incursions in the South China Sea. Radical Islamism in the Middle East will continue to flourish, will be emboldened," said West.

"As I said earlier today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel came out on Monday saying we were going cut our military and by the end of the week Russian troops--even though they're not wearing a Russian flag--were in Crimea. So what kind of message are [we] sending to the world?” concluded West, implying that the Obama message is one of weakness.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talking with "Radio Liberty" on Radio Free Europe said America must stand against Russia's "acts of war" in Ukraine. Cruz said the United States should give the Ukrainian people "the tools and equipment necessary to defend themselves." The Texas junior senator also said it's time to install anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe now and eventually in the Ukraine, reported Breitbart TV’s Pam Key.

But wait, Senator Paul said in March of 2014 that he “would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic.”

Paul added the caveat that “only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it,” an idea which Patrick Brennan writing for National Review Online said “makes no sense,” but doesn’t negate the fact that he and Cruz are both opting for missile defense as part of their strategy in dealing with Russia in Ukraine.

With regard to Syria and Iraq Senator Paul said in July 2014, that the militarized response from the US only made matters worse and further fueled terrorist activities.

“We went into Libya and we got rid of that terrible Gadhafi. Now it is a jihadist wonderland over there,” Sen. Paul said. “There's jihadists everywhere.”

“If we were to get rid of Assad, it would be a jihadist wonderland in Syria. It's now a jihadist wonderland in Iraq, precisely because we got over-involved, not because we had too little involvement, but too much involvement,” Paul added according to RT.com

Libertarian-oriented fans of Ron Paul will certainly recognize the elder Paul’s influence in those comments.

And the liberty-minded Senator appear to double down on a non-interventionist foreign policy when he said while in Guatemala on a charity medical mission, “If you wanna see a transformational election in our country, let the Democrats put forward a war hawk like Hillary Clinton, and you’ll see a transformation like you’ve never seen.”

Senator Paul criticized Hillary Clinton’s interventionist foreign policy this past week, and in an October 15, 2013 op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine (with Isaac Applbaum) Senator Paul differentiated an interventionist foreign policy with his and Ronald Reagan’s concept of “peace through strength,” arguing that Reagan’s “winning strategy was to seek peace through strength. It's a philosophy that served us back then -- and one that will serve us again in the future.”

Here’s what LTC Allen West had to say in the aftermath of the murder of American journalist James W. Foley, “President Obama can no longer state what he is not willing to do. He must destroy the enemies of this country. The entire Congress, House and Senate, needs to be recalled and the president should deliver his strategic plan to destroy ISIS and seek congressional approval. He must declare we are in a war against Islamic totalitarianism and jihadism. He needs to define the enemy and the means by which we shall implement every element of our national power; diplomatic, informational, economic, and military.”

And West noted on August 25 that, “I want everyone to remember what Obama has done to our military. He has enacted policy decisions resulting in an Army as small as it was in 1940, before conscription; a US Marine Corps resembling post World War I numbers; a Navy the size it was in 1917, before our entry into World War I; an Air Force flying the oldest — and smallest — fleet of planes in its history; and a nuclear arsenal no larger than it was during the Truman administration… He continues to tell our enemies what HE is not willing to do — and the result of that weakness? A beheaded American… Obama has rejected the Reagan policy of ‘peace through strength’…”

On Syria, Ted Cruz sounds more like former Reagan advisor Jeanne Kirkpatrick than Ron Paul.

Eli Lake of The Daily Beast noted that “When President Obama 11 months ago appeared close to authorizing unilateral strikes on Syria after evidence emerged that Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons on civilians and rebels outside of Damascus, the humanitarian imperative appeared to be military strikes to impose a cost on the dictator who had gassed his people.”

But, on the Syria vote noted Lake, Cruz sided with Sen. Paul, who opposed intervention. “Some months ago when President Obama called for unilateral military strikes against Syria I said publicly I wanted to keep an open mind, how his proposed course of conduct furthered US national security interests,” he said. “The administration repeatedly refused to characterize the matter in terms of national security interests.”

And earlier this month on Iraq Cruz said, “Sadly what’s happening in Iraq is the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy,” Cruz said, pointing out that since Obama took power, America’s leadership has receded.

Obama’s demands for a political solution in Iraq were naive, Cruz suggested, pointing out that the Sunni and Shite factions in the country were clearly divided. He added that he was concerned that Obama was acting out of political motivation.

“History has taught us that America gets in trouble in military engagements when we get involved on the whims of politicians, without a clearly defined objective.” Cruz said, later at a Texas GOP event where he invoked Reagan in describing his own approach to foreign policy, saying that he supports the late president’s philosophy of” peace through strength.”

The common thread running through all of these comments and the finding of the Fox News polls and David Adesnik's analysis is that, while there is some divergence on the utility of interventionism, those who associate themselves with the Tea Party movement are concerned about American weakness and they all subscribe to the notion that the United States must maintain "peace through strength.".

The concept of “peace through strength” is one that has deep roots in American national security thinking from today, to Ronald Reagan, to the America First Movement prior to World War II, to the admonitions in Washington’s Farewell Address about “Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture” and that “belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.” 

If there is a Tea Party national security policy it is certainly “peace through strength” and, absent the provocation to which Washington referred, non-intervention.

The challenge for Tea Partiers going forward is how to pursue that policy in the face of an implacable Islamist cultural enemy that has been all too ready to, in Washington’s words, hazard giving us provocation of war through unconventional attacks and terrorism in our own homeland.

Click the link to read David Adesnik’s “The Tea Party's Surprisingly Hawkish Foreign Policy” on Forbes.com

Click this link to read LTC Allen West’s writings on national security

Go here to read Senator Rand Paul’s peace through strength op-ed in Foreign Affairs

Go here to read Senator Ted Cruz peace through strength comments to the UT ROTC graduates

Go here to read Washington’s Farewell Address

See this excerpt from Patrick J Buchanan’s book “A Republic, Not an Empire: Reclaiming America's Destiny” for a brief discussion of the America First Committee and their concept of “peace through strength.”

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Tea Party "National Security Policy"

How can we have a "national"policy on anything? There is no such thing, as far as I can discover, as a National Tea Party. If I am wrong in this, please send me their contact information. The last I knew there were actually only State Tea Party groups but no actual National, which had a stated governing body or officers. That has been one of our strong points as well as a weak point as there is no one authorized to speak for the Party. This has proven to be a problem for unified action for the past years.

THE ONLY ACCEPTBLE CONCLUSION TO MILITARY CONFLICT

We should learn from our successes. Unconditional surrender is the only acceptable end to military conflict! The attack on 9/11 was the biggest attack on America in history — bigger than Pearl Harbor! We declared war on terrorists and states that support them. We almost immediately conquered Afghanistan and then Iraq. That was a good start. Iran also supports terrorism and sent soldiers to kill Americans — an act of war — so we should have conquered it. Syria supports terrorism and sent soldiers to kill Americans so we should have conquered it. Saudi Arabia is the ultimate instigator of terrorist philosophy and the primary financial supporter of it. We should have taken it. This would have put the U.S. in control of most of the Middle Eastern oil supply. We should then have conquered the rest of the Middle East and occupied it for at least 60 years. We could have used the revenue from the oil to pay for our wars, develop and civilize the Middle East! Don't say their culture is so foreign that they are not capable of being civilized. That is a racist conclusion. Until 1945, the culture of Japan was totally evil and foreign to the West. We occupied and civilized her. We still occupy her. Now, she poses a threat to no one.