The 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which took place Feb. 10 through Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C., showed a division in the conservative movement. The conservative wing of the Republican Party is doing some soul-searching regarding foreign policy.
The political fracture was evident in the Straw Poll results. It is tradition at every CPAC to conduct a poll asking attendees who they would support for President. Close to 4,000 out of the 11,000 conservatives who attended CPAC took part in this poll. The winner of the poll was Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) who took 30 percent of the vote, beating Governor Mitt Romney’s 23 percent. However, the candidates are dramatically different.
The current Republican Party is in a crisis. The Old Right of the Republican Party, who model their philosophy after men like the late Barry Goldwater and William Buckley Jr., advocate a humble foreign policy that does not pursue involvement in foreign affairs. On the other hand, the New Right (also known as the neoconservatives) are represented by President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, who believe in spreading democracy around the world.
Congressman Ron Paul represents the Old Right. Congressman Paul believes that the United States has to abstain from the “industrial military complex,” referencing President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address. During the conservative conference, Mr. Paul said,
“We need to do a lot less a lot sooner, not only in Egypt but around the world.” He mentioned Egypt amid Mubarak’s crisis as well as how the U.S. government funded his dictatorship. He told the conference that Mubarak received 70 billion dollars from the U.S. government. Congressman Paul summarized his political views on foreign policy to the conference by advocating what the founders were for: “Staying out of entangling alliance and internal affairs of foreign nations.”
On the other side of this issue, Governor Mitt Romney represents the establishment wing of the Republican Party. Governor Romney believes that the U.S. has not done anything wrong on the international stage, including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He said at CPAC that, “I will never apologize for America,” as President Obama has done.
During the 2008 Republican Presidential Primary debate, Romney’s dissent from Paul on foreign policy became clear. Congressman Paul asked Romney how he would feel if the Chinese invaded the U.S. and told Americans, “‘We want you to live like us. We want you to have our economic system. We want bases on your land. We want to protect our oil.’” Romney responded by telling the congressman that, “This has to do with a battle that is going on within the world of Islam, of radical, violent jihadists trying to bring down all moderate Islamic people and nations and replace them with a religious caliphate.” Thus, one believes the U.S. provoked the war against Al Qaeda by occupying Middle Eastern countries with military bases, while the other believes radical Islam wages war against liberty.
Both views are radically different. One side of the debate will lose and the other will win. The opinion held by Governor Romney, however, is impractical considering the overwhelming U.S. debt and the difficulty the government faces in finding funding for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Congressman Paul said during his Feb. 14 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “Right now, you need a Republican leader that would challenge Obama on the war.” Would that leader be Congressman Ron Paul? Mitt Romney? Conservatives need a leader for 2012 that can unite both foreign policy views, or President Obama will be reelected.