Saturday, March 06, 2021
May 5

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, May 05, 2011 6:26 AM 

Sarah Palin has changed foreign policy course. She has traded in the neoconservative bent she entered national politics with, which envisions an apparently unlimited global role for a nation-building United States, for an outlook emphasizing national interest as the criterion for embarking on military adventures. This shift manifested itself in a recently reported change of advisors, from a team composed of Randy Scheunemann and Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb, to the Hoover Institution's Peter Schweizer. (NB: Schweizer edits Breitbart's, where work of mine appears.) It also may foreshadow what I expect will become -- what I hope will become -- a long overdue debate within the Republican Party as conservatives grow weary (again, I hope) of reckless and feckless power projections into the Islamic world that win us nothing, from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Libya.

It is early yet in Palin's post-neocon assessment of the world (here is her first policy address), and it is not clear how far or how deeply her views will evolve. But it is welcome indeed to see any politician on the national stage actually demand that the precondition of deploying US troops be a vital US interest. What is amazing is that such a demand is notable -- let alone that it draws fire as in these recent Washington Post online comments by blogger Jennifer Rubin, late of Commentary's blog Contentions (noted here).

Accusing Palin of sounding "like she swallowed the Ron Paul briefing book" -- the ultimate neocon insult -- Rubin quoted the following Politico report on Palin's policy address as proof positive that Palin no longer sounded like what Rubin described as "the VP candidate who echoed Sen. John McCain’s forward-leaning foreign policy." This, by the way, is not seen as a declaration of independence, but as a Bad Thing. What follows is the Palin Heresy:

First, Palin said, “we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.” That point led to her second, dismissing nation-building as a “nice idea in theory,” but not the “main purpose” guiding American foreign policy.

Palin continued down that track by insisting that a president must be able to articulate “clearly defined objectives” before engaging in foreign interventions — a standard she has recently said Obama failed to live up to in Libya. As her fourth point, Palin declared that “American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. . . . We can’t fight every war, we can’t undo every justice in the world.” Sunday’s attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan was “an effective use of force,” Palin said, unlike the “ill-defined” mission in Libya.

If requiring "vital American interests" to be a precondition of US military involvement is heretical to neoconservatives, they have more in common with  Samantha Power  and other "humanitarian interventionists" than with what I imagine is still the conservative base. But we shall see, I hope, as this debate evolves.

If it evolves, that is, past this unfortunate pettiness. After noting that Palin's Arziona "blood libel" comment indicated she wasn't " taking counsel from those with a sophisticated foreign policy bent and sharp political radar," Rubin notes:

Her about-face in foreign policy tells us a couple of things. First, her views then and perhaps now don’t spring from a well-grounded understanding of foreign policy but from briefing cards. Change the cards, and presto, a new foreign policy! ...

Is that what it tells us? Maybe Palin's new tack indicates that in finally formulating that well-grounded foreign policy she decided to toss out the neocon "briefing cards" -- as epitomized in the following remarks of Bill Kristol, which Rubin quotes in closing:

“The surge in Iraq works. The surge in Afghanistan works. There’s an Arab Spring. The world obviously needs American strength and leadership more than ever. And now everyone (even Palin, to some degree) decides, hey, time to back off? It’s foolish substantively and politically. ..

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