Chris Christie, Rand Paul and the coming Republican fight over U.S. foreign policy

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I argue this morning in The National Interest that the recent spat between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and U.S. senator Rand Paul from Kentucky over foreign policy is a lot more complex than the ‘pro-security hawk’ versus ‘libertarian isolationist’ paradigm.USflag

Rather, the coming fight over foreign policy in the Republican Party as we approach the 2014 midterm elections and the pre-primary phase of the 2016 election will take place on three planes:

  • the familiar security/liberty fight over PRISM, whistleblowers, homeland security and other civil liberties matters;
  • unilateralists (in the mould of former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton) versus multilateralists like former World Bank president Robert Zoelick; and
  • the traditional IR theory fight between realists (who are often in line with Paul and other libertarians) and liberals (including hawkish neoconservatives as well as liberal interventionists).

While they may be on opposite sides of the liberty/security spectrum, we don’t know where any of the 2016 hopefuls may ultimately land, including Christie himself, to say nothing of U.S. senators Ted Cruz of Texas or Marco Rubio of Florida or U.S. congressman Paul Ryan:

We still don’t know where Christie’s ultimate views on international-relations theory lie because that’s not exactly one of the key concerns of a U.S. state governor. But given that the battle for the future of Republican foreign policy is actually three interconnected fights, it could well be that, despite their other disagreements, he and Paul find common cause against more aggressive neoconservative voices.

The bottom line is that we likely know where the Democrats will fall on all of these fights, especially if their nominee is former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton.  That makes the Republican Party an interesting laboratory these days for new ideas and original thinking in American foreign policy.

3 thoughts on “Chris Christie, Rand Paul and the coming Republican fight over U.S. foreign policy”

  1. We realists expect someone writing for the National Interest to understand the difference between isolationism and non-interventionism. Senator Paul has not called for the cessation of trade, cultural exchange, or tourism the way an isolationist would. Alas, we will have to look elsewhere for reasoned analysis.

    1. Mr. Lees: US foreign policy is a sad joke. From the Clintons through the Bushes to Obama, the endless interventionism lacks even a passing relationship to our national interests. The Balkans. Iraq. Lybia. No matter how destructively abysmal the result, the warmongers claim victory and go find John McCain to have a ‘pat on the back’ contest with. Then they plot their next assault on whoever they can think of. Should you continue to misuse the word ‘isolationist’ as described in the first comment, would you be kind enough to share whether you A) are purposefully attempting to taint sane arguments for neutrality or B) simply have a less than ideal grasp of the word’s meaning?

  2. Well, that’s precisely the point I’m making in my piece. The meme of ‘national security hawk’ Christie and ‘libertarian isolationist’ Paul is too glib.

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