Foreign policy remains one of the unresolved questions for the Republican Party in the wake of the presidency of Donald Trump.
Trump shook up the entire neoliberal/neoconservative foreign policy establishment when he railed against the never-ending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the campaign trail. Although Trump had a number of hiccups throughout his administration due to poor staffing, he did not start any new wars.
However, there are many debates on the Right on how foreign policy should be conducted. Although neocons were thumped in 2016, they are gradually rising up to co-opt Trump’s America First foreign policy and transform it into warmed over interventionism.
Enter the Vandenberg Coalition.
This new organization is named after former Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a known foreign policy hawk and ardent cold warrior during his time in office from 1928 to 1951. Vandenberg was originally a foreign interventionist skeptic until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. From there, he quickly assimilated into the interventionist borg after promoting NATO and institutions like the United Nations.
According to Jack Beyrer of the Washington Free Beacon,”the Vandenberg Coalition will advocate a platform of conservative internationalism—characterized by a strong military, maintaining alliances, and fair trade, all of which the coalition’s leaders believe counter U.S. adversaries, keep the country safe, and protect the interests of working Americans.”
“There is a great tradition of Republican and conservative internationalism that starts with Arthur Vandenberg and goes right on through Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and right on to today, but it was divided in 2016,” declared Elliott Abrams, who chairs the Vandenburg coalition. “Some of us were ‘Never Trumpers,’ and many of us were in the administration. We thought this coalition should reunite now because we were divided over Trump, but we were not divided over policy: over China, Iran, Russia, or the defense budget. Now is the time to get this started, and we’ve had a terrific reaction.”
Abrams is a seasoned neoconservative who was instrumental in organizing a number of US-backed actions in Central American countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua and was also a major proponent of the Iraq War. In the Trump administration, Abrams served as Special Envoy to Venezuela and Special Envoy to Iran in failed attempts to carry out regime change in these respective countries.
Beyrer highlighted some of the members who make up of the Vandenberg Coalition’s board of directors:
The Vandenberg Coalition’s board of directors and advisory board include former Trump administration national security adviser H.R. McMaster and deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, as well as prominent anti-Trumpers Eric Edelman and Peter Feaver, both signatories of a 2016 letter arguing that Trump posed a threat to national security.
Abrams reassured observers that differences among board members is not a problem since they’re all unified in having a muscular US foreign policy, “It is not a problem because we never disagreed about national security policy. There is an effort here to show really, and show symbolically, that we want to put that division behind us.
The Vandenberg Coalition has emerged to challenge the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank that regime change fanatics constantly attack for its allegedly “isolationist” views.
The fact of the matter is that America is overstretched militarily with its over 800 military bases abroad. More importantly, domestic matters are beginning to tear the country apart. Many of the conflict zones, especially Asia, have First World countries with increasingly powerful militaries that are ready to balance China without the US having to throw its weight around.
If the US is to have a foreign policy it should be one focusing on border security and keeping great powers from setting up shop in the Western Hemisphere. However, Abrams and co.’s vision for foreign policy represents more of the same tired neocon interventionism that rational Americans should reject. No amount of rhetorical ornamentation and branding will change this inconvenient fact.