Note to Tea Party: End interventionism first

With mid-term voting over it is difficult to know exactly how many reliable voices and votes Tea Party (TP) issues will command in the Republican caucus beginning in January, 2011. Indeed, a cynic might expect savvy, long-time Republicans to simply absorb the Tea Party’s position on economic issues, make the TP’s voice nothing more than a “me too!” on economic legislation, and then run candidates to purge TP-supported representatives in 2012.

One way for the TP to avoid getting emasculated and then steamrolled in 2012 is to delineate specific goals in the areas of foreign and national security policy that must be supported by the Republican caucus, if the latter expects reliable TP support on economic issues. The TP’s foreign-affairs goals — if what its leaders said in the campaign is true — will be non-interventionist, pro-Constitution, and adamantly America First. Quick, substantive progress on these fronts ought to be the non-negotiable price for reliable TP support in the Republican caucus.

Now, TP representatives will be lectured by their Republican caucus mates and the so-called “conservative” Democrats about the “complex ballet of international politics,” and how naive first-termers are wise to stand back and let old congressional hands take the lead in dancing the U.S. part in that ballet. The media, too, will pipe in, describing any TP’er who seeks to return constitutionality and sanity to the conduct of U.S. foreign and national security policy as a “bull in the China shop,” a “racist,” an “Isolationist,” or even — hold on to your hat — an “archaic nationalist in world headed for a global government.” (NB: One would think any American would covet the last epithet as a badge of honor and defiance.)

With this sort of knee-jerk, not to say vicious opposition to the TP’s non-interventionism, it is important to keep the movement’s goals clear and simple, and then be willing to stand by them come what may. Let me suggest five relatively easy anti-interventionism actions that I think would meet with loud approval from most Americans who are not elitists, religion-crazed, or war-loving; that is, from most voters.

  1. Legislation making it illegal for the president to take the country to war or use U.S. military forces for more than ten days — to allow for preemption of immediate threats — without a formal declaration of war, which he (or she) must ask for, and on which the Congress must publicly vote after public debate.
  2. Legislation making it illegal for the president of the United States to commit U.S. military forces in support of an ally choosing to initiate an offensive war against one of its enemies. If already-in-place treaties require the United States to support offensive wars by treaty-partners, the Executive Branch will be directed to appropriately amend them or to give notice of U.S. withdrawal per the treaty’s provisions.
  3. Legislation declaring U.S. neutrality in all wars involving states not tied to the United States in a defensive alliance. The legislation will order that declarations of neutrality be accompanied by the automatic application of a full embargo of U.S.-made arms on all combatants.
  4. Legislation declaring that no U.S. military forces will serve at any time under the command of a non-U.S. commander or an international organization.
  5. Legislation that terminates foreign aid of all kinds if the U.S. domestic unemployment level rises above 4 percent. Consideration would be given to restarting foreign aid when the unemployment level drops below 4 percent and remains below 4 percent for 12 months.

Each of these five points is in the interest of Americans: they restore the war-declaring prerogative to Congress, as the Founders intended; they eliminate a president’s ability to take America to war at his/her whim, which the Founders strove to guard against; they neither favor nor discriminate against any foreign country, per the guidance in Washington’s Farewell Address; they keep the United States out of other peoples’ wars; and they apply a respectable degree of common sense in using U.S. taxpayer funds to care for Americans when they are in need.

Many people have ideas about how the Tea Party can preserve its identity and score substantive legislative accomplishments that will be seen by voters as measurable deeds that match the TP’s words. The federal government’s debt, growth, and accumulating power must be cut, and laws that make U.S. interventionism and wars less likely contribute to effort. Success in the foreign-policy and national-security areas, moreover, would give Tea Party candidates a solid base on which to contest future elections by making them members of the only movement that did something tangible to restore the Constitution, revitalize republicanism, and champion those non-elite Americans who are paying for Washington’s interventionism and unnecessary wars with their taxes and their children

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.