Republicans Have Lost the Foreign Policy Argument

With the approaching 10-year anniversary of President George W. Bush’s "Mission Accomplished" speech, America will reflect upon the moment that the Republican Party lost its stronghold on foreign policy to the Democrats.

Arguably, the GOP dominated foreign affairs since the Truman Administration, a position that was jeopardized during the mishandling of the Iraq War. Since the war, Republicans have recoiled in the foreign policy arena, advocating for isolationist policies, which cut defense spending, slash foreign aid, and withdraw troops.

Although substantial cuts must be made to the federal budget, it is alarming that the GOP greeted sequestration favorably. Senator John McCain, one of the few Republicans who opposed sequestration, noted, "The effects of sequestration come on top of defense budgets that were already flattening."

Defense spending aside, this week on the Hill, Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID testified to Congress about the need for continued support for his agency in the FY2014 budget.

During this hearing, many Republicans adamantly opposed humanitarian assistance, employing the false choice that Americans must choose between foreign and domestic programs. 

More specifically, Congressman Poe of Texas vexed over whether the U.S. should build a school in Pakistan or improve educational institutions in America. Congressman Yoho of Florida reasserted this false choice from a purely political standpoint when he asked Dr. Shah how Congress could defend humanitarian aid to their constituents within the current economic climate.

Although these seem like logical positions for fiscal hawks, the fact remains that foreign aid represents less than 1% of the federal budget. Republicans, known for their economic responsibility, should recognize that draining international development programs will not balance the budget, but instead threaten American standing on the global stage.

Foreign aid is one of the few ways the U.S. can curry favor within the Middle East. With the mounting crisis in Syria, 13% of those fleeing President al-Assad leave for Iraq, a country with its own crisis unfolding under Prime Minister al-Maliki.

In Iraq, refugee camps have been built to house nearly 5,000 refugees, however; approximately 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) now reside there. This humanitarian crisis is unfolding at time in which U.S. assistance has been tremendously impacted by Republicans who wish to break all ties with Iraq following the decade long intervention.

Clearly there are cases of waste and mismanagement of funds, which is what prompts such isolationist responses from Republicans in Congress, but instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, the Party can encourage greater transparency, better programs, and responsible spending by following Senator Marco Rubio’s lead on U.S. aid.

Rubio argues that, "when done so effectively, in partnership with the private sector, with faith-based organizations and with our allies, foreign aid is a very cost-effective way, not only to export our values and our example, but to advance our security and our economic interests."

Foreign assistance is one of the most effective ways that the United States can spend resources. It is one of the few examples in which a little investment now will pay huge dividends going forward. By providing aid to IDPs in Iraq, protecting freedom fighters in Syria, or building schools for children in Pakistan, the United States advances the cause of democracy and forges a bond with the largest millennial population in the world.