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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Schism developing in mainstream GOP between America-firsters and neocon/liberal internationalist wing

Libya action has GOP rethinking nation-building

(The Washington Times) -- By Ralph Z. Hallow --

In the first sign of possible change in Republican orthodoxy, potential 2012 presidential hopeful Haley Barbour is speaking out against nation-building - a central focus of U.S. foreign policy for nearly two decades and of President George W. Bush's administration.

“What are we doing in Libya?” Mr. Barbour, a former national party chairman, said last week. “I mean, we have to be careful in my mind about getting into nation-building exercises, whether it’s in Libya or somewhere else. We’ve been in Afghanistan 10 years.”

The Mississippi governor is also calling for what, aside from the party’s libertarian wing, has been the unthinkable for decades among Republicans in general and conservative defense hawks in particular - cutting Pentagon spending.

“We can save money on defense, and if we Republicans don’t propose saving money on defense, we’ll have no credibility on anything else,” he told an Iowa audience.

As a second-term governor, a former political director in the Reagan White House, a former Washington lobbyist and a former Republican National Committee chairman, Mr. Barbour is the personification of his party’s establishment yet has staked out a position directly opposed to the party’s powerful neoconservative wing.

“It is amazing to me that a Republican establishment figure like Haley Barbour is finally questioning the neoconservative influence over Republican foreign-policy decision-making,” former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken said. “It is about time we realized that U.S. use of military force to impose ‘democracy’ in the Middle East has not worked and will not work.”

Mr. Barbour’s views on nation-building and military spending have drawn exceptionally sharp, even condescending, criticism from Republicans who have been adamant supporters of U.S. military intervention abroad, including regime change, as a tool of foreign policy and to promote American values.

Leading neoconservative voice and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol called Mr. Barbour’s stand “childish” and “slightly offensive,” and said it “raises the question of how much time Barbour has spent at the Pentagon - apart from time spent lobbying for defense contractors or foreign governments.”...

GOP campaign strategist Mike Murphy said he agrees that Mr. Barbour’s views “may be a leading indicator in the primary of a sentiment that may be growing.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another potential 2012 GOP presidential nomination contender, said the Pentagon budget should be expanded, not cut, and that Americans need to come to grips with the fact that actions such as the mission in Libya will take time...

People who supported spreading democracy and changing regimes, by force if necessary, failed to dominate the administration of President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, who limited U.S. action to liberating Kuwait while resisting pressure to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

But President Clinton, a Democrat, pursued nation-building with U.S. military action in the Balkans and Haiti. Upon taking office, President Obama surrounded himself with proponents of spreading democracy abroad...MORE...LINK

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