Conservative Realism: Finding a New Strategy for Foreign Policy

Conservative Realism: Finding a New Strategy for Foreign Policy

How does a person decide when to kill another person? Even when the person in question has the legal authority to do so it isn’t a clear cut issue. Foreign policy for the last 60 years has been one where armed intervention is always an option and often the first to be called upon. The last decade of war in the Middle East has shrunk the desire for ‘boots on the ground’ and boosted support for drone warfare. Finding the middle ground is what Sen. Rand Paul’s calls “conservative realism”.

Speaking at the Center for National Interest, a think-tank founded by Richard Nixon, Sen. Rand Paul set out his stall again to sell his foreign policy. Paul advocates conservative realism and gives a few principles to follow:

  • Congress should be the ones who decide when and whether war is necessary as it is the voice of the people.

  • War must have a clear goal; Paul cited Afghanistan as a model for this.

  • Free markets must be prioritised and encouraged.

How would this play out in the current realm of international relations? Ukraine and Syria for instance?

In Ukraine, Paul sees the historical and geographical ties extending to both Europe and to Russia, he invokes Eisenhower’s thinking that it should not belong to either but as a bridge between the two. That sounds like a clear goal but how would it work in actuality? Not belonging to the EU or to Putin’s new Eurasian Economic Union would give Ukraine the kind of sovereignty over its economic affairs that leaves it exposed in a world dominated by international institutions and where regionalism is in vogue. How would they feel about being left in the cold?

In Syria, a term which really extends to the whole region, conservative realism means finding partners to work with, much like other foreign policy strategies claim to do. Paul advocates peace between Turkey and the Kurds in order to settle things down somewhat. Looking at the masses of conflict in the region the dispute where one side is a member of NATO (Turkey) and the other has a strong female leadership and involvement (Kurdistan) is not a bad place to start – how’s that for a clear goal?

Alliances and partnerships that can introduce some of Paul’s ‘statecraft carrot’- trade and technology- is of the utmost importance as the raging conflict is destroying the everyday lives of millions of people. The economic hardships that are being brought about because of this conflict will kill more than the beheadings and airstrikes combined. This is the real tragedy of warfare. What do you think? Can Paul’s conservative realism shake up American foreign policy and use all that power for good? Join the debate on Facebook or on Twitter.


WATCH: Rand Paul at the Center for National Interest
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