Republican Party Platform Expedition Part IV: Foreign Policy

by Benjamin Studebaker

Today we conclude our expedition through the bizarre world of the Republican Party platform. In part III, we discussed miscellaneous and social policy. Today we finish the platform with a discussion of the section on foreign policy. So all aboard the Orient Express for a journey to distant lands and strange new places…

The foreign policy section opens with a page scolding Obama for making cuts to defence, and attacking further cuts through sequestration–the automatic budget cuts set to occur in the absence of a bi-partisan deficit reduction agreement. Never mind that the republicans in congress voted for that, the platform exclusively blames Obama for signing it into law. There’s an interesting paragraph on the subject:

If he allows an additional half trillion dollars to be cut from the defense budget, America will be left with the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history—at a time when our Nation faces a growing range of threats to our national security and a struggling economy that can ill afford to lose 1.5 million defense-related jobs.

This paragraph, meant to strike fear into our hearts and cause us to oppose defence spending cuts, does precisely the opposite. A ground force equivalent in size to the ground for the United States had in 1940? Why, that’s a mere year before the United States entered–and eventually won–WWII. It hardly seems cause for alarm, especially considering that 1940 was a year of military enlargement by FDR in preparation for possible war. The smallest number of ships since 1915? Again, that was on the eve of WWI, when Wilson was expanding the military in preparation for possible war, and again, the war was won by the United States. As for the smallest air force in history? I hardly think that’s possible, considering the air force only became a separate branch of the military in 1947, not even existing in the years prior as an independent entity. And what’s more, the number of forces is misleading–America’s advantage in military technology has only widened exponentially since the mid-20th century. It is quality of forces, not quantity, that makes the United States the premier military power in the world. Were it any different, China would be the global superpower, with its far greater number of soldiers. In reality, China comes nowhere close due to a distinct, gaping technological disadvantage.

There is a section in which the republicans accuse Obama of leaking damaging information for political purposes, but it is never explained how those leaks damaged the country, aside from vague references to “compromising our methods”. It does little good for enemies to know how one operates if they are technologically powerless to stop us. I have little doubt that every member of the Taliban knows we hunt them with drones; that does not mean they know how to escape or evade them.

Previously I’ve noted that the Republican Party platform has not mentioned climate change. It does so now, but not to take the threat of climate change seriously, but to mock the Obama administration for deeming it a threat:

the strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates “climate change” to the level of a “severe threat” equivalent to foreign aggression. The word “climate,” in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.

Climatologists’ models forecast entire cities being swallowed up by rising sea levels, higher incidence of severe weather, more droughts, more floods, and so on. Al Qaeda killed 2,996 people over ten years ago. No nuclear bombs have been used in warfare since 1945. I find this paragraph not only unpersuasive, but indicative of paranoia on the part of the Republican Party, and an inability to weigh and compare risks.

There is a section that accuses the Obama administration of failing to maintain the US nuclear deterrent. The USA has sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet and everyone on it multiple times over. Does it really make sense for military reasons to spend money increasing the number of times the United States could theoretically kill everyone on the face of the earth? Surely there are better uses for that money.

They criticise the administration further for negotiating with the Russians on anti-nuclear missile defences. With the size and scale of the US nuclear deterrent, there is no need for this country to worry about a nuclear attack. Putting up missile defences and making foreign states feel that their own nuclear deterrents are insufficient only serves to make international cooperation with Russia, China, and other nations more difficult at a time when their cooperation is essential to tackle everything ranging from the global financial crisis to climate change.

There is a section on cyber-warfare that proposes that the federal government share classified information with private companies:

The government collects valuable information about potential threats that can and should be shared with private entities without compromising national security. We believe that companies should be free from legal and regulatory barriers that prevent or deter them from voluntarily sharing cyberthreat information with their government partners.

I do not understand how a party that views any leak of classified information by the Obama administration to the press to be a deadly security risk can simultaneously hold the view that giving classified information to private companies is perfectly safe. That reads like a contradiction.

The platform reaffirms opposition to homosexuality in the military:

We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness.

There is also opposition to any reinstatement of the draft.

There is quite a bit of nationalist chest-thumping with regard to praising the troops and veterans.

There is a disgusting passage in which the party rejects international treaties aimed at improving quality of life and protecting the very rights republicans claim to be in favour of:

Congress—the Senate through its ratifying power and the House through its appropriating power—shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear. These include the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty as well as the various declarations from the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development

This policy isolates the United States from its allies, is reactionary, and blocks global progress. They also promote the rejection of the Law of the Sea Treaty, UN Agenda 21, and the International Criminal Court. This country frequently expects and demands other countries to play by international rules, and is widely considered the global enforcer of the international consensus. This behaviour is hypocritical and alienates people everywhere, be they allied, neutral, or enemy. Shockingly, the platform then has the gall to include a passage about protecting human rights, during which the only organisation endorsed is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

There is a section opposing state-to-state foreign aid and criticising the Obama administration for protecting homosexual and abortion rights abroad by cutting off aid to nations that persecute or execute homosexuals.

There’s a section on each region. The Americas section focuses predominately on opposing the Cuban and Venezuelan governments. The Africa section congratulates the Bush administration on its aid programmes there. The Asian section is many times longer than either of these other sections. It promises:

  • Stronger relationship with India
  • Continued friendship with Pakistan
  • Opposing withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan
  • Guaranteeing Taiwanese sovereignty
  • Condemns China for increasing military spending (despite advising that the USA do so)
  • Condemns China for various rights violations

There is praise for America’s European allies, particularly Britain. There is a mixed review of Russia, praising its history but condemning many of its current policies.

The foreign policy section (and the platform as a whole) concludes with an unsurprising staunch declaration of support for Israel and opposition to any Iranian nuclear ambition.

A similar series will, in the near future, be conducted on the Democratic Party platform, recently released.