From reading the political press these days, one could get the impression that the Republican Party, from top to bottom, has radically altered its principles on foreign policy. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an isolationist, is said to be a serious contender for the 2016 GOP nomination. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum have recently come out against military intervention in Syria, as have Tea Party heroes Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Last week the Hill reported:
“A decisive vote against President Obama’s plan for strikes in Syria would cement a sharp shift by the Republican Party away from the hawkish military posture it adopted after the terrorist attacks that occurred 12 years ago this week.”
Even some steadfast Republican hawks agree. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told the Hill, “It’s probably an indication that the party has become less internationalist and more isolationist.”
But King should know his colleagues better than to think that the majority of them are expressing anything beyond reflexive opposition to President Obama. The politically shrewd approach for the party out of power in Washington is relentless opposition that makes the president look ineffectual, rather than cooperation that makes him look statesmanlike. Republicans’ landslide victory in the 2010 midterms vindicated that strategy. The only way to oppose Obama now is to oppose interventionism. But come 2016, we may see the re-emergence of interventionist Republicanism — and if not before they win back the White House, then surely thereafter.
Polls show that Republican voters remain more hawkish than Democrats, as they have been for decades. Earlier this summer, Republicans were more likely to back the Syria intervention by 10 points, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and you can be sure that gap would be wider if it were President Romney proposing the bombing. (CNN found virtually identical results to Pew.)