Isolationist vs Internationalist Republicans

December 8, 2011

The GOP has always had a foreign policy split between its isolationists and its internationalists.  This week, we got to see a preview of the future of that intra-party struggle, as two rising GOP stars took opposite sides on a key foreign policy question.  The issue was NATO membership for the Republic of Georgia.  For internationalists, Georgia is an important ally in a key strategic region, formal ties to which will give the US military flexibility in the Strategic Energy Ellipse.  For isolationists, getting too close to Georgia means tying us to a nation that has already fought a recent war against Russia and could drag the US into a deeper and more dangerous conflict in an already dangerous region.

On the internationalist side last week was freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who tried to move a motion for Unanimous Consent that would have sped full NATO membership for Georgia.  Rubio was foiled, however, by fellow freshman (and fellow Tea Party favorite) Rand Paul of Kentucky.

On the one hand, I agree with Rubio that Georgia is an important friend in a vital region, and that they along with Ukraine and Azerbaijan should be seriously considered for NATO membership.  But, on the other hand, I think this is too important and nuanced an issue to be done in sub rosa manner, so I agree with Paul blocking the motion (although not with his actual motives for doing so).  In the long run, I hope that Rubio’s position prevails, but this is the sort of decision that should require a serious national conversation before we commit to it.  Already, plans are afoot by unelected bureaucrats to possibly station US troops in Georgia – a move that Russia would certainly see as provocative.   Policy positions with such portentous outcomes must be aired fully and publicly.


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