There is significant variation among Republican views on Foreign Policy tenets. Similar religious beliefs often lead to differing interpretations of the appropriate foreign policy role the U.S. should play in the global theater. Additionally, widely discrepant views among Republicans regarding economic imperatives have produced significant differences in how global intervention and action is viewed. In general, Republicans’ foreign policy views are shaped by the idea that American activity abroad should be directly related to the promotion of American economic, security, and cultural interests. Republican views on foreign policy are significantly informed by core Republican principles regarding limited government, tax cuts, and the promotion of American interests, which has traditionally resulted in an emphasis on decreased intervention abroad. Republicans emphasize a strong military that serves as a deterrent and solution to specific foreign threats, as opposed to peacekeeping, nation-building, and/or support roles. Republicans currently emphasize border security and deportation of illegal immigrants as both a security and economic imperative; although actionizing initiatives on these issues requires extensive expansion of government spending and management.
American Exceptionalism in Foreign Policy
The RNC website explicitly invokes “American Exceptionalism,” an expression dating back to the country’s Puritan roots. The Puritans saw themselves as establishing a uniquely pure and divinely ordained society that would stand out as an exemplary moral, social, cultural, and religious model for the rest of the world. In contemporary political discourse, “American Exceptionalism” is understood to refer to a model sociopolitical actor, in which individual liberties are preserved, there is the peaceful and democratic transition of power, and robust political dissent is encouraged without fear of actual political chaos nor retribution. The RNC website features a section entitled, “America Resurgent” which outlines the RNC’s positions on foreign policy. The RNC asserts that American diplomacy has failed to make the world safer and that a renewed investment in military strength is necessary for security.
This belief is strongly rooted in their disagreement with Democratic foreign policy beliefs. The site states, “In all of our country’s history, there is no parallel to what President Obama and his former Secretary of State have done to weaken our nation. Our aging naval capabilities are inadequate for their job. The Air Force fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history. The Marines have only two-thirds the number of battalions they have historically needed to meet day to day operational demands. The Army is at its lowest troop levels since before World War II. Our U.S. Ambassador and American personnel were left without adequate security or backup halfway across the world in Benghazi. In summary, we have returned to the hollow force days of Jimmy Carter.”
The “American Exceptionalism” aspect of current Republican foreign policy is particularly significant in that it indicates an unflinching belief that America is somehow qualitatively and/or quantitatively better as a nation-state leader than other global actors, and ergo is more suited to be and thus should be the global leader among sociopolitical actors. However, this is in conflict with the more isolationist aspects of Republican foreign policy thought that advocate for a reduced American role in international affairs that do not directly affect U.S. interests, as well as the call for smaller and less active government.
Israel and Foreign Policy
Many aspects of Republicans’ foreign policy views are significantly influenced by “unequivocal” support for the state of Israel. This support comes from a feeling of mutual goals with the Israeli government. The GOP website states, “Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom and stands out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Beyond our mutual strategic interests, Israel is likewise an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of Americanism, and it is the responsibility of our government to advance policies that reflect Americans’ strong desire for a relationship with no daylight between America and Israel. We recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law.”
The religious (Judeo-Christian) influence in the lives of most Republicans underpins a foreign policy position prioritizing preservation of Israel at all costs. This shapes Republican views of any state or non-state actors that implicitly or explicitly threaten or question Israeli foreign policy actions. Many critics and analysts consider Republican’s unconditional support for Israel to have created a difficult situation in which Israel can proverbially do no wrong, even when it does. Subsequently, many Republican responses to international actors and actions are framed in terms of the actual and potential impact on the state of Israel.
Republicans generally view foreign aid as a tool that should be considered only when it has directly beneficial results for U.S. interests. This includes utilizing faith-based organizations abroad to promote initiatives that further America’s national security and economic interests. Many Republicans in leadership positions currently endorse some kind of foreign aid as a means of encouraging international security, and there is significant bipartisan acknowledgement that foreign aid plays an important part in further American interests. The Republican National Committee (RNC) identifies “political freedom and entrepreneurial capitalism” as the “only sustainable solution to poverty,” which reflects the Republican ideals of marketplace self-regulation and the government’s inability to efficiently structure prosperity through regulation and programs. Republicans see government—domestically and internationally—as an inappropriate mechanism by which to foster social change, and contend that local organizations and charities are better equipped to effectively undertake and manage aid projects. This is somewhat evocative of the Republican view on Federal versus State control in the U.S.; Republicans largely favor reduced federal oversight (which leads to expanded and therefore more expensive yet absentee federal government control) and increased local governance.
Donald Trump on Foreign Policy
Many Republicans and Democrats alike have noted a lack of continuity in Republican President Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions. There has been extensive speculation as to if this lack of uniformity is due to communication issues or actual policy disagreements within the administration. President Trump’s decision to launch a military strike on Syria in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its civilians was disparaged by many Republicans as a turn away from fundamental Republican principles of non-intervention in distant, non-American foreign affairs that could lead to long-term involvement and the kind of nation-building that is the antithesis of Republican foreign policy imperatives.
- Republican Platform – GOP
- Republicans, Conservatives More Supportive of Israelis than Democrats, Liberals – Gallup
- Republicans and Democrats Agree: Foreign Aid Cuts Would Hurt U.S. National Security – U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
- Trump’s Budget Cuts to Domestic Aid Programs Draw Republican Scorn – Reuters
- Donald Trump on Foreign Policy
- Democratic Views On Foreign Policy
- Democratic Views on Foreign Aid
- Republican Views on Foreign Aid
- Republican Views On Israel
- Democratic Views On Israel
- Republican Views On The U.S. Embassy In Jerusalem
- Famous Republicans
- Republican Views On Trade
- Democratic Views on National Security