In late June, three fellow Global Scholars and I had the opportunity to attend a Los Angeles World Affairs Council event titled “The Future of Foreign Policy.”
The evening featured a panel discussion featuring four conservative specialists in foreign policy moderated by LAWAC President Terry McCarthy. I was amazed at the disagreement in both the interpretation of historical events and strategy for current issues.
Their positions were quite complex, but I'll share my understanding of their overall messages. Robert “Bob” Kaufman, a political scientist and professor, tended to favor militaristic operations and stressed the balance between ideals and self-interest. He argued that the military budget is, in fact, small because it was only 4 percent of the gross domestic product and the reason the Iraq war wasn’t successful was that we left too soon. Dan McCarthy, an accomplished journalist, emphasized readiness and restraint in military conflict. He explained that the key to military conflict, in his opinion, is to fight wars the public will support long enough to finish the war properly. William Ruger of the Charles Koch Institute similarly emphasized restraint in relation to the military, but his main ideology was realism. He also pointed out that the success of the military is rooted in the success of our economy, and therefore we should not overextend ourselves overseas. Finally, Danielle Pletka, senior VP of the American Enterprise Institute, argued that the U.S. should stay engaged in foreign countries to prevent war and that we must use diplomatic and economic powers to do so. Additionally, she highlighted the need for advancing cybersecurity and a doctrine governing cyber conflict.
On their own, each of these speakers was extremely compelling, and I found myself, as a liberal, agreeing with their ideas. The contradiction among the panelists was an extremely influential facet of the event because it forced the attendees to choose whom to trust or believe. The panelists did not come to a conclusion to answer the question raised by the event, “What defines conservative foreign policy in the 21st century?"Photo courtesy of Los Angeles World Affairs Council