Guest Opinions

Time for Republicans to remind President Trump of the party’s platform on foreign policy

How often have I heard voters declare that political party affiliation makes no difference in how they vote. “I vote for the person, not the party.” While that sounds good, we know from polling and surveying over the years that most voters do choose the party label to guide their voting choices.

Too often, however, party affiliation has little or nothing to do with the major issues facing our nation. That is particularly true when it comes to American foreign policy. Years ago, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Arthur Vandenburg, cooperated with Democrat President Harry Truman in support of NATO, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. He would argue that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.”

It was a simple way of saying that the two parties must come together when dealing abroad with allies and enemies. The need to have a united American front when dealing with Russia and China is particularly urgent today as autocracies raise their ugly heads and find aid and comfort in Russia and China.

Unfortunately, Russia and China are not the only sources of aid and comfort to those who deprive their people of a democratic way of life. Make no mistake about it, no matter how President Trump sidles up to President Putin in ways that would sicken the stomachs of Republican officials just a few years ago, Republicans in Congress today turn a blind eye to Trump’s infatuation with autocrats. His sickening praise of the world’s worst dictator/murderer, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, is the worst case.

This is the party once on a tirade over communism and autocracy. This is the party quick to criticize any Democrat who might appear soft on communism. This is the party that criticized President Obama for not being tough enough on Russia just a few years ago.

Perhaps the Republican Party platform from the 2016 election can offer some guidance on where Republicans stand when it comes to international relations and how Republicans elected to Congress ought to be defending their platform and challenging any member of the party, including their president, who violates key tenets of that platform.

For starters, the 2016 Republican platform blames the Obama administration for “a resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus.”

And get ready for this burst of bipartisanship from the Republican platform. “With bipartisan support, President Truman forged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an alliance of the western democracies. Its continued effectiveness is vital, especially in light of recent military challenges in Eastern Europe.” Could that be the same NATO that the new leader of the Republican Party, President Trump, has undermined on more than one occasion, actually calling for the U.S. to withdraw? NATO and its recent expansion to the east sticks in President Putin’s craw to no end, so what a tasty dish for Trump to serve one of his favorite autocrats. Is this how we deal with what the Republican platform calls the “resurgent Russia?”

The Republican platform is also concerned about terrorism and the Middle East, what it calls “an aggressive Islamist terror network in the Middle East.” Regarding Syria, the platform accuses Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, of murdering “hundreds of thousands of his own people and created millions of refugees, and an American president has been unable to rally the world against him. Understandably, our allies fear for their future in a region far more dangerous than it was eight years ago.”

And how has the Republican president implemented that plank of the platform? He has withdrawn U.S. forces from northern Syria, thereby deserting Kurd forces who have been allies of Western forces in the fight against ISIS. All of this, of course, is music to Putin’s ears, as he props up the Syrian regime every chance he gets.

The Republican Party platform is replete with the principles of engagement with foreign friends and foes reminiscent of the Republican Party I joined in 1968. Unfortunately, the party has been hijacked at the highest level of our American government and its president has made a mockery of certain planks of its 2016 platform, as he swaggers his way across the globe offending America’s traditional allies and cozying up to adversaries who are a direct threat to America.

What’s worse is the reaction of the party’s elected representatives in Congress who sit on the sidelines chewing on the cud that justifies such deviation from the party platform and spitting it out for their press releases and canned speeches to the folks back home. On occasion, someone leaves the gate open and a stray Republican breaks out with rightful criticism of the president such as Sen. Mitt Romney in regard to the impeachment inquiry and Sen. Lindsey Graham with Trump’s decision to forsake the Kurds in the battle against ISIS.

But too often, within the walls of the Republican Party, the silence is deafening.

Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He is host of Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio and is a member of the Statesman editorial board.
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