The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Tea Party and the Future Face of American Power

May 11, 2011

With the politics of “budget crisis” dominating the political discourse, what does a Tea Party-dominated Republican foreign and defense policy look like? Not good. Gutting diplomacy and development and leaving defense spending largely uncut means American power becomes more blunt and unwieldy.

I’ve written up my take in the current issue of Current Intelligence. Here’s a portion:

Republican Congressional leaders have pledged that nothing is off the table… Except of course, it turns out the Republicans aren’t really all that serious about cutting defense spending.

With nearly 30 million veterans and more than US$750 billion in defence spending spread out neatly across 435 congressional districts in the United States, Tea Partiers might like to boast about their commitment to fiscal discipline and the economic distortions of big government. But when it comes to defense sector jobs in their districts – well, that’s just paying the price for freedom….

…As a result, the face of American power abroad will increasingly be its soldier, not its diplomat or its aid worker. Not only will this cost exponentially more in budgetary terms, it also means the American soldier will be further tasked to do the traditional jobs of others -without the requisite skills, training, or sensitivities. And, that can only make it more difficult to for the United States to manage a complex and dynamic world.

Am I missing anything?

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.