The Crucial Case for a Hawkish GOP Foreign Policy

For the past two years, the Biden administration has effectively permitted America’s adversaries to thrive. GOP candidates currently in the running to replace President Joe Biden must, therefore, adopt a more compelling stance on foreign policy.

During the inaugural GOP debate last week in Milwaukee, the candidates displayed a notable division on foreign policy issues. Mike Pence and Nikki Haley embraced hawkish stances, whereas Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy espoused an isolationist viewpoint.

Former President Donald Trump, the current GOP frontrunner, exhibited a rather mixed approach to foreign policy during his time in the White House. The former president withdrew the United States from the UN Human Rights Council and the Iran nuclear deal, and frequently threatened to pull the United States out of NATO and the United Nations. However, he also authorized the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, thereby ratcheting up tensions with Iran.

As internal debates within the party regarding international involvement become increasingly polarized, the candidate who ultimately secures the GOP nomination will profoundly shape the party’s stance on global issues for the foreseeable future. In the current geopolitical environment, it is clearly in America’s best interest to present a robust and unified front to the rest of the world.

Since Biden assumed the presidency in 2021, the United States has seen a significant erosion of its standing among global powers. The United States’ image as a formidable military force suffered a devastating blow with the poorly executed withdrawal from Afghanistan. Efforts by Biden in Ukraine have not been sufficiently effective to remedy that bloody conflict. Concurrently, worldwide confidence in the American dollar has diminished due to rampant inflation. Unless the next president takes decisive steps to bolster the nation’s global influence, our adversaries will assuredly continue to capitalize on our vulnerabilities.

Over the last three years, China, Russia, and Iran have actively advanced their respective foreign policy objectives, often to the detriment of American interests. Evidence of this trend was notably present during the Ninth Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles, California, in 2022. President Biden’s authority was directly challenged by what should have been our presumed allies. Biden chose to exclude the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the summit in an attempt to signal that the U.S. does not acknowledge authoritarian regimes. This strategy to project American strength, however, backfired spectacularly.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a notable ally of those very governments, successfully undermined the summit by persuading delegations from Bolivia, Guatemala, and multiple Caribbean nations to abstain from attending. The Mexican president’s actions sent a clear message that a significant number of states in the Western Hemisphere currently harbor doubts about American leadership.

While it may be argued that Biden’s initiatives in Ukraine have somewhat improved America’s global standing, given the recent territorial gains by Ukraine’s military, these efforts are hardly a resounding victory for the United States and its allies. Despite the billions of dollars the United States has funneled into Ukraine over the past two years—much of which has lacked sufficient oversight—Russia continues to occupy a significant swath of Ukrainian territory.

As the United States continues to channel financial and military support into Ukraine, America’s economic prominence on the global stage has been noticeably waning. Even as the U.S. dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, nations such as China are making calculated moves to usurp that title.

A particularly illustrative example comes from the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Initially established to bolster the political capital and economies of its member states, the alliance has, in recent years, increasingly acted contrary to the interests of the United States and its allies. There have even been discussions about shifting the main currency of trade among these countries from the U.S. dollar to a shared currency. Such a change could irrevocably alter the U.S. economic landscape, potentially allowing China to assume the role of the world’s economic leader. Adding to this dynamic, BRICS recently welcomed a new member, Argentina, further expanding its roster to now include Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Against this backdrop, the GOP must nominate a candidate capable of redressing Biden’s policy missteps. Mike Pence and Nikki Haley’s proposals to enhance America’s global standing appear more constructive for the party’s future than either DeSantis and Ramaswamy’s isolationism or Trump’s erratic diplomacy.

When GOP contenders underestimate the significance of American leadership on the global stage, they risk surrendering the moral high ground to the nation’s adversaries. There was a time, post-1990 and the Soviet Union’s collapse, when America’s unmatched strength engendered an era of unprecedented peace. That is the America the world yearns for today—a role Democrats seem ill-equipped to fulfill.

In the final analysis, as President Ronald Reagan astutely observed, “We maintain peace through strength, weakness only invites aggression.” Republican primary voters would do well to remember this wisdom as they select their next candidate.