In his weekly e-mail to constituents, Representative Barr addressed a number of topics, but the most current and relevant was the situation in Syria.
Rep. Barr said that “I will continue to be guided by my belief that any use of military force must materially advance the national security of the United States, have a clear strategic objective, and have a clear strategy for victory. I will not support military intervention in Syria unless and until these criteria are met.”
The one point that I would take issue with is the idea that we should only use military force if and when it “materially advances the national security” of the nation. (I agree that there needs to be a clear objective and a strategy for success, though I’m not sure how to define “victory” in this sort of situation.)
The United States has long use the military to protect and advance the national interest, not just the nation’s security. Our Navy patrols the world’s oceans not just to keep peace and to keep the nation safe, but also to keep the world’s shipping routes safe and open, because that is in the national interest. We have defense treaties with far-flung nations, like South Korea, not because an attack in South Korea would directly threaten our national security but because an attack on South Korea would threaten a key regional ally and an important international economic power. Protecting South Korea doesn’t necessarily protect the United States, but it certainly protects the national interest. We have pledged our support for Israel because we have long believed that it is in the national interest to have a democratic ally in the Middle East, not because an attack on Israel would be a direct, or even tangential, threat to our national security.
I do not know, and am not suggesting, that Rep. Barr is saying that our foreign policy should be guided narrowly by concerns about national security. But there are many in the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party that clearly feel that way. That, in my view, is the road to isolationism, and that is a road we went down before, with tragic results.
The reality is that the modern world is far too interconnected for any nation to be isolationist. If we want to be connected to the rest of the world economically, we also need to be connected diplomatically. That means we are part of the larger world, whether some people like it or not. And because ours is the largest economy on earth we are a major player, whether some people like it or not.
That does not mean that we should be cavalier in our use of our military, or in the use of military power. We should be willing to use military power, but only after careful and thorough consideration of tactics used and desired objectives.