Center for American Progress

Internal Conservative Debate Can Impact America’s Foreign Policy
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Internal Conservative Debate Can Impact America’s Foreign Policy

Internal conservative debate about national security could have a major impact on how America conducts its foreign policy in 2011 and beyond.

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The ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia marked a defeat for an influential faction among America’s right that can best be described as national security regressives. These are “conservative” voices who oppose strengthening and utilizing the full range of traditional tools of American statecraft, including assertive diplomacy, smart and balanced national security spending, and precise and targeted measures to combat terrorist groups. They may have lost on New START, but they are not likely to go away anytime soon.

The fact that a modest arms control measure such as New START took so much time to ratify is a harbinger of tensions to come in 2011—a year in which conservatives face significant challenges reconciling competing national security agendas in their ranks. The starting bell on the Republican presidential primary fight is about to ring, and more foreign policy regressives have joined the ranks of the new Congress—so look for some sharp battles to emerge among conservatives on national security. This internal conservative debate could have a major impact on how America conducts its foreign policy in 2011 and beyond.

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