The Tea Party and Libya

1 04 2011

What does rise of the Tea Party movement mean for U.S. foreign policy?


Walter Russell Mead, who is one of the leading experts on US foreign policy and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, shares some thoughts on this issue in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.  In my opinion, this essay should be read by every historian of the US. Mead shows that the Tea Party’s ideas about Foreign Policy did not emerge out of nothing and are part of a long tradition in American foreign policy that extends back to the earliest days of the republic. Mead argues that American views on foreign policy can be grouped into four basic camps:  Jacksonian, Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, and Wilsonian-Internationalist. Proponents of these four different views of the world can be found in most periods of American history, according to Mead.

The Tea Party people definitely aren’t Wilsonian internationalists. They aren’t really Hamiltonian mercantilists.  It remains to be seen whether they are Jeffersonian war-avoiders or Jacksonian hyper-nationalists or a mixture of the two.

Reactions to Read’s article can be found here, here, and here.


March 21, 2011 A Harrier jet aircraft assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26th MEU) returns to the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) for fuel and ammunition resupply while conducting air strikes against Libya and in enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael S. Lockett

Mead’s piece, which was written at least a month ago, is very interesting in light of the division of the Tea Party movement over the American intervention in Libya. Some Tea Party people assert a militarist and aggressive nationalism that involves lots of flag waving and sabre-rattling and saluting the troops. These people were 100% supportive of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their big problem with Obama is that is he isn’t militarist enough.

There are, however, Tea Partiers such as Rand Paul who are opposed to overseas military missions and want to dramatically shrink the size of the US military, along with other branches of the US government. (You can see this much about Rand Paul– he is consistent). This branch of the Tea Party has condemned Obama’s intervention in Libya as unconstitutional and war-mongering. See here, here, here, and here.



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