Republican Split on Libya Highlights Major Divide


Republicans generally are unified as a party by shared views on a few broad issues- states’ rights, national security, pro-business/wealthy, social conservatism and fiscal conservatism. The situation in Libya has highlighted conflicts between different factions of the Republican Party- specifically interventionists and pro-national security Republicans versus isolationists and fiscal conservatives.

Republicans have typically not drawn away from an opportunity to involve American troops overseas- the most recent actions being Afghanistan and Iraq. A very large group still stand behind this interventionist mindset- According to a Washington Post- ABC News poll, 50% of Republicans believed that the war in Afghanistan is worth what it costs in March 2011, at a time when only 31% of the American population did (this was before the death of Osama bin Laden). Republicans also have the least support for withdrawing from Afghanistan. The same poll showed 59% believing that the U.S. should withdraw, compared to 73% of the total population. However, there is a significant growth in support for isolationism among Republicans. A Pew Research Center poll showed in May that 45% of Republicans support the “U.S. minding its own business internationally”, compared to only 20% in August 2004. This major flip-flop is causing some tensions among Republicans.

Besides, although still related to, the split between the growth in isolationism in a typically interventionist party, is the rapid revival of fiscal conservatism, popularly manifested in the Tea Party. Among these fiscal conservatives, who are also isolationists, are Jason Chaffetz, Ron Paul and Justin Amash- all Republican Congressmen who recently called for an end to operations in Libya. Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, expressed opposition to the Libyan intervention right away, claiming that it would be too costly. Senators John McCain (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) have countered, calling against any cuts in funding for the mission in Libya.

This minor issue can be indicated a rather large divide in the Republican Party. What will its foreign policy focus be? Will it be focused on fiscal conservatism and isolationism, or will it continue its long-lasting policies of interventionist actions in the interests of national security? Such splits have the potential to hurt the unity of the Republican Party, which could be costly in future elections.

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One Response to Republican Split on Libya Highlights Major Divide

  1. I am from Berlin, Germany, and lots of citizens here actually are ashamed that Germany isn’t fighting together with NATO in Libya. We didn’t understand the mental attitude of our own government. In terms of the armed forces, Germany is just absurd.

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