Defense Priorities Could Completely Shift The Foreign Policy Debate

By Jonah Bennett, The Daily Caller News Foundation

A new defense think tank has emerged onto the Washington, D.C. scene to challenge complacent thinking in foreign policy and provide a third way to the traditional neoconservative vs. liberal internationalist debate.

Defense Priorities Foundation, launched three months ago by supporters of a foreign policy more focused on restraint and realist grand strategy, has already managed to place more than 100 opinion pieces in major papers, The Daily Caller included.

The plans for the foundation’s expansion are ambitious, especially given that the narratives many of its fellows offer are decidedly outside normal national security discourse in either the Republican or Democratic Party.

Edward King, CEO of DPF, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that while the activities of the foundation will be fairly diverse, routine, boring policy papers won’t be part of the agenda.

Instead, DPF is focused on providing much more relevant content spanning from interviews to op-eds and other more direct methods of influence. As King put it, members of Congress barely even read the bills they vote on, so the chances of them reading yet another foreign policy paper are that much slimmer.

Along with DPF is the lobbying side of the operation, known as the Defense Priorities Initiative, which will promote a restraint-oriented take on foreign policy in Congress not divorced from fiscal consequences. That restraint entails avoiding unnecessary foreign wars to support allies who don’t actually serve American security interests. Restraint also chips away at the liberal internationalist view which often pushes the U.S. to intervene for the sake of vague notions of human rights and democracy.

In other words, DPF is looking for a complete reevaluation of American security interests. Less foreign intervention likely means less spent on the defense industry, which benefits greatly from an increased military presence abroad.

As such, the goal of DPF is to gather together a sustainable grassroots base of funding from regular Americans, many of whom don’t have an ideological home in either the Republican or Democratic Party. Although the Charles Koch Institute is not funding the foundation, at least one of the policy experts on the team belongs to the Koch network, particularly Dr. William Ruger, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who serves as the Vice President of research and policy at CKI.

As an object-level sample of some of the views DPF is interested in discussing appear in some op-eds from its fellows. One of those pieces, written by fellow Bonnie Kristian, states that certain military officials are overblowing the threat posed by Russia, in order to justify boosting the Department of Defense budget. Kristian highlights quotes from various Army officers showing that Russia is vastly outmatched by U.S. military might and is also technologically inferior.

A second piece by Doug Bandow, published by Business Insider, advocates for a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite dominating perspectives either pushing for as much force in Afghanistan as is deployed in Iraq and Syria, or maintaining existing troop levels.

According to Bandow, America’s presence in Afghanistan hasn’t even prevented al-Qaida or the Islamic State from getting bolder and expanding.

“Washington cannot fix Afghanistan,” Bandow wrote. “The U.S. cannot afford the human and financial cost of endless war. It’s well past time to bring home America’s military personnel.”

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