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Governor Palin and the Return of Jacksonian Foreign Policy

In May, Governor Palin gave a speech at a “Tribute to the Troops” event at Colorado Christian University. As part of this speech, Governor Palin outlined a clear vision of American military policy, which has now become known as the Palin doctrine by many:

There’s a lesson here then for the effective use of force, as opposed to sending our troops on missions that are ill-defined. And it can be argued that our involvement elsewhere, say in Libya, is an example of a lack of clarity. See, these are deadly serious questions that we must ask ourselves when we contemplate sending Americans into harm’s way. Our men and women in uniform deserve a clear understanding of U.S. positions on such a crucial decision. I believe our criteria before we send our young men and women—America’s finest—into harm’s way should be spelled out clearly when it comes to the use of our military force. I can tell you what I believe that criteria should be in five points.

First, we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.

Second, if we have to fight, we fight to win. To do that, we use overwhelming force. We only send our troops into war with the objective to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. We do not stretch out our military with open-ended and ill-defined missions. Nation building is a nice idea in theory, but it is not the main purpose of our armed forces. We use our military to win wars.

Third, we must have clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into harm’s way. If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly and concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period.

Fourth, American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. We will fight side by side with our allies, but American soldiers must remain under the care and the command of American officers.

Fifth, sending in our armed forces should be the last resort. We don’t go looking for dragons to slay. However, we will encourage the forces of freedom around the world who are sincerely fighting for the empowerment of the individual. When it makes sense, when it’s appropriate, we will provide them with material support to help them win their own freedom.

Today, in her Facebook post, Governor Palin offered her thoughts on the recent activity in Libya, evaluating the situation realistically and cautiously and highlighting how the “Palin Doctrine” would be applied in practice. She cautioned against “triumphalism” and warned of co-opting of Libyan liberation and the future Libyan government by radical Muslim groups like the Islamic Libyan Fighting Group and al Qaeda, as is being done in Syria. Much in the same way, she had warned against the takeover of Egyptian government by the Muslim Brotherhood after the ousting of President Mubarak in February. She also warned against committing troops to being involved in missions in Libya that would not be in America’s best interest, much in the same way that she blasted President Obama in April when she questioned President Obama’s lack of clarity on Libya and his decision to place US troops under foreign command.  Her statement today was a weaving of multiple points of her military doctrine into a clear vision of what America’s role should be in Libya following the defeat of Gaddafi.

This once again allows Governor Palin to create a contrast between herself and the declared presidential candidates. Governor Romney made a short statement  calling for the new Libyan government to allow extradition of the Lockerbie bomber to the US to bring about justice for the Pan Am terrorism from 1986.  To be sure, justice is a worthy and necessary goal, but Romney’s vision is myopic. He does not offer any solutions for the larger problem of the instability in Libya. Governors Perry and Huntsman recognized the need for cautious celebration, but do not seem to grasp the gravity of the threats of who may occupy the new Libyan government. Congresswoman Bachmann continued to express her non-support for Libyan involvement and hoped for a speedy removal of US troops, but did not offer solutions for how this should be done. Leadership, though, is not about vague statements or solutions with no game plan. Governor Palin clearly outlined the problems and warnings while providing specificity, not lip service to foreign policy solutions.

This post allowed for further expansion of Governor Palin’s Jacksonian approach to foreign policy. Too often, pundits create a false dichotomy between neoconservatism and isolationism, but Governor Palin espouses neither. Her foreign policy vision is along the lines of Presidents Jackson and Reagan—“robust internationalism” as Caroline Glick characterized it in a piece at Real Clear Politics last week.  Glick’s piece provides concise and clear distinctions between neoconservatism, isolationism and robust internationalism. Neoconservatives,as Glick notes, have too often (and wrongly) lumped those who take a more Jacksonian view of foreign policy with isolationists:

Neoconservative writers have castigated opponents of US military involvement in Libya as isolationists. In so doing, they placed Republican politicians like presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the same pile as presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan.

The very notion that robust internationalists like Bachmann and Palin could be thrown in with ardent isolationists like Paul and Buchanan is appalling. But it is of a piece with the prevailing, false notion being argued by dominant voices in neoconservative circles that, "You’re either with us or you’re with the Buchanaites."

Glick later notes that the foreign policy approach is like that first espoused by President Jackson and later by President Reagan, as seen by the way Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union. He did so with great strength—because America’ s interests were at stake.  Glick provides a good description of this foreign policy platform, and it is right in line with the “Palin doctrine”:

According to Mead, the Jacksonian foreign policy model involves a few basic ideas. The US is different from the rest of the world and therefore the US should not try to remake the world in its own image by claiming that everyone is basically the same. The US must ensure its honor abroad by abiding by its commitments and standing with its allies. The US must take action to defend its interests. The US must fight to win or not fight at all. The US should only respect those foes that fight by the same rules as the US does.

Glick later notes that America needs a President who espouses this Jacksonian approach to foreign policy and rejects the false choice between isolationism and neoconservatism:

Still, it would be a real tragedy if at the end of the primary season, due to neoconservative intellectual bullying the Republican presidential nominee was forced to choose between neoconservativism and isolationism. A rich, successful and popular American foreign policy tradition of Jacksonianism awaits the right candidate.

Governor Palin is one who best captures this approach to foreign policy. Although Glick characterizes Congresswoman Bachmann as Jacksonian, Governor Palin offers more specificity and fewer platitudes. She also provides more pointed solutions and a more detailed understanding of the situation in Libya than the responses of Governors Perry and Romney, thus displaying yet again the difference between responsive leadership of Governor Palin and reactionary politics of the rest.

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  • John_Frank

    Whitney, another excellent post. Thank you!

  • Betsey_Ross

    I want this woman for my President.  It’s just that simple.

  • J Sawyer

    Very helpful post!

    • MarkRNY

      Always from Whitney.

  • Hyman Roth

    I LOVED that piece at Real Clear Politics last week. Thanks for mentioning it. (Also note that Glick mentions that Perry is likely more in line with the neocons!)

    Me thinks that Schweizer is already rubbing off on Sarah in good ways.

    • Whitney Pitcher

      Glick’s piece is very good. It does a nice job describing the differences between isolationism, neoconservatism, and Jacksonian foreign policy. Those are important distinctions to make. 

    • My OP

      I consider Perry a neocon too being that he is an establishment hack. Then there’s Ron Paul on the opposite side being the isolationist.

      We’re sick to death of neocons and we see the messes they’ve gotten us into. Compare that to Ron Paul and his nonsense. If the man doesn’t know or realize the differences between Iran and our ally Israel, then the man has a serious case of ignorance and has a major problem that we can’t take any chances with. Gov. Palin’s approach is right on.

      • TheFluidPusher

        Amen. I like and admire RP, especially when it comes to economic policy, but his foreign policy philosophy scares the bejesus out of me.

        Iran is the worlds leader in state sponsored terrorism. Iran has American blood on its hands (CREATED Hezbollah which bombed our marine barracks, and fund, train, and give arms to insurgents in Iraq & Afghanistan) They have a long history of using terrorist organizations to achieve their foreign policy goals.

        I would of loved if Sarah would of been around  at the last debate to explain all this to Dr.Paul. (Santourum can’t lay the smack down on anyone the way Sarah can) But I suspect she’ll be educating many of her opponents on many things once she jumps in.

  • My OP

    Excellent. Gov. Palin’s 5 point doctrine is straight forward, clear and easy to understand. It doesn’t need to be hundreds of pages long. By the way, what’s the Obama doctrine? The man doesn’t ever write anything down because he doesn’t want to be pinned down on anything. He just reads what’s programmed into his teleprompter.

    Also, what are the positions of Bachman, Perry, et al?

    • wodiej

      I’m not sure someone who needs a teleprompter every time he speaks is capable of writing a doctrine. 

  • section9

    Jacksonianism is the preferred name, but what is actually at work here is the Nixon Doctrine. 

    The U.S. was exhausted and divided in 1969. Nixon cleverly restored the Jacksonian impulse to American foreign policy that Eisenhower had so rigorously followed during his eight years of peace and prosperity, one which had been cast aside by the adventurous Democrats.

    The Nixon Doctrine implicitly sets restrictions on the use of U.S. troops to those theaters that the U.S. Government considers vital to the defense of the United States. This allowed us to save time and treasure and concentrate both on the Soviet Empire.

    We are in a similar situation today with a rising Wilhelmine China, and need a similar policy. Palin gets this, and it is to her credit that she is throwing Bush’s expeditionary streak over the side.The Nixon Doctrine, to wit:

    First, the United States will keep all of its treaty commitments.

    Second, we shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens the freedom of a nation allied with us or of a nation whose survival we consider vital to our security.

    Third, in cases involving other types of aggression, we shall furnish military and economic assistance when requested in accordance with our treaty commitments. But we shall look to the nation directly threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.  

  • TheFluidPusher

    Great post Whitney and AMEN GOVERNOR!

    I’m so sick of American blood being shed and treasure being spent to secure the freedom of those who despise us, our values, and our way of life. And it seems as if so is Sarah.

    I truly believe that WHEN Sarah is our President we will see a strategic global restructuring of our military presence around the world and we will FINALLY have a real leader who uses our military might to protect US and ONLY US. No more free rides for the rest of the world when our 45th President is sworn in.

    I didn’t enlist to protect the freedoms of the French, or the Koreans or the Iraqis. I enlisted to protect MY people. I’ll fight and die for OUR freedoms. Let the rest of the world fight and die for theirs.

    This woman needs to be our Commander in Chief. Period.

    • wodiej

      thank you for your service and your post is right on the money.

      • TheFluidPusher

        Thanks wodiej. I serve with people like all of you in this warrior’s heart.

    • David Zimmerman

      Sounds simple. Get ready folks. Right or wrong, we have a formal treaty to defend Taiwan. We have a commitment to defend Israel. Exert some long range planning. Use projection. What will we do if…….? I am in agreement with Palin’s fight to win philosophy. IMO we have been violating the SP doctrine to our chagrin. But going forward, no more halfassed  ventures.

    • Doc Yeager

      I come from a long line of military families. My dad was Navy and Air Force. My older brother was Army. My younger brother was Army. My sister was Air Force and I was Navy. We sure could have used someone like Sarah Palin during the Vietnam War. Or the Korean War. May God grant us that she becomes our next commander in chief.

  • IwjwI

    Love your work, Whitney! Chock full of great information with the contrast of Sarah Palin to the other candidates being well defined.

    • MarkRNY

      Yeah, she thinks she’s smart or something…so what if she is?!

  • MarkRNY

    And ANOTHER one goes into my WtP (Whitney the Pipsqueak) file! You’re using up my RAM (no pun intended) Ms Pitcher.

    Think I’ll send this one off to Levin. He likes substance. Strange guy.

  • militantfeather

    Good post Whitney. You take on the detailed/wonky stuff very well.

    "Neoconservatives,as Glick notes, have too often (and wrongly) lumped those who take a more Jacksonian view of foreign policy with isolationists."

    They lash out at everyone that disagrees with them, even conservatives, as if their view is a fundamental tenet of conservatism. And of course it is not.

    Bolton is a case in point. He was disgraceful in demeaning Palin recently, not so much the words, more the looks and glances exchanged with the interviewer.

  • BrianusBerkleianus

    Thanks, Whit.  Yes, Jacksonian/Reaganesque/Palin foreign policy seems to be the sound and sane VIA MEDIA, the middle way, between the extremes of isolationism and neo-conservatism.

    It is the policy most consistent and consonant with our character as a people.

    God bless!!

    • icenogle

      Foreign policy is about character. Do you stand up to a bully or appease it. I do disagree with Gov Palin in point two. If you’re going to commit troops to go to war in a country you better be ready to stay there for years if necessary.We kept troops in Europe after WWll to make sure that all the lives lost and money spent wouldn’t be wasted if the Soviet Union decided to invade Western Europe and so exchange one tyrant for another.The same goes for why we are still in South Korea.

      • David Zimmerman

        We are in South Korea because Truman violated the SP doctrine. He fought a war without the will to win. MacArthur had captured the ENTIRE Korean peninsula. He (who understood the oriental mind) threatened China with retaliation should they interfere. Truman fired MacArthur and caused the mess we have there today and in the process got untold numbers of our good troops killed. We are in Korea today because the war was never won, it is still only dormant.
        Sarah Palin has it spot on.

        • section9

          No. MacArthur foolishly walked into a well-laid trap laid by Chinese Marshal Peng De Huie . By the time Eighth Army reached the Yalu River Valley, well over 150,000 PLA troops had infiltrated into the North into the Mountains that ran down the central spine of North Korea. There they lay in ambush until Mao gave the go ahead. Only Puller’s First Marine Division was ready for the assault.

          The Battle of the Chongchon River was the worst American defeat since Bull Run precisely because the Americans ignored Chinese warnings and the warnings of their allies that the Chinese were readying a winter offensive against them.

          Only the relief of MacArthur and his replacement with Matthew Ridgeway, a general who actually valued competent intelligence, steadied the front, so that by the Spring of 1951, the Eighth Army could go on the offensive and drive the PLA out of what is now South Korea.

  • wodiej

    Sounds like Gov. Palin has plenty of chops for foreign policy. Love her FP doctrine.  

  • ZH100

    Very informative post!

  • lastarza

    This couldn’t be any clearer. Great piece. Once it’s decided to enter into a conflict, maximum force must be used and the terms set from the start- UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER. That’s how we won wars in the past.

    • Emerson_C

      The concept of "unconditional surrender" is extremely problematic (I nearly said evil).  It assumes the complete dehumanization of the enemy.  And it can and has worked against American interests.  Towards the end of World War II the doctine was a godsend to Goebbels and the NAZI leadership, who were able to tell the German people that they had no alternative but ti fight to the death.  It was also a cause of despair to the the 1944 plotters like Stauffenberg who were attempting to overthrow the regime and make peace with the Western Allies.  Long before Hirosima Japan had also put out peace feelers (through Swedan and the Vatican) hoping for a negotiated peace.  The doctine of unconditional surrender was the stumpling block.  It prolongs wars unnecessarily.

      • David Zimmerman

        But it sure as hell simplifies the outcome. Are you seriously suggesting that we should have negotiated a peace with Hitler when he was in the process of cremating Jews? Same with Japan. Korea was the first war we stopped short of victory. Look at the mess there. Viet Nam was our first national retreat. How many people were slaughter in our wake??  Sounds like you want to fight a war only to administer punishment. Under your scheme the CSA would still be in in existence. The next conflict will be over Taiwan, with which we have a treaty.

        • porttopalin

          Treaty aside, the question is do we posses the economic high ground to stop China from seizing Taiwan given that China is our banker?

      • wpmwindsong

        Wars that ended with unconditional surrenders include the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II (Europe), World War II (Japan).   They also lasted no more than 4 years, and they were over far sooner than the wars fought not to win such as Vietnam.   And their aftermath resulted in greater freedom and prosperity for the losers.   Victory is not a matter of "dehumanizing" the enemy, especially if the enemy are already "inhuman" such as the condition of slavery, the Nazi regime, and the ruthless Japanese warlords who were dehumanizing their conquests; and in some cases, unconditional surrender is the only way to eliminate evil.  

        Of course Germany and Japan sent out feelers hoping for a negotiated peace.  They were getting their butts kicked, and they wanted to continue their evil ways.  World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles which resulted in even a greater evil only 20 years later.  World War II ended with Hitler dead and a simple unconditional surrender document for Germany and a simple signing ceremony on the Battleship Missouri by the Hirohito.   What’s not to like?

  • irishcoins

    Jerusalem Post Editor, Caroline Glick, grew up in Zip’s neighborhood in Chicago, and is one of my living  female heroes.  Her bio is at:

    "The Jacksonian Foreign Policy Option":

    Caroline Glick’s "Guardian of Zion Award Lecture" is one of my favorites:

    And here is the article Caroline Glick wrote today re Glenn Beck’s appearance in Israel:

  • Guest

    I love that speech, but that video snip is choppy as hell.

  • Guest

    By the way, good show Whitney.

  • Michael Santos

    President Andrew Jackson was the closest thing America has had to a dictator. I am not sure we should be comparing Palin to this really bad president. Can’t we call it Reaganesque foreign policy?

    • Pete Petretich

      Jackson’s image is still on our money. In some ways he is a good model for a prospective Palin Presidency, in some ways he is not.

      For instance, the anti-elitism is certainly a common thread. Jackson also permanently realigned the two-party system, which Sarah could certainly do over the next ten years.

      Personally, I consider the pro-life cause to be a war in the truest sense of the word. Blessed Mother Teresa also did and said so at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. Following from this, our Sarah is certainly a war hero with the scars to prove it, just like Andy Jackson.

    • PJ_in_NC

      "Jacksonianism", as far as I know, was defined by Walter Russell Mead, and he describes it primarily as a cultural tradition that favors a certain foreign policy position (the others are Wilsonians, Hamiltonians, and Jeffersonians).  Andrew Jackson didn’t create it, he just used it brilliantly to get elected.  Reagan did the exact same thing.  

      The short version is here: and there’s a link to his original essay at the bottom; it’s well worth reading.  

      He also talks about why "unconditional surrender" is so important — Jacksonians fight until they *win*.  Once the enemy surrenders, Jacksonian honor demands that they be treated generously, with the goal of getting the former enemy country back up and running again, as demonstrated in Germany and Japan.  If North Korea were to surrender today, they’d be flooded with aid tomorrow, reunited with South Korea, elections set up, and the U.S. Army mostly gone.  

      That’s part of American exceptionalism, btw — we are not looking to conquer and acquire territory.  But if there’s not a clear, unconditional surrender, then Jacksonians don’t go into generous mode, as demonstrated by Russia and the actual state of affairs on the Korean peninsula.

      The very short version of Jacksonian philosophy goes something like this:  

      "You leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone.
      You play fair with me, I’ll play fair with you.
      You [mess] with me, I’ll kill you."

  • Pete Petretich

    Neo-Cons are about much more than foreign policy, but this issue should be further developed, especially in light of our longer-term and distinctive relationships with India, Israel, and the UK.

  • porttopalin

    Let’s also point out that Obama and the Democrats are intending to pressure this Super Committee to slash military spending.
    Based on Bill Gertz’s reporting is this a wise move?

    Like single payer, one size fits all healthcare, cutting the military down to size is another life long ambition if you adhere to a Euro-style, social democracy. Recently I learned that Great Britain only had 64 cruise missiles left in their arsenal. Could this be a byproduct of their entitlement society where employment benefits never run out?
    The size and scope of a military is based on economic stability. Reagan rebuilt the military because of his economic policies. Palin projects a disciplined, walk softly but a carry a big stick doctrine. We simply can’t afford to nation build. She understands in this economic climate America will need to pick and choose spots where conflicts arise, but only if America’s interests or lives are at stake.
    Conversely, Obama seems motivated to use taxpayer dollars in the hopes of overturning autocratic regimes in the Middle East. But we don’t know who is filing that vacuum while he continues to pressure Israel to annex more land to terrorist’s thugs. But, at least he can blame the Arab Spring for his disastrous economic policies.

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