National Security

Vandenberg Coalition hopes to advance ‘conservative internationalist’ agenda

Vandenberg Coalition chairman Elliott Abrams / Getty Images • April 29, 2021 6:20 pm

The debate over what, exactly, a Republican foreign policy should look like began with the fallout from the Iraq war. It gained steam with the GOP’s 2016 nomination of Donald Trump, who spurned many of what had once been core GOP foreign policy principles, and was a throughline of his presidency.

We didn’t get many answers. Now, a new organization aims to define the contours of a foreign policy vision for the post-Trump GOP that unites American internationalists across the political spectrum. Named after former senator and cold warrior Arthur Vandenberg (R., Mich.), the Vandenberg Coalition will advocate a platform of conservative internationalism—characterized by a strong military, maintaining alliances, and fair trade, all of which the coalition’s leaders believe counter U.S. adversaries, keep the country safe, and protect the interests of working Americans.

“There is a great tradition of Republican and conservative internationalism that starts with Arthur Vandenberg and goes right on through Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and right on to today, but it was divided in 2016,” said Elliott Abrams, the chairman of the group. “Some of us were ‘Never Trumpers,’ and many of us were in the administration. We thought this coalition should reunite now because we were divided over Trump, but we were not divided over policy: over China, Iran, Russia, or the defense budget. Now is the time to get this started, and we’ve had a terrific reaction.”

Trump’s inchoate foreign policy views divided conservatives throughout his presidency. The former president faced internal pushback for attempting to withdraw from Afghanistan and abandoning Kurdish allies in Syria and elsewhere. Many erstwhile Republicans also took offense to the president’s eagerness to cozy up to autocratic strongmen like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Others found much to like in the confrontational tack he adopted toward Iran and China and his historic support for the State of Israel.

The Vandenberg Coalition’s board of directors and


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