The global war on terror was the gift that kept on giving for Republican foreign-policy experts for the better part of a decade. The open-ended and amorphous struggle against al Qaeda and its offshoots not only offered rhetorical cover for traditional party priorities, such as rapidly expanding the military and striking against rogues such as Saddam Hussein, it was the perfect vehicle to denigrate Democrats as too soft to get the job done. No wonder President George W. Bush and political strategist Karl Rove thought that terrorism would be the issue that would help cement the permanent Republican majority of which they long had dreamed.
But with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq concluding, the American public profoundly fatigued with foreign entanglements, and the Treasury deep in the red, all but the most recalcitrant recognize that the Republican approach to foreign policy needs some reinvention. Indeed, recent polls suggest that America's chief complaint with the GOP these days is its unwillingness to compromise or change. Here are five foreign-policy priorities that the Republicans could push if they are serious about getting their mojo back (hint: Benghazi ain't one of ‘em).
Normalize relations with Cuba: If Nixon could go to China, why can't brave Republicans push for normalizing relations with Havana? The case is not a hard one to make. The embargo has been in place for more than 50 years, and while it has hobbled Cuba's economy, it has had disastrously little impact in securing regime change. A flood of U.S. commercial activity, tourists, advertising, and person-to-person engagement would almost certainly bring change more rapidly than sanctions, given that Cuba has remained a communist dictatorship largely because Washington has insisted that it shouldn't. The GOP could make the case on economic grounds, and although a portion of the Cuban-American community in Florida would surely despair, the move would likely be genuinely popular with the broader Latino community in the United States. Let President Obama try to defend why an embargo should stay in place. As an added bonus, the move would look decidedly pragmatic at a time when the party is battling the broad public perception that it is too often extremist and too often intractable.
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