Will Bob Corker Be the New Face for GOP Foreign Policy?

Josh Rogin had a chance to interview Tennessee’s Bob Corker, likely to be the next ranking member or chairman (depending upon whether the Republicans regain the majority) on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In an interview with The Cable, Corker said he wants the job, that he has been making preliminary preparations just in case he gets it, and that he has a vision of restoring the committee to a place of renewed prominence in the foreign-policy discussion in Washington and around the world.

“We understand the decision about who leads the Foreign Relations Committee is up to the caucus, but in the event I end up being the person, quietly we’ve done a significant amount of travel throughout the world to understand issues more deeply, we’ve had meetings and briefings with numbers of people with varying backgrounds and have really tried to immerse ourselves in such a way that if I am the person, I have the ability to be effective,” Corker said.

I was puzzled by this, however.

Without much fanfare, Corker has visited 48 countries over the past two years, often traveling commercial…. Here in Washington, he’s been meeting with conservatives and realists alike. Some of his briefings and social events have been organized by the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, a former staffer for SRFC chairman Jesse Helms, who declined to comment for this article. (my emphasis)

I wasn’t aware that Pletka knew many realists. More substantively, her foreign policy views don’t seem to align very closely with Corker’s, so it is curious that she would be helping him build a staff-in-waiting for the committee.

For example, Corker has exhibited a welcome degree of pragmatism and prudence when it comes to intervening in civil wars, and he appears to share the public’s distaste for having U.S. troops carry out open-ended nation-building missions. Pletka, by contrast, was an early advocate for U.S. intervention in Libya and Syria. She championed the war in Iraq at every stage. She has scorned any suggestion that the United States should eventually withdraw from Afghanistan. And she complained that American leadership “cannot be subcontracted” to other countries, even though those other countries might have actual interests at stake. Most Americans want the U.S. government to intervene less often abroad, and they welcome other countries stepping forward, and assuming greater responsibility for their own security, and in their respective neigborhoods. I’m guessing that Sen. Corker does as well.

There is a healthy debate brewing within the Republican Party over the purpose of American power, and there does appear to be some movement toward the public’s view, which is increasingly skeptical of being the world’s armed social worker. If Bob Corker becomes the new face of GOP foreign policy, I expect that he will listen to a broad range of views, including actual realists.