- - Monday, August 30, 2021

In the run-up to the 2020 elections, it was not uncommon to hear people say, “I’m not voting on foreign policy. I’m voting on [pick your domestic issue].”

Here’s the problem with that logic. Regardless of what voters think they’re voting for, they’re definitely voting on foreign affairs and national security. After all, the president is commander-in-chief and master of American foreign policy – and we don’t get to choose when and where a crisis will develop.

Voters’ decisions affect their wallets, their individual freedoms – and their personal safety. After Afghanistan, every American needs to consider their choices with more seriousness. 

Here’s how American politics usually works. On domestic issues, Americans side with politicians who side with them. If they like Obamacare, for example, and a candidate likes Obamacare, they like that candidate.

But when it comes to foreign affairs, it’s just the opposite. They pick a candidate they trust and assume their candidate will look after their interest.

That way of doing politics as usual needs to change. 

The debate in 2020 was over mean-tweeting and loose rhetoric countered with promises of more statesmanlike stature and adult leadership. This was largely a superficial contrast, however – one that eschewed a serious debate over leadership and issues.

On every serious national security issue, this administration has been a disaster from the border to Afghanistan. Even allies who once cheered the return of less abrasive American leadership are now appalled by U.S. policy, particularly the humiliating evacuation from Kabul.

The question of the day is: “How could this happen?” The question of the day ought to be: “Why didn’t everyone see this coming?”

President Joe Biden is governing just like former President Barack Obama did. That should come as no surprise; his foreign and security team is virtually a roster of Obama veterans. Their preferred policies are appeasement, accommodation, disengagement, and outsourcing responsibilities to others. 

Americans need to start thinking for themselves if they want a foreign policy that represents them. This is particularly important for conservatives who, despite their many differences on many issues, agree that American defense and security policies ought to be guided first and foremost by American interests. 

Conservatives can no longer look at the Conservative movement like a buffet where they can take all the servings they want of certain dishes and ignore the rest. Conservatives across the movement need to care about and educate themselves on all the crucial issues we have to get right to save this country, including national security. 

Today, Mr. Biden is underwater on most issues Americans care about: inflation, debt, voting integrity, border security, critical race theory, and more. That is true despite the left commanding nearly every inch of the public square, including the levers of government, a “woke” media, Hollywood elites, and virtually every inch of the Ivory Tower.

How is that possible? Because Americans are talking among themselves about what they see right in front of them. On talk radio, in school board meetings, at Denny’s and the Waffle House, in honky-tonks and front porch patios, Americans are having deep discussions about the issues that really matter to them. 

All it takes is the courage to get out there and dialogue. That’s not to say it’s easy. But you can’t be intimidated at the thought of being called a racist if you hate anti-racism or being labeled an extremist if you want voting to be easy to do but hard to cheat at. 

And national security must be on the menu. Before Mr. Biden, we were more united on national security than even most conservatives recognized. 

All America needs is to muster the will to talk and educate ourselves about what America needs. The alternative is outsourcing our freedom, prosperity, and security to those who don’t deserve our trust. 

• A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano, directs the think tank’s research on national security and foreign affairs.

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