- - Tuesday, January 31, 2023

With more and more billions being wasted in another European war — like World War I — some conservatives are struggling to find their position on the conflict in Ukraine.

Some on the right have been all for jumping into the Ukraine conflict, while others, like TV host Tucker Carlson, have urged caution.

For many, the sensible standard of conservative foreign policy has been President Ronald Reagan, who believed in projecting American power only to defend American interests. He brought American foreign policy back to rationality after Nixon’s Wilsonian foreign policy.

Reagan committed U.S. troops only twice in his presidency. One of those times, in Beirut, he regretted for the rest of his life after almost 300 Marines were killed by a terrorist driving a truck full of explosives. The other was the liberation of Grenada, where the U.S. military whipped communist forces.

The same pseudointellectual forces that got us into World War I and the Iraq War are behind the push to get us more deeply involved in Ukraine — and spend even more billions that could go to good causes here.

We know what a disaster World War I was. We know what a disaster the Iraq War was, costing us so many lives and so much treasure. We are still paying for the wounds of Iraq. Meanwhile, neocons such as John Bolton, who argued for total war, are hiding in the tall grass.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is an interesting case. Once a reliable conservative, he has so marginalized himself that even the voters of Wyoming ignored his call to vote for Rep. Liz Cheney, his daughter. She lost her reelection bid in an embarrassing landslide. Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney has gone from Reagan Republican to something unrecognizable. A globalist?

No one is arguing for an isolationist America. I don’t like to see any group naming themselves “America First” or some iteration thereof. It smacks of the isolationist movement just a few years before World War II.

There are many good arguments urging caution. So many corrupt defense contractors are getting their snout in the trough, piling up billions at the expense of hardworking Americans. The defense industry has always been corrupt, dating back to the Truman Commission, which was assembled to investigate defense contractors ripping off the American taxpayer after WWII. The commission uncovered billions in theft.

American conservatives would also like to see Europe make a bigger commitment to their own continent.

Adding to all this are the many injustices of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government, including censorship of opposing media and parties. That, plus accountability in Ukraine of the American dollar being wasted by corrupt officials, doesn’t make them the most sympathetic of characters.

On a more basic level, can anyone take seriously a war in which the president of Ukraine sits for hours for an Annie Leibovitz celebrity photo shoot of his wife and himself?

On top of it all, we are dangerously close to a nuclear war with a lunatic. Russia has often been referred to as a Third World country with nuclear weapons, and indeed it is.

Boiling this all down means true American conservatives have much to consider before committing our money, our treasure and possibly our troops to another sad foreign adventure.

Conservatives have a time-honored tradition of proceeding cautiously when it comes to foreign affairs and conflict. Many urge conservatives to get back to that rationality.

• Craig Paul Shirley is a conservative political consultant and author of four books on Ronald Reagan and others on U.S. history. His most recent is “April 1945: The Hinge of History.”

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