Conservatism's Future in Foreign Policy

Ken Blackwell

9/10/2009 12:01:00 AM - Ken Blackwell

Peter Robinson, the Ronald Reagan speechwriter who gave us "Mr. Gorbachev: Tear Down this Wall," tells a good story about President Reagan at Pointe du Hoc in 1984. Told he was to receive the Croix de Guerre from the French, Reagan said: "That's for bravery. I only flew a desk. I couldn't possibly accept." Fearing a diplomatic embarrassment, Reagan's aides asked for confirmation. They brought back a correction. The President would receive the Legion d'Honneur--for statesmanship. Grinning, Ronald Reagan straightened the overlarge knot of his tie and said: "Well, I can play that role." Indeed he could.

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Conservatives need to know more about President Reagan's 1984 Mexico City Doctrine. In the culture wars of Washington, that policy too often gets short shrift. Yes, it did mean the U.S. would not back Planned Parenthood or the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) or any outfit that performs or promotes abortion. It also meant that coercive population programs would not get support from the U.S.

But it meant so much more. Reagan's Mexico City Doctrine was a true reflection of his worldview. He did not view people as a problem. He did not see population growth as an obstacle to development. He spoke out for free peoples and free markets.

A conservative future in foreign policy should embrace Reagan's core beliefs in the Mexico City Doctrine. We should stand for free peoples and free markets. India turned away from the socialist policies and population control coercion that disfigured the world's largest democracy in the 1970s and is today thriving. Reagan would understand.

Conservatives have always had one advantage over liberals. Conservatives are on the side of common sense. Nothing shows this more than the fifty-year failed liberal project of population control. Dr. Nick Eberstadt is a respected demographer at the American Enterprise Institute. Eberstadt’s research demonstrates that Asia will face “an old age tsunami” at mid-century from falling birth rates. China’s brutal one-child policy—which has led to tens of millions of forced abortions—is well known. But Dr. Eberstadt shows that the entire continent—including Japan, Russia, and India, including even the Arab Middle East—is in danger of a “demographic winter.” Tens of millions of old people will be bereft of the means to sustain themselves—and younger people in these stricken nations will be forced to accept impossible levels of taxation just to keep their aging populations alive.

Common sense tells us that population control will provoke the peoples of Asia against the U.S. In this and other lesser developed lands, U.S. financial backing for population controllers is a lightning rod for anti-Americanism. The late Shah’s support for such plans helped spark a revolution against him and against “the great Satan” that supported him.

American taxpayers do not want to pay for population control abroad. Americans know there are gross abuses throughout these projects. In India, in the 70s, tens of thousands of teenage boys were vasectomized at the prodding of the Indira Gandhi government. In Peru, native peoples were pressured into sterilizations. All of this is done in our name, and we bear the onus of these self-defeating projects.

John F. Kennedy appealed powerfully to the peoples living in “the huts and villages of half the globe.” He sent Peace Corps volunteers to help with clean water projects, building roads and schools. This was America at her best. Ronald Reagan defended religious liberty and upheld human dignity with his Mexico City policy of not funding international abortionists.

Trying to limit the populations of non-white peoples throughout the world can only provoke anti-Americanism. Exporting abortion—as we are now doing under President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—is not just a “social issue.” It is a national security issue. It will spur enlistments for Al Qaeda and other international terrorists.

By re-adopting the Mexico City doctrine, we will put ourselves on the side of the world's "poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free." For the sake of human rights, fiscal responsibility, and a conservative vision of limited government, the time has come for the U.S. to cease funding all population control projects abroad. It’s the common sense approach. Family, faith, and freedom--these are principles that can form a solid basis for American foreign policy in the future.