The Corner

National Security & Defense

Where Are Republicans on Afghanistan Anyway?

A U.S. Marine walks near Afghan National Army soldiers during training in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, July 5, 2017. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

As Isaac Schorr noted earlier, one sideshow of the debate over Liz Cheney’s position in the House leadership has been the claim that she should go because her foreign-policy views are no longer in sync with the party’s, an argument made with varying degrees of sincerity.

The biggest recent divide between Republican hawks and doves has concerned the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan. If Republican voters want out of the country and it’s important for the party’s leadership to reflect their sentiment, then there’s a bigger problem than Cheney: The top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have both expressed support for keeping troops in Afghanistan. So have the top Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So has the Senate’s Republican leader.

There’s surprisingly little public polling on what Republican voters think about it. In an October 2019 poll, 46 percent of Republicans wanted a decrease in troop levels or a full and rapid withdrawal while 34 percent wanted to keep current troop levels. In another poll a few weeks ago, 52 percent of Republicans backed President Biden’s planned withdrawal while 33 percent disagreed. Unsurprisingly, Democrats were more supportive of Biden’s policy. Both of these polls are notable for the large fraction of undecideds.

A few conclusions from those polls: 1) Republican voters have diverse opinions on Afghanistan but lean against staying. 2) Republicans in leadership positions in Congress tend to be more hawkish than their voters on Afghanistan. 3) You can favor or oppose Biden’s withdrawal while being within the mainstream of the opinion of Republican voters.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Recommended

The Latest