Liz Cheney is making a splash today. She will be chairing a new organization — Keep America Safe — which she says will rally opposition to Obama’s “radical” foreign policy. The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol will be on the board, as will Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. (She co-founded 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America and is a director of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation at the World Trade Center.) The group’s mission statement explains:
The mission of Keep American Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States.
“We are a nation at war,” the mission statement asserts, a sentiment that gets lost in the spasms of “interdependence” and “multilateralism” that stream from Foggy Bottom and the White House every day. The aim here, in case there was some notion afoot that we’re supposed to be lowering our profile in this multilateral world, is to advocate that we preserve and enhance America’s pre-eminent role in the world:
We know that America has, for 233 years, been an unparalleled force for good in the world, that our fighting forces are the best the world has ever known, and that the world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world, for victory in the wars this country fights, for democracy and human rights, and for a strong American military that is needed in the dangerous world in which we live.
That’s as succinct an explanation of American exceptionalism and as stark a contrast to the Obama foreign-policy perspective as you will find anywhere.
There are several noteworthy points. First, you’d have to be blind not to recognize this as a platform not only for a conservative perspective on national security but also for Cheney herself. She has become the Right’s rock star on national security, and this will serve to keep her in the spotlight. The organization is nonpartisan, but Cheney is soon to be on short and long lists for elected office.
Second, as noted above, there is a second effective conservative woman involved in the organization — Debra Burlingame. She has been in print and on TV an effective spokesperson for robust anti-terror policies and a frequent critic of efforts to undo the Bush-era policies. (Politico explains: “Burlingame, for her part, said the administration — like its predecessor- – has given into political correctness in refusing to name the ‘enemy’ as ‘a radical form of Islam.’ “) She too is a rising star on the Right. She is a New Yorker; Cheney is a Virginian. Might we see both in Senate races in the near future? Stay tuned.
Third, Obama’s predispositions on national security are now clear, and so is the challenge for conservatives. Cheney may be the first and most visible person to take on Obama’s national-security policies, but she certainly won’t be the only one. Any figure who seeks to lead the Right — or establish a foothold for 2012 — will need to articulate a rebuttal to Obama’s view of America’s role in the world. Obama has provided a plethora of targets for conservatives to aim at on the domestic front, but it may be on foreign policy, where the stakes are greatest and where his own performance and instincts are so shaky, that he is most vulnerable. (Recall his “debate” with former Vice President Dick Cheney and the ensuing Guantanamo debacle.) Whoever wants to make the most effective case against Obama will have to do at least as well as Dick Cheney did in debunking Obama’s foreign-policy assumptions and reminding Americans of the dangers we face.
Obama has his Peace Prize and the adulation of the American and international Left. He has achieved both, in large part, by repudiating American exceptionalism, soft-peddling American values, and denigrating the necessity of American military might. In time, the rest of the American electorate may very well come to see Obama’s foreign-policy approach as both unsettling and dangerous. And it’s up to Cheney, her organization, and other conservatives to explain what’s at stake if Obama’s vision takes hold, as well as to offer alternatives to his Nobelian views of America and the world.