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House GOP Breaking From Hawk Stereotype

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner takes questions last week from reporters. Boehner pushed a resolution Friday that demanded more explanation from the White House on its military involvement in Libya and justification within 14 days for continued U.S. airstrikes there.

House Republicans took the first concrete steps Friday toward a fundamental shift in the party’s war and military policy.

On issues ranging from military spending to trade to the country’s relationship with China, GOP Members have demonstrated an increasingly nuanced worldview that breaks the stereotypes of Republicans as fierce hawks with an isolationist streak.

That evolution was on full display Friday in the broad GOP support not only for a leadership-backed resolution questioning U.S. involvement in the NATO-led Libya campaign, but also for a far more aggressive measure authored by anti-war advocate Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

While GOP hawks banded together against both measures, they are an increasingly smaller part of the Conference — as evidenced by the strong 268-145 vote in support of the leadership proposal authored by Speaker John Boehner. The Ohio Republican’s measure called on the president to present Congress with his justification for continued U.S. airstrikes in Libya within 14 days, but 87 Republicans also voted for Kucinich’s proposal to force the U.S to end those actions in 15 days.

The question of how much our foreign efforts cost has weighed increasingly heavily on the GOP, and that has been most obvious in how they have approached President Barack Obama’s March decision to participate in the Libyan conflict, which has evolved into a civil war.

Republicans have often been loath to be seen as not supporting troops or the efforts of the U.S. once it has become engaged in a military action. But with the deficit skyrocketing and the White House moving into a third war under what the GOP sees as questionable circumstances, they now find themselves with reservations about that role.

“I’ve got 22 years in the military so the thing I look for: What’s my mission, what’s my goal, what’s my objective, what’s my instinct? And I don’t have that here,” freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said.

“And what I’m starting to see here is this very incessant mission creep. And that concerns me, because when I look back at the history of warfare, that’s really how you lose fighting battles,” West continued. He bluntly added that the White House has been cavalier in handling its constitutional duty to make the case for its actions to Congress.

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