Vought, who currently heads the anti-CRT organization Center for Renewing America, made the comment to The Epoch Times on March 31 at an emergency foreign policy conference, “Up from Chaos: Conserving American Security,” which was organized by American Moment and The American Conservative.
Vought also spoke about the disconnect between the views that led to Trump's election and the decision-making in the Trump White House as part of a conference panel, “Rotten Branches: How Congress, The Military, and Executive Bureaucracy Fail Our Foreign Policy.”
He said the policy process was “completely disconnected from the views of the president,” prioritizing defenders of the status quo and avoiding what he described as “paradigm-shifting questions,” including about the decades of U.S. military spending:
“Why are we still in Afghanistan? Why are we on a collision course with Russia? Why haven’t you brought our troops home from Europe? Shouldn’t we prioritize a China fight above all else? Are Japan and Taiwan ready to defend themselves? Why is it the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force just so happen to have the same share of the budget?” he said.
Vought told The Epoch Times that today’s raging inflation can't be an excuse for indefinite budget expansion.
“You’ve got to have an ability to stop spending,” he said. “We should increase defense spending. I definitely think we should increase the Navy’s budget. But this notion that the bar has to be 8 percent, when inflation is 8 percent, is just nonsense."
“We all know that there’s an extensive network of foreign policy elites that have a unified view of the world, and America’s role in it, that is essentially imperialist,” Vought said during his panel talk. He added that policy officials deferred to the network of insiders in part to avoid looking stupid, and that national security agencies capitalized on secrecy and their ability to over-classify information to shut out people who ask inconvenient questions.
Another lodestar was America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, who said that the nation “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”
Vought told the audience that Washington’s current foreign policy elites see Washington's and Adams’s counsel as “quaint advice”—the thinking of a bygone era, before the United States became “a big country,” often dictating the terms of the world order established after World War II.
In Vought’s view, a foreign policy that doesn't take the aspirations of other nations seriously could make it harder to understand the factors that spark overseas conflicts.
“I think we have suffered from that with Russia—never thinking through, ‘What are their interests?’ versus ‘What are our interests?’” he said.
Vought believes that tackling Washington’s entrenched opposition to Trump-style foreign policy will require a new expert class, capable of steering pliable officials in a different direction.
“We need new institutions to credential people, to allow people to think through the pros and cons of different policies,” he told The Epoch Times.
He thinks such institutions offer an important foundation for practical politics, including about the sort of budgeting he oversaw as OMB director.
“It’s time we engage them on the battlefield of ideas,” Vought said. “Once you’ve got that, then you can go to battle and win funding fights and turf war battles.”
He told The Epoch Times he doesn't worry about any labels that may be applied to him because of his participation in ‘Up From Chaos.’
Words like “appeaser” or “stooge,” he said, may be losing their sting from overuse.
“As we’ve seen in the 'woke' area, where they call you a racist, Islamophobe, bigot, that comes at a cost where people stop caring anymore, and you learn to have these conversations, come what may,” he said.