A Wyoming airman sorts supplies in support of Operation Allies Refuge in New Jersey. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Joseph Morales)

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) has an extensive foreign policy record.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Cheney is among a small group of lawmakers with outsized influence on the Department of Defense’s purse strings. Before she ran for office, she was a ranking official in the U.S. Department of State, serving as one of the Bush Administration’s top diplomatic officials at the height of America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, played a major role in the United States’ presence in the region. She has maintained a preventionist stance on Afghanistan in the years since, stating that the United States presence in the country is necessary to prevent a resurgence in terrorist activity from groups like the Taliban. 

Now, as fallout mounts around the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — and the death of a Marine from northwestern Wyoming who was killed last week in Kabul — some of Cheney’s political opponents are wielding her foreign policy record against her.  

Wyoming Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) — the fundraising leader among Cheney’s challengers in the U.S. House race — has referred to Cheney as a warmonger in campaign materials, and has maintained that any long-term military engagement in the region was a mistake. Wyoming Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) blamed Cheney directly for the scenario in Afghanistan, saying in a statement that she “and other radical socialists” undermined former president Donald Trump’s efforts to negotiate with the Taliban last year.

“The Taliban would not have double-crossed President Trump, because they understood he would not allow it,” Gray wrote in a statement. “What happened in Afghanistan is another result of Cheney voting to impeach President Trump to strengthen Biden and Pelosi.” (Gray declined to be interviewed.) 

Through it all, Cheney has remained steadfast, insisting withdrawal — while politically popular — was a losing strategy. “You don’t end wars by surrendering,” Cheney tweeted earlier this week.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a House Republican Leadership press conference, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Cheney has blamed both Trump and President Joe Biden for a withdrawal strategy that resulted in the Taliban-led takeover of the country and the deaths of hundreds, including 13 Marines. One of those troops, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, hailed from Bondurant. She has also supported the idea of leaving a limited force of American troops in the country to stabilize relations there, a plan advocated for by many former members of the Bush administration.

“Allowing our policy to be set around political slogans is extremely dangerous,” Cheney said during a Q&A at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on Aug. 17. “We’ve had now three presidents essentially — Obama, Trump and now Biden, all of whom said ‘oh we have to end the endless wars.’” (Cheney was not available for an interview for this story.)

“Our leaders should have done a better job at explaining to the American people why we need to deploy and why [a troop presence] is important for counterterrorism efforts and our counterintelligence efforts,” she added. “The notion that you’re going to simply announce ‘we’re withdrawing’ was wrong. I think it reflects a misunderstanding about America’s role in the world.”

Foreign policy in the 2020 House race

Using Cheney’s foreign policy track record against her is nothing new. Opponents from Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz to former President Donald Trump have painted the Cheney family as the symbol of America’s modern foreign policy failures, and have attacked her stances as Democrats and Republicans alike began to sour on “forever wars” like the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.

Some, like Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) have alleged Cheney worked to undermine Trump’s de-escalation efforts, though those allegations have since been debunked.

Among her challengers, the positions on America’s role in the country vary widely. 

Denton Knapp, an army veteran who served at Bagram Air Base near the Afghan capital of Kabul, has focused his public criticisms on the Biden administration while defending Cheney’s position. Knapp, like Cheney, has also expressed support for a limited troop presence in the country for counterterrorism efforts.

The two differ on one key point, however: Knapp does not blame Trump’s pledge to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May 1 for the chaos surrounding America’s exit from the country.

“I think [the Taliban] knew very clearly from our State Department as well as with Trump as Commander-in-Chief that they could not do what they did this past week while Trump was president,” Knapp said.

Hundreds of community members and visitors gather in downtown Jackson on Aug. 30, 2021, to honor the family of Marine Crops Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum as they are escorted home upon their return to Jackson. (Jackson Hole News&Guide/Meg Potter/Wyoming News Exchange)

Foreign policy can be a touchy topic for candidates trying to align themselves with the former president, who earned a higher percentage of the vote in Wyoming than in any other state. Cheney challenger and Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith, for example, faced early attacks in Wyoming and in the conservative press for statements he made during his 2016 Congressional bid regarding American intervention overseas, in which he appeared to criticize Trump’s calls to withdraw from the Middle East.

Smith, who did not respond to several interview requests, later challenged that narrative in a statement on his website.

Conservatism’s evolving view

The diversity of perspectives in the race help to illustrate the conservative movement’s evolving view of American involvement in foreign countries, according to University of New Haven political science professor Chris Haynes, who studies political framing and public opinion. Once a minority opinion in Republican politics, anti-interventionism grew into a mainstream facet of conservatism with the rise of candidates like libertarian Ron Paul and later, Trump, Haynes said. 

“The traditional DNA for Republicans are to be kind of the ‘Reagan Republican,’ sort of internationalist pro-democracy, all that other stuff, but it really clashes right with Trumpism and its anti-war stance. The trend nowadays is to be pro-Trump if you’re on the Republican side just to save your own skin and to win elections, and that’s why it becomes very difficult,” Haynes said. 

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The complexities are enough that Bouchard wonders whether it’s still worth running against Cheney on Afghanistan policy. 

“It’s not even an issue,” he said. “People are done listening to her. She’s been part of the problem. Her dad’s been part of the problem … The Democrats used to hate Dick Cheney. And I was on the same side as Democrats. Now everything is flip-flopped around. I can’t make sense of what the Democrats are thinking.”

Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) speaks during the first day of the legislature’s in-person session, March 1, 2021. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Haynes said running on foreign policy may not be a worthwhile strategy for the candidates. At this point, he said, Biden’s sliding poll numbers are likely attributable to temporary distaste from Democratic voters, and that Afghanistan policy is unlikely to play a significant role in Republican races.

Then again, Haynes said, the current political climate is unprecedented in American history. It remains to be seen if Cheney’s ideological view of America as the “world’s policeman” is one that aligns with that of a plurality of conservative voters, he said.

“[Some Republican candidates] are willing to bend or reshape what conservatism used to be as long as they can win,” Haynes said. “Liz Cheney is not willing to do that, and we’ll see at the end of the day whether her principled approach is going to get her kicked out of office, or whether her movement either grows or gets completely overwhelmed by the more pragmatic approach.”

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  1. Wyomong. It’s the economy, stupid.

    Trillions spent overseas, not much spent rebuilding Wyoming.

    The focus of the race will be on the people of Wyoming. Not Afghanistan. Not Trump. Not rewinding the clock.

    Who can bring home the bacon and policies to rebuild this great?

  2. Anyone who calls Liz Cheney a “radical socialist” is unfit to hold elected office of any kind. We need to do better in Wyoming and stop letting the fringe take control of our lives.

    1. most reasonable people will agree right along with you. unfortunately the loud obnoxious chrump minions subscribe to goofball conspiracies and they will never be swayed. truth and facts don’t matter to those who are educated from facebook/parler/telegram/OAN

      1. Most people don’t understand that education is a never-ending process. Socrates paid the ultimate price for trying to make that point.
        You may not be aware that many people who voted for Obama as a repudiation of the Bush/Cheney regime wound up choosing Trump over Clinton for the same reason…. Washington is a cess pool and they want change. You’d be surprised at how often some people revise their beliefs as a result of new information and a willingness to better themselves. Unfortunately we are the exception.
        So we read and learn and laugh at the Facebook addicts on both sides of the aisle. It must suck to already know everything, because there would be nothing to look forward to. I think that is why people like Cheney never smile.

        1. “….some people revise their beliefs as a result of new information and a willingness to better themselves. Unfortunately we are the exception.”

          yes, you are the exception. you repeat false information and conspiracy theories that are borne out of nonsense, even when the facts are readily available to you.

          thank you for allowing me to finally agree with something you’ve said.

          Cheers

  3. In the interests of more honestr eportage , we should probably blow away the smoke that conceals Liz Cheney’s purported expertise in Middle Easter policy. Liz had the big job at the State Department created for her, a PDAS position , which is the acronym for Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and designated to oversee Middle East and North African affairs.

    What were Liz’s qualifications for that post back in 2005 , given its intrinsic importance ? Almost zero. Nada. Zilch . The other choice offered for the seat was a hard line neo-conservative named Danielle Pletka , whom Gen. Colin Powell said was the greater of the two evils, and because she was the Vice President’s daughter she got the job , never mind being wholly unqualified. It did not hurt Liz that her husband Phil Perry was appointed to the post of chief lawyer for the new Homeland Defense department shortly before Liz got her plush seat micromanaging dipomacy in the Middle East. Liz was dad Dick Cheney’s ace in the hole and the two Perrys built a fine bridge between the civilian and military bodies of a totally awful Middle East debacle, the Bush-Cheney Iraq War being the bloody centerpiece we still endure to this day. Afghanistan was a couple seats back in that infernal bus going headlong to a geopolitical nightmare.

    Liz knew next to nothing about the Middle East, beyond a half-hearted attempt to learn some catch Arabic phraseology and attending a few seminars. Much of America’s failed Middle East policy and even some of Afghanistan ( which was always known to be an ‘ unwinnable war ‘ ) can be laid at Liz Cheney’s office door or just down the hall.

    Fast forwarding to 2021 and the retreat from Kabul and all that goes with that . What can we conclude from all of this ? Liz now knows more about the Middle East and Afghanistan than she did before, by osmosis. But not nearly enough of a knowledge base to justify her inflammatory rhetoric of late. SS-DD. But the likes of Anthony Bouchard, Chuck Gray , and even that Darin Smith walk-on who is also an executive with the Christian Broadcasting Network, collectively know zilch about foreign policy anywhere , especially east of Scottsbluff. All this blowing about Afghanistan is wholly irrelevant to Wyoming. Yet here we are, heeling wild camels across the sagebrush steppes..

    Any pretense that Liz Cheney’s foreign policy expertise and rhetoric regarding Afghanistan and her challengers are geopolitical scholars and arguably have bearing on a Wyoming Congressional race — well , that is a Red Herring the size of a beached humpback whale carcass. But, hey—we’re a Red State… which I sometimes call Absurdistan.

    1. I agree with you on many points.
      I doubt that any of these folks could survive a game of RISK.
      The imbalance that the once great powers put into play with the fall of the Ottomans has yet to reach its endgame. The thought that we could somehow create a meaningful difference in Islamic political conflicts with bombs and posturing is pure fantasy.
      Cheney wants contracts for Haliburton, and a bloated pension to fall back on. That’s all.
      These other guys are vying for position, but it takes years of study to understand the Middle East and most people are not qualified to suggest a course of action. Current events show this.

  4. Thanks Mr. Gray. Your description of Liz Cheney as a “radical socialist” gave me my laugh of the day.

  5. The problem for Cheney is that her “political opponents” include 75% of the voters in the GOP. When you purposely offend your voter base, calling it courageous will only go so far.

  6. I’m pretty impressed with Liz’s refusal to lace up the Republican Jack-Boots.

    You choose your own footwear; now get over it and get on with it!

    Peace. NOW.

    1. What Liz are you referring to? Taylor?
      Cheney is hell bent on bombing families and weddings.
      She is the poster child of the military industrial complex that IKE warned us about.

  7. Let’s hope that truth will enter into the conversation about US imperial militarism.
    Iraq never attacked us. Afghanistan never attacked us. Syria never attacked us. Libya had given up on terrorism and was building Africa for the 21st century.
    The maniacs like the Bushes and the Cheneys and the Clintons and the Obamas have created a 28 trillion dollar deficit and the downfall of this republic. Soon the dollar will not be the reserve currency and we will all be missing the day when we could afford luxuries.
    The demented will seek to blame Trump, of course, who was only involved for 4 years. They will give the career criminals a pass. They will wave their partisan flags and insist that their cult can fix the Titanic as the lifeboats pull away.
    That’s all hogwash. No one in politics can fix this sinking ship. Wyoming needs to think about survival in a post-constitutional world. Because that is where we are headed. The last thing we want is to let someone like Cheney guide our lifeboats to the bottom.

    1. Well said. The media will continue to plug for Cheney over their shared rabid hatred of Trump. Throw in that Dems are pushing for all of their voters in the state to “party-raid” the Republican primary in an effort to tilt the over-saturated field in her favor, and the tactics are obvious. Her out-of-state coffers, and her media endorsement will ensure a media blitz at a level not likely seen before in ‘ol Wyo. She doesn’t poll well, however, and the fact that she has only returned to do media puff interviews, rather than address her angry constituents, hasn’t helped her. Time will tell.

      1. I did not expect to find many nutters in Wyoming, frankly.
        We figured we left the asylum behind when we left Cali.
        But after exploring things a bit it sure is a surprise to see how many people simply get their opinions from the same dark places that Californians do.
        Narcissistic Personality Disorder is learned. Look it up. It applies.
        People like to be the center of things, and they sure love to lead a mob.
        I knew Cheney was a bad choice in the last election, but I held my nose.
        My philosophy has always been to hope that there is a balance and the crazy politicians will be kept in check by the sane ones. In fact, I used to mix up my votes between parties in hopes of keeping that balance.
        Now you can’t do that. Most choices are bad choices. More nuts than normals.
        Cheney has too much cash behind her in a corrupt situation where crazy can win.
        I only hope we can have a somewhat stable Wyoming at home while the blue states make war upon themselves over pronouns and bathrooms and synthetic racism.
        Washington is too dark a hole to even consider fixing, maybe Cheney belongs there.

        1. On the flip side Bob, us reasonable wyoming people are used to dealing with the gullible fringe who have an unhealthy persecution complex.

          You have continously posted false and incorrect information here. You have been provided proof to your errors, yet do not learn from it. Willfully ignorant is not an admirable personality trait. If being confronted on your falsehoods is painful for you, perhaps you should find your safe space with the others who believe in your fantasies.