Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More on the GOP's foreign policy (or lack thereof)

by Peter Henne

I wanted to highlight an excellent piece Think Progress--a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund--put out yesterday
on the lack of a coherent Republican foreign policy as part of their "Progress Report" series. I have been rather upset with the absence of good sparring partners among the GOP. Republican leaders' reactions to President Obama's Iraq war speech had more to do with politics than honoring our troops, and the new Republican strategy recently released in book form barely mentions foreign policy. So Think Progress' analysis is timely and useful.

They ascribe this situation to divisions among conservatives on foreign policy, specifically the divide between isolationist and more activist strains, with old-time realists being pushed aside. There is something there; see for example some neoconservatives' frustration with Bush's more conciliatory North Korea policy in his second term.

I wonder how much of this, though, is driven by politics pushing beliefs on foreign policy, rather than vice-versa. It is possible that support for a certain foreign policy is driven by attitudes towards its sponsor. Maybe conservatives had no inherent interest in spreading democracy or invading Iraq, but they believed Bush represented their ideals and thus altered their foreign policy preferences to fit those of their elites.
So conservatives--including those now apparently skeptical of international engagements--didn't suddenly change their beliefs when Obama became President. Instead, they were opposed to the man currently in charge, and thus opposed what he advanced.

But this is where the divisions
Think Progress points to come in. Some neoconservatives, as noted, were beyond even Bush in terms of an aggressive foreign policy, and thus Obama's international engagements could never satisfy them. Others on the right were not as committed to a strong foreign policy, and so attack Obama from the other side. This leaves Republicans with a dilemma; it would seem strange to simultaneously attack the President for being too adventurous and not adventurous enough, even though some figures on the Right have done this. And so the GOP stays silent.

I still think the
Think Progress analysis is 90% right, but these other dynamics may be driving current GOP silence on foreign policy as well.

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