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November 15, 2011

While We're on the Subject of Republican Foreign Policy...
Posted by David Shorr

6035017129_351221091fIn all honesty, there is a perverse pleasure in watching everyone catch on to the utter inanity of the Republicans' foreign policy pronouncements -- a superficiality that's been our bread and butter at Democracy Arsenal for years. I have long argued that the right wing's talking-point-thin pot shots at President Obama's policy won't constitute a genuine debate until the opposition's arguments draw more scrutiny themselves. Glad we finally got here.

Aside from our own Michael Cohen's excellent (of course) scorecard of the candidates' performances Saturday night, I recommend Max Fisher over at The Atlantic on the GOP hopefuls' nine craziest statements. First off, most commentaries have remarked on the hot flashes of common sense that overcame a number of candidates, and in the lead-in to his piece Fisher noted one that got by me:

Mitt Romney suggested working through Saudi Arabia and Turkey to pressure Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (which sounds an awful lot like "leading from behind")

This rings a bell for me because it's so similar identical to my own response when Shadow Government's Kori Schake slammed Secretary of State Clinton for saying, in Kori's words, "that it mattered more what Turkey and Saudi Arabia said about Syrian repression than the United States." My point was that in any political arena, a stance by any player who moves out of the usual alignment -- i.e. is surprising or newsworthy -- always carries more weight. This is the sad state of our foreign policy discourse, that even a respected expert like Kori cries "DECLINIST" with the flimsiest of pretexts.

But let's get back to the Fisher piece, which puts last Saturday's zero-based foreign aid budgeting boomlet at the top of his worst ideas list. Fisher rightly faults this demagogic craze for a failure to grasp the value and purpose of aid, and he links to this piece in The Economist which explains the folly of the idea at length. To which I only add Michael Magan's post over at Shadow Government, to give you the perspective of an insider who was involved in the George W. Bush administration's push for increased foreign aid.

Oh, and I should also mention James Lindsay's post (a digest of his slightly longer piece), which highlights the buzzsaw of reality awaiting these slogans if a Republican president ever tried implementing them. To which I only add that Republicans shouldn't be so sure that will work any better in the election than in government. If we give the American voter any credit for having a BS detector for how the world really works -- and I certainly do -- they'll see through this stuff like the emperor's new clothes.



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