Democracy Arsenal

« Next Stop Tehran | Main | What was done right this year? »

December 28, 2011

GOP Foreign Policy v. Reality -- A Messy Divorce
Posted by David Shorr

The-Madness-of-King-Georg-001With war fever mounting for an attack on Iran, Michael builds on Steve Walt's and Dan Drezner's take-downs of the new Matthew Kroenig charge bugle call Foreign Affairs essay. Like Michael, I want to look through a wider angle lens so that we see the bigger problems with the far-Right GOP approach to the world. The right wing's tendency to inflate threats and discount potential blowback is indeed part of a larger pattern of playing fast and loose with reality.

In a weird way, I'm kind of envious of the critics who offer themselves as a replacement for the Obama administration. Foreign policy is so much easier the way they do it. True to Mencken's classic put-down, they have a clear and simple answer for every complex problem. I like how Michael encapsulated it in a recent piece on the candidate debates:

To listen to the GOP candidates on Iran is to think that an American president can use a little military force here, drop a few sanctions there, and voilà, the Iranian nuclear program will be stopped dead in its tracks.

Right, magical thinking.

Plus, they get to feel all Winston Churchill-ey -- which may indeed be a main point. As Churchill's presumptive heirs, they pride themselves on unique insight into the true nature of the threats we face (i.e. worse-than-Democrats-recognize) and the necessary response (i.e. tougher-than-Democrats-would-do). Republicans have become so entranced by this political self-image that they are staking their entire foreign policy on moral clarity, threat-inflation, defiance toward the rest of the world, and toughness for its own sake.

It's left them with a strange commander in chief test in their primary contest. Rather than showing how they'd serve as wise stewards of American power and steer the country through turbulent times, the candidates have been straining to outdo one another in pure bluster. When second-generation North Korean strongman Kim Jong Il dies, obviously the priority is to express America's repugnance, rather than to worry about possible escalation in one of the world's hottest flashpoints.

And since this is a competition to reinforce ultra-conservative image and ideology, facts and reality have no bearing on the matter. As I outlined in my recent Republican FP Mad Libs post, part of the formula is to call for "tough-sounding steps that might / might not be practical and President Obama may or may not already be doing." Michele Bachmann's proposal to shut down an American embassy in Iran that's been closed for over 30 years was merely a high/lowpoint in a steady flow of absurdity. In her own mind, and those of the GOP base, it was plausible that President Obama has an ambassador in Tehran -- since, you know, he's such a reason-with-evildoers appeaser. Conversely, the Republican monopoly on toughness means President Obama must be denied any credit for killing Osama bin Laden. If you'll recall, the cognitive dissonance prompted several true believers to actually give Obama's predecessor the credit, which must have set some kind of world record for audacity.

This is how a major political party loses its foreign policy sanity: via a slippery slope from delusions of Churchillian grandeur to just plain delusional. But let me trace back to where I began. The topic was the way Republicans rig up a whole parallel universe to bolster their foreign policy approach -- one where a nuclear-capable Iran brings the most dire of consequences, but attacking Iran is nearly cost-free. Again, this is part of a much more extensive pattern. As a close observer of the proponents of ultra-hawk foreign policy, let me run through the main precepts of their approach:

  1. Get-tough policies will consistently produce the desired result, and without unintended consequences. These people are so good at painting rosy scenarios, it's just astounding that they try to tag Dems with being naive. 
  2. The targets of US policy will do terrible things if we don't show them who's boss, but will be cowed by our displays of strength. I've always liked Phil Gordon's retort to Donald Rumsfeld's pet idea about weakness being provocative; as Phil noted in his Winning the Right War book, "it turns out that toughness can be provocative as well." As I read Cohen, Walt, and Dresner, I was struck particularly by the Right's beilef that Iranian leaders will somehow make a lot of mischief if we don't attack them, but will behave if we do.
  3. The rest of the world should just say "thank you," and go on their way. Fans of "A Few Good Men" can call it the Col. Jessup Doctrine, but international sentiment isn't much of a factor in the Right's foreign policy -- except as something they make a big show of flouting. For all the conservatives' talk about respecting America's allies, they can be rolled right over whenever they take issue with US unilateralism. 
  4. Do as I say, not as I do. Another convenience of American exceptionalism (more properly labeled infallibility or narcissism, as I've argued) is that it gives us a HUGE amount of license for us to shrug off international obligations while we run around telling others to abide by international obligations. Since our moral authority is inherent, America's actions cannot be questioned along with the behavior of others. According to the Right wing's rules of domestic political debate, anyone drawing a link between the two will be accused of believing in a moral equivalence between America and the bad guys. 

Which is a long way of saying they haven't learned anything from the Iraq War debacle. During our time in the political wilderness, we progressives actually wrestled with the challenges of exerting American influence in a fast-changing world. By the look of things, our conservative friends -- the loudest ones any way (a key distinction) -- have become intellectually inbred. I'm not hearing anything that sounds like it's been updated since 2002. Put it this way, if Pamela Geller and Donald Trump are associated with your movement as any kind of spokespersons, you have a problem. (Sharia law, really!?@?#?)

But hey, I guess it's good for Democrats, even if it is tragic for the two-party system. The Republican foreign policy argument has been so tailored to their base that it's left them without a plausible case for being able to govern. As scary and out-of-touch as these ideas are, though, the good news is that a sizable majority of Americans (and certainly of swing voters) will find them just as horrifying in 2012 as they did in 2006 and 2008. They haven't forgotten the Iraq debacle and know very well that the real world doesn't work according to Right wing dogma.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference GOP Foreign Policy v. Reality -- A Messy Divorce:


The topic was the way Republicans rig up a whole parallel universe to bolster their foreign policy approach -- one where a nuclear-capable Iran brings the most dire of consequences, but attacking Iran is nearly cost-free.

From a few years to the present, can alone become a monster from a artefact of 10 articles today, Kobe Bryant and Monster Beats Asia Pacific President, Mr. FangShiJing beeline up to the end of 2010, the monster will accept a abundance of added than 30 artefact lines, acutely is a able chump acknowledgment to the approaching with aplomb in the monster, although alone two years of history to defeat a monster, but now no one dares monster cast light, assault Ferrari accouterment and fashion, represented by a Monster Headphones angle articles and will aswell be top end a new way, maybe one day, if you see the added ancillary of the monster as accepted as the iPod headphones, Dr. Justin Bi Bo clothes have to aswell defeat them bound to anticipate them from affairs one actual popular.
Monster Earphones
Monster Beats Studio
wholesale monster headphones
Monster Beats Solo HD
Monster Limited Edition
Monster Artist

It is nice to know this. Thanks for the time and effort. It is well appreciated. More to come.

It is nice to know this. Thanks for the time and effort. It is well appreciated. More to come.

When you remove the ads I might comment.

You made a great point right there. I made a investigation on the topic and found many people will agree with your article. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I wish you post again soon.

Such a nice post this is! Thanks for your sharing with us~!

I really enjoyed this post, especially the “examples in this post” portion which made it really easy for me to SEE what you were talking about without even having to leave the article. Thanks~

I'd have to give green light with you on this. Which is not something I usually do! I love reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!~

 06年の前触れらしきものは、オーランド?マジックが中Nike サッカースパイク断されたとの合意を受けて、哈达威できなかったが、その週末に、韓国のサッカーファンたちは忘れていた彼だ。 今メンフィスの哈达威に住んでいます。再びオーランドが構築される地位ミズノ サッカーシューズ、とても感动した後、「ここを出て、私ネイティブ フィッツシモンズは久しぶりに素敌だし、ここに感じのトリーバーチ ブーツ気分が良かった」と話した。哈达威の声がして、「私は心から感謝したところで彼はハワード私にもわからないでどのようにこちらに戻ってくるだろう」と話した。〔哈达威オーランドここに履歴に退役した後、彼は相変らず、オーランド?マジックのサッカーファンは、「私は、彼らのプレーをして、私はマジブーツ 激安ックのファンだ」と話した。そばから観戦のもよさそうに溶け込み、ファンをチームの哈达威広?を期待する

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use