Republican Foreign Policy: Backing Away from Bushism?

Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times sees a GOP edging away from the foreign policy positions of the Bush era:

The hawkish consensus on national security that has dominated Republican foreign policy for the last decade is giving way to a more nuanced view, with some presidential candidates expressing a desire to withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible and suggesting that the United States has overreached in Libya.

The shift, while incremental so far, appears to mark a separation from a post-Sept. 11 posture in which Republicans were largely united in supporting an aggressive use of American power around the world. A new debate over the costs and benefits of deploying the military reflects the length of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the difficulty of building functional governments and the financial burden at home in a time of extreme fiscal pressure....

The evolution of thinking inside the party is coming into view as Republicans begin sorting through their field of candidates to select a nominee to challenge President Obama, who faces a decision this summer about a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. It could leave some of the party’s presidential candidates at odds with its most influential voices on foreign policy, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, who continues to call for an aggressive military effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

Read the whole thing here. In addition to the factors listed above, Zeleny attributes the shift to "the rise of the Tea Party movement," "a growing sense that the United States can no longer afford to intervene in clashes everywhere," and the ways the "killing of Osama bin Laden has intensified questions about the need for prolonged American involvement in fighting Al Qaeda." He doesn't mention another, more cynical explanation, which is that it's always easier to oppose intervention abroad when the other party's in power. That's true whether you're Barack Obama criticizing George Bush's war in Iraq or Michelle Bachmann criticizing Barack Obama's war in Libya. (For the record: I'd rather see politicians taking the right position temporarily for reasons of expediency than taking the wrong position for any reason at all. If reform relied on pols becoming principled, we might as well move to Somalia and start over.)

Also worth a read: John Feehery claims we're witnessing the collapse of what he calls (a little anachronistically) "the Cold War consensus." When it comes to military intervention, he argues, "Republicans are now listening more to Ron Paul than they are to Dick Cheney."

Update: Adam Serwer says more about that in-power/out-of-power dynamic:

There's an element of highly convenient partisanship...where gestures toward foreign policy realism offer an opportunity to criticize their predecessors' military interventions. But then they get in office and change their minds. And maybe that's because regardless of what the candidates say, the foreign policy establishment in the GOP is still mostly neoconservative, while in the Democratic Party it's still mostly made up of liberal internationalists, and these are the people presidents from either party end up taking advice from.

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  • ||

    He doesn't mention another, more cynical explanation, which is that it's always easier to oppose intervention abroad when the other party's in power

    Bingo. If the GOP wins back the White House, they'll go full retard on foreign policy again. Count on it.

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  • ||

    One more reason to vote for Obama instead of whatever warmonger the Republicans nominate! Obama will save us, he will bring hope and change!

  • ||

    Obama has already ended or started three wars. Go with the experience!

    The only downside of a Democrat at war is the lack of protests. Paper mache giant head makers have been hurt most.

  • ||

    If the GOP wins back the White House, they'll go full retard on foreign policy again

    And as certain movies taught us, its never wise to go "full retard"

  • hazeeran||

    I wonder which is more likely the target in 2013: Yemen or Iran.

  • ||

    At this rate, Pakistan

  • hazeeran||

    I wonder also if they used the U.S. aid to fund the arrest of our OBL informants.

  • ||

    Can there be any doubt. Half their economy is based on US aid/heroin.

  • Syria||

    Don't forget about me!

  • ||

    What's Grenada up to anyway? Surely they're hiding 'something'?

  • ||

  • ||

    You NutraSweeted that link but good.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    "I wouldn't wait for my generals. I'm the commander in chief. I make the decisions. I tell the generals what to do." - Ron Paul

    Somebody finally stands up and stops kissing the military's ass.

    So, if you don't want the RP to go full retard, your choice is pretty obvious.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    RP - Republican Party, not Ron Paul

  • ||

    I think Mr Paul underestimates the power of the beaurocracy. As much as Bush was the "Decider" most things happened without his direction.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I think Cheney and Rumsfeld were the Deciders. Bush was a useful moron as far as I can tell.

  • ||

    That's odd because Bush thinks you're a smartie.

  • ||

    The obvious problem with that is, what if the commander in chief is full retard? The notion that you would not talk to your military people to better understand the ability to make drastic reductions in military forces around the world, without drastically affecting your ability to defend the country, borders on full retard.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    And what if the military is in full retard mode? The military is not some holy grail of enlightenment, contrary to current public opinion. It's a massive bureaucracy, with all of the shortcomings and failings of such. It demands leadership from the top.

    You do exactly what a good CEO would. You define the constraints and give it to the military to provide recommendations within that framework. If the people and their elected representatives demand that the military be cut by 90%, then that's exactly what must happen. It's not the job of the military to determine public policy, their job is to act as agents of it. The consequences of such policy are irrelevant. The alternative is to just go ahead and declare a military dictatorship.

  • Brett L||

    In fairness to the US military, were they given such a constraint, I have no doubt that you would get pretty good recommendations. One thing they are really clear on is civilian leadership primacy.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I agree with you. My problem stems more from political leaders and pundits constantly bowing before the altar of the military. They're eager to shirk responsibility and are endangering that culture of civilian leadership.

  • ||

    The culture of civilian leadership (to the extent it ever existed) is long dead. The Pentagon calls the shots, no matter who occupies the House or the Hill.

  • Kolohe||

    The military only bombs the people the White House tells them too. Most of the occupants of the White House for the last century (ot two) like to bomb people.

  • ||

    That actually does make a whole lot of sense when you think about it. WOw.

  • Sudden||

    Oh Anon-bot, if only Anthony Weiner knew of you, photos of his junk might be safely sitting in some teenage girl's harddrive right now, unperturned by prying media eyes.

  • Sudden||

    unperturned unperturbed

  • CE||

    Or really, going back to the earlier Bushism -- a humble foreign policy, with no nation building.

  • Number 2||

    "Republican Foreign Policy: Backing Away from Bushism?"

    Funny. I thought that was what Obama's Foreign Policy was supposed to be doing.

  • ||

    So they're lying again. What's new?

  • Bryan Alexander||

    Looks like Huntsman is making Afghan withdrawal an important part of his campaign,

  • scarpe Nike Store||

    is good


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