Foreign Policy

The Republican Neocon Consensus Has Collapsed

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Writing in The New Republic, the inimitable Eli Lake compares and contrasts the foreign policy ideas (though not necessarily credentials) of GOP presidential candidates, and the shift that's occurred since 2008. Short version: Concerns about Muslim integration, foreign policy realism, and an isolationist streak have replaced nation building and gun-point democratization as the GOP obsessions du jour. Points of conflict between candidates include whether the U.S. should be encouraging revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East (Michele Bachmann says no, heaps praise on Mubarak; Tim Pawlenty says yes), and whether our rush into Libya was a wise one, or whether it happened too slowly (again, Pawlenty and Bachmann are opposites on this question as well). Here's the gist:  

With the cantankerous exception of Ron Paul, most of the 2008 candidates didn't deviate much from the hawkish, democracy-promoting, nation-building foreign policy vision of George W. Bush. John McCain stood squarely with the president. Rudy Giuliani, too, made clear that he hoped to remake the world in America's image. Of all the major candidates, Romney's views were probably the least well-defined and the most complicated. But, to the extent that he had misgivings about Bush's foreign policy, he mostly kept it behind closed doors—and, in public, largely toed the Bush line.

In the last few years, however, new insurgents began to emerge within the party, and new ideas moved to the center of the debate. The result is not simply that Republican candidates are, on the whole, less inclined to support democratization and nation-building this time around. It's that the very terms of the GOP foreign policy discussion have changed—or rather imploded entirely, leaving in their wake a difficult-to-parse ideological brew of policy disagreements and competing instincts.

But there is one ring that binds them all: 

[I]t is important not to exaggerate the differences between the major GOP candidates. There are some things they do agree on. All are staunch supporters of Israel. And all seem eager to contrast their own patriotic rhetoric with what they see as Obama's self-effacing style of speaking about America. Romney captures this idea in his book No Apology, when he writes, "President Obama, always the skillful politician, will throw in compliments about America here and there. But what makes his speeches jump out at his audience are the steady stream of criticisms, put downs, and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to represent and defend." Pawlenty and Bachmann have both made versions of this argument, and you can expect to hear more of it as the campaign unfolds: In an era in which the Republican Party is trying to figure out what it stands for on the world stage, contempt for Obama is one thing that can still keep it together.

Earlier this month, Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy profiled some of the same FP advisors working on various GOP presidential campaigns. 

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  1. In an era in which the Republican Party is trying to figure out what it stands for on the world stage, contempt for Obama is one thing that can still keep it together.

    So, basically the same thing if you substitute “Democratic Party” and “Bush,” then?

  2. To be fair, contempt for Obama unites a lot more than just the GOP.

  3. Good article by Eli Lake.

    1. Much better than the shitty summary and poorly chosen excerpts by Riggs.

      1. Geez, so harsh. Whats with the language, yo? No need to be so mean…

  4. The absence of principles unites almost all of them, Democratic and Republican.

  5. “The inimitable Eli Lake”

    He’s actually pretty easy to imitate. Watch:

    “[Enemy of the week]’s going to blow up the world. If you disagree, you’re an anti-Semite. If you disagree and you’re Jewish, then you’re self-hating.”

    But you’re in good company with the Lake love, Mike:
    http://tinyurl.com/3oc4tr2

  6. Now,you may want to know why so many population decide North face denali as that contains no internal insulation. Get these North face denali jackets which not able to damage your body.North face Doudoune Femme became famous in Europe during these years and small proportion population think that they are not sultry and fashion.

    1. North face Denalians have as much contempt for the neocons as do the Doudoune Femme, ‘though last time I checked it was not that cheap.

  7. Now,you may want to know why so many population decideNorth face denali as that contains no internal insulation. Get these North face denali jackets which not able to damage your body.North face Doudoune Femme became famous in Europe during these years and small proportion population think

  8. contempt for Obama is one thing that can still keep it together

    Meanwhile, two sentences away…

    All are staunch supporters of Israel.

    “Sigmund Freud: not a Jew!”

    Repression’ll getcha.

  9. I gotta say to Romney’s complaint, I wouldn’t necessarily trust a chief executive who always had his tongue up the citizenry’s ass.

  10. Dear Fuckstick:

    If Pawlenty is a major candidate, then so is Paul. And Paul doesn’t “staunchly support” Israel.

  11. … the hawkish, democracy-promoting, nation-building foreign policy vision of George W. Bush

    uhm…

    “I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build their nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America. Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war. That’s what it’s meant to do and when it gets overextended, morale drops. (more)

    He [Gore] believes in nation building. I would be very careful ….”
    – George W. Bush, October 4 2000


    Somalia. It started off as a humanitarian mission then changed into a nation-building mission and that’s where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price, and so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation building. I think our troops ought to be used to fight and win war. I think our troops ought to be used to help overthrow a dictator when it’s in our best interests. But in this case, it was a nation-building exercise. And same with Haiti. I wouldn’t have supported either.

    George W. Bush, Oct. 11, 2000

    ….

    Yeah, yeah, I know what he ACTUALLY DID, vs what he said is not the same thing… but I think the accusation of him ever having a “Vision” is unfairly giving him credit for thinking things through at any given point. He became a Nation Builder not through any policy vision but rather by being a Decider who dealt with circumstances as they emerged.

    Or, consider it like Rumsfeld = he wanted to avoid a ‘quagmire’ by invading Iraq with a ‘light footprint’ strategy…. probably 1/4-1/3 the actual troops needed to secure the country following invasion. Instead he GOT a quagmire because of that very approach. Unintended Consequences AINT VISION.

  12. Amazing that in this gigantic piece on “comparing and contrasting foreign policy ideas” Lake never bothers mentioning what Ron Paul’s foreign policy ideas actually are — only that he is a “cantankerous exception” (as if there is any other kind!).

    No, the only views that need to be analyzed are the paranoid bigotry of Cain and Gingrich, and the focus-group muddle of Romney, Bachmann, and Pawlenty.

    1. What do you expect from Pam Geller’s psychic twin?
      http://tinyurl.com/3op59fk

    2. You have to be cantankerous around that bunch whose world vision is much closer to the Obama/Clinton paradigm of subjugation than anything else.

    3. Bachmann is a focus group candidate? I think maybe they should fire the people that assembled those focus groups.

      1. …see Bachmann as Nancy Pelosi in Republican drag…? The wild eyes?

  13. Inimitable!
    http://twitter.com/#!/EliLake/status/97393690036813824

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