Election 2016

Breaking: GOP Presidential Candidates Reject Hawkish Neocon Madness!

Republicans might not admit-or even understand-it, but they have finally given up on "dumb wars."


Many political about-faces go unacknowledged, both because they are embarrassing to their about-facers and because it's in nobody's interest to point out the obvious. And, to be honest, because lots of times the people making the changes aren't even aware that they've changed directions.

But for those of us who have long argued that the "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe" mentality that has (mis)guided U.S. foreign policy for most of the 21st century is a gigantic mistake, it's worth calling attention to a fundamental shift in Republican thinking.

"The Republican Party is no longer the party of regime change, no longer the party of wars of liberation," writes Eli Lake at Bloomberg View. This is an amazing and important change and it's one that's easy to miss amidst all the calls to increase defense spending, kick dirt on China, and refuse to even talk with Vladimir Putin. But Lake is right: The insanely ambitious rhetoric about not just nation-building but region-building from the Bush era has crumbled to dust as surely as Ozymandias' might works. Notes Lake:

Today Republicans are content to intimidate America's enemies, but not necessarily end the regimes.

Even Marco Rubio, the candidate with the most developed hawkish worldview, doesn't propose to end evil regimes. He has identified threats from Russia, China, Iran and radical Islam. But his main point is that U.S. power should be used to blunt these powers and strengthen the allies most threatened by them. Rubio is not promising liberation, so much as he is promising deterrence.

Lake provocatively argues that for the most part, the Republican presidential field is actually calling signals directly out of Barack Obama's playbook: With the exception of Carly Fiorina, most of them are talking about negotiating one way or another with Putin and Russia and even Iran (to get a better deal than the weak one they say Obama negotiated). Most of them are not talking about widening the Iraqi front into Syria either (which Obama also failed to do after his push to bomb Syria a couple of summers ago was attacked by Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz).

Whether the would-be presidential candidates are or are not inadvertently echoing elements of Obama's chaotic foreign policy (the president has not been shy about troop build-ups, drone strikes, extra-constitutional bombing runs, and underwriting torture at arm's length even as he has failed to deliver any meaningful victories), this much seems irrefutable:

The Republican field for 2016 has also begun to acknowledge, indirectly at least, the limits of American power to remake the world in its image. It's the kind of insight Senator Obama brought to the campaign trail in 2008. Today it lurks in the background of the Republican Party's approach to statecraft as the candidates audition for the presidency.  

On the main debate stage earlier this week, only Rand Paul dared to openly admit as much. But I think Lake is absolutely on target with this and it may mean that discussions of U.S. foreign policy can start to revolve around a truth very much at odds with the rhetoric about America's ability to call all the shots all over the world.

Indeed, the sooner we as a nation begin to grapple openly with what we all know to be true—that we are in what Moisés Naím defines as an "end to power," in which all forms of centralized authority are waning—the more we might help increase global freedom and prosperity. This doesn't mean that the United States should shrink from the world, but it does mean that our engagements should be primarily commercial and cultural. And when it comes to military actions, our goals must be narrow, specific, and clearly articulated.

Read Lake's excellent piece here.

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  1. Libertarian moment y’all

  2. The insight Obama brought to the campaign in 2008?

    Are you fucking kidding me?!?!

    Obama’s main claim in 2008 was that he was going to escalate the war in Afghanistan, purge it of the Taliban, and move it out of the failed state column. He said Iraq was a mistake because resources were being poured into the wrong war, not that the war was futile…

    The fact that Obama failed at remaking the world does not mean that he had an insight that it was doomed.

    What fantasy world is Eli Lake inhabiting? Who’s the source of the high grade shit he’s smoking?

    1. Yeah.

      THat and, opposing wars of liberation?

      That’s defensible as a libertarian position, but it’s hardly mandated (just as wars of liberation are defensible, but not mandated).

      States are not persons; they have no rights to be left alone.

      Indeed, a State that oppresses the people it rules is open to attack – on libertarian principles – as much as an individual holding others in slavery is, is it not?

      (One of the few things Rand got right was holding oppressive states as inherently, fundamentally illegitimate – and remember, you don’t have to be a Rothbardite anarchist to be a libertarian.

      No matter what comment threads online might suggest.)

      “Madness”, Gillespie, does not mean “policies I dislike”.

    2. I know… the author is so in the bag for Obama its hilarious. Obama has done a weathervane foreign policy, nothing more, nothing less, and it has been riddled with fuckups (drawing a red line you don’t want to enforce, flying a drone over iran but not agreeing to blow it up when it lands unexpectedly, not bombing osama’s hidout when we had left key technology there) He half asses everything. There is not any ideology behind it, and Republicans certainly are not learning from him. If anything what you see is the reassertion of libertarian Republicans like Rand Paul. Rand Paul and Ron Paul especially had much more to do with this move than Obama.

      When I read “The insight Obama brought to the campaign in 2008” I about threw up in my mouth. Elements of the Republican party, and certainly of the left, have been saying this since Obama was a community organizer, this was not the great O’s insight.

  3. “or even undrstand – it”

    I don’t undrstand?!

  4. Just call the next one a super smart war and you’re golden. DUH.

  5. what we all know to be true?that we are in what Mois?s Na?m defines as an “end to power,” in which all forms of centralized authority are waning

    Oh? So everything Reason keeps pointing out about the STATE intruding on life, liberty and property is…irrelevant?

    1. Like I said… libertarian moment

    2. Me too. Where is the waning he speaks of? Seems to be still waxing in my sector.

      1. Look, we got rid of (chattel) slavery. What more do you want?!

  6. words are wind.


    Virginia high schoolers suspended for wearing confederate flag on clothes.

    DC one-gun-a-month law and other regs struck down.

    1. Libertarian Moment.

    2. It’s sad. I have zero interest in the South, and I don’t give one shit about their culture or history, but all this SJW madness is making me want to buy a Confederate flag just to piss these assholes off.

      1. So , you’re finally catching on ?

  7. What a joke. The entire GOP field can’t wait to get into a military conflict with Iran. It’s why they are so dead set against negotiation. I’m sure Ron Paul is laughing out loud after reading your article, Nick.

    By the way…Eli Lake? One of the neocons who helped sell the disaster in Iraq. What a bright bulb he is.

    1. “The entire GOP field can’t wait to get into a military conflict with Iran.”

      Which is why they spent the entire Bush era huffing and puffing and doing nothing.

      ” It’s why they are so dead set against negotiation. ”

      Nothing brings about peace as much as self-inspections and handing over billions of dollars to regimes that sponsor terrorism.

      1. Oh, you must have been asleep. Not surprised. They had Iraq then to distract them. Did you forget that one?

  8. “And when it comes to military actions, our goals must be narrow, specific, and clearly articulated.”

    ‘Eliminating states/regimes that sponsor anti-American terrorism’ is narrow, specific, and clearly articulated.

  9. “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

    John Quincy Adams 1821

  10. The Republican field for 2016 has also begun to acknowledge, indirectly at least, the limits of American power to remake the world in its image.

    Make me President and I’ll be remaking the world in our image so fast it’ll make your head spin. I mean, America will be so great, you won’t believe how great it’ll be. You’ll be bored with American greatness. Putin? I can deal with that guy, I’ve dealt with guys like him a million times. On big deals, too, yuuuge deals, I’m talkin’ about, fantastic deals. Iran? ISIS? Buncha losers, I can tell you how to take care of them in five minutes. China? We’ve made terrible deals with them before but they’re not gonna know what hit ’em when I get through with them. You’ll see. They’ve never met a smart Wharton graduate who’s made billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars, in deals, big deals, yuuuge deals, fantastic deals. Be like taking candy from a baby. Or I should say rice from a …whatever. Chinese babies probably can’t see all that well anyway because they all wear those thick glasses and have them slanty eyes. But you’ll see, yuuuge deals, makin’ America great again.

    1. I see what you did there, and I approve.

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  12. First thing the next President should do is stop calling dictators and ruthless totalitarian regimes our allies. That offends me. Second Rubio needs to learn a little about Cuban history. Castro overthrew a bloodthirsty authoritarian dictatorship and since Bastia was supported by American interest then Castro sure as hell wasn’t going align with us. I believe Castro called himself communist more to piss of our McCarthy style leaders because he was actually what he replaced a dictator. I really hate to sound like a broken record but we need to take a break from the world stage and straighten out our mess here at home. We need to prosecute every corrupt elected public offical, strip them of their ill-gotten fortunes, strip them of their citizenship and put them on the first flight out of the country. Please tell me how a person can spend his whole life in office and become a multi millionaire. Yes Harry Reid I am talking about you.

  13. “The Republican Party is no longer the party of regime change, no longer the party of wars of liberation,” writes Eli Lake

    What a bunch of bullshit. Protracted conflict benefits the state and the special interests that surround it. They don’t have to worry about funding because the fed can finance it through further currency debauchery.

  14. Wait….

    An article about the 2016 election that isn’t about calling Trump a poo poo head?

    And has actual substance and analysis about a changing GOP?!?!

    And only 24 comments….

    You built this audience Reason. Feel proud.

  15. “the Bush era has crumbled to dust as surely as Ozymandias’ might works.”

    I think you might mean “mighty works”

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