Foreign Policy

At Least Republicans Are Having a Foreign Policy Debate

Democrats blithely marching toward fifth Bush term.



iThis week's Republican presidential debate brought on the usual fretting over the "scary rhetoric and fearmongering". More than a few of the Republican candidates do have troubling ideas about foreign policy and national security (and a host of other issues, just as Democrats do).

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), the establishment's debate winner, for example, says the U.S. needs to escalate the fight against ISIS by getting Sunni "boots on the ground" and using more special operations forces, something the Obama administration is doing and that Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton articulated as her stance on ISIS as well.

As Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has pointed out on the campaign trail Rubio's foreign policy is a lot like Clinton's foreign policy. Cruz drew the same comparison, to applause, saying Rubio supported the same kind of destabilizing policies in the Middle East as President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

When Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) gave it his go to be the hawk on Syria Tuesday night, Rand Paul told the audience if they were looking for a candidate who'd start World War 3 they'd found hm. As Robby Soave noted, the same could be said of most of the candidates.

The Democrats too. Republican candidates often sound like Democratic ones when it comes to foreign policy and the war on terror. Both frontrunners, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have proposed closing off portions of the Internet where they believe radicalization happens.

Republicans make a lot of hay out of President Obama and Democrats' reluctance to use the term radical Islamic terror to describe radical Islamist terror, and President Obama, for his part, feigns to being above sloganeering about "America winning."

Yet the foreign policy pursued by the Obama administration, including for four years while Clinton was secretary of state, remains within the framework established during the Bush administration after 9/11. Joe Biden's "Bin Laden is dead" helped propel Obama to re-election, as did Obama's taking credit for ending the war in Iraq—something the president denied after ISIS (previously a "JV team," so much for nuance) started making significant territorial gains in that country.

The Washington Post notes Obama likes to boast of taking out terrorists, and tried to tally how many tens of thousands of terrorists President Obama had actually killed—the post counted not just insurgents but those Muslim males of military age caught in signature drone strikes as well as anyone killed who wasn't identified as a civilian.

Then Democratic-leaning observers wonder where the Islamophobic sentiment Donald Trump taps into is coming from. Some thirty percent of Democrats agreed with Trump on suspending Muslim immigration.

The desire for a rhetorically aggressive foreign policy too many Republican candidates are trying to satiate didn't emerge from a vacuum. Presidential candidates have been promising to "hunt down and kill the terrorists" for four election cycles now.

And yet on the Republican side, there is a debate about, and engagement of, the consequences of U.S. foreign policy that are sorely lacking among the Democratic presidential candidates, and not only because Clinton's only significant challenger is an economic populist.

Rand Paul, the candidate who most forces such a debate, almost didn't make it on the stage this week. The lean toward non-intervention can be diluted further still. A few months ago Donald Trump and Ben Carson claimed to have been against the war in Iraq. Trump, who has taken a lot of positions on a lot of issues, often in the same sentence, has inevitably sounded off about George W. Bush's awful foreign policy. But he has no coherent foreign policy ideas of his own to present for a substantive debate, while Carson in his other pronouncements about foreign policy has shown he hasn't learned any lessons about the Iraq war.

The interventionist vs. non-interventionist or "realist" debate that re-emerged in the Republican party in the last six years even presents itself within individual candidates. Ted Cruz got a lot of press for suggesting he'd "carpet bomb" ISIS. He's also smeared as an "isolationist." The Pentagon, incidentally, says it's running out of bombs to drop on ISIS. Call that what you want.

As more voters start to pay attention to the Republican contest, candidates will either seek to sound like saber-rattlers while staking out an outlook on foreign policy and "national security" no different than Hillary Clinton or try to point out how absurd it is for Republicans to enter the 2016 presidential campaign with a candidate unable to critique Clinton's broader foreign policy failures because they agree with her. At least the Republican side has candidates still trying to do the latter, for now. Democrats are substantively engaging neither Clinton's foreign policy failures nor the real-world consequences of their own foreign policy positions and preferences.

NEXT: Hillary Clinton Puts Together a Full-Court Press to Land the LGBT Vote

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  1. Salon ran a long piece after the debate on how Paul was the only voice of sanity on foreign policy. They didn’t say they liked him, but they gave him credit for intellectual consistency.

    Therefore, Paul’s candidacy is officially over.

    1. I didn’t think anyone working at Salon knew how to pronounce “intellectual consistency”.


    1. Your blood god is A-

      Not impressed

      1. My blood god is AB+. Any “donor” will do.

  3. The Pentagon, incidentally, says it’s running out of bombs to drop on ISIS. Call that what you want.

    Business is looking up.

    1. Tell me about it. I’m loosing 2 orphans a week at my ordinance factory.

      1. Dammit, Mr. Lizard. It’s called ordnance. This is why the world will be ruled eventually by machines.

        Unless you employ orphans in a factory that produces regulatory codes for your municipality, in which case, carry on.

        1. He looses them. Not unlike hounds.

          1. I’M BATMAN! ?orphans, probably

          2. Ah, makes sense. Cry havoc and let slip the orphans of war, then.

    2. “”””says it’s running out of bombs”””

      And some people want to get into a fight with Russia?

      1. We have magic and truth and right on our side. This means we will win.

      2. We aren’t running out of atomic bombs.

  4. OK people. Watch this.…..youre-next

    1. Watch to the end. It loops back to a topic of interest here at H&R.

      1. Death by sasquatch rape?


      2. I like that he had Jimbo, Dolph & Kearney as the bad guys.

      3. Pot? Mexican ass-sex?

  5. OT: Seattle Times does editorial calling for Assault Weapons and High Cap magazine ban, peppers article with “reasonable” and “common-sense”.

      1. If the writer finds 10 round magazines “reasonable and common sense”, would he be willing to admit that Canada’s 5-round magazines are “unreasonable and irrational”?

        Somehow I doubt it.

    1. the comments are incredibly sane.

      1. Seattle Times comments will surprise you.

    2. Wonder what David Gregory thinks of this?

      1. “I wish XTC would get back together?”

  6. i do think its cute that Ed insists that there’s no apparent difference in the substance of DNC or GOP foreign policy views…. yet only tracks their instincts as far back as “Bush”, who apparently invented the concept of “aggressive US intervention in the Post-Cold War World”

    How many ‘interventions’ did Bill Clinton get involved in, again? Susan Rice may not provide the scary profile of a Richard Pearle, but her track record in Africa is something to truly admire.

    1. Politics is far more delightful when you can remember six or seven presidents back.

      1. That is othering to those of us who have only been alive for five presidents!

        1. Jesus christ you people are old.

          1. I remember being very excited for Clinton because my parents were very excited for Clinton. And then mom took a hard left turn and dad went hard right and everything after 1999 was dour and spiteful.

            1. I remember voting for Ross Perot, and then giggling about it. That was the last time I voted for a president.

              1. The funny thing about Perot… looking back on it, we couldn’t have done worse. Or at least I like to believe that.

                1. We did do worse.

              2. I remember voting for Ed Clark.

      2. jfk, lbj, nixon, ford, carter, reagan, bush 1, clinton, bush 2, obama


        1. Now, that’s old. I can only remember back to Carter, though I’m sure somebody was president between ’69 and whenever he was elected.

          1. I remember JFK being shot. I was six, and the nuns came into announce the {catholic} president had been shot, and we should all pray for him

            1. Because they knew he was going to be in hell for quite a while.

            2. I remember when Kennedy was shot. I was wondering why everyone was crying. They didn’t even know the guy.

          2. That must be the Ford effect. I also was born during Nixon, but don’t remember anybody before Carter. I’m not sure anybody does.

          3. I remember Nixon. And Ford. Ford was the butt of a thousand jokes because he was a bumbly guy who was always tripping and falling and banging his head.

            I vaguely recall a photo of Ford with a bandaid on his head. Funny stuff.

            1. One of the first songs I learned was:

              My President has a first name
              It’s J-I-M-M-Y
              My President has a second name
              It’s C-A-R-T-E-R
              My president has a special way
              Of screwing up the USA

              [sung to the tune of the Oscar Myer weenie jingle]

              1. I thought that was the bologna jingle. I don’t recall Oscar Meyer ever having a jingle for hot dogs.

                1. That’s right – it was bologna. Although, when it’s Oscar Mayer, you call it baloney.

        2. 12 Prez’s. 13 if you include Al Haig assuming the mantle when Reagan had been shot.

          1. +1 Brief Military Coup

    2. Every current US military action is being undertaken in the context of 9/11, which happened during the Bush administration.

      1. the ‘context of 9/11’?

        You seem to have a very broad idea of what ‘context’ means.

        There was of course no US antagonism with Iraq prior to 9/11. And sunni and shia never so much as looked crosseyed at one another before Al Qaeda.

        Maybe you should collaborate with Frankie Fukuyama on a new book, “the Beginning of History = How everything traces back to BOOOOOSH”

        1. Why stop with Clinton? Why not go back to the Iraq-Iran war of the 80s? Or the Barbary Pirates? Or the Moorish conquest of Spain? Or the founding of Islam in the 8th century? Or Homo sapiens versus Neanderthal? Or the planetary collision that gave rise to the moon? I mean nothing remarkable happened during the Bush administration that would serve as a meaningful lens through which to understand the current state of US foreign policy. Everything is a chaotic multicausal morass too vast and complicated for human comprehension. Saying otherwise would suggest that you’re not a butthurt neocon apologist.

          1. Tours in 732 is a good starting point.

            1. France needs to fight its own wars.

          2. “Why stop with Clinton? Why not go back to the Iraq-Iran war of the 80s? “

            Because i specifically said, “Post cold-war”?

            you’re a bit of a mess, hugh

            1. There was nothing remarkable about the end of the Cold War. It’s just another arbitrary point in the incomprehensible vastness of space-time. If you’re not examining American foreign policy in light of the Big Bang you’re leaving out crucial causal factors.

              1. It’s all Cain’s fault, in the end.

              2. “There was nothing remarkable about the end of the Cold War’

                Like i said, Hugh, you’re a bit of a mess.

      2. While this is generally true, it should be noted that in Bin Laden’s declaration of war he called out Somalia and referred to Clinton’s cowardice. I know it’s all good fun to use 9/11 as a fulcrum for all current military ventures but 9/11 was in the works long before Bush was in the white house.

        1. I agree, there are tendrils reaching way back to the mujaheddin in the 80s, and the Iranian revolution in the 70s, but 9/11 brought terrorism and the Middle East into the forefront as drivers of foreign policy. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were direct responses to 9/11, and the fallout from those debacles led to the current wave of bombing campaigns and military interventions.

          1. “invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were direct responses to 9/11”

            Afghanistan was, Iraq was not. Iraq was already on the agenda for the next Republican POTUS. Afghanistan was (and is) an inconvenient sideshow.

            1. But 9/11 gave Bush the selling point he needed to get congressional authorization to invade Iraq. There is anti-terrorist and al Qaeda-specific language in the AUMF.

              1. There is anti-terrorist and al Qaeda-specific language in the AUMF.

                Nobody actually reads those things…

              2. No argument here – it would have been a tougher sell without 9/11. But it would have happened anyway. It just would have required more stories of atrocities and humanitarian disasters and such, but it may even have happened sooner if they hadn’t had an actual threat in the form of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to deal with.

                1. “”it would have happened anyway.””

                  DUH BECAUSE BOOSH SEE?

                  the fact that the US was (violently) maintaining a “no fly” zone over iraq long efore Bush was ever elected is just a mere distraction from the importance of reducing all international affairs down to “because 9/11”

                  I liked this point =

                  This conflict proved to be largely ignored by the media and the public in both the U.S. and in the U.K., though it impacted the military and the citizens of Iraq on an almost weekly basis, especially after the intense “Desert Fox” bombing campaign of 1998.”

                  1. “the US was (violently) maintaining a “no fly” zone over iraq long efore Bush was ever elected ”

                    My point exactly. Clinton maintained the situation that Bush I left without cognizance of what the goal was.

                    This was one of the things that bugged me tremendously with the protestors the second-go-round – the pretense that Iraq was some happy peaceful place in the 90s and the no-fly zone and the sanctions weren’t killing far more people that either actual military action.

                    My overall point was that the dems have no horse in that race. They don’t care about it. Repubs have goals they are working on. Repubs get in, work toward their goals, and then the Dems get in, put it on the back burner, let it fester a bit longer, until the Repubs get back in and get back to work.

                    It’s not BOOOOSH! It’s the stupid, ass-backwards Federal Government and the dipshits who consistently get their hands on the reigns.

                2. But it would have happened anyway.

                  Not a chance in hell. Never would have sold it without fear.

                  1. “Not a chance in hell. Never would have sold it without fear.”

                    If they weren’t able to sell it, I think they would have just done it secretly, or done it and called it a humanitarian mission to bring food to the starving children, like Somalia.

                    Can we help it if they shoot at our food delivery trucks and we have to shoot back?

                  2. But fear is the only thing holding this country together!

                    Fear of Muslims, fear of backlash against muslims! Fear of guns! Fear of radical internet tubes! Fear!

                3. It’s pretty messed up that thousand of Americans had to die before an even marginally effective response to Saddam’s extermination campaigns and terrorist financing was even considered. But of course, doing something about mass death is just big meaniepants aggression, no matter what.

        2. “I know it’s all good fun to use 9/11 as a fulcrum for all current military ventures but 9/11 was in the works long before Bush was in the white house.”

          ^ This.

          The conflict with Iraq did not end just because Clinton chose to ignore it. It was misguided in the first place, Bush approached it like a douche, but it’s not as if it was a new situation.

      3. The Iraq War was simply the logical next step after Operation Desert Fox in December, 1998, when Clinton bombed the hell out of Iraq to dismantle their nuclear weapons program (and to distract from the impeachment). The same non-existent nuclear weapons that Bush went after.

        1. Clinton bombed the hell out of Iraq to dismantle their nuclear weapons program

          Citation needed that there was a nuclear program.

  7. Also cute = Ed thinks that “Interventionist vs. Non-interventionist” is actually ‘a thing’…

    ….as though anyone in the foreign policy world even uses those terms, or would think that dichotomy an accurate characterization of the range of policy views.

    Worse, that he tries to strap the term “Realist” to ‘non-interventionists’… which is like calling someone a “Vegan Omnivore”. A contradiction in terms.

    Realism by definition eschews a priori “rules” or ethical-based maxims like, “avoid interventions” … and any realist would instantly ask, “what do you even MEAN by “intervention”? The only realist measure of a policy should be as to its relative cost-benefit in regards to national self-interest. All options are weighed on the merits and the risks.

    Realists might seem attractive to “non-interventionists” when realists argue that “fucking with other people is currently a stupid idea.” However, those same realists might argue “destroying ISIS is a good idea” 5 minutes from now and upset your whole simpatico-feeling.

    1. Fine, but which is the theory what with the entangling alliances and avoiding them? Because that sounded pretty good

      1. I would say a protracted intervention into a Southeast Asian country using only advisors would be A-OK. Not to mention you can buy a beer and get laid for chrissakes.

        1. I can do one of those things.

      2. “which is the theory what with the entangling alliances and avoiding them?’

        Well, the idea that we should be independent of the major forces provoking international-discord – namely, the European imperial/colonial powers – was pretty consistent through the 18th, 19th centuries…

        ….and it wasn’t until WWI that we voluntarily started getting involved in ‘their problems’ (although we used the Monroe Doctrine as kind of a perverse justification to pick a fight with Spain, then do exactly what we said we wouldn’t, and suddenly start annexing properties abroad)

        Even then, however, i don’t believe the involvement in the World Wars was entirely due to “Alliances” so much as (at least in the case of WWII) a clear perception of self-interest.

        Since WWII and the formation of NATO, that ‘alliance’ hasnt yet dragged us into anything we didn’t want to stick our dicks into anyway. Korea? i suppose Korea.

        So i’m not sure what you describe has been all that much of an issue. Realists are less prone to “alliances for their own sake” than the Wilsonian Multilateralist types.

        1. “Since WWII and the formation of NATO, that ‘alliance’ hasnt yet dragged us into anything we didn’t want to stick our dicks into anyway. Korea? i suppose Korea.”

          Come on. There wasn’t a whole lot of choice on whether or not to do Korea. There was the question of doing it right or not, but simply evading it really wouldn’t be an option even without NATO.

      3. Of course, at the time it took six months at best to get anywhere.

  8. One of the more important foreign policy discussions recently (and oh by the way Ed our own military establishment says is all about national defense) is climate change. We just entered into an agreement with every nation on the globe about just that, and that agreement has the potential to transform our country.

    You know who talks about it constantly? The dems. You know who ignores it in every debate, even debates centered on foreign policy? The GOP.

    Try again.

    1. You really are a one trick pony. A watermelon through and through.

    2. “We just entered into an agreement with every nation on the globe ”

      I think what you meant to say was “we just finished engaging in global-scale puffery and graft with every nation on the globe.”

      The climate change deal has nothing whatsoever to do with foreign policy. The dems pretending it does is just them pretending to have a foreign policy.

    3. We just entered into an agreement with every nation on the globe about just that, and that agreement has the potential to transform our country.

      No we didn’t, and no it won’t.

      1. No we didn’t. But it won’t work. Anyway.


    4. One of the more important foreign policy discussions recently is climate change


      Very perceptive. It gave all those world leaders an opportunity to signal to each other and to their populations their moral superiority while committing to absolutely nothing. Of course the public are morons who will soak it up. Well done.

      1. Your party of choice may want to talk about then.

    5. “that agreement has the potential to transform our country.”

      God, who talks like this, who isn’t in a commercial?

      You try again.

  9. “Both frontrunners, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have proposed closing off portions of the Internet where they believe radicalization happens.”

    Reminds me of when my mother didn’t want me to access the Web after dark when the porno section of the internet would be turned on. I got myself in more trouble when I said that this was absurd, that reputable websites don’t shut off in the evening and the porno sites get switched on. She said I could only know this if I was a regular user of porno sites. I tried to explain how web servers just run all the time, generally, and how the thing is fucking global, so it’s always nighttime somewhere, and so forth, but I’d already lost by then.

    1. Arguing with your Mom about porn-sites while sitting in front of the computer with your pants around your ankles is never gonna be a winner

  10. “…closing off portions of the Internet where they believe radicalization happens.”

    Just certain tubes I am sure. Just those tubes the terrorists are using.

    Honestly I don’t even know what that means.

    1. The radical tubes! The RADICAL TUBES! How hard is this?!

  11. I think much of the debate is how we intervene.

    Cruz for instance seems to think we should just kill our enemies and screw with trying with spreading democracy. As opposed to the Bush doctrine.

    Because the reality is, many Muslims don’t want freedom. That want Shariah law. If you let them vote on it, they will likely choose it, like they did in Egypt by electing the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

    And ultimately, there is nothing we can do to make them like this. I know many libertarians have this fantasy that we can offer them wealth and culture and what not, but the San Bernadino shooting proved that idea is wrong. You can have everything America offers and still prefer jihad over it, to kill infidels and die rather than live the American Dream.

    1. F they wanted freedom, they wouldn’t call themselves fucking “muslims”.

      1. Given that so much of the parlance is submission-oriented (Islam being “submission [to god]”, a popular name being Abdul and derivatives “slave of God”), this is not a farfetched statement.

  12. Everyone please stop saying “boots on the ground” when “ground troops” will do!

  13. The best foreign policy is non intervention. Remove all troops from the Arabian peninsula and then give the world one warning. If there is a terrorist attack on US soil and the money is traced back to a foreign country (like Saudi Arabia) that country’s head will be immediately killed. Civilian casualties be damned. Second offense will be the destruction of one of their holy sites. If the attack is homegrown the Mosque of the guilty party will be destroyed and all members of that mosque will lose their citizenship and be deported. And please don’t say that is un-American. First I have never believed in birth right citizenship and second I have always believed in the Founding principles of this country. You can change things through the ballot box not through the barrel of a gun. And finally the American people and the American government are unfortunately no longer the same thing. If the terriost attacks were confined to Washington DC you would see a little more urgency in our leaders response.

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