Thursday, April 27, 2006

Other Than Wishful Thinking, Do Right Wing Republicans Have a Foreign Policy?

The outing of Valerie Plame is a symptom of a Republican leadership that thinks it knows best. George W. Bush's mantra for five years has been, "Trust me." Valerie Plame was working on WMD issues before she was outed and her specific area of concern at the time was apparently Iran. Outing Valerie Plame was a White House political stunt designed to cover up a deliberate attempt to mislead America into war in Iraq. But it was yet another blunder we could ill afford.

But let's set aside the politics for a moment. Just what is Bush's method of coming to a decision? What facts does the White House use to analyze what is happening in the world? How do Cheney and Rumsfeld arrive at their policies? No one really knows. And the White House has chosen not to let the American people know. And Republicans in Congress have chosen to largely ignore holding hearings on the issues. What is known is that administration policies are failing the American people.

There was a time not long ago when Democrats and Republicans worked together to make sure our leaders had the information they needed to make wise decisions. We weathered the Cold War rather well with that system. But over the years, right wing Republicans have been dismantling the system that enables us to be informed. Does anyone believe at this point that Bush is informed? In fact, the signs are that Bush is continuing to dismantle an apparatus that kept us out of trouble and kept us out of bizarre foreign policy adventures.

Now I won't say that Democrats have been wise in some of this; too often, Democrats have turned their backs on foreign policy and the consequence is that Washington is dominated by right wing think tanks with ideas about foreign policy that clearly run against our own principles. There are, however, Democrats thinking about these things. Lorelei Kelly of Democracy Arsenal is one of them. In a post, she points out some of the key mistakes Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms and other Republicans have made in recent years:
The fact that the Bush administration is even mentioning nuclear options in dealing with Iran is only partly the last stand of the Neo-Cons. Likewise, it is caused by something more than a president whose political base is buckling up for their apocolyptic joyride. No, our predicament is deeper than that. It is a product of a conservative philosophy that has purposefully broken our open and fact based democratic government. Today’s bad dream of policy options toward Iran is not an accident, but an outcome.

In a democracy that works well, government cares for the institutional memory of big, important public interest issues—like the dangers of nuclear weapons. And long serving bureaucrats provide the steady ballast that keeps the government moving toward objective common goods—like reducing such dangers. That way, government weathers the storm of deviant Executives and keeps the public interest intact. The conservatives in power today are of a breed that does not believe in government virtue nor common goods. Katrina-style government is the result of our failure to maintain a dedicated federal staff for community disaster relief. The Bush Administration’s ability to threaten the nuclear option with little articulate resistance is at least partly because--for decades--conservatives have marginalized or destroyed our government’s ability to pursue arms control.
Kelly goes on to give three examples of right wing meddling. The examples are illuminating. Given all that we know about Newt Gingrich, for example, it's amazing he is considering a run for president and that the press still takes him seriously.

I don't know what it's going to take to restore common sense and credibility to our foreign policy, but it will have to begin by restoring diplomatic dialogue, which has died under George W. Bush. Bush doesn't talk much to the Chinese. He doesn't talk much to the Russians. He doesn't talk much to the Europeans. And he has refused for four years to open any real dialogue with Iran. If you study war, you learn that 90% of the time, diplomacy and real dialogue, which are to be distinguished from public relations stunts and spinning, are cost effective. That is a lesson our MBA president has not learned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now is the time for a war mobilization by all of us whose contribution to the war effort is made with a keyboard instead of a rifle. Many of us having been saying for years that Iran is the ultimate enemy in the War on Terrorism—and now war with Iran is openly being considered and debated. This is the moment we have been waiting for. This is the time for us to make the case for war with Iran.Use whatever medium is open to you: blog entries, letters to the editor, phone calls, e-mails, and letters to your congressman and to the White House, one-on-one debates with friends and coworkers. Make the case that war with Iran is not just “thinkable”—it is mandatory. We need to attack Iran, not just to keep it from developing nuclear weapons, but to topple the largest remaining state sponsor of terrorism, and to discredit Islamic rule.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Apparently anonymous doesn't read Donkey Path closely. Nor understand the consequences of war with Iran.

It should be noted that up until now Iran has not been affiliated with al Qaida. But an attack against Iran will certainly broaden the number of terrorist organizations arrayed against the United States.

Rumsfeld has admitted that our actions in Iraq have created more American enemies not fewer but the secretary and the president are unable to acknowledge the level of their ineptitude. Or correct our foreign policy.

I think Americans have had enough of right wing fantasies.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Forgive my being both suspicious and direct, but people who make anonymous comments like the one above deserve what they get.

There are some people who seem to think Israel is the 51st U.S. state and that the first and foremost U.S.foreign-affairs responsibility is making the world safe for Israel.

I'm neither anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. But I do make distinctions as to friends and allies, and U.S. states and primary interests. Call it a weakness, that's how it is.

I suspect anonymous makes no such distinctions. If that's true, I'd like to point out to him or her that friends don't use friends.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

"In fact, the signs are that Bush is continuing to dismantle an apparatus that kept us out of trouble and kept us out of bizarre foreign policy adventures."

While I agree with the overall point of your good post, I choked up on the quoted statement.

I thought about Vietnam.

I recalled how a president-elect had a deal going with a hostage-taking enemy to pull off a PR coup for himself while humiliating the guy he'd defeated in an election — something that should've been grounds for impeachment.

I thought about the Iran-Contra business. Then there were the secretly conducted, illegal wars in Central America.

And what about the overthrow of a few governments, actual or just attempted?

I was also reminded of our glorious invasion of tiny Granada.

While I'm not one to blame America first whenever anything goes wrong in the world, I harbor no illusions about our missteps of the past or capacity and willingness to make more going forward.

That apparatus you mention was at best uneven in its ability to keep the country out of mischief making.

12:32 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

"That apparatus you mention was at best uneven in its ability to keep the country out of mischief making."

S.W., you are of course correct and I was over-generalizing to make a point. That apparatus was always a work in progress and flawed but without it the mischief would have been much greater. As an example, it kept us from using nuclear weapons for sixty years. But, yes, we could have done many things considerably better.

But Bush and the situation now....?

You have to pardon my tendency to understate things though there is a certain amount of irony when I do so. I'm acutely aware of the past and our present danger and I see things down the road far more clearly than I would like to. I admire people who can think clearly when they are angry and we see that on the blogs and in politics, though not as often as I would like. Like everyone else, I blow off from time to time. But I'm the type who thinks more clearly after the anger, when I sit down and clear my mind for twenty minutes. Only then do I begin to see a way forward, even if its just uncertain glimpses.

But I very much appreciate your fierce honesty. It helps more than you realize.

2:32 AM  
Anonymous S.W., Anderson said...

A person's blog is the perfect place to let off steam.

As for getting angry sometimes, I know exactly what you mean. Been there, done that.

You might've noticed at Oh!pinion that I'll sometimes post about something a few days after it's new news, sometimes unfortunately after most others have already weighed in.

The lag is sometimes to let me cool off and think it through. Other times I hold off for lack of what I consider solid information. I also hang back because I'm pretty sure subsequent events will alter the circumstances.

I marvel at Joe Gandelman's speed and volume of posts over at The Moderate Voice. He's almost running a news service. Doing commentary, I feel no absolute obligation for immediacy of the type newspapers and TV talk shows hone to.

Expressions of gratitude for one's honesty are all to rare any more. Thanks for that; I'm honored.

1:00 PM  

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