Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Republicans in Disarray on Bush's Foreign Policy

Neoconservative Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard is presumed to know a thing or two about foreign policy but he doesn't sound any more informed than our president. Think Progress has the latest on the 'Kristol Ball':
This morning on Fox, Bill Kristol continued to escalate his calls for war against Iran, stating, “We can try diplomacy. I’m not very hopeful about that. We have to be ready to use force.” Kristol claimed the people of Iran would embrace “the right use of targeted military force.” He added that military force could “trigger changes in Iran,” causing them to embrace regime change.

Many neoconservatives claimed that the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and flowers, etc., etc. Perhaps the optimistic Kristol thinks Bush's third war will do the trick.

But doesn't the media have an obligation to find Republicans who know what they're talking about? I don't understand why Republicans like Bill Kristol continue to be taken seriously. A majority of Americans now recognize that the rationale for war in Iraq doesn't make a bit of sense. We're in cleanup mode, nothing more. And we're expected to take the same rationale seriously with Iran? Unbelievable.

Though the reasons vary, Bill Kristol seems to belong to that growing chorus of Republicans who are dissatisfied with Bush's foreign policy. There are roughly three camps: a) those like Kristol and Gingrich who think Bush needs to be more aggressive; that now is not the time to back off, b) those who think Bush has blundered badly and think he has no choice but to turn to another direction, preferably towards more diplomacy and c) those who believe our foreign policy team is broken and that we need to bring in high-powered reserves. Michael Abramowitz of The Washington Post writes on the growing discord from the right:
At a moment when his conservative coalition is already under strain over domestic policy, President Bush is facing a new and swiftly building backlash on the right over his handling of foreign affairs.


"It is Topic A of every single conversation," said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has had strong influence in staffing the administration and shaping its ideas. "I don't have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration."

Neoconservatives like Danielle Pletka who are outside the government rarely acknowledge their contributions to the current fiasco. Neoconservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith who were inside the government are long gone and curiously never heard from again. Let's continue with Abramowitz's article:
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a bid for president, called the administration's latest moves abroad a form of appeasement.

It's stunning. When Republicans like Gingrich see their own policies blow up in their face and then sees a sudden change in direction by an administration that has dug itself an enormous hole, the best word our former House Speaker can offer is 'appeasement'? This is Gingrich's idea of a rational assessment? What we are seeing is not 'appeasement' but a complete foreign policy breakdown after five years of incompetence, recklessness, overreach and a variation on Gingrich's own neocon wannabe ideology. Onward:
Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan administration arms-control official who is close to Vice President Cheney, said he believes foreign policy innovation for White House ended with Bush's second inaugural address, a call to spread democracy throughout the world.

"What they are doing on North Korea or Iran is what [Sen. John F.] Kerry would do, what a normal middle-of-the-road president would do," he said. "This administration prided itself on molding history, not just reacting to events. Its a normal foreign policy right now. It's the triumph of Kerryism."

Being close to Cheney is not a reassuring item on a resume these days. What's disgusting about Adelman's assessment (spin) is the failure to know what a real 'middle-of-the road president would do'; instead, we're offered up some right-wing straw man thrown up for a false analogy. It was so-called 'middle-of-the-road' presidents who largely kept the peace during fifty years of the Cold War (yes, Republicans and Democrats blundered at times but our foreign policy remained reasonably intact while the Soviet Union became history; World War III did not come (despite right-wing revisionist efforts to declare the Cold War itself that war)). Reading "...prided itself on molding history..." reminds me of an adolescent. Do Republicans really talk like that? And what history did the Bush Administration mold? "It's a normal foreign policy..." It is? Adelman's failure to recognize a broken foreign policy far from anything we've seen since the 1920s is stunning (though a more honest Republican would have made the comparison, perhaps, to Carter who had more successes in a single term than Bush at this point).

Talk of Republican realism or Republican idealism in terms of foreign policy is meaningless at this point. Curiously, the few Republicans around who have a clear view of things stay strangely quiet or deep in the background out of a sense of misplaced loyalty. It's interesting to hear classical conservatives like William F. Buckley and George Will criticize Bush's policies but it's some of the former Republican heavyweights in the foreign policy field that need to acknowledge the disaster that Bush's foreign policy has become. Until the disaster is acknowledged, Republicans appear content to avoid the task of rebuilding our nation's foreign policy and leaving it to drift in the political winds.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Very well said throughout. The straw man remark was dead on.

Republicans who know what they're doing — Brent Scowcroft and James Baker are likely prospects — were made aware early on in George W. Bush's first term that their services weren't needed and their input wasn't welcome. As in, Uh, don't call us, we'll call you.

It wouldn't do much good to call on Henry Kissinger, even if they were willing to, because the man has reached a point of complete unintelligibility.

Regarding Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich, I entered the following comment at The Moderate Voice. If you'll permit me, I think it's equally appropriate for your post.

Kristol belongs in a quiet, restful place where access is limited, attendants keep the guests from harming themselves or anyone else, and medications are passed out several times a day to limit raving and violent outbursts.

As for Newt Gingrich, surely there's a community college somewhere that needs a garrulous knowitall to teach impressionable young people his own special take on history and government.

10:39 PM  

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