A Republican victory tomorrow might produce some interesting shifts in foreign and security policies, even though Congress has only limited ability to influence either. Changes that might take place would not necessarily be those that one would have anticipated given the Republican reputation for being proactively strong on national security issues. The fact is that while there is only a handful of antiwar or anti-interventionist Republicans, most candidates have not been talking about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because they clearly understand that neither is particularly popular and it is hard to describe them as successful. And, with some exceptions, the congressmen themselves are not particularly keen on expanding what is now conveniently seen as Mr. Obama’s war to include Iran, Yemen, and Somalia in his “overseas contingency operations.” Unlike some of his predecessors, John Boehner is not particularly interested in foreign policy – nor is Senator Mitch McConnell – and with the neocons in decline within the party it is likely that the GOP will support some version of the status quo, with occasional sniping over particular issues. But there will not be any fire in the loins to go out to convert the heathen – the passion will be reserved for domestic policies.
But the fly in the ointment is that there are a few Republicans who are very engaged on foreign policy and will be pushing for confrontation on several fronts. They will also be in senior positions that will enable them to further their agendas even without any real support from within the party. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, born in Cuba and currently representing Florida, will almost certainly become chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she will energetically pursue a policy of undying enmity towards Fidel Castro coupled with total alignment with Bibi Netanyahu. Eric Cantor of Virginia, currently minority whip, will likely move up to become Speaker of the House. Cantor has proposed that Israel’s $3 billion plus per annum be removed from the foreign aid budget, where it is bunched with a number of countries that Cantor does not like, and that it come directly from the Treasury, making Israel a permanent and institutionalized beneficiary of the United States taxpayer. Cantor and Ros-Lehtinen and those of a like mind would then be able to vote against foreign aid without damaging Israeli interests. Both Cantor and Ros-Lehtinen also support preemptive action against Iran.
On the Senate side there is John “we are all Georgians” McCain, who is also very passionate about many foreign policy issues though frequently poorly informed. He will head the Senate Armed Services Committee if the GOP takes control of that body and would be a prominent and exceedingly loud spokesman for a preemptive attack on Iran and possibly on other places that are brought to his attention by his advisers.