The defeat of Mitt Romney is a victory for those of us who seek sane foreign and defense policies based on the traditional conservative principles that government policies should always serve clearly defined U.S. national interests while avoiding unnecessary interventionism overseas. Romney was truly an empty suit on foreign policy and it should be assumed that he would have continued the worst parts of the Obama program while adding some particular wrinkles of his own. His victory would have meant a return of the neocons to the front stage coupled with a more generally aggressive military-based posture overseas which could easily have led to a war with Iran and heightened tension with Russia and China. It would also have resulted in major donors like Sheldon Adelson having a voice in policy formulation relating to the Middle East.
But now the task is to reform Mr. Obama. I would suggest that conservatives try to convince the president to alter course in the following areas:
- Not all Islamists are radical and not all radicals Islamists are terrorists who actually threaten the United States. The United States has a duty to respond effectively to those who wish to harm the American people but it also has to learn to live with political Islam.
- A loss vs. gain assessment must be done on drone attacks, in Pakistan most particularly. The evidence suggests that drones make more new enemies than they succeed in killing and they destabilize the governments where they take place. They have been universally condemned but they have nevertheless increased in number under the current administration. Their efficacy as a counter-terrorism tool should be challenged and the government must make a clear case if they are to continue.
- A realistic assessment of the situation in Afghanistan should be made. It would likely conclude that the situation is beyond repair and that a settlement that includes the Taliban as a party of government is inevitable, so serious negotiations to that end are a sine qua non rather than continued pledges of support for the corrupt Karzai government.
- The United States should accept and openly state that Iran does not currently pose any serious threat. It should accept that Iran is interested in getting out from under sanctions and should negotiate in good faith to reduce the punishment that is being inflicted commensurate with agreements by Iran to modify some aspects of its nuclear program. The threat to intervene military should be taken off the table and Israel should be informed that attacking an Iran that does not have nuclear weapons is not in the U.S. interest.
- Humanitarian interventionism under Obama has not worked any better than preemptive attacks under George W. Bush. The necessary lesson in that respect has been learned in Libya and Obama should be encouraged to maintain his reticence over getting more heavily involved in Syria.
- Obama should recognize that Russia and China will only become actual enemies again if the United States continues to criticize and even intervene in their internal politics. The internal politics of any nation, unless there is negative impact on actual U.S. interests, have nothing to do with Washington.
- There should be an understanding that a preemptive foreign policy based on the potential use of force has essentially failed and has nearly bankrupted the United States. A new foreign policy should be shaped that is commensurate with and responsive to actual U.S. interests worldwide. Large overseas presence in the form of military bases should be eschewed and scaled back in exchange for a less muscular policy that would be cheaper, more welcomed by potential friends overseas, and ultimately capable of making the United States more secure.
I am sure that TAC readers can come up with some other suggestions.