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The Hawks Are Still in Charge

In the grand scheme of things, a political party’s platform is an insignificant document. The Republican Party’s platform this year doesn’t change this; despite the media’s fascination with the fact that Donald Trump’s border wall made its way into the platform, the document is still a non-binding, ideological missive, more of a goodie bag for conservative activists than an operational plan.

Nonetheless, the Platform Committee’s debates last week were interesting to watch and a good barometer of where the Republican Party stands on certain issues. The interactions on foreign policy and national security were especially revealing, and they all led to the same conclusion: neoconservatives are still very much the leaders of the GOP’s foreign-policy machinery.

According to a May 2016 Pew Research Center survey, a majority of Americans [1] would rather let other countries deal with their own affairs (57 percent) than plunge manpower and money overseas to help other countries confront their challenges (37 percent). 62 percent of Republicans surveyed want the United States to start taking its own domestic problems more seriously, and Pew reports that “roughly 55 percent of Republicans view global economic engagement negatively.” In addition, the single most consequential foreign-policy decision that neoconservatives have made—the invasion and occupation of Iraq—has been labeled a failure [2] by a majority of Americans.

If they were driven by public opinion, then, the delegates would have brought the platform’s national-security proposals in a less hawkish and more realist direction. But every single amendment from libertarian-esque and anti-interventionist delegate Eric Brakey was defeated by voice vote without much debate. International diplomacy, the life-blood of U.S. foreign policy and the option of first resort, was largely overshadowed by provisions that resemble the doomsday scenarios you would find in an apocalyptic Hollywood thriller.


For the very first time, the danger of an electromagnetic pulse attack devastating America’s power grid, computer system, and infrastructure was given a spot in the platform, called a threat that would “endanger the lives of millions.” [3] You could be forgiven for assuming that the very same speechwriters who composed the George W. Bush administration’s infamous “mushroom cloud” language drafted the plank on EMP’s.

As Daniel Larison points out in these pages [4], the draft platform also transforms the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a crisis that needs to be quickly resolved to a side issue whose solution should be outsourced to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The idea of an independent, sovereign, peaceful, self-sustaining state for the Palestinian people—called for in the previous three GOP platforms—is simply dropped.

Last but not the least, the nuclear agreement with Iran that was signed with such fanfare by Tehran and the P5+1 after two years of negotiations—an agreement that every Republican lawmaker voted against (save one [5], who voted “present”), and one that the GOP caucus continues to describe as a 21st-century version of the 1938 Munich catastrophe—is deemed “non-binding [6]” by the delegates. While technically true (the agreement was not approved by Congress or proposed as a treaty), the language is a way for this year’s crop of Republican delegates to encourage the next Republican administration to nullify a diplomatic accord that the IAEA nuclear watchdog concludes is working. If there is any Obama-administration policy that neoconservatives cannot stand, it is this one—an agreement they depict as a cash bonanza for the Iranians and a disturbing demonstration of U.S. weakness and appeasement.

Sen. Rand Paul’s decision to drop out of the Republican primary at an early stage should have been a clear illustration of the non-interventionist camp being given the short end of the stick. But if that wasn’t a clear enough hint as to where the GOP’s foreign policy is after eight years of President Barack Obama, then the deliberations should put those questions to rest. The neoconservatives and hawks who have run the GOP’s foreign policy for the past 15 years remain indisputably the leading faction.

Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm, and a freelance researcher. He has also written for CNN.com, Small Wars Journal, and the Diplomat.

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10 Comments To "The Hawks Are Still in Charge"

#1 Comment By tz On July 18, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

Our power grid and other infrastructure is vulnerable and we should do the basics to protect it. The east coast blackout a decade ago was unpleasant but lasted only a few days. It wouldn’t be hard to create a much larger problem – either through EMP (note the North Korean satellites and nuke tests are the right size for it) or cyberwarfare (you can find videos and stories on how weak the security is). Transformers are custom devices taking a year to manufacture but a surge can blow them out.
It would cost $2 billion to completely secure the grid – but the F35 and a bunch of other useless programs get trillions.

#2 Comment By ryan’s hopeless On July 18, 2016 @ 3:09 pm

Really depressing. If true, us Tea Partiers must continue our admittedly scattershot and negative project to kick out big spending interventionists.

On that score, Paul Ryan is now down in Eric Cantor territory (low 40s) according to polls in his district. That’s mostly because of his out-of-control immigration policy rather than his budget-busting permanent war policy, but the two generally go hand in hand.

A few more high-profile scalps may help concentrate the minds of the rest. Here’s hoping that Ryan’s scalp is hanging on the wall the day after his primary contest.

I look forward to the day that the GOP is associated in the public mind with real strength – a free people with the strongest military in the world, led by hard-headed non-interventionists who use military power wisely, sparingly, and in the American national interest.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 18, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

It is not true that the three previous Republican Party platforms called for “an independent, sovereign, peaceful, self-sustaining state for the Palestinian people.”

Instead, the 2012 Republican Party Platform called only for “two democratic states— Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine— living in peace and security.”

The only Palestinian state ever intended by a Republican platform lacked true independence, lacked true sovereignty, and was to be made up of tiny, separate, jigsaw-like pieces of land left over from the spreading Israeli occupation – pieces connected by Israeli-controlled road corridors and anything but self-sustaining and viable. To put in bluntly: Previous Republican platforms envisioned only a South African apartheid-style Bantustan Palestine that would not have been in any sense a real state.

In view of the lack of clear public support for a two-state solution in Israel – and the collapse of public support for a two-state solution in the occupied Palestinian territories — the 2016 Republican Party platform is (however inadvertently) more a reflection of reality regarding a two-state solution than previous Republican platforms.

#4 Comment By An Agrarian On July 18, 2016 @ 7:30 pm

How does one write an editorial on GOP hawkishness without addressing AIPAC and Zionism? Or the GOP’s inextricable ties to “big energy” and the military-industrial complex? Good grief, as a conservative (of the paleo variety), it doesn’t take penetrating analysis to determine the intellectual (and financial) origins GOP foreign policy. As Deep Throat used to say, “Follow the money.”

#5 Comment By Scotstown On July 18, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

” the 2016 Republican Party platform is (however inadvertently) more a reflection of reality regarding a two-state solution than previous Republican platforms.”

Most Americans couldn’t place Israel on a map. I doubt even 5 percent of us know what the “two-state solution” is. If we get our news from the MSM we probably don’t even know that Bin Laden attacked us on 9/11 mainly because of our Israel/Palestine policy.

An even smaller number of Americans would support that horseflop in the GOP platform equating Israel-worship with “Americanism”.

#6 Comment By Robert Ripperton On July 18, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

So it sounds like AIPAC and ADL are having their way with US foreign policy as usual. Lets call it like it is.

#7 Comment By Clint On July 18, 2016 @ 9:10 pm

In the grand scheme of things, a political party’s platform is an insignificant document.

The Platform appears to be an insignificant boned tossed to the all the neoconservatives, who lost to Trump.

#8 Comment By Jeremy On July 18, 2016 @ 10:08 pm

Incidentally, the likes of David Horowitz, Rudy Giuliani, and Dick Cheney are all on the Trump train.

@Kurt Gayle —
Yeah, the GOP platform is at least being honest about it this year.

#9 Comment By John Blade Wiederspan On July 18, 2016 @ 11:00 pm

Why I am not, and never will be, a registered Republican. Flag waving, patriotic song singing, “let someone else’s children fight and die” march to glory. OH, and, for our economy’s sake don’t raise taxes to pay for our prideful interference in the world. Let someone else’s children pay for it. Absurd. And cruel.

#10 Comment By Jon Lester On July 19, 2016 @ 12:13 am

Half my life ago, in 1993, I outlined a novel that was set in an America still adapting to an EMP attack, and while he couldn’t have known, I felt embittered when Jerome Corsi used the idea for yet another ridiculous WND article a decade later. That should have taught me to fulfill my projects faster. I’m trying.

Back to now, I really hope someone’s had the foresight to suggest to Obama that we should pull our nukes out of Incirlik before the Turkish electorate goes the way of the Weimar Republic and votes its democracy out of existence.