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Wanted: A Postwar Policy

Lessons are learned slowly in politics, and nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy. Thus the Democratic Party is poised to nominate for president a woman who as a senator voted for the Iraq War and as secretary of state was responsible in large measure for the disastrous U.S. involvement in Libya. The Republican 2016 aspirants, meanwhile, have figured out that claiming the Iraq War was a success won’t help them win even relatively hawkish GOP primary voters—yet most talk as if new confrontations with Iran, one side or another of the Syrian civil war, Russia, or China present no hazards worth worrying about. They are as gung-ho for the next war as any neoconservative was for the Iraq invasion.

But on the margins are signs that change is indeed coming to American foreign policy, however slowly. Among Hillary Clinton’s challengers in the Democratic contest are a former Republican senator, Lincoln Chafee, who unlike Mrs. Clinton actually voted against the Iraq War; a Vietnam veteran and former Reagan administration secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb, who in 2006 was moved to run for and win a seat in the U.S. Senate by his outrage at the Iraq War; and a sitting senator, Bernie Sanders, who opposed the war when he was in the House of Representatives and has voted against the Patriot Act while serving in each chamber.

That two of these alternatives to Clinton come originally from the Republican Party is an indication of just how dramatically foreign policy can reshape the political landscape, even when conventional wisdom holds that voters simply don’t care about world affairs. The Democratic Party is gaining strength, including from people who were until recently Republicans, because of its relatively less interventionist positioning.

Many Republicans understand this, and one, Sen. Rand Paul, has made an effort to devise an alternative to the foreign policy that has led both the party and the country into hardship. That his attempt has been so far unsuccessful goes to show how slowly political change develops—and how closed a party can be to new ideas, even when they are clearly in its self-interest. (The fact that Paul has tried to appeal to some of the most hawkish elements in the party even as he aims to formulate a new kind of Republican realism has only made matters more difficult for him.) Other 2016 hopefuls in the GOP are stranded in a limbo of ignorance: their advisors are drawn almost entirely from the ranks of neoconservatives and other hawks, and even when the candidates themselves feel that there is something wrong with the words coming out of their mouths, they have no alternative script to turn to.

thisarticleappears [1]Policies are the end products of a long chain of manufacture, which typically begins with scholars, writers, and other dealers in ideas. The progressive tilt of academia has always provided Democrats with a deeper and wider reservoir of intellectual talent—whatever itsflaws—than Republicans have had access to. The GOP has depended instead on a handful of foundations, think-tanks, and media outlets that have tended to police one another’s orthodoxy. These institutions were hawkish during the Cold War, and by the time that ended they were too invested in ideological conformity to risk a re-appraisal of U.S. foreign policy. When the Cato Institute opposed the first Gulf War in 1991, conservative movement kingpins such as Steve Forbes and William E. Simon cut funding to the dissident libertarian think-tank.

Realists and relative doves on the right have been doubly pariahs for a long time—rejected by a left-leaning academy and a right whose institutional inertia maintains a Cold War mentality. (And worse, freed of the constraints that superpower competition imposed during the Cold War, much of the right has embraced an unabashedly imperial “exceptionalism.”) But as bankrupt policies impose their costs on politicians as well as taxpayers and soldiers, Republicans and Democrats alike start slowly feeling the need to think anew. Our job is to help them do so.

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16 Comments To "Wanted: A Postwar Policy"

#1 Comment By Tom On November 4, 2015 @ 2:46 am

When the Cato Institute opposed the first Gulf War in 1991, conservative movement kingpins such as Steve Forbes and William E. Simon cut funding to the dissident libertarian think-tank.

Kuwait’s population in 1990 was less than 2 million.

We’ve already killed half a million Iraqis through hunger, disease, and civil strife. Another 4 million have been uprooted from their homes and turned into refugees.

And that doesn’t even include the knock-on effects in the region, eventually leading to the rise of ISIS.

#2 Comment By dc On November 4, 2015 @ 5:27 am

Rand Paul signed the anti-Iran Deal letter drafted by NeoCon Central for Hero Tom Cotton (the perfect specimen for a Sean Hannity “thank you for your service” circle jerk) just to get on his knees to the Foxbots, “Please like me.”
I just KNOW that Ron Paul vomited in his mouth a little bit when he learned his son signed that letter.
I wrote of Rand permanently for that character-defining act.

#3 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 4, 2015 @ 7:56 am

@ TAC Staff: Thanks for this. On the whole your analysis is quite good.

But I must disagree – and disagree strongly — with your disingenuous, apologetic remarks about Rand Paul. As my old high school football coach used to say: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Paul — by repeatedly lining up with the neocons re Iran and other important foreign policy issues — is the quintessential “sow’s ear.”

#4 Comment By balconesfault On November 4, 2015 @ 11:30 am

. Among Hillary Clinton’s challengers in the Democratic contest are …

That should be were in the case of Chafee and Webb …

Echoing the concerns over Paul raised above … you have to give him credit for at least pushing back against the GOP orthodoxy on interventionism and the security state … but particularly on the former he’s been pretty damn easy to fold whenever the bet has been raised. And as we’ve seen, the neocons will always raise the bet, since success for their backers isn’t based on who wins the hand, but on how big the pot is when the hand finishes.

Realists and relative doves on the right have been doubly pariahs for a long time—rejected by a left-leaning academy …

I’d be curious to hear exactly what forms this “rejection” has taken. My sense is that there just isn’t the amount of money on the left to support a huge pundit class independent of them having day jobs, so the transition is rather jarring when someone is ejected from the comfy, well funded confines of the right-wing noise for rejecting the shibboleth of neocon principles.

So far it’s seemed to me that the “left-leaning academy” has been rather celebratory when conservatives speak out against eternal interventionism … but just doesn’t have the extra resources to support them in the manner to which they had become accustomed with such little intellectual accountability when working for right wing think tanks and media.

#5 Comment By David On November 4, 2015 @ 1:03 pm

To my mind, Trump shows more promise of independent thinking in the area of foreign policy than most of the other GOP contenders, including Paul. For example, while Fiorina said she wouldn’t even speak to Putin, Trump indicated that he thought he could get along with him. Trump’s smart, and he’s a negotiator. To be a good negotiator you have to be able to put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Those qualities would go a long way to improving our foreign policy.

#6 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 4, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

Just finished watching TAC’s excellent, excellent “Realism and Restraint.” Many thanks to all participants, although a few participants left me scratching my head as to why on earth they were invited to talk about either “realism” or “restraint” – concepts which seem quite foreign to their views.

We here gave a STANDING OVATION to the remarks of Phil Giraldi and Bill Lind which left us here cheering and banging desks – and, yes, some crying, too — that the truth (such a rare commodity these days) had been told, and told so unsparingly and so forthrightly!

As soon as the online video of “Realism and Restraint” is ready, it will be forwarded by this enthusiastic listener to friends and contacts.

Again, many thanks. Today was a great day for the truth.

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#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 4, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

“That his attempt has been so far unsuccessful goes to show how slowly political change develops—and how closed a party can be to new ideas, even when they are clearly in its self-interest.”

I just have to echo similar sentiments about Sen. Paul. If he had maintained a consistent advocate, I think his postion would have been very strong. But as other have noted, he holds positions that would advcate unneccessary conflicts or would lead to the same.

Excuse me on the issue of political or social intellectualism. Huh? The difference between liberal and conservative intellectual thought is that by definition a conservative is not inclined to invite thought that is not grounded in what might be termed “non-intellectual” realities. Most importantly is the lean on objective data.

Liberals tend to avoid such strictures to advance their positions. There’s not much intellectual force in advocacy that if one is on welfare, one should work. A conservative could extend the argument that work is psycholigical healthy, it adds value to one’s being, makes life happier, more fulfilling, etc., etc. But in the end there’s no guarantee that these are obnective realities. What is objective is support costs money and requires some expenditure of energy and the person getting the support should earn what is received. This admin. has underminded all of the gains made via welfare to work. I am not sure what intellectual gymnastics one needs to put forth the evidence that welfare to work actually was usuccessful based on the numbers.

The problem that exists with the acadedicians is that they think intellectualism has value unto itself. Fine writing supercedes sense makin and the practical. I find it very curious that intellectualism should have anything to with knowing when, how, what or if any force is required to acheive one’s political goals.

And I would challenge the advance that I need to schooled by the Noam Chomsky’s of the world to know that war causes suffering and is unweildly in gaining one’s goals. Mr. Trump, more than any other candidate has made the issues concerning our foreign policy to the fore. He did not support the Iraq war. And making his home in NY that speaks volumes. His position on Iran is measured and circumspect as is his position on most foreign policy issues.

I am going to speak what I think is the agenda here. Still pushing for the elction of Sec. Clinton, not because she has demonstraated any sound foreign policy acumen, but becase in the academic mind, it’s time for a woman. And if that amounts to intellectual credibility, I am delighted to remain the lous writer that I am.

I am going to review my conservative scholarship. Because dirth by the numbers is not much of a measure. But dirth by quality, I think conservatives hold their own.

#8 Comment By John Gruskos On November 4, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

The most outspoken opponent of the proposed war to topple Assad, Virginia legislator Richard Black, cruised to an easy reelection yesterday with 52.33% of the vote.

#9 Comment By Clint On November 4, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

Rand Paul,second GOP debate,
“Should we continue to talk with Iran? Yes. Should we cut up the agreement immediately? That’s absurd. Wouldn’t you want to know if they complied? Now, I’m going to vote against the agreement because I don’t think there’s significant leverage, but it doesn’t mean that I would immediately not look at the agreement, and cut it up without looking to see if whether or not Iran has complied.”

Ron Paul wholeheartedly endorses his son Rand.

Ron Paul,
” Rand is the ONLY one in the race who is standing up for your Liberty, across the board….he is our best hope to restore liberty, limited government and the Bill of Rights and finally end the big spending status quo in Washington, D.C….

Remember, truth is treason in the empire of lies. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Washington, D.C. and their media mouthpieces.

Even where Rand and I do have minor differences of opinion, I would take Rand’s position over any of his opponents’ in both parties every time….

There is not one candidate who has run for president in my lifetime who can say they fully share my commitment to liberty, Austrian economics, small government, and following the Constitution, [more] than my son, Rand Paul.

That’s why I have wholeheartedly endorsed him.

I know the media likes to play this little game where they pit us, or certain views, against each other.

Don’t fall for it. They’re trying to manufacture storylines at liberty’s expense. You’ve spent years seeing how the media treated me. They aren’t my friends and they aren’t yours.”

#10 Comment By Johann On November 4, 2015 @ 6:20 pm

We need a clean break from the clean break, and we have a responsibility to protect people and countries from the responsibility to protect children’s crusaders.

#11 Comment By cityeyes On November 5, 2015 @ 8:41 am

Most of us will just settle for a post-war. Peace.

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 5, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

@ Clint, who wrote:

Ron Paul wholeheartedly endorses his son Rand. Ron Paul, ‘Rand is the ONLY one in the race who is standing up for your Liberty, across the board….he is our best hope to restore liberty, limited government and the Bill of Rights and finally end the big spending status quo in Washington, D.C…’ ”

Cool, Clint, but what-the-heck does any of what Ron said have to do with son Rand’s disastrous foreign policy record? Answer: It doesn’t!

#13 Comment By Olivier On November 5, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

The thing I don’t understand about Paul et al (i.e., including Buchanan) is why they are still card-carrying members of a party that opposes so much of what they stand for. They would have more credibility and appeal outside of it.

#14 Comment By Clint On November 5, 2015 @ 9:22 pm

Confused Kurt,you could ask Ron Paul why he wholeheartedly endorses Rand and see what he says to you about foreign policy and how following the constitution and big spending affects foreign policy.

#15 Comment By Clint On November 6, 2015 @ 11:49 am

@ Kurt,who wrote:

Cool, Clint, but what-the-heck does any of what Ron said have to do with son Rand’s disastrous foreign policy record? Answer: It doesn’t!

Ron Paul wholeheartedly endorses his son,Rand because Rand understands how foreign policy is affected by following the Constitution and how Big Spending affects foreign policy and visa versa.

#16 Comment By Veritas On November 11, 2015 @ 3:07 am

Its interesting that the Democrat Party with its deeper intellectual resources allowed Eastern Europe to be sold into slavery and then ignored China’s enslavement. Its a wonder that this wisdom allowed a bankrupt foreign policy that created Vietnam, allowed Cuba to exist and that a senile old fool like Reagan could defeat these enemies without firing a shot.

Some bumbling old fools just are born under a lucky star while the Gods frustrated better more able men.

Or it just might be that just as ignorant, arrogant fools pushed Europe into suicide in 1914, we have seen a bunch of rubes believe in the same myths that failures always tell themselves, “this time it will be different, because we’re smarter than those who came before us.”

God save us from arrogant fools.