I asked him [Mitch Daniels] the sole question on foreign policy — in what fundamental ways Obama had erred? He did not address any of the basic concerns conservatives have been discussing (e.g., engagement with despots, indifference on human rights, animus toward Israel). Instead, he gave a platitude, “Peace through strength has totally been vindicated.” And then he immediately asserted that we have to “ask questions about the extent of our commitments.” He said, “If we go broke, no one will follow a pauper.” At least temporarily, he said, we can’t maintain all our commitments. But if our foes don’t take a break, what do we do? Should we pull up stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and hack away at the defense budget? It’s not clear whether he has thought these issues through, or whether he views foreign policy as anything more than a cost-control issue. ~Jennifer Rubin
Via Joseph Lawler
One can hope that Daniels is thinking mainly about controlling the costs of our foreign policy. There are some encouraging signs in Daniels’ answers. First of all, he doesn’t feel the need or obligation to rehearse mostly bogus or misguided attacks against Obama. Maybe he agrees with some of the attacks, or maybe he thinks they are ridiculous, but what I find interesting is that he refused to play at being a demagogue when given the opportunity. This might be proof that he simply isn’t that interested in these issues, or it could be that he wanted to distinguish himself from the ridiculous 2012 competition by avoiding the boilerplate whining that passes for foreign policy argument in many parts of the right today. Instead of indulging in a lot of self-congratulatory rhetoric about American greatness, Daniels seems to appreciate the limits of American power under present circumstances, and he is willing to question the extent of American commitments abroad. In other words, he is willing to question things that most Republicans regard as unquestionable.
That doesn’t mean that Daniels will come to the conclusions that traditional conservatives and libertarians will like, but it suggests that he is willing to reconsider American commitments abroad and possibly reduce or eliminate some if necessary. More important, Daniels seems to have his priorities straight. As I read his remarks, he seems to be saying that arguments about what American should do abroad will largely be irrelevant without addressing the debt and economic growth first, because the U.S. will simply be unable to afford to do that much until we put our own house in order. It isn’t a flashy or exciting approach, but it is a responsible one that will probably win Daniels some respect from hawks, realists and non-interventionists alike.