Dan Drezner’s going to bed early tonight because he doesn’t think the outcome of Congressional elections matters much for foreign policy. But at least on Middle East issues, that’s crazy. If the GOP takes Congress, it might overwhelmingly approve an Iran sanctions bill which ties the hands of President Barack Obama’s administration and undermines its efforts to construct an effective negotiation strategy. Or it might irresponsibly fail to confirm ambassadors to Syria and Turkey, two key players in the region, for no good reason.
Certainly, irrational hostility towards Iran is worrisome. Consider Mark Kirk’s rather laughable essay in “support” of the Green movement, and ask yourself if you think his foreign policy contribution in the Senate will be a net positive in the event that he wins tonight. Lynch is right that there is no good reason to refuse to confirm these ambassadors, but Republican foreign policy leaders have reasons that reason knows not. I remember Ackerman mentioning hostility to Frank Ricciardone’s nomination as ambassador of Turkey, which Josh Rogin detailed here. My favorite quote from the Rogin report is this quote from Danielle Pletka:
Now is not the time for us to have an ambassador in Ankara who is more interested in serving the interests of the local autocrats [emphasis mine-DL] and less interested in serving the interests of his own administration.
Some democratists are bothered by Ricciardone’s understanding of why the Egyptian government was annoyed by the Bush administration’s anti-terrorist authoritarianism alongside its promotion of the “freedom agenda” in the Arab world. Perhaps some of them also think that the current Turkish government is too authoritarian, despite its efforts to hold its military more accountable to civilian courts. Ricciardone is eminently qualified, actually knows the local language, and would be well-received in Ankara. It seems clear that he should be confirmed. Presumably these facts will be used against him as proof that he is far too familiar with other nations, and has a dangerous habit of understanding their concerns. The fight over Ricciardone’s confirmation is just a stand-in for more general Republican hostility to Turkey since the Gaza flotilla raid and resentment that State Department FSOs are not mindless adherents of the failed “freedom agenda.” The bad news from tonight’s election results is that there are going to be several more Republicans in the Senate sympathetic to the nonsensical attacks on Ricciardone than there were before.