Danielle Pletka unwittingly reminds everyone why Republicans are still not trusted on foreign policy:
But there’s a deeper difference here as well. Republicans are more willing to upset the global status quo. Not always, to be sure. [bold mine-DL] President Dwight Eisenhower stood by with only murmurs of protest as the people of Hungary were trampled in 1956; President George H.W. Bush did the same decades later after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. But Reagan stirred the pot and worked with like-minded allies to oust communist dictators. Republicans today, I have little doubt, will be more supportive in the event of an Israeli military strike on Iran, more willing to heed the counsel of military commanders in Afghanistan about the timeline for victory and withdrawal, and less willing to show flexibility in the face of Russia’s slide back to authoritarianism.
These are very strange examples to cite. Eisenhower’s decision to “stand by” as the Hungarian uprising was crushed rather than escalate to WWIII was one of his wisest decisions, which saved Europe and the rest of the world from a potentially cataclysmic conflict. While there was no danger of starting a war with China at the time, Bush was still correct to continue engaging with China after 1989. This comparison does Reagan a disservice by emphasizing his most foolish, least successful policies as if they were his main accomplishments. “Stirring the pot” in practice meant arming insurgents to wage bloody civil wars that claimed tens of thousands of lives while impoverishing the countries involved. That was not Reagan’s smartest policy, and ultimately it produced a morally dubious and illegal operation that marred Reagan’s presidency with a huge scandal. When the public looks at the modern GOP, they see people only too willing to support that sort of folly and far too reluctant to consider the benefits of not “stirring the pot.”
Consider Pletka’s list of things that she believes Republicans are more willing to support: an illegal sneak attack by one state against another, a potentially much longer war in Afghanistan, and a more hard-line approach to Russia that hasn’t made sense in over twenty years. She criticizes two of the more successful Republican foreign policy presidents of the last sixty years, praises one of Reagan’s worst policies, and then says that the modern GOP is just as belligerent and confrontational as everyone thinks it is. Does she expect this to make the public more inclined to trust Republicans on foreign policy? The GOP’s biggest problem on foreign policy is that a lot of the people speaking for it on these issues think that its worst liabilities are its greatest advantages, and Pletka’s article is a good example of this error.