But to my infinite frustration, a moderate degree of hawkishness such as my own — I supported the Iraq war on international-legal grounds; I supported independence for Kosovo on grounds of honor for the US and expediency for Europe; I am a philosemitic friend to Israel, but think the challenges facing the US and Israel are not identical — is inadequate to the folks who have captured the hawk wing of the Republican and Democratic parties alike. John McCain is their prince, but Joe Lieberman is their king; and I must repeat that I feel a complete dunce for not realizing that none other than Joe Lieberman would be training Palin in all catchphrases pertaining to
national securityinternational insecurity. ~James Poulos
James shouldn’t be so hard on himself. I think most sane people are surprised time and again by the power of the GOP’s single-issue love-affair with Joe Lieberman, and I consistently underestimated the probability of McCain selecting Lieberman as his VP, which turned out to have been remarkably and frighteningly high. That said, whether or not Lieberman was personally involved in coaching Palin, it was inevitable that she would be turned into a McCain clone on foreign policy. Given her lack of interest in the subject and the ideological obsessions of McCain’s advisors, there was simply nothing else that could have happened, and once the excitement about Palin died down that was bound to be revealed. What is true in domestic politics generally is true here: those who are more obsessive and passionate about their cause will have disproportionate influence over and against those who are not. Hegemonism and aggressive militarism are effectively without strong competition, especially in the GOP, and so these become the default views of more and more politicians.
As for James’ moderate hawkishness, I am reminded of Ross’ complaint about the lack of realists in the GOP presidential field, and what I said then applies just as well now:
If the space filled by Paul should be filled by an internationally-minded realism, then why isn’t it being filled? Because it is not at all clear that most of the internationally-minded realists in the GOP actually believe, for example, that the Iraq war was a mistake. If they do believe this, there is little evidence that most realists think the answer is to withdraw from Iraq in some fashion sooner rather than later. If acknowledging that the Iraq war was a mistake is the starting point for a realist turn away from Bushist foreign policy, realists who actually say this seem to be thin on the ground. Perhaps I am missing some of them. They do exist, but they are not very numerous nor are they usually very prominent, and those who tend to be prominent are prominent because they are reliable CFR types who never say anything too wildly interesting or creative.
The trouble with moderate hawkishness and the desire for some middle-ground ”realist” alternative between Ron Paul and, well, everyone he ran against is that both moderate hawks and most Republican realists functionally end up aligning with or not being strongly enough opposed to reckless and destructive policies. They have the numbers and the potential influence to serve as a meaningful check on interventionists, but they share too many of the latter’s assumptions to want to serve as a check on them most of the time. Moderate hawks and realists should prudently be resisting these policies more vigorously than they actually do, but their desire to remain both politically and rhetorically the reasonable and moderate alternative between the extremes usually ensures that the status quo prevails. When realists do raise their heads above the crowd (Chuck Hagel, for instance), they are ridiculed as traitors by interventionists and dismissed as opportunists by non-interventionists (and especially by me). It is something of a thankless task, but I am one who thinks that it should be a thankless task, since the moderate hawk and realist views are, despite their greater moderation, still wrong often enough to be troubling. James stands out among moderate hawks by drawing a reasonable conclusion (i.e., Georgia and Ukraine should not be brought into NATO) from the experience of last month’s war, but for most of these people this does not seem to be an option. We can all see how mad it is to include Georgia in NATO, but it nonetheless remains the mainstream position espoused by all four nominees of the major parties. Hence James’ infinite frustration and Ross’ futile search for realists among leading Republicans.