Greg Scoblete looks ahead to what U.S. foreign policy will most likely be in the second term:
For the record, I don’t see the nomination of either Chuck Hagel or John Kerry as tipping a massive U.S. retreat from the world. I’d venture a guess that almost all U.S. military bases abroad not currently slated for closure or consolidation will still be in operation when they leave. The U.S. will still retain a wide network of ambassadors, will still participate and lead most international organizations, will continue to engage in trade negotiations and will still use lethal force against al-Qaeda in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. There may be a stronger reluctance to start large scale wars with countries absent a clear casus belli, but that’s not a “retreat” in any meaningful sense of the word [bold mine-DL].
Scoblete is making sense. What Hiatt refers to as “retreat” is mostly the reluctance to take on additional, unnecessary burdens and commitments in various parts of the world. As Scoblete says, that isn’t retreat. It’s a refusal to squander even more resources and lives than the U.S. already does right now. The U.S. will still have far too many burdens and commitments, and as far as I am concerned it will still have a foreign policy that is far too militarized and activist, but the potential of the administration’s second term is simply that these things won’t get any worse over the next few years.
Hiatt is disappointed because he very much wants a more militarized and activist foreign policy than the one Obama has conducted in the first term, and so far the signs are that he probably won’t get it. The danger of Romney’s election was always that he would make these flaws in U.S. foreign policy much worse. Indeed, he campaigned on a platform of doing exactly that. The danger for the Republican Party in the next four years is that it will keep trying to attack Obama’s foreign policy as insufficiently aggressive, despite the fact this line of attack has proved to be entirely unsuccessful and has only worsened the GOP’s reputation on these issues with the public. As long as the party keeps weighing itself down with hard-line foreign policy views, it will have a harder time recovering politically and it will continue ceding the foreign policy advantage to its opponents.