Home/Daniel Larison/Kasich and the Errors of “Cheap” Hawks

Kasich and the Errors of “Cheap” Hawks

John Kasich may run for president, but based on his latest foreign policy remarks to Hugh Hewitt it would be better if he stayed in Ohio:

Hey, the other thing is, look, and maybe in a place like Libya, just like I was in the early days of Syria, we’ve got people we can support. It doesn’t mean we have to be there. But there’s clearly things that we can do. We don’t have to have troops in Ukraine, but we can clearly provide them the military equipment that they need to be able to defend themselves. They’re our allies, okay? [bold mine-DL] We believe the Ukrainians. Let me also tell you when it comes to, like I say, the early days of Syria and even now, Assad has to go. But that doesn’t mean we have to put boots on the ground. But I think it is important that we are engaged. And I’m sure that the same exists in Libya. I mean, we’ve got to find the forces, if we can, the clear forces that can help us to support the foreign policy that we think is going to be the best for stabilizing that region.

Kasich gets almost everything wrong in this statement. There are always groups that the U.S. “can” support in foreign civil wars, but there are very rarely any that the U.S. should be supporting. Besides, how does it stabilize the region to support anti-regime insurgents? On the one hand, Kasich wants to create the impression that he wants to maintain stability, but everything he recommends doing here is necessarily destabilizing. He still insists on toppling Assad when it is now obvious to everyone except ideologues that jihadists would benefit from regime change. His remarks on Ukraine may be the worst of all. Not only does he favor the dangerous option of sending arms to Ukraine, but he does so in the false belief that “they’re our allies.” Allies are exactly what they aren’t, which is why the U.S. has never been obliged to support them in an armed conflict. He says that “we’ve got to find the forces…that can help us to support the foreign policy,” but never explains why he thinks our foreign policy should have to rely on finding insurgents to arm in the middle of foreign civil wars. Kasich is at great pains to say that there shouldn’t be any Americans sent to these countries, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to meddle and send in weapons wherever possible.

These are the sorts of positions that a “cheap” hawk will usually end up taking. The difference between the “cheap” hawk and his more expensive counterpart is simply the means they prefer to use to interfere in foreign conflicts. The “cheap” hawk may keep U.S. troops out of many of these conflicts, but he has the same bizarre impulse to take sides in conflicts where the U.S. has nothing at stake, he still wants to subvert and overthrow governments that don’t pose much of a threat to the U.S. or our allies, and he imagines that we have alliances with countries when no such alliance exists. Because he is prepared to entangle the U.S. in all these conflicts in some way, it is fairly easy to persuade him to increase U.S. involvement later on when the earlier measures don’t “work.” As long as he thinks that a war will be quick and easy, he’ll have no qualms about supporting it. That’s one reason why Kasich was on board with invading Iraq. “Cheap” hawks don’t seem to be very good at anticipating how a policy could become much costlier in lives and money than originally expected. They also don’t seem to have a problem with helping to wreck other countries, but they’re strongly opposed to doing anything to repair the damage done by their preferred policies.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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