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No, Republicans Are Still Not the Less Interventionist Party

Michael Barone makes [1] a very odd claim about Republicans’ post-Iraq foreign policy views:

Most Republican politicians seem disinclined to suggest we should intervene anywhere else.

If Barone means that most national Republicans aren’t going out of their way to demand new wars, then I suppose he has a point, but when the subject comes up I don’t see a lot of evidence that most of them are “disinclined” to support more military interventions. There are more Congressional Republican skeptics of military intervention and interference in foreign conflicts than there used to be, and that is not simply because the other party controls the White House. However, it isn’t true that they make up a majority of the members or anything close to it right now. That could change over time as more new members are elected to the House and the Senate, but so far most of the members of the classes of 2010 and 2012 are moving in the opposite direction. One might think that new members that have no connection to the Iraq war would be more than ready to distance themselves from everything that it represents, but what we have seen instead is a competition between most of the new members to prove just how aggressive and hawkish they can be. It was much the same story during the 2012 primaries [2] and in Romney’s general election campaign.

We shouldn’t expect that many Republican politicians to go out of their way to defend and celebrate the Iraq war, so I don’t consider the “silence” of most Republicans in office to be very important. Even if they agree with most other Republicans [3] nationwide that the war wasn’t a mistake, they’re not likely to re-fight debates specifically over Iraq when most Americans take the opposite view. There are still some limits to the party’s apparent need to self-destruct. Judging from the response of most conservative media outlets to the war’s anniversary, I don’t see any signs that war supporters on the right have learned anything from the Iraq experience other than discovering new ways to make even more [4] torturous justifications [5] for the unnecessary war [6] they supported until the end.

Barone speculates at the end:

If he [Obama] follows up on his threat to attack Iran’s nuclear program, we could have a 2016 presidential race in which Republican Rand Paul criticizes military action and Democrat Hillary Clinton defends it.

Of course, attacking Iran would be an act of supreme folly, and it would harm whichever party was most closely associated with it. Once Americans started realizing the war’s costs [7] to the global economy, the U.S., and regional stability, the political backlash at home would be severe. Many Democrats would likely rally to support the decision to start a war with Iran out of partisan loyalty, if for no other reason, but launching a war with Iran would very likely fracture the coalition Obama has assembled and produce a split among national Democratic leaders. The Democrats might nominate an Iran hawk, but that is by no means guaranteed. Assuming that Clinton ran and supported the decision to attack, she would be putting herself on the wrong side of yet another major foreign policy decision and probably a majority of her own party as well, which might conceivably be enough to deprive her of the nomination for a second time. Rank-and-file Republicans remain generally much more hawkish [8] on Iran, so it seems reasonable to assume that the Republicans would nominate an Iran hawk and then criticize the management of the war. Despite the political advantage opposition would give the GOP, an Iran war could perversely make it less likely that someone like Paul could win the nomination.

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10 Comments To "No, Republicans Are Still Not the Less Interventionist Party"

#1 Comment By CharleyCarp On March 28, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

The final excerpt is so demented it’s difficult to understand why anyone pays this man to write analysis. If the US attacks Iran in the next 3 years, it will be because Israel and its supporters from both parties demand that it do so, and have convinced the US that the existence of Israel is directly and irrevocably at stake.

One can posit that the US might attack Iran over the objections of Israel, or that Israel might be pleading for an attack, but Republicans in and out of Congress are vocal in opposition to it. One can also posit that I might win the next powerball lottery, although I never buy lottery tickets and have no intention whatsoever of buying one for the next lottery.

#2 Comment By Aaron On March 28, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

Stating that the U.S. won’t tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, and that military options are on the table, is… the position Obama took before the speech. And the position his predecessor took. Nothing to see there, folks.

Iran has been repeatedly cautioned that there is a line it cannot cross in the development of nuclear weapons. If you’re talking to somebody who is among those who believe, whatever the facts and history of the region, that Iran is “insane” and is going to cross that line despite those warnings, there’s not much point in continuing the debate. But if you accept that Iran is going to approach the issue at all rationally, you know that warnings like Obama’s serve as a reminder that there’s a line that is not to be crossed, but otherwise don’t hold much significance.

I think CharleyCarp is exactly right – that if Iran crosses that line, the Republicans (on the whole) will be insisting upon attack. It can be reasonably anticipated that they will also criticize Obama for having failed to take stronger action, even military action, at an earlier date and instead relying upon diplomacy (ew…) to solve a problem that everybody knew could only be solved with guns and bullets.

Finally, the president should have built a credible threat of military action and made it very clear that the United States of America is willing, in the final analysis, if necessary, to take military action to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. Look, one thing you can know and that is if we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon.

Mitt Romney, January 7, 2012.

#3 Comment By James Canning On March 28, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

Aaron – – Does it occur to you that foolish ranting from Mitt Romney would make P5+1 negotiations with Iran more difficult?

#4 Comment By Ken Hoop On March 28, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

Assessing all the hot spots in the world likely to bring intervention, properly emphasizing the interests of the country both neocons and neolibs find irresistible, I estimate the Democratic Party is about 15% less interventionist than the GOP.

That leaves a whole bunch of intervenin’ to do.

The duopoly is doomed to duelin.’

#5 Comment By Mia On March 28, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

If there is one knock on Hillary, it’s that she has taken no controversial position until it has become safe enough to do so. Joe Biden was the one who forced Obama into his current position, much earlier than Obama had wanted. By then, the wheels were already accelerating. She is hardly a “change” candidate. In fact, if the next election is about “change,” she is toast. Hillary doesn’t represent anything that is change. Hispanics love her because the Clintons have been a trusted brand among this group for a long time. She would likewise be a trusted brand among women and supporters who want to see a more progressive approach to women’s rights (and currently, the progressive approach IS the status quo). If the next election is framed in not going “backwards” (as in women’s rights, voting rights, gay rights, etc), Hillary wins. If the narrative changes, and people start thinking about values in more traditional terms, Hillary loses.

#6 Comment By Mia On March 28, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

I forgot my point. Hillary took the “safe” route when supporting the Iraq War. She is not that far removed from Republican foreign policy. In fact, I wonder if she would feel pressured to prove she’s tough in a field that is still dominating by men…by launching another war. She has the dual challenge of not repeating her mistake of trying to act like a “tough guy” (rather than be herself) while also not trying to run as a “change candidate.”

#7 Comment By Brubaker On March 28, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

” She has the dual challenge of not repeating her mistake of trying to act like a “tough guy” (rather than be herself) while also not trying to run as a “change candidate.””

As a presidential candidate, Hillary’s big problem is her gig at State.

Almost as soon as she was appointed it was obvious that she was bored, tired and out of her depth: our international popularity resumed its subsurface cruise, Russia teamed up with China, Netanyahu still sneering at us as he took our money and authorized new settlements, the Arab world in flames as she stands their with that wide-eyed Prozac look, NATO allies abandon US initiatives like Libya, N. Korea growing even more belligerent. She was only able to round up 7 votes against Palestinian recognition at the UN, the new gold standard in diplomatic incompetence.

Her aging media claque will do what it can, but I doubt it can photoshop that abysmal record sufficiently to return her to the White House.

#8 Comment By DavidT On March 29, 2013 @ 1:04 am

Mia: “If the narrative changes, and people start thinking about values in more traditional terms, Hillary loses.”

The problem is that the voters most likely to “think about values in more traditional terms” tend to be elderly, and many of them will not be around in 2016…

#9 Comment By Tim D. On March 29, 2013 @ 9:30 am

Americans in general tend to be hawkish. A majority of Americans supported Obama’s actions in Libya, for example. You’ll see the same trend in past military interventions in other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo/The Balkans, Somalia, and Grenada.

What Americans have zero tolerance for is military incompetence. Prolonged military operations revealed the overwhelming incompetence of the Bush administration. It was a stigma that still haunts Democrats to this day with people who came of age during Vietnam, and what now haunts the Republican party with people who came of age during Iraq + Afghanistan.

Until Republican leadership acknowledges Iraq was an international disaster and repudiate the Bush administration, the public will not trust them to handle national security/foreign affairs. Republicans are even in danger of losing the military vote. The military vote was split between Romney and Obama in 2012. Obama will probably solidify additional support over the next few years, such as his nomination of Chuck Hagel demonstrates. Hagel will probably prove a popular administrator since soldiers tend to prefer bosses who have served in combat.

#10 Comment By Myron Hudson On April 1, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

Barone seems to spend most of his time constructing houses of cards. At this point it is a real chore to get through anything he writes. Much less take it seriously.