Home/Daniel Larison/Romney and the “Republican Foreign Policy Establishment”

Romney and the “Republican Foreign Policy Establishment”

Jonathan Bernstein objects to the lazy overuse of “establishment” to describe political actors:

Item 2: Mitt Romney has not yet won the endorsements of Republican foreign policy “establishment” types Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft. What makes them, and not their opponents within the party –opponents who, in many cases, have been in office a lot more recently and are more likely to be appointed by Republican nominee Romney if he wins — “establishment”? Or if both sides of the GOP divide (or all sides, if there are more than two) are “establishment,” then how does it help us, the readers, figure out what’s going on?

That’s a very good point about that article, and it’s a useful corrective to the overuse of the word. The misuse of the word establishment in the original title may be why a later version of the story refers to foreign policy “giants” rather than the “foreign policy establishment.” I have to admit that I often fall into the habit of using the word to distinguish between party elites and their critics, but it is not always an accurate or meaningful term. The story about Romney’s lack of support from realists of an earlier generation reflects the extent to which those realists have long since ceased to be influential in the GOP.

It’s true that Romney has not yet received the endorsements of these realists, but from Romney’s perspective those endorsements are redundant and may not even be desirable for him if they could be obtained. These realists are the people whom Bill Kristol is so proud to have driven from positions of influence among Republicans. Perhaps the article was supposed to emphasize Romney’s weakness on foreign policy, but all that it confirmed was that Romney’s foreign policy is antithetical to that of many Republican realists, which is something we already knew. Romney’s campaign may bristle at the neoconservative label, but it would dread being identified with Brent Scowcroft and the foreign policy views he holds. As far as the campaign’s policy positions are concerned, Romney has accommodated himself to the present-day Republican foreign policy establishment (including the neoconservatives) and not the one that existed twenty or forty years ago.

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.

leave a comment

Latest Articles