Home/Daniel Larison/The GOP Needs Better Foreign Policy Thinking in General

The GOP Needs Better Foreign Policy Thinking in General

I suppose Palin can always argue that whatever set of sanctions is ultimately placed on Iran by the U.S. and its allies aren’t “real” sanctions, since that’s the luxury a governor who quits has. But it’s impossible to say Obama threw in the towel on sanctions when the timetable for those sanctions accelerates. ~Spencer Ackerman

Via Kevin Sullivan

Well, it’s only impossible if Palin wants her foreign policy remarks to have some relationship with reality. This is like Barone’s claim that Obama caved to the Russian demands in the START negotiations when almost the exact opposite is true. It is much catchier and more satisfying to an audience of nationalists to say that Obama betrays friends and gives in to enemies and rivals, so this is what Palin, Barone and the rest of them say. If Palin wanted to make credible foreign policy statements that non-Republicans could respect, Ackerman would be right that Palin needs better foreign policy advisors. However, the bad advisors she has and the bad advice they give her are far more politically useful to her.

This is the behavior I have been discussing for some time. Foreign policy hawks will not acknowledge any correct decisions taken by the administration, unless these relate to escalating foreign conflicts, in which case they will take credit for having somehow influenced the administration or they will pretend that Obama has abandoned his former views and adopted theirs. We have seen this when Romney claims that Obama changed his position on the speed of withdrawal from Iraq or on sending additional forces to Afghanistan, when neither position has changed noticeably since the campaign. The rest of the time they pretend that up is down, they declare his fairly confrontational Iran policy to be appeasement, they hallucinate non-existent “apology tours,” and they invent absurd theories that purport to explain Obama’s foreign policy as evidence of his rejection of American exceptionalism.

Another thing worth noting is that when it comes to foreign policy virtually all high-profile national Republican politicians wind up sounding no more informed or competent than Palin. I’m thinking of Romney and Pawlenty in particular, but the same could be said of Mike Pence or Eric Cantor. A frequent criticism of Palin is that she knows little or nothing about international affairs, but the same could easily be said of many other leading Republican politicians and pundits. That doesn’t stop them from talking about it incessantly and reminding us on a regular basis that they don’t know much.

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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