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Walker’s Meddlesome Foreign Policy

Scott Walker asks an odd question in his foreign policy speech at the Citadel today:

How can we deter our sophisticated adversaries in Eastern Europe and competitors in the South China Sea if we cannot defeat the barbarians of ISIS and roll back the theocrats in Tehran?

The answer is that the former have little or nothing to do with the latter. Demonstrating an ability to “defeat” ISIS or “roll back” Iranian influence doesn’t tell Russia and China anything about U.S. commitments in their respective regions. In fact, it is more likely that the U.S. will have fewer resources to devote to the former if it continues to be bogged down in protracted conflicts in the Near East. The U.S. would have greater difficulty effectively supporting its allies in Europe and Asia if it were preoccupied with “rolling back” Iranian influence.

Then again, applying the concept of “rollback” to Iran makes no sense. Iran’s position in the region has been growing weaker, not stronger, over the last four or five years, and its allies and proxies are under greater pressure from their local enemies than they used to be. Like other Iran hawk, Walker imagines that Iran is “on the march” and must be pushed back, but he unsurprisingly gets both the diagnosis and the remedy wrong.

Elsewhere in the speech, Walker says this:

Clearly, we can no longer afford to be passive spectators while the world descends into chaos.

First, “the world” isn’t descending into chaos. Most countries are enjoying peace and prosperity, and there are only a relative few serious conflicts around the world. It’s also obviously not true that the U.S. has been a “passive spectator.” In some cases, such as the war on Yemen, it would have been better if the U.S. had remained at least a spectator rather than an enabler and participant in the disaster unfolding there. The reality is that the U.S. has been anything but “passive” around the world in recent years, and in more than a few cases the impulse to meddle has helped wreck entire countries. In light of that, it’s absurd to think that the U.S. needs to become even more activist and intrusive in its dealings with the rest of the world, but that is exactly what Walker would do.

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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