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Why No “Realist Caucus” in the GOP Has Emerged

There was something else from Jim Antle’s good article on Republican foreign policy divisions that I wanted to discuss. Antle writes [1]:

None of this is to say it’s not troubling that we haven’t seen a realist caucus emerge during the Hagel confirmation fight, one that pushes back against the more hysterical accusations or at least acknowledges the millions of Americans who don’t want another Iraq.

More troubling than the lack of a realist caucus is the reality that ten years after the invasion of Iraq so little has changed in the way that national Republicans think and argue about foreign policy. Hard-liners are still employing the same despicable smear tactics that were used against conservative opponents of the war in 2002 and 2003, and they still face no penalty inside their party or the conservative movement for doing so. One would have thought that multiple defeats at the polls, the loss of credibility on foreign policy, and the humiliating failure of the most important policy initiatives of the last administration would shock Republicans into some measure of sanity and sober reflection. Nothing of the sort has happened, and even most of the ostensible insurgent Republicans feel obliged to endorse the party’s prevailing obsessions. The Hagel nomination was a small but important opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate that they were at least capable of improving on these issues, and at least at the level of party and movement leaders they have blown it completely.

The Hagel fight represents the Republican Party’s larger foreign policy weaknesses in miniature, beginning with the fact that there is any controversy over Hagel’s nomination in the first place. One might think that leaders of a party so closely identified with the Iraq debacle wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to castigate one of their few nationally-known colleagues when he was more prescient about the war’s pitfalls and was less willing to persist in a bad cause. A party led by people who think that the “surge” makes up for the greatest strategic blunder in a generation (or, more absurdly, think that it means that the U.S. “won” the war) isn’t suited to pass judgment on anyone else on matters of national security and foreign policy.

Minimal awareness of past failures might encourage Republican hard-liners to hold their tongues and be less obnoxious in their treatment of one of the relative few elected Republicans that recognized the folly of the war long before any of them did. There is no such awareness, and no desire to acquire it. Put simply, no “realist caucus” emerged in the last two months because most party leaders remain stuck in a fantasy world in which the Iraq war was a great success, uncritical support for all Israeli policies is wise, and unending hostility towards Iran is prudent, and most elected Republicans continue to take their cues on these issues from the people who have been wrong about virtually every major foreign policy issue for at least the last fifteen years.

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8 Comments To "Why No “Realist Caucus” in the GOP Has Emerged"

#1 Comment By Prefect On February 19, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

“in which the Iraq war was a great success, uncritical support for all Israeli policies is wise, and unending hostility towards Iran is prudent”

Let’s underline that, shall we? No Iraq War without the Israel Lobby frantically pushing for it. No congressional rubber-stamp of Tel Aviv’s every whim without the Israel Lobby pushing for it. And virtually every report on the threat posed by Iran leads with Israeli grievances and accusations.

#2 Comment By William Leach On February 19, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

As long as career politicians in the GOP can get by with mindless rhetoric, the Republican party will be good at but one thing: getting Democrats elected. As long as the Democrats can contrast themselves against the excesses of the GOP, they can do whatever they like, as long as it feeds into the red meat grinder of mindless Republican rhetoric.

Its sad when Obama looks like the adult at the table, even if hes just refereeing the predicatable partisan food fight. All he has to do is feed the GOP a taste of something it doesnt like, like Hagel, and they will throw it at the democrats, who will then make an even bigger mess, turn to the media and yell: “Look! They started it!”

In todays political enviornment, making sure your opponent has more egg on thier face is the best way for a president to get away with anything, and to look squeeky clean while doing it, at least to one side of the table.

#3 Comment By cfountain72 On February 19, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

“More troubling than the lack of a realist caucus is the reality that ten years after the invasion of Iraq so little has changed in the way that national Republicans think and argue about foreign policy.”

I hate to think like this, but there just seems to be an ambivalence about the millions of foreigners whose lives are impacted (and too often, ended) as a result of our myriad actions. Seems like millions of Americans have become wedded to the banality of evil, and forgotten their responsibility as citizens of a democracy…even while they proudly argue that other nations should share our ‘democracy.’ Essentially we have become what we hated.

Peace be with you.

#4 Comment By William Leach On February 19, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

Im sure some people are thinking that there are those in the GOP who are just playing along in the GOP in order to make a difference later.

By the time later comes we could have thrown enough support to “rebels” and repressive regimes alike to strengthen Wahabi extremism, and weaken its real opponents, both by orders of magnitiude. We could be writing Al Quedas name all over the Near and Middle East by the time Rand Paul gets elected by following GOP business as usual (howd that work for Romeny?).

By the time one of the GOPs heros in waiting speaks up, we could do the Al Qaedas work for them by attacking Iran. Make no mistake, they want war in the Muslim world, since they see all other muslims as infidels or worse. By the a would be GOP leader finds themselves eating political aoup thats not too hot, not too cold, we could be waging yet another war of aggression (lest we purposefully provoke or false flag Iran), igniting a regional powder keg that will destabilize nuclear Pakistan even further (should our drones fail to do light that particular fuse).

If anyone in the GOP (or the Democrats, Hagels PR campaign doesnt count) had any intention of speaking on behalf of reason, now would be the time.

#5 Comment By William Dalton On February 19, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

I think, to be realistic, had Senator Hagel’s only “sin” been his repudiation of the Bush decision to go to war in Iraq and the failures that followed from that, he would not be suffering this torrent of abuse from members of the Republican caucus in the Senate today. It is because he pointed out the power of the Israel lobby over his colleagues, of both parties, and the failure, particularly among Republicans, to recognize that the interests of the United States and Israel, not to mention even Israel and the U.S. Israeli lobby, are not always congruent, that he is the object of the vitriol he is receiving. More to the point, it is because prominent Republicans on the Armed Services Committee continue to take contributions, and receive independent support, from the likes of Sheldon Adelson, that these members embarrass themselves with their histrionics. Until that state of affairs, not just the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, comes to an end, we can expect this sorry spectacle to be repeated.

#6 Comment By Rojo On February 19, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

I opposed both the Afghan and Iraq wars for simple moral and legal reasons, viewing them as wars of aggression. But I also warned everyone I could that we would lose both wars because there was no suitable comprador class in either country whose interests aligned with the perceived interests of those prosecuting those wars. Perhaps the jury is still out on Afghanistan (although I remain confident in my prediction), but how anyone can view the Iraq war as an American victory is just flabbergasting to me. It is, as you say, absurd.

#7 Comment By Frank OConnor On February 19, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

In regards to cfountain72’s remaks, let me share a quote from Murray Rothbard, made about twenty years ago, but sadly as true today as then:

“…one reason why a U.S. war is always depressing to libertarians is because each new war is yet another demonstration that many Americans are only concerned about American lives and body bags, and care not a fig for the annihilation of citizens of another courntry.”

They are still dying by the dozens in Iraq thanks to our invasion, but who is paying any attention? Not Fox News, that’s for sure.

#8 Comment By Sean Scallon On February 21, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

It’s easy to say “fantasy world” but short of the entire Republican Party tripping on acid I think it would be best to break down why no realist caucus exists (and subsequently why Ron Paul never won a GOP primary or straw vote in a cuacus). If we take politicians as basically creatures of public sentiment and vote-getting, then there’s simply no incentive for them to be “realist”, especially after what happen to Hagel. We all know what neocons are capable of but its not just them that intimidates Republicans (at least within Washington.) The Dispensationalist voters, those connected to the military-industrial complex in their states and district, all have a stake too in the current GOP foreign policy question and they come down on the side of intervention and preemptive war for religious, economic and cultural reasons as well. All of it reinforced by Conservative INC. day after day in the media and on the campaign trail in terms of finance (Sheldon Adelson). That’s a powerful mix for politician to oppose (and may tell why Hagel not only left the Senate but why he never ran for the White House either). It’s telling the only question the GOP is willing to adjust on is immigration because the side which opposes it, the broad base of the GOP middle class, has no money, doesn’t not benefit financially from immigration unlike the business class and doesn’t feel itself sympathetic with immigrants unlike the way neocons do. Ergo, their objections are easy to roll over as John McCain just did at a recent town hall meeting. While there’s more dissent on foreign policy from conservatives than in the past, something would have to happen (perhaps Obama leading an unpoular attack on Iran) to change the equation for the broad mass of conservative voters to change too.