The Hawks Who Cried Wolf
Do Republican hawks understand how ridiculous they appear to everyone else? I guess not:
“This is the centerpiece of his critique, that President Obama has been too accommodating of adversaries and too quick to be dismissive of our allies, and Romney wants to reverse that balance,” says Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
“The events in Cairo, the early tweets from Cairo, seem to be a kind of smoking-gun illustration of his critique of Obama [bold mine-DL],” Feaver says. “That’s why they came out with their criticism when they did.”
One problem that Republican hawks have in making this argument is that everything appears to them to be just such a “smoking-gun illustration.” They have repeatedly jumped on every decision, and, regardless of what the decision was, declared that this is yet more proof that Obama “snubs” allies and “emboldens” enemies. In one case after another, the “smoking gun” turned out to be a will-o’-the-wisp, and the criticism could never withstand even the most minimal scrutiny. Whether it has involved misrepresenting the missile defense decision in 2009, portraying Obama as a Chavez ally, berating him for the non-existent “apology tour,” or accusing him of “appeasing” Russia, Republican hawks have managed to use the least credible, most misleading line of attack. What’s even more remarkable about this is that they don’t disagree with most of what Obama has actually done. They just find it expedient to agitate for increasingly hard-line and aggressive policies and to pretend that the incumbent is not the conventional hawkish interventionist that he has always been.
The broader criticism of Obama regarding treatment of allies and adversaries is unfounded*, and so are the specific attacks that Romney and his allies have been making for years. I have made a point of challenging these attacks for the last few years mainly because they are inaccurate and/or dishonest, but it’s also clear that the even more hawkish alternatives favored by these critics would be that much worse for the U.S. Even if the criticism happened to be correct in this instance, which it wasn’t, hawkish critics have made so many similar, baseless attacks over the years that it would have been easy to dismiss this as just more of the same. As it happened, the criticism this week wasn’t just inaccurate, but also thoroughly dishonest. In addition to all of that, there was the display of spectacularly poor judgment in immediately attacking on Tuesday night. Romney had made false claims before (“abandoning” missile defense, “betraying” allies, etc.), but he had not attempted to make political hay out of an ongoing crisis before now. When he did, his habit of saying untrue and unfounded things about Obama’s foreign policy record came back to bite him. Considering how long he has been able to make misleading and dishonest accusations on these issues before now, it is about time.
* There are instances when Obama has mishandled relations with allied and friendly states, but hawks don’t care about this because it doesn’t dovetail with their preferred hawkish policies. When Obama has been willing to dismiss allied concerns in a way satisfactory to hawks, as he did with Japan and Turkey, this doesn’t bother them in the least. Typically, when they object to his dealings with certain allies and clients, they are complaining that he isn’t being quite as much of an aggressive fool as they would like.