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The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy

I’ve spent the last week floating around the Caribbean with my two little girls, a cast of Disney characters, and 2000 or so others. While I was away, the Atlantic published a piece I wrote right after the election titled “The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy.”  The upshot:

The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public. It so happens that one already exists, has a proven track record of electoral success, and is only slightly used: the ”humble foreign policy” that candidate George W. Bush espoused during the 2000 campaign but abandoned with the Global War on Terror and the Iraq invasion.

Bush’s wisdom during the October 12, 2000 debates is striking in hindsight. “If we’re an arrogant nation,” he warned, “they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”

Now, to a large degree, that’s platitude rather than policy prescription. But it’s the right mindset from which to approach policy analysis.

Bush agreed, for example, with the Clinton administration’s actions in the Balkans: “I thought it was in our strategic interests to keep Milosevic in check because of our relations in NATO, and that’s why I took the position I took. I think it’s important for NATO to be strong and confident. I felt like an unchecked Milosevic would harm NATO.”

At the same time, he observed, “I’m worried about over committing our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use.”

In contrast with Kosovo, Bush declared, “I wouldn’t have sent troops to Haiti. I didn’t think it was a mission worthwhile. It was a nation-building mission. And it was not very successful. It cost us a couple billions of dollars and I’m not sure democracy is any better off in Haiti than it was before.”

More broadly, Bush argued, “I’m not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say, ‘This is the way it’s got to be.’ We can help.  . . . I mean I want to empower people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don’t think it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, ‘We do it this way; so should you.’”

In short, Bush articulated a foreign policy centered on the national interests of the United States and its allies, one that carefully weighed costs and benefits, and that would be humble in not only its outward face but in its assessment of what the United States could reasonably achieve.  His presidency and the shape of his party’s foreign policy would be much better off had he carried it out.

More at the link.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. cd6 says:

    The Republican Party needs a new message on (INSERT ANY TOPIC HERE) that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public.

    This is an “or” situation.
    There is no “and”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  2. Blue Shark says:

    Out-source it to the Democrats.

    …Problem solved …your welcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  3. george says:

    @cd6:

    This is an “or” situation.
    There is no “and”

    Actually, if Bush had followed the outline he gave above, it would have been both popular and conservative. In most countries, conservative means not sticking your nose into other countries business (ie most conservatives around the world aren’t interested in policing the world).

    The problem was of course that Bush completely went the other direction after 9-11.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Relevant: here’s the Democratic Party foreign policy as specified in the 2012 party platform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    I saw the flag of my country in a post called “The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy” and for some seconds I was worried that I would have to face an Foreign invasion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  6. michael reynolds says:

    I think first someone had beter figure out what is meant by “conservative.” The word has so many contradictory definitions it has lost all meaning.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    We only want the women, Andre, you’re safe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Based on context I think that James is using the term interchangeably with “Republican”. That’s how I took it, anyway.

    I think I’d say that the Republican Party is no longer conservative if it ever was. The most vocal of its members seem to be what I’ve been calling “Right Bolsheviks”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. Rob in CT says:

    Yeah, I liked what Bush the Candidate said about FP. Bush the President, on the other hand…

    I think there is a real political opening for a less interventionist FP. I’d be delighted if Conservatives went that route. I doubt they will, at least in the near future.

    I think the problems that prevent this is that a “more humble” less interventionist FP requires:

    1) a more honest assessment of what we can and cannot do with our military;
    2) putting down the “you’re soft on [insert threat here]!” cudgel; and
    3) pissing off those who stand to lose most: the people in the business of war National defense.

    #2 strikes me as doable, in that you can just shift over to talking about the cost. #1… well, you’d think that after Iraq and Afghanistan it would sink in, but I dunno. #3 is where it gets ugly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    @george: The problem was Cheney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. Franklin says:

    @Ron Beasley: I tend to agree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Barfour says:

    A holiday in the Caribbean with your little girls and a host of Disney characters. Most have been fun.

    Here’s a thought: Conservatives and Republicans can adopt a foreign policy that works. Having a successful foreign policy requires being pragmatic and being able to find practical solutions to issues and challenges that you are confronted with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Nick says:

    Hello Doug,

    Could you stop using the term “conservative” when referring to Republicans? It seems to me that the two terms are no longer interchangeable.

    Thanks,
    A Reader

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Nick says:

    @george:

    This assumes that the modern GOP is actually “conservative.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. swbarnes2 says:

    @Nick:

    This assumes that the modern GOP is actually “conservative.”

    When Doug puts in “what the base wants” in his definition of conservative, it’s pretty clear what he means.

    You are all confused because you have some pie-in-the-sky Platonic idea of what conservatism is, and that has nothing to do with the policies people like Akin or Cheney carry out or attempt to carry out.

    So stop being Platonic. Start being empirical. Whatever self-described conservatives describe as their policy wishes, that’s “conservative”. Then you know that your definition of “conservative” actually has some real life relevancy, and will actually allow you to predict what self-labeled conservatives will do.

    Let’s remember that Bush never carried out this “let’s be humble” policy, so that’s a pretty big mark against it being relevant to today’s conservative thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    Conservative foreign policy would be one we could actually afford.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  17. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: Seconding this. James said: “The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base ”

    The base is not conservative; they’ll happily vote for radical things (so long as they believe that they won’t be hurt).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  18. Scott F. says:

    @Rob in CT:

    You’ve hit the heart of it here…

    #3 (pissing off those who stand to lose most: the people in the business of war National defense) is where it gets ugly.

    Please consider:
    - Obama was the least belligerent candidate available in 2008 (outside of Kucinich who I’d argue was completely unelectable precisely because of his anti-war rhetoric)
    - Obama was elected at least in part because of his anti-war stance
    - Once elected, Obama has been much more militarily aggressive than his base wants
    - Neither candidate ran in 2012 on reducing our interventionism

    It is hard to escape the conclusion that the people in the business of war hold tremendous power over both parties. Until that changes, our FP (and the commensurately massive defense/security budget) will continue to favor conflict.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  19. rudderpedals says:

    The GOP could start the ball rolling by promoting McCain and Graham to some other positions where they’re no longer the Republican foreign policy standard bearers. Too bad about Dick Lugar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    I guess the problem I’m having is fitting “Republican Party” in the same frame as “conservative principles of the base.” As Dave says above, there’s rather a gap there. If we’re talking just the GOP as political beast then the only principle is winning elections. In that case we’re looking for an under served market segment. Pacifist and imperialist are both available.

    Realistically I don’t see how the GOP can avoid bellicosity. The Dems can too easily get to their left which boxes the GOP in. Interesting, really. Somehow the Dems escaped the trap they’d been in since McGovern and the GOP stepped into a different trap. If the Republicans can’t play the tough guy role they aren’t serving the emotional needs of their older more male base. But they can’t moderate far enough to peel off Dems. The Democrats have the middle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. steve says:

    James- Isnt Bush just describing a Scowcroft form of realism? That would be fine with me, except that I think Mubarak and co. demonstrate that realism has its own problems with an inadequate endgame.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. cd6 says:

    Conservatism: the opposite of what progressives want today, updated daily

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Whitfield says:

    Pragmatism. Nixon, Reagan were the best at this. One of the worst mistakes the US made was handing much of Europe over to the Soviet Union at the end of WW II. The best thing Kennedy did was not launch a full scale attack during the Berlin Wall crisis. A sensible policy for anyone is to stay out of other countries and make sure we are always on the alert for an attack on our country. We should not have to relearn the lessons of Pearl Harbor over and over again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: @Dave Schuler: I actually used “Republican” in my title and the thesis of the essay, captured in the first sentence and repeated throughout, pretty clearly refers to the Republican Party. For some reason, the editors changed it to “Conservative,” which makes no sense in this context, since the point is that Republicans have lost their competitive advantage over Democrats on what was once their signature issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. stonetools says:

    So stop being Platonic. Start being empirical. Whatever self-described conservatives describe as their policy wishes, that’s “conservative”. Then you know that your definition of “conservative” actually has some real life relevancy, and will actually allow you to predict what self-labeled conservatives will do.

    Amen. Requoted for TRUTH.

    Conservative foreign policy is the foreign policy that self-described conservatives advocate for and carry out. If John Podhoretz, Bill Kristol, John Bolton, or Mitt Romney advocate a particular FP position, its a conservative FP position.I have no time for the “No True Scotsman” approach, where if you disagree with a position advocated by one of the above, its not a conservative position, because “no true conservative” would have advocated that position. All of these guys to a man identify as conservative, vote Republican, and oppose Obama . Their FP positions are conservative, d@mm!t , and we shouldn’t pretend they aren’t.
    IMO, we don’t need a conservative, liberal, interventionist, or non-interventionist FP. We need to get back to a plain, old REALIST FP, where the USA has at best only a few friends but many interests, and where we don’t do more than what we can afford and don’t promise beyond what we can do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  26. Whitfield says:

    @stonetools: Realist: a pragmatist who has a flock of B-52s always warmed up.
    “No terms except unconditional surrender” General Grant, the ultimate realist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Whitfield:

    One of the worst mistakes the US made was handing much of Europe over to the Soviet Union at the end of WW II.

    This particular distortion of history really bugs me. At the end of WW2 the Soviets were already in Eastern Germany and Poland and had a right to be there given that their country had just been utterly devastated by Germans coming through Poland. The situation is a bit more nuanced in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, but bottom line, at the end of WW2 the Soviets had a very big, very capable, very well-armed army. We got them out of Austria and Scandinavia and “gave” them what they’d never have given up short of war. We also kept them off Japan. We made a big, complex deal with a very dangerous potential foe at a time when the last thing we or the Brits or our other exhausted allies could face was a war with the USSR.

    The net result was that we avoided a second war which would surely have harmed our capacity to quickly rebuild Europe and our not coincidental ability to build our economy. 50 years later the USSR was dead and Eastern Europe was free. A pretty good outcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  28. anjin-san says:

    @ Whitfield

    a pragmatist who has a flock of B-52s always warmed up.

    It’s a good thing we have smart people in charge of national defense instead of “pragmatic” conservatives. The B-52 has been around for more than half a century, and while it still has it uses, they are more tactical than strategic. You might want to go back to wingnut armchair warrior school. Maybe you could also get a calendar and see what century it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Seriously I think we need to see what Obama accomplishes.
    Even Bush/Cheney managed to keep our soil free of a terrorist attack for 1 term. Let’s see Obama make it two terms. That’ll have a huge impact on the party of fear-mongering.
    Where does the Israel/Palestinian process stand?
    What about Iran?
    All these things will dictate whether Republicans appeal to their base or the majority of Americans.
    And Conservatism is anethma to Republicans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. superdestroyer says:

    Worrying about the future of conservative foreign policy implies that conservative politics has a future in the U.S. Given all of the hand wringing and posts about how incompetent the Republicans are and how they are being buried by demographics and cultural changes, no one should waste their time worrying about conservative foreign policy

    There was an article at the American Conservative that argued that the paleo-cons may get most of what they want as the U.S. becomes more diverse because all of the non-whites in the Democratic Party will not care about foreign policy and will not want to spend any money on international adventures. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/immigrants-against-empire/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  31. Whitfield says:

    @C. Clavin: The president should have a rule that we don’t get involved in a war unless we have a plan to win. If there is no plan to win, stay out of it. That way there is no bugging out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  32. superdestroyer says:

    @Whitfield:

    It was called the Powell Doctrine at one time and worked in first Gulf War. yet, every politician since then has refused to follow the doctrine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell_Doctrine

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. george says:

    @swbarnes2:

    You are all confused because you have some pie-in-the-sky Platonic idea of what conservatism is, and that has nothing to do with the policies people like Akin or Cheney carry out or attempt to carry out.

    Actually we just have an international interpretation of the word. Harper in Canada is a conservative. So is Merkel in Germany. So was Sarkozy in France. None of them think policing the world is a great idea – in fact, none of them go along with many GOP policies … for instance, all of them believe that part of health care should be publically funded.

    There’s nothing pie in the sky about this kind of conservatism, its more common than the US brand. And I’d argue that’s because the US brand isn’t conservatism at all, its some sort of strange modern GOP’ism (which is very different than Eisenhower’s, or for that matter, even Reagan’s).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. An Interested Party says:

    There’s nothing pie in the sky about this kind of conservatism, its more common than the US brand. And I’d argue that’s because the US brand isn’t conservatism at all, its some sort of strange modern GOP’ism (which is very different than Eisenhower’s, or for that matter, even Reagan’s).

    Indeed…many of today’s “conservatives” are more like radical Jacobins rather than traditional conservatives…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. Ron Beasley says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Indeed…many of today’s “conservatives” are more like radical Jacobins rather than traditional conservatives…

    That’s what Paul Craig Roberts was saying over at Lew Rockwell.com 10 years ago. He actually called them the new Jacobins.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Ron Beasley says:

    @Ron Beasley: Here is the link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. swbarnes2 says:

    @george:

    Actually we just have an international interpretation of the word. Harper in Canada is a conservative. So is Merkel in Germany. So was Sarkozy in France.

    None of that has anything at all to do with what American conservatives do and think. Using the same term for all of that, and flipping between definitions depending on the rhetorical need at hand is at best unhelpful or confusing, and at worst dishonest equivocation.

    And I’d argue that’s because the US brand isn’t conservatism at all, its some sort of strange modern GOP’ism (which is very different than Eisenhower’s, or for that matter, even Reagan’s).

    Ugg. This isn’t helping! If you really must, tack “Early 21st century American” every time time you mean to talk about what today’s Republicans and their base wants, but quit it with the “No True Scotsman” already!

    The crazy 27% are not going anywhere, and they have a major political party that does their will, and that party is the Republican party. Endlessly discussing how to label Republican policies is just a dodge to avoid that painful reality, to make people like James and Doug feel good as the party they support with their votes enacts stupid and cruel policies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  38. george says:

    @swbarnes2:

    None of that has anything at all to do with what American conservatives do and think. Using the same term for all of that, and flipping between definitions depending on the rhetorical need at hand is at best unhelpful or confusing, and at worst dishonest equivocation.

    I agree completely – and I point out that the word “conservatism” existed in a global context long before it existed in an American context, and the global definition hasn’t really changed much over the centuries, while the American one has changed radically. So its Americans who are using it inappropriately, and should stop doing so.

    Okay, that’s not going to happen. But neither is the rest of the word going to change its definition of conservatism to match the American definition. So qualifiers are in fact going to be needed, not unlike with the word “football”. Saying “conservatism” is some platonic ideal ignores most of the world … and in fact is the kind of arrogance I’d expect more from the GOP. And I’d argue that its important to remind people of this even in the American context, because too many people think what the GOP does is the same fairly reasonable approach used by say Merkel, simply because they’re both called “conservatism”. Many Republicans don’t seem to realize there are alternative approaches to being conservative (if you pretend that what much of the GOP does today is in fact conservative).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Rob in CT says:

    Somehow the Dems escaped the trap they’d been in since McGovern

    Iraq, The Sequel. It shattered the FP credibility of the GOP for a large chunk of the electorate.

    I generally agree with you about it being hard to see the GOP “escaping” the bellicosity box.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  40. john personna says:

    @george:

    I agree completely – and I point out that the word “conservatism” existed in a global context long before it existed in an American context, and the global definition hasn’t really changed much over the centuries, while the American one has changed radically. So its Americans who are using it inappropriately, and should stop doing so.

    Ah, but America is a center-right country, and that makes it OK.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. C. Clavin says:

    @ JP…
    Yes…America is a center-right country…and Obama is it’s center-right President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @john personna:

    I think perhaps that America is historically a center-right country that is becoming something else, and the GOP isn’t prepared, at least currently, to market to changing demographics & attitudes. Acknowledging change has never been their strong point; adjusting to it even less so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. john personna says:

    Remember, “center-right” is a joke to me. It was always a nonsense idea that we are more conservative than our own average.

    Now if you get over the innumeracy of the literal concept, you can use it more loosely. And yes, Obama has been center-left, in a way the country might be leaning.

    Or, with math, Obama might represent today’s center.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. john personna says:

    (So to fully explain the joke. Since we have a nonsense idea about our political center, we might as well have a nonsense idea about whether that is “conservative” or not.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. Rob in CT says:

    Well yeah. Right and Left are all about how you define “Center” and most people define “Center” as “what I think.”

    I’ve tried to define it as “what clear majorities of Americans tell pollsters they think” which I think is better. It’s hard to nail down with certainty, but it’s better. By that measurement, I’m moderate on some issues but *clearly* liberal on others. Over the years, the number of positions on which I could be plausibly described as conservative has dwindled, in part because conservatives changed but also because I changed (moved Left).

    Obama’s roughly in the center, particularly in how he’s actually governed. What’s in his heart, so to speak, we can’t really know (we can make some educated guesses, but that’s all). It’s often pointed out that Nixon was “more liberal” than many present-day Democrats. Well, Nixcon was elected in 1968 and 1972. The electorate was different, and the facts on the ground were different (creating the EPA where none existed and in a time where awareness of pollution had come to the forefront really is different than our present arguments over the proper extent of the EPAs actions).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Rob in CT says:

    LOL. “Nixcon” was a total typo. Not intentional at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    People have a collection of ideas which loosely map to the parties. The parties try like heck to elevate an issue to the forefront. They want to pull people along an axis. These are the famous wedge issues.

    We might need some N dimensional space to map where people are and where the center is. “Government is the problem” or “you are the 99%” provide focus instead. They collapse the space. That might be good or bad, but it will always happen.

    I could ask people to choose:

    1) taxes are way too high
    2) taxes are a little high
    3) taxes are about right
    4) taxes are a little low
    5) taxes are way too low

    That might help us define a center, but it would again be collapsing the dimensions to an axis I find interesting. I didn’t talk about the gays, for instance, even once.

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  48. john personna says:

    (Bringing this back to foreign policy, Romney obviously tried to pull people along the axis of “Obama apologizes for America” and “everybody would back off if we acted tougher.” I’m really glad that didn’t work. It would be nice if a less interventionist message were tried by the GOP. Ye gods, better than picking fights with our major Asian trading partner.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    Even your 1-5 system for opinion on taxes is a mess if you really think about it. There’s more to taxes than “too high” or “too low.” Most of our arguments are over who pays. Liberals, generally speaking, want to shift the burden upward. Conservatives push in the other direction. Then there’s the use of the tax code to encourage certain behaviors (I’m not dogmatically against this, but it certainly is really fertile ground for unintended consequences).

    So you could get a poll result that tells you… well, nothing useful.

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  50. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I was actually going for the emotional aspect there, as a guide to where the center lies. The “blink” answer.

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  51. Brad Arnold says:

    Face it, “conservative” foreign policy is to say no to whatever Obama is for. Anyone that advocates a George Bush Sr foreign policy is a moderate, not a conservative in the current Republican party.

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  52. Brummagem Joe says:

    Sounds like the new Republican foreign policy according to JJ is the Obama foreign policy. Pragmatic but enlightened self interest……perhaps you should become a democrat JJ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  53. James Joyner says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I’ve argued for nearly four years that the Obama foreign policy is essentially the post-2006 election Bush foreign policy, except with a little more UN love. It’s largely the bipartisan Realist consensus foreign policy.

    What I’m proposing is that the Republicans go back in that direction but also move away from the interventionist impulse that has gripped both parties since the end of the Cold War. We need to stop looking for peer competitors to balance against and nations to fix.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  54. Rob in CT says:

    Yes, please! I really hope you finally get some traction, James.

    We need to stop looking for peer competitors to balance against and nations to fix.

    Damn skippy!

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  55. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    What I’m proposing is that the Republicans go back in that direction but also move away from the interventionist impulse that has gripped both parties since the end of the Cold War.

    Fine, but we should note that the “impulse” was not steady state. The Rise of American Militarism highlighted by Bacevich accelerated, as Vietnam faded from memory, as victories seemed easier, and as a Neocon framework established itself.

    Clinton’s occasional bombing was not (either) Bush’s land war.

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  56. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Throw the Neocon vision under the bus and you’re done.

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  57. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I think we can blame the neocons for the way Iraq evolved. There was a realist argument for regime change, a goal with bipartisan support even before 9/11, especially with the trumped up WMD angle. But recall that Obama campaigned in 2008 on the need to refocus our energy on the land war in Afghanistan and then followed up with the absurd Surge.

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  58. stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    What I’m proposing is that the Republicans go back in that direction but also move away from the interventionist impulse that has gripped both parties since the end of the Cold War. We need to stop looking for peer competitors to balance against and nations to fix.

    That’s OK , James . I’m sure the Republicans will end up where the Democrats are now in about 15 years or so. :-).

    These actions have enabled a broader strategic rebalancing of American foreign policy. …. we can focus on nation-building here at home and concentrate our resources and attention abroad on the areas that are the greatest priority moving forward. This means directing more energy toward crucial problems, including longstanding threats like nuclear proliferation and emerging dangers such as cyber attacks, biological weapons, climate change, and transnational crime. And it means a long-overdue focus on the world’s most dynamic regions and rising centers of influence.

    I bet that this will be in the REPUBLICAN party platform of 2032.

    Going forward, one of the interesting features of the current Administration’s policy is a focus not on the IMO rather tired intervention/non-intervention debate ,but on neglected areas like rising regions , i.e. the Pacific and Latin America. What’s your take on that?

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  59. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: Intervention is still where the rubber meets the road. It’s easily the most expensive form of foreign policy commitment.

    Otherwise, the emphasis on the Pacific and Latin America is already underway and has been for some time. And there’s more-or-less bipartisan agreement that that’s a good thing.

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  60. swbarnes2 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think we can blame the neocons for the way Iraq evolved.

    By which you mean, we should not blame the guy you helped vote into office who let those neocons do whatever they wanted?

    How convenient for you. Weren’t those same neocons likely to have been the advisers of a President Romney? And didn’t you with your vote help to try and put those guys in to power again?

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  61. James Joyner says:

    @swbarnes2: My point is that the neocons and the liberal interventionists, the latter of which the Obama administration employs in spades, are indistinguishable in many key respects. That Iraq turned into an experiment in democracy building can be blamed, in part, on the neocons. But the general policy of interventionism and democracy promotion through American military power has a bipartisan consensus going back to the invasion of Somalia by George HW Bush.

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  62. stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    My point is that the neocons and the liberal interventionists, the latter of which the Obama administration employs in spades, are indistinguishable in many key respects

    James, is your view that the USA should adopt a policy of strict non-interventionism?Because I don’t think that’s possible in the modern world. A realist foreign policy is going to contemplate there will have some be SOME intervention in other countries’ foreign affairs. That’s how its going to be in our interdependent world. As long as nineteen jihadists can emigrate to the US, hijack four jets, and kill 3000 Americans, we are going to have to take action against the jihadist groups overseas. Should we simply turn a blind eye when Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb? Even if you take the coldest realist view that the USA has no friends, only interests , we have interests overseas that need to be protected, and that means foreign intervention.
    A realist stance is not for no intervention-its for SMART intervention. Now, its not easy to judge what interventions are SMART-and indeed, even smart interventions can fail or be costly. We are talking art, rather than science, here. But intervention there will have to be.

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  63. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: There have been damned few cases in the last 20 years that called for boots-on-the-ground interventionism. I think there was a decent case for Desert Storm and a punitive raid in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and cripple al Qaeda was a slam dunk.

    I’m not sure why it is that Iran with nukes is less acceptable than Pakistan or North Korea with nukes; we didn’t go to war to stop either.

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  64. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    There was a realist argument for regime change, a goal with bipartisan support even before 9/11, especially with the trumped up WMD angle.

    Not by any reasonable meaning of the word “realist.”

    Containment became a whipping boy, something driven by that Neocon element. Every rational attempt to do cost benefit analysis containment vs invasion was shouted down on Neocon terms. America had a mission in the middle east, don’t ya know.

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  65. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: The no-fly zones were expensive and decreasingly useful and the inspection regimes were seen as a shell game. But, absent 9-11, we wouldn’t have gone in.

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