Friday, August 02, 2013


Charles Krauthammer sees Republicans squabbling over nationl security, but he thinks it's no big deal:
So what else is new? The return of the most venerable strain of conservative foreign policy -- isolationism -- was utterly predictable. Isolationists dominated the party until Pearl Harbor and then acquiesced to an activist internationalism during the Cold War because of a fierce detestation of communism.

With communism gone, the conservative coalition should have fractured long ago. This was delayed by Sept. 11 and the rise of radical Islam. But now, 12 years into that era -- after Afghanistan and Iraq, after drone wars and the NSA revelations -- the natural tension between isolationist and internationalist tendencies has resurfaced.

In fact, both parties are internally split on domestic surveillance, as reflected in the very close recent House vote on curbing the NSA. This is not civil war.
Yeah, but here's the thing: For Democrats, this is rarely an existential battle. Maybe Joe Lieberman made it one for a while, but the anti-Iraq War wing of the party won that battle, which turned out not to be very bloody. Democrats support some wars (alas, too many), but they oppose others, and Democratic voters accept Democratic politicians -- Hillary Clinton, John Kerry -- whose views evolve on unpopular wars. There are Democrats on both sides of the surveillance issue, but it's easy to imagine some evolution of views taking place as well (Hillary Clinton might support NSA curbs by 2016).

But for Republican interventionists, interventionism is essential to one's core identity. John McCain and Lindsay Graham never met a war or bit of foreign policy hard-assery they didn't like. The same is true for Liz and Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani and, apparently, Chris Christie, and that's just off the top of the list. Certainly most Republicans never met a Republican war, or other nasty bit of foreign policy business, that they didn't like.

And once Republicans back a war, they back it for life. I still recall pundits imagining in 2007 that one of the non-Ron Paul candidates for the GOP presidential nomination would break from the pack and denounce the war. Never happened. If you're a Republican and you turn against a war, you become either an honorary libertarian (Walter Jones) or an honorary Democrat (Chuck Hagel).

Libertarian true believers like Ron Paul hate war not because they're isolationist per se, but because they hate government, and, unlike Republican hawks, they extend that hatred of government to foreign policy. Hatred of government is the absolute in this case.

Republican base voters want it both ways: spy on zero percent of white Christian gun-owning American patriots, but kill, imprison, or intrusively surveil 100 percent of all Muslims. (And immigrants as well while you're at it. And maybe some dirty hippies, too. And you can stop and frisk all the black people you want.)

If this gets resolved, it'll be because Republicans learn how to promise that that impossible wish can come true. Candidates who throw in their lot with the neocons will fail at this. (Bad move, Chris Christie.) Rand Paul is probably the most in tune with the zeitgeist: far more interventionist than his father when it comes to, say, the Middle East, but still pledging to keep the drones from spying on Bubba's gun cabinet back home. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio can probably fudge this (they helped Paul in that filibuster), and who knows where Scott Walker and Paul Ryan and Rick Perry will land in 2016.

But Christie's probably making a huge mistake trying to be Giuliani Version 2.0 -- though he (and this political viewpoint) will have a lot of backers in the media, so this could be an ugly fight for a while.


Victor said...

The only military activity the Republicans have been against in recent memory, is when Clinton wanted to send troops into Bosnia.

And the next time a Republican President suggests one, the Libertarians in Congress will not complain too loudly.
When Conservatives bang on the drums of war, no one will be heard above the racket, anyway.

Superfluous Man said...

Republicans will always bang the drums of war. Otherwise, I'd agree with the GOP on something, and that never happens.

Unfortunately, too many Democrats start marching when they hear that drumbeat.