The polls say that Americans are still suffering from a war hangover after Iraq and Afghanistan, but in GOP circles, it's looking as if saber-rattling is fashion-forward. The Atlantic's Philip Bump says we're going through a "torture apologist renaissance":
Like the proverbial crook who returns to the scene of the crime, the architects of the Bush administration's torture program are suddenly ubiquitous in its defense. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to be a coordinated effort. It's just coincidence...Bump goes on to quote Donald Rumsfeld (in a clip from Errol Morris's new documentary The Known Unknown) claiming the Bush Justice Department's so-called torture memos were few in number, weren't torture memos at all, and were none of his business anyway because he's not a lawyer. And John Yoo, the lawyer who actually wrote those memos, recently appeared at Drexel University and said, "I do stand by the line that we drew."
"It wasn’t torture," former vice president Dick Cheney told an audience at American University on Thursday. And what's more: "If I would have to do it all over again, I would," he said. "The results speak for themselves." ...
All this while Condoleezza Rice is pounding the war drums again:
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice says that American leaders need to resist the temptation to become weary of war, according to a report of her remarks at a fundraiser.I point this out in the context of reports suggesting that Rand Paul might be the 2016 GOP presidential front-runner because he "has become the first Republican to assemble a network in all 50 states as a precursor to a 2016 presidential run, the latest sign that he is looking to build a more mainstream coalition than the largely ad hoc one that backed his father’s unsuccessful campaigns." This goes hand in hand with the notion that Paul can win in 2016 because he'll be able to "woo disaffected and millennial voters" who are "disillusioned by intrusive government surveillance and aggressive drone strikes."
"I fully understand the sense of weariness," she told a GOP fundraiser Wednesday, according to reports. "I fully understand that we must think: 'Us, again?' I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we've been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it's hard. But leaders can't afford to get tired. Leaders can't afford to be weary."
But Republicans are reverting to type lately -- jonesing for war and calling Democrats "weak." Yes, that seems to be just a response to current circumstances. But how likely is it that the world will be very different in late 2015 and 2016 from the way it is now? How likely is it that Vladimir Putin is going to mellow out? How likely is it that various Middle East flashpoints are going to seem stable? And isn't it likely that the White House is going to continue on roughly the same middle-ground, cautious foreign policy, which will be easy for Republicans to caricature as unmanly?
And I haven't even mentioned the likely Democratic nominee, who will forever be linked in Republicans' minds to Benghazi.
My point is that the 2016 GOP contest is likely to include a hell of a lot of prattle about restoring America's strength and resolve -- and if Rand Paul wants to compete seriously, and not be marginalized like his father, he's going to have to rattle sabers with the rest of them.
We know Paul is willing to do that, in his own way -- that's why he was at Breitbart on Tuesday with a column titled "Obama Cutting Tomahawk Missile Makes No Sense, Leaves Real Waste Untouched":
I believe in a strong national defense. I believe in Ronald Reagan's policy of "Peace through Strength." ...This after his peculiar call, in Time magazine a couple of weeks ago, for more missiles in Eastern Europe:
Nobody wants to cut spending, including Pentagon waste and abuse, more than me. I agree with former Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen who has said that the greatest threat to our national security is the national debt.
But I don't want to cut weapons that have been integral to maintaining a strong military....
I would reinstitute the missile-defense shields President Obama abandoned in 2009 in Poland and the Czech Republic, only this time, I would make sure the Europeans pay for it. The problem with the foreign policies of both Democratic and Republican administrations is that they never give a second thought to how America can afford what they implement.Yeah -- it's not saber-rattling if somebody else pays for the sabers!
Seriously? This is the guy who's going to appeal to dudebros with his groovy libertarian war-skepticism? If he yells about the debt while pounding war drums, the dudes won't notice that he's pounding war drums?
I think the world's going to continue to seem chaotic, and Obama's going to continue to operate in a low-key manner that isn't satisfyingly jingoistic to the right. Calling Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, a bunch of America-hating hippies is going to be the percentage move in the GOP primaries. Rand's going to have to keep up if he wants the nomination -- and that's going to hurt him in the general election.