Wednesday, February 22, 2012


There's an interesting observation in this news analysis on Iran by Scott Shane of The New York Times:

Despite a decade of war, most Americans seem to endorse the politicians' martial spirit. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 58 percent of those surveyed said the United States should use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30 percent said no.

"I find it puzzling," said Richard K. Betts of Columbia University, who has studied security threats since the cold war. "You'd think there would be an instinctive reason to hold back after two bloody noses in Iraq and Afghanistan."

In the same survey, 75 percent of respondents said that Mr. Obama was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at the right pace or not quickly enough, a finding in keeping with many indications of war weariness.

Micah Zenko, who studies conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees an old pattern. "It's true throughout history: there's always the belief that the next war will go much better than the last war," he said.

Faced with an intractable security challenge, both politicians and ordinary people "want to 'do something,'" Mr. Zenko said. "And nothing 'does something' like military force."

I can't help thinking that what Zenko observes also applies domestically.

I've often wondered why Democrats lose favor for long periods of time (1980-1992, for instance), while Republicans roar back almost immediately after they seem to be thoroughly discredited. (Ford came within an eyelash of beating Carter two years after Nixon's resignation; Gore couldn't crush Bush two years after impeachment failed and Gingrich resigned; Republicans dominated the 2010 elections two years after Bush left office in disgrace.)

What Zenko says explains that on a domestic level, I think. Republicans are the party of relentless bellicosity -- they don't just crave fights against foreign enemies, they treat domestic politics as war -- and the public, I guess, always thinks, domestically, that "the next war will go much better than the last war." All that's necessary is that the new Republicans seem different from the old Republicans, so they're assault on the Democrats will seem like a "next war" rather than "the last war." Bush wasn't Gingrich, and the teabaggers weren't Bush, so those victories were new wars.

And I see from the new Quinnipiac national poll that Obama's beating Romney by only 2, and Santorum by only 3. A disturbingly large percentage of the public is clearly ready for another Republican domestic war.


Ten Bears said...

What's the word I'm looking for? It's right there on the tip of my tongue... means something like "doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results... Faith? Insanity? Fey?

BH said...

I see that Buddy Roemer is nominating himself for the Americans Elect prezzy slot. Any thoughts on whether AE will adopt him, & if so, whom if anyone it'll hurt?

Steve M. said...

I figure AE is going to force some deficit scold to the top of the ticket, not a guy who reaches out to Occupy Wall Street. I think if Roemer lobbies for the nomination and no one else wants it, AE will just shut the whole process down to deny him the nomination.