Thursday, March 30, 2023


Very smart pundits who see the world in political science categories tell us that Donald Trump has turned the GOP into a party of isolationists, after a seventy-year period in which Republican politicians and voters advocated hawkishness and foreign policy adventurism. There's some truth to this -- if you talk about war in Iraq or military aid to Ukraine now, many Republican voters will express opposition and rail against "globalist" supporters of intervention.

But I don't agree with the pundits who think this is a deep-seated conviction on Republican voters' part. Those voters aren't really isolationists. They're the same people who hated liberals for opposing the Iraq War twenty years ago. They haven't really changed.

They became disillusioned with the U.S. involvement in Iraq during George W. Bush's second term, when it was clear that it wasn't leading to a big victory, and especially after the 2006 midterms, when it cost the GOP both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, they supported an Iraq hawk, John McCain, in 2008, and Mr. "Double Guantanamo," Mitt Romney, in 2012. All through Barack Obama's term, they thought he was a weak appeaser who wasn't tough on Iran, Al Qaeda, and ISIS.

Pundits with a head full of poli sci think GOP voters became Taftian isolationists in 2016, but it was Trump's bellicosity on the campaign trail -- calling for a Muslim ban, advocating torture and the killing of terrorists' families -- that made them comfortable embracing his denunciations of the Iraq War.

I think they're ready to like war again, although it has to be their war, fought by one of their heroes. According to a story in Rolling Stone, Trump seems ready to give them that kind of war:
DONALD TRUMP IS asking for a plan to wage war in Mexico, and the Republican Party is eager to give it to him.

As he campaigns for a second White House term, Trump has been asking policy advisers for a range of military options aimed at taking on Mexican drug cartels, including strikes that are not sanctioned by Mexico’s government, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

“‘Attacking Mexico,’ or whatever you’d like to call it, is something that President Trump has said he wants ‘battle plans’ drawn for,” says one of the sources....
This plan is laid out in a white paper from a Trumpist think tank (if that's not a contradiction in terms) called the Center for Renewing America.
In a nod to Mexico’s status as a sovereign nation, the paper calls on the U.S. to “conduct specific military operations to destroy the cartels and enlist the Mexican government in joint operations to target cartel-networked infrastructure, including affiliated factions and enablers with direct action.”

However, that “enlistment” of the Mexican government comes with a massive caveat: “It is vital that Mexico not be led to believe that they have veto power to prevent the US from taking the actions necessary to secure its borders and people,” the paper reads.
This is all the rage in the GOP:
The fixation with military action on Mexican soil is not limited to Trump, however. The CRA paper is credited to Ken Cuccinelli, a former Trump official who now backs Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the next president of the United States....

Republican congressmen Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) announced legislation to authorize the use of military force against fentanyl trafficking cartels in Mexico. The move garnered support from Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr, who penned an approving op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Pro-Trump House members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) have echoed these ideas, as well.

In the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) announced their own legislation, which would “give the military the authority to go after these organizations wherever they exist” ...
People who think in poli sci categories will say that advocates of a military attack on Mexico can still be isolationists, more or less, because they're trying to protect national borders. But notice the structure of every response to questions about Ukraine from Trumpists and would-be post-Trumpists, including Ron DeSantis:
* The border!
* China!
* Did I mention the border?
* Did I mention China?
They may not be ready for a shooting war with China, but they sure want to rattle sabers at it, because they think Democrats don't. The same with Mexico. They're not fond of Iran, either.

Republican voters are only momentarily isolationist, or isolationist-ish. They'll be ready for war again as soon as the war isn't associated with either Republican losers (Bush, McCain, Romney) or the hated Democrats.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this:
I'm old enough to remember the Reagan presidency and the terms of both George Bushes, so I strongly doubt that the same people who wanted liberals hanged for treason if we didn't want to fight the Contras or go to war with Saddam (twice) now sincerely oppose American interventionism of all kinds. I think they'll eagerly support a war if we oppose it and one of their heroes starts it.
I'll stand by that.

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