Why, and how, Republicans can win on foreign policy


The left-wing Politico magazine has recently published a laughable screed whose point is to make Obama look good. It asserts that Obama has stern national-security credentials (at least in the eyes of the public), that he has not been a Jimmy Carter, and that therefore, it will be hard for Republicans to criticize him on that score and that he may even win on this issue.

Ridiculous.

It recognizes that this campaign won’t be won on economic issues alone and even social issues won’t be enough:

“Amid a wave of instability across the globe from Syria to North Korea, prominent Republicans are starting to prepare for an unexpected possibility: a 2012 presidential race fought over more than the economy.”

But it claims Obama has had a good record on foreign policy, while narrowing it down to Afghanistan and counterterrorism:

“The problem is that in 2012, President Barack Obama — helped by an unalloyed victory in the killing of Osama bin Laden — has a chance of winning the issue while typically hawkish Republicans feel the ground shifting under them.

Polls suggest Americans may be increasingly skeptical of a muscular foreign policy — if they’re even interested in listening in the first place. But finding a foreign policy message that goes beyond Bush-era rhetorical touchstones may be increasingly critical to winning back the White House. (…)

Typically the party with the upper hand on defense issues, Republicans face a twin set of challenges as they attempt to lay out a national security message for 2012.

On one hand, they’re facing an incumbent who hasn’t exactly been a Jimmy Carter on national security, at least in the eyes of voters. Polls show the president is on roughly even footing when it comes to foreign policy in general — and in positive territory on both Afghanistan and Iran, according to the Pew Research Center.

At the same time, the public is also resistant to U.S. military interventionism. By a 35-point margin, voters oppose using American air power in Syria, according to Pew. The same survey found 57 percent of respondents want a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, versus only 35 percent who want to keep forces there until the country is stable. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found 60 percent of Americans believe the Afghan war wasn’t worth fighting.”

This is utter garbage. President Obama did not kill OBL or even give Navy SEALs the order to do so; then-CIA Director Leon Panetta did. Obama wasn’t even present when the decision was made. He has surrendered US plans for missile defense for Europe in order to appease Russia, replacing them with a “lite” version that doesn’t exist except on paper and that he doesn’t implement to install at all. He has given Russia highly classified information regarding US missile defense systems, which Russia will surely pass on to China, Iran, and North Korea. He has publicly accepted missile defense in general while privately sabotaging the program in a true McNamarist manner with programmatic closures and budget cuts. He has dramatically weakened the military with programmatic closures, force structure cuts, and program delays as well as his PC policies of allowing women on submarines and on combat jobs.

He has been appeasing Iran and North Korea for over 3 years with no results to show. When he recently struck a deal with North Korea to provide food for it, Pyongyang quickly reneged on its part of the bargain and announced it will launch a ballistic missile carrying a satellite. Iran continues full speed ahead with its nuclear weapons programme. Iran is on track to field an ICBM capable of hitting the US by 2015 (North Korea already has it.) When a top-secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone went astray in Iran, Obama refused to bomb it and allowed the Iranians to get their hands on it.

China continues its huge military buildup, deploying ASBMs and testing 5th generation fighters, while Obama has closed the F-22 program, and is now closing laser weapon and other directed-energy weapon programs aimed at the ASBM threat. Russia is also testing 5th generation fighters and plans to field them in 2015, is waging an arms race against the US, is supporting anti-American regimes around the world, threatens to withdraw from the New START treaty and deploy nuclear weapons on its Western borders, has rejected an invitation to the 2012 Chicago NATO Summit (so much for “thawed relations between the US and Russia”!), and has dramatically worsened its anti-American rhetoric. An Islamic terrorist successfully attacked Fort Hood in 2009, and the Obama Admin responded incompetently to that attack, refusing to discuss the perpetrator’s motivations or even mention his name in the report.

America is less secure than ever since the 1970s, and Obama is responsible for that. He has scored no foreign policy accomplishments. (OBL’s death is not Obama’s accomplishment.)

That gives Republicans a great opening to attack Obama on foreign affairs. But they have no unified, detailed foreign policy message to the public, no national security spokesman, and don’t even know how to criticize Obama on that front. As Politico reports:

““The problem is post-9/11 gave a sort of free pass for a lot of Republicans to not be substantive on foreign policy,” [an anonymous Republican strategist] said. “I think a lot of Republicans right now just aren’t comfortable speaking foreign policy.”

The burden of articulating a contrast with Obama will fall heavily on the Republican presidential nominee, party strategists said — partly because it’s hard to deliver a foreign policy message from Congress and partly because Republicans haven’t done much to try.

“Republicans on Capitol Hill have not mounted an effective political challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy of apologizing for America and embracing adversaries. For example, the number of GOP senators who voted for the giveaway to Russia known as the new START treaty was disappointing,” said Christian Whiton, a former Bush administration official and Gingrich campaign adviser.””

So the problems are that 1) the public is very war-weary (as it would be after 2 wars lasting for over a decade); 2) Republican politicians aren’t knowledgeable about foreign policy and not comfortable talking about it; 3) Republicans have not developed and agreed upon a common foreign policy message for the public or plans for a future Administration and Congress; 4) many prominent Republicans who speak on the party’s behalf on foreign affairs are people discredited because of either supporting new wars or voting for New START.

How to solve these problems?

Firstly, the Party must have competent, conservative FP spokesmen not tainted by voting for New START or supporting new wars. Indeed, people like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, the Kagan brothers, Richard Lugar, Thad Cochran, and Lamar Alexander must be stripped of any influence over foreign policy, including seats on the committees that shape it.

Secondly, the Party must agree on a unified foreign policy course for the Country, which it shall propose to the public. It needs to be conservative and muscular, but peaceful and sellable to voters. It must tell voters honestly that America is in peril, cannot afford to weaken its defense, and mustn’t appease its enemies, but also reassure voters that the GOP will not plunge the country into new wars or start a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

Americans want a strong military. But they also want peace.

Luckily, there is a policy that can secure both, and is also sellable to the public. That’s the policy from Reagan’s playbook – Peace Through Strength.

Reagan did not run for President promising to start a war with the USSR or to assassinate Brezhnev. He promised to rebuild the military, stop Soviet expansionism abroad, and pressure the USSR – militarily, economically, diplomatically, and morally – to yield and liberalize their society.

It worked. It was also supported by the public.

Although the Dems tried to portray Reagan as a warmonger who would start a nuclear war with the USSR, Reagan rebuked their charges and explained that a strong defense PREVENTS wars, while a weak defense provokes them by encouraging aggressors to attack.

Similarly, Republicans should offer voters today a conservative, muscular, but cautious foreign policy calling for:

1) Stopping and reversing Obama’s defense cuts, modernizing the military, and paying for that with cuts to domestic spending and foreign aid;

2) Stopping and reversing his nuclear arsenal cuts and withdrawing from New START (thus saving money);

3) Not starting any new wars or military interventions unless the conditions set by Sec. Weinberger in 1984 are met;

4) Ending the Afghan War ASAP;

5) Reassuring US allies while pursuing a tough diplomatic course towards enemies and rivals, such as Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, and Venezuela;

6) Not involving the US in any irrelevant, internecine conflicts in irrelevant countries.

On that basis, a specific FP plan can be crafted. Doing so will, however, require Republicans to educate themselves on the issue (they can start by reading my blog), deprive neoconservatives and New START supporters of any influence over foreign policy, find a good Party FP spokesman, and agree on a foreign policy platform.

Republicans need to do that now.

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