Notebook, 4 January 2013: Rebooting GOP Foreign Policy – a reply to Dan Drezner

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Dan Drezner wonders if the GOP can Reboot Republican Foreign Policy (Foreign Affairs has brought this out from behind the paywall until 20 January), and lists some notable achievements various Republican administrations have scored in the post-War period. None of which I have a problem with, but the reboot isn’t going to happen.

One of the reasons is that in almost all important areas of US foreign policy, the agenda is driven by a few powerful domestic constituencies: foremost are Israel’s vigilantes who scour the forums of our national debate and enjoy considerable success defining the terms of discussion. Other notable examples might include Cuba, which will never be recognized while Florida remains a presidential battleground state and immigration policy becomes a priority after it becomes clear in the 2012 election cycle that the Hispanic vote can be decisive. Which is the way it is supposed to be in any participatory system of government, but even if it also goes horribly wrong from time to time.

Another extremely well funded constituency with allies continually surfacing on the web and in the media is the horde of policy (and entertainment) entrepreneurs dealing with national security. Let’s call them the “zero-dark-thirty crowd,” imbued with a muscular sense of American triumphalism. They aren’t going away anytime soon. It’s a good paying gig and you get to accessorize with a flag pin.

Furthermore, the global economy still has its cheerleaders as I saw this morning. Richard N. Haas, newly minted President of the Council on Foreign Relations advocates loosening global trade even while admitting that reform will come to naught. As one Tweep concisely replies:

Let me guess. The “pro-growth policies” involved giving more tax breaks and loopholes to the rich?

Bring it on, Mr. Haas. The US has little left of the global economy but financial services to offer and we all know how well that is working out. What patriots.

Lastly, America is a nation of provincials, a significant number of whom for one reason or another feel their greatest enemy is their own government, while the rest wonder most about if they’ll get the mortgage paid. This melee is noisy and spans the entire political spectrum. It is defined by being decidedly American-centric and ignorant of how other nations view us as well as ignorant of the fact that diplomacy is the art of the possible in which timing is everything. Above all, they are pandered to by a Congress which cannot find anything better to do than name post offices and call on the US to withdraw from the United Nations.

Time out . . . .

Better now, but I needed that. The point of all the above is that the US is structurally geared to continue along exactly the same lines as it is now, and those lines have dominated US foreign policy since 1776. I suppose Drezner’s call to the GOP is welcome on my part, but I cannot help but feel that it will mean nothing more than putting lipstick on that pig. After all, we’re talking about people whose entire political platform is, “I Hate Barack Obama,” and where else has the GOP to go but the wingnut extreme as long as the President sits securely in the center-right pole position?

So call me when the AUMF of 2001 is repealed, the drone war ends, and then we can talk. Right now, I’m going back to downloading and reading big chunks of FRUS, because depending on the pundit class ain’t my style.

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One thought on “Notebook, 4 January 2013: Rebooting GOP Foreign Policy – a reply to Dan Drezner

  1. This is a matter of temperament as much as policy. Although it was once possible to see trace elements of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” in Cameron’s vision of “The Big Society” — a plan to transfer control of services from government to local associations, including faith groups — the truth is that Cameron’s localism has its roots in British, not American, politics. (More to the point, it hasn’t achieved much yet.) In any case, Bush’s tarnished legacy continues to hurt the Republican brand outside the United States.

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