Hagel And The Republicans

Henry M (Scoop) Jackson

In the early 70s the Scoop Jackson Foreign Policy interventionalist wing of the Democrat party was purged from the Democratic Party after the debacle in Vietnam.  They found a new home in the Republican Party and became neoconservatives.  Over time they took over the military/foreign policy ideology of the Republican Party pushing aside the pragmatic realists.  James Joyner thinks the Republican’s critique of Chuck Hagel embodies all that is wrong with the neoconservative driven foreign policy.

Lindsey Graham notwithstanding, Hagel’s views on most foreign policy issues of the day are well in the mainstream of the professional foreign policy establishment. It’s why so many legends of the business — Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Zbigniew Brzesinski, Robert Gates, Jim Jones, and so many more — have lauded his nomination.

Problematically, while Scowcroft, Powell, and Eisenhower are admired by professionals in their field, their party’s leadership views them as Republicans in Name Only — if not outright apostates. It’s a status they share with Richard Lugar, George H.W. Bush, Jon Huntsman, and, yes, Chuck Hagel.

Either the Republican Party has to re-embrace its traditional foreign policy agenda, or those of us who have been left on the outside looking in will have to conclude that it’s no longer our party.

While the transition has been remarkably fast, today’s Republican Party is simply not the party of Dwight Eisenhower or even Ronald Reagan. Scowcroft advised Presidents Nixon, Ford and George H.W. Bush. Hagel and Huntsman both served in the Reagan administration. But, just as the Tea Party is now the de facto domestic policy face of the GOP, the neocons are its foreign policy face.

Unless there’s a course correction and soon, those of us who describe ourselves as “Eisenhower Republicans,” “Chuck Hagel Republicans,” or “Jon Huntsman Republicans” will have to face up to the fact that the modifier negates the noun.

Daniel Larison agrees:

The predicament James describes is one that has been at least 10-15 years in the making. Obviously, it became much worse during the Bush years, but instead of abating once Bush left office it continued to intensify. Moderates and realists might be partly forgiven for thinking that the second Bush term hinted at the possibility that the GOP was slowly returning to its senses, but that gave Bush’s second term too much credit and underestimated the extent to which many self-described realists inside the administration contributed to its disastrous record. Except for Powell, almost all of the self-described realists that served in the Bush administration remain firmly in the Republican orbit and are in no danger of leaving the party. Indeed, many of them served as advisers in some capacity on the Romney campaign, but clearly had little or no influence on the candidate’s policies. Some Republican realists went out of their way during the campaign to find hints of prudent thinking in Romney’s camp that were notable for being so rare and isolated. If party leaders are going to take seriously the possibility that they are in danger of losing current supporters, Republican realists and conservative voters have to stop making excuses for deeply flawed, hawkish candidates and refuse to support future nominees that hold reckless and aggressive foreign policy views.

It’s understandable that the party couldn’t suddenly switch so quickly from Bush-era foreign policy between the repudiation in 2006 and the next presidential election, but it would have been a normal and healthy reaction to the failures of the Bush years to make some significant changes by the next presidential election. That didn’t happen. Worse than that, the eventual nominee was so desperate for shore up his partisan support that he seemed to revert to the rhetoric and many of the ideas of the first Bush term as if Bush’s failures had never happened or had already been forgotten. The party has a chance in the next few years to start recovering from these mistakes, but that recovery won’t be possible as long as the energy, activism, and organization remain on the side of Republican hard-liners.

Now I don’t disagree with anything James or Daniel are saying but they are missing an important factor here – the tail that’s waging the dog.  Tune into FOX news on any given day and you will see the John Boltons, Charles Krauthammers, Bill Kristols etc spouting the same ideology that proved so disastrous during the Bush administration.  What you will not see is any critique of that foreign policy or any Republican realists.  Rupert Murdoch and FOX news are are setting the Republican Military/ Foreign policy.  The politicians know that the base gets all of it’s “information” from FOX  so they must go along.  As long as the tail continues to wag the dog I don’t see how anything can change.

Cross posted at Middle Earth Journal

3 Comments

  1. At the risk of cross-posting, I’m going to crib from a pending comment I made on one of Larison’s articles.

    What we’re facing, foreign policy-wise, is something that requires a different approach than both traditional Republican policies and neo-con ideology. Both spring from Cold War thinking, and both proceed from an assumption that the US must sit astride the globe as a preeminent military power, attempting to dictate events by the use of or threat of force. We’re still trying to contend with the vanished threat of communism.

    Ironically, our biggest foreign policy challenges come not from communism, but rather from the fact that capitalism emerged victorious a generation ago. For the past 20 years, our former adversaries have been working hard to compete with us as market economies. Rivals rather than enemies. Fighting for customers rather than followers.

    As such, our chief weapons are not nuclear missiles or aircraft carrier groups, but the strength of our currency and our credit rating. We have let the dollar languish while spending billions of them on weapons systems that will likely never be used to fight threats that no longer exist.

    It remains to be seen if Hagel will realize that we’re not going to get in a shooting war with China anytime soon, and I’m wondering if he (or anyone else for that matter) will grasp the fact that the way to make “bad guys” like Iran or North Korea get in line is economic, not military.

  2. @cjjack
    I don’t disagree with any thing you say but you omit a couple of really big threats. Number one is climate change – more droughts and floods are going to result in less food. The primary driver of political unrest is not politics or religion but hunger and desperation. We talk about wars for oil but the real wars may be fought for water.

  3. Yep, water is the coming biggie.

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