Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Play the Voice of Reason

On as Old Right a website as it is possible to imagine, Bonnie Kristian writes:

In a column at The Week in December, I argued that the endlessly aggressive foreign policy Republican hawks advocate lets President Obama get away with murder. 

When neoconservatives elements in the GOP go out of their way to insist that Obama—now the president who has kept America at war the longest—is basically a pacifist, they make it easy for the president to pass himself off as a foreign policy moderate: 

[W]ith a debate framed by Republican hawks’ incessant griping over the president’s supposed weakness, Obama is able to present his foreign policy as eminently reasonable — even restrained. 

“The measure of strength internationally is not simply by how many countries we’re occupying, or how many missiles we’re firing,” Obama said in early November, “but the strength of our diplomacy and the strength of our commitment to human rights and our belief that we’ve got to cooperate with other countries together to solve massive problems like terrorism but also like climate change.” 

But it’s only in contrast to the GOP hawks’ “bomb everything, everywhere, all the time” agenda that Obama’s actual foreign policy can be convincingly presented as strength through diplomacy, human rights, and cooperation. 

War in three countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria) and varying degrees of military intervention in at least four more (Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya) are not the marks of an isolationist president. 

The same thing is happening on the campaign trail, too, as Donald Trump’s over-the-top aggression paves the way for uber-hawk Hillary Clinton to pretend she’s the reasonable foreign policy choice. 

Of course, Trump sometimes hits the right notes on foreign policy. As Rare’s Jack Hunter points out, Trump has challenged foreign policy orthodoxy in several valuable ways. 

Unfortunately, he doesn’t stop there. 

In fact, the bulk of Trump’s foreign policy is beyond the pale, straying into territory where even the most unrepentant neocons (well, perhaps excepting Tom Cotton) fear to tread. 

As Jack summarizes, “Every shrewd criticism out of Trump mouths is accompanied by an avalanche of horrible, undesirable and morally indefensible positions.”

The upshot of this is a yuuuuge boon to one Hillary Clinton.

You see, Clinton—as Trump himself has rightly observed—has an appalling foreign policy record, hawkish and reckless at every turn. She has actually done a lot of the terrible things Donald Trump wants to do. 

But with the cover of Trump’s endlessly aggressive rhetoric, Clinton, like Obama, is able to pass herself off as a foreign policy moderate. And don’t imagine she’s unaware of this incredible advantage. 

Here’s a piece from the Washington Post this morning which offers a preview of what the general election debates in a Trump vs. Clinton race will be like: 

Clinton has begun making that argument more forcefully as her long primary battle grinds to a close. 

She will deliver what her campaign calls a major foreign policy address in California on Thursday, focused both on her ideas and leadership credentials and on what she will describe as the threat Trump poses to national security. 

“Clinton will rebuke the fear, bigotry and misplaced defeatism that Trump has been selling to the American people,” an aide said. 

“She will make the affirmative case for the exceptional role America has played and must continue to play in order to keep our country safe and our economy growing.” […] 

In an election where Clinton should (and, perhaps were she running against another candidate, would) be getting skewered day and night for her support for the invasion of Iraq and orchestration of the intervention in Libya, she will be applauded for offering voters an option of supposed restraint. 

That’s a serious tragedy for the American foreign policy conversation. 

As Trump has said, Clinton “talks about me being dangerous [but] she’s killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.” 

True enough—but in the face of rhetoric like Trump’s, Clinton will be able to easily—though falsely—play the voice of reason.

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