Foreign policy for Republicans, and others: Part I

Ted Belman. Thank you Martin Sherman for this timely article. Your challenge to the democracy theory is a clarion call for change. Where are the Think Tanks?

I’ll add to your challenge. What is the US doing in Egypt? America got into Egypt in order to replace Russia. It may be that the only reason to stay there is to prevent Russia from coming back or Iran from entering. That may be the case, in which event, she should be doing the minimum needed to secure her place there. For whoever is there, Egypt is a liability not an asset.

And then there is Turkey. Her relationship with Turkey has yet to gel. Once again, the only benefit is in not having Russia or China replace her. Turkey is more likely to go to war against Israel than Iran.

If the US decided the game was not worth the candle, i.e. she doesn’t get enough return on her investment, perhaps she would be better off backing Israel to the hilt and leave it at that. If Jordan became Palestine with US enabling, and made an economic alliance with Israel and resettled Palestinians there, that would place Israel’s ally Jordan on the border with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has no choice but to align with Israel and the US. Who else will keep it safe? Especially after Jordan became Palestine the Arab/Israeli conflict would end.

And with the growing relationship Israel has with Greece, Crete and Bulgaria, she would become a lynch-pin of American policy in the ME. She would be buttressed with the Energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Europe will welcome this energy supply and would be amenable to having NATO join the alliance centered on Israel. The The UAE would also tag along.


Into the Fray: As the 2012 elections approach, the Republican Party owes America and its allies a persuasive paradigm.

    For a while, we were concerned that the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were not saying much about national security and foreign affairs. Now that a few have started, maybe they were better off before. Certainly, the Republican hopefuls have put to rest any lingering notion that their party is the one to trust with the nation’s security… the candidates offer largely bad analysis and worse solutions, nothing that suggests real understanding or new ideas… American voters deserve thoughtful answers. They’re not getting them.
    Republicans and Foreign Policy – New York Times editorial

From the derogatory tone of a recent tirade from the “paper of record,” one might get the impression that the foreign policy endeavor of the current Democratic administration was reaping staggering success.

Pot calling the kettle black?

Indeed, as the editorial itself points out, “China is rising, relations with Pakistan are plummeting, Iran and North Korea are advancing their nuclear programs. The Middle East is in turmoil,” – leaving the reader to puzzle over who ought to shoulder the blame for all this.

Shouldn’t much of the culpability for these woes be attributed, in large measure, to the incumbent administration, already well into the final year of its term?

With the much-heralded centerpiece of Barack Obama’s foreign policy strategy – “outreach” to the Muslim world – launched with his lofty June 2009 speech at Cairo’s Al- Azhar University, in ruins, what basis is there is to believe his party “is the one to trust with the nation’s security”?

A poll conducted in mid-2010 for the Arab American Institute by James Zogby, himself closely affiliated with the Democratic Party, underscores just how miserably the administration’s grand design has failed. According to Zogby’s findings, “US favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush administration.”

Zogby expressed surprise to The Washington Post’s Jason Ukman “that favorable attitudes toward the United States had actually dropped to levels below where they were in 2008.”

These findings were, as Ukman notes, “largely in line with those of a poll conducted in spring 2010 by the Pew Research Center,” which also showed a plunge in favorable perceptions of both the US and the president.

A subsequent Pew poll, conducted after the start of the Arab Spring, revealed a further overall deterioration in Muslim attitudes toward the US. Only in Indonesia was there a small majority (54 percent) with a favorable view of the US under Obama, while in Jordan (84%), the Palestinian-administered territories (80%), Egypt (79%), Turkey (77%) and Pakistan (75%), massive majorities expressed unfavorable attitudes.

Counterintuitive, counterproductive

Clearly then, Obama’s approach to international relations – cold-shouldering democratic allies and kow-towing to dictatorial adversaries – has not only been distinctly counterintuitive but disastrously counterproductive.

The headline of an article by Nile Gardiner in the British Telegraph, relating to the Zogby poll, conveys a widespread sentiment regarding the administration’s competence in foreign affairs: “President Obama is proving an embarrassing flop in the Middle East.”

Gardiner’s assessment is scathing: “After two and a half years of bashing Israel, appeasing rogue regimes… and promising a new era of relations with the Muslim world, Washington is now less popular in major Arab countries than it was when George W. Bush was in the White House.”

The White House’s approach – perceived by many as embracing foes and estranging friends – has alienated the latter without assuaging the former.

The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline B. Glick caustically characterized the Obama administration’s “intellectual universe” as one “where stalwart US allies such as Hosni Mubarak are discarded like garbage and foes such as Hugo Chavez are wooed like Hollywood celebrities.”

In Egypt, this policy has precipitated an archetypical lose-lose situation: Soaring anti- American animosity from the Egyptian public and a total loss of US influence with the Egyptian government, as demonstrated by Cairo’s defiant determination to prosecute almost 20 American democracy advocates (including the son of a senior administration official), despite dire warnings from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to allow them to leave the county.

Lose friends and influence

While the frequent tiffs with Israel – the result of an endeavor to wring concessions for the virulently anti-US Palestinians – have been arguably the most media worthy of the administration’s brushes with friendly nations, they are by no means the only ones – and certainly not the most damaging to the US.

Thus under Obama, relations with India have cooled down markedly relative to the warm cordiality that prevailed throughout the Bush administration. According to former US ambassador to New Delhi Robert Blackwill, “India… seems to have been downgraded in the administration’s strategic calculations.”

A 2011 Congressional Research Service paper notes that even after the US president’s visit to India, “observers continued voicing concerns at the Obama administration’s apparent ‘air of ambivalence’ toward India, with one going so far as to accuse the US administration of ‘diplomatic negligence.’”

There is a pervasive sentiment among many in the Indian elite that the US has relegated its relations with India to the backburner, preferring instead to focus on ties with Pakistan and China. This is reflected in the assessment of one seasoned Indian diplomat who sensed that under Obama, the US’s “strategic priorities in the region and India’s expectations are diverging.”

It is a matter of speculation what role this perceived divergence played in the Indian air force’s decision to opt for the hitherto unsaleable French Rafale fighters, rejecting bids from Lockheed (F-16IN Super Viper) and Boeing (F/A-18E/F Super Hornet) in its multi-billion dollar acquisition program for 126 combat aircraft. However, had the intimate Indo-American strategic convergence that characterized the pre-Obama period continued, such an outcome would have been distinctly less probable.

A China-Canada connection?

What is not a matter of speculation, however, is that the Obama administration has driven staunch US ally Canada into the arms of America’s most significant rival, China – at least as far the crucial issue of energy is concerned.

Despairing of any progress on the proposed Keystone pipeline, planned to transport vast oil reserves in Alberta to American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, Canadian Premier Stephen Harper flew this week to China with several of his cabinet ministers, to discuss the energy deals with Beijing that were previously expected to be done with Washington.

According to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, Canada’s view of the bilateral relationship with the US has been fundamentally transformed by the Obama administration’s handling of the Keystone episode.

He laments: “Canada has concluded that it simply can’t expect much from the United States, even on an issue that would seem to be vital to our own interests,” adding acerbically: “At least one country in North America understands where its national interests lie. Too bad it’s not us.”

Cold comfort

However, the foreign policy debacles of the Democrats are cold comfort for the Republicans.

Setting aside its undisguised partisan enmity and unwarranted disdain, the Times editorial cited above is correct in expecting that the GOP and its presidential candidates demonstrate “real understanding” and “new ideas” in the field of foreign policy. It is correct in asserting that “American voters deserve thoughtful answers [t]hey’re not getting.”

Despite the fact that in the looming November elections, the major focus will be on domestic issues – the economy and employment – the Republicans will be gravely remiss if they allow themselves to be seen as ill-equipped to deal with the considerable foreign challenges that US will be called upon to face in the coming years.

They need to take a brutally honest assessment of their own past performance. This will inevitably involve a critical appraisal of the aspirations, application and accomplishments of the largely neoconservative doctrine that dominated the theory and practice of foreign policy during the Bush presidency – in terms of both the validity of its intellectual underpinnings and the consequences of its implementation.

It would be an intrepid speculator indeed who would give more than even odds on any positive long-term result emerging from the massive expenditure of blood and treasure in US-led military campaigns launched by the Republican administration in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Democratic peace theorem

For the better part of the last decade, the conceptual cornerstone of Republican foreign policy planning was the Democratic Peace Theorem (DPT) – the notion that democracies do not go to war against each other.

The far-reaching theoretical significance and the policy-relevant importance of this idea have been widely recognized by prominent figures in the study of international relations.

For example, Harvard’s Samuel Huntington declared: “The democratic peace thesis is one of the most significant propositions to come out of social science in recent decades. If true, it has crucially important implications for both theory and policy.”

As for the validity of the DPT, two well-known scholars of international relations write: “The proposition that democracies are generally at peace with each other is [so] strongly supported… [it] has led some scholars to claim that this finding is probably the closest thing that we have to a law in international politics.”

The embrace of the DPT by GOP policymakers was described by John M. Owen IV, in a 2005 Foreign Affairs review essay titled “Iraq and the Democratic Peace” as “The defining act of Bush’s presidency.” Owen points out that no other president “since Woodrow Wilson, a former president of the American Political Science Association – tied their foreign policies more explicitly to the work of social science.”

Blueprint for Bush doctrine

This idea was the intellectual compass that led to the “Broader Middle East Initiative” and “forward strategy of freedom” by which the expansion of political rights and participation in the Muslim world was meant to combat the appeal of Islamist extremism.

One of Bush’s most explicit articulation of this was in a 2004 White House press release following a meeting on Iraq and the Middle East with then-British premier Tony Blair: “The reason why I’m so strong on democracy is democracies don’t go to war with each other…. I’ve got great faith in democracies to promote peace. And that’s why I’m such a strong believer that the way forward in… the broader Middle East, is to promote democracy.”

Bush extended this vision to Afghanistan. In an address to US and coalition troops, he declared, “It’s in our national interest… helping the Afghans develop a democracy. History has taught us democracies don’t [make] war. Democracies yield peace, and that’s what we want.”

Interestingly enough, Bush’s predecessor, Democrat Bill Clinton, embraced almost identical DTP-compliant ideas a decade earlier. In his 1994 State of the Union address he expressed a strikingly similar rational for the promotion of democracy as the preferred avenue for pursuit of US interests abroad: “Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security… is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don’t attack each other. They make better trading partners and partners in diplomacy,” Clinton said.

Conundrum and challenge

Even the staunchest GOP supporter cannot deny that the noble aspirations of the Bush doctrine have not been even remotely realized. By most estimates, well over a trillion dollars have been spent on Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. In both cases over 90% of this cost – and the casualties – were incurred after the Taliban were dislodged from power and after Saddam Hussein was apprehended.

This blood and treasure has been expended on subsequent efforts to establish democracy on the banks the Euphrates and on the slopes of the Hindu Kush, where signs are rapidly accumulating that this huge effort will culminate in heartbreaking futility, that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the situation will revert to the status quo ante – or worse.

In Iraq, there are warnings that, following the US withdrawal, the country is descending into a corruption-ridden police state, with the Shi’ite leadership increasingly ruling by force and fear. In Afghanistan, ahead of the planned US withdrawal, there are increasing fears that the Karzai government will not be able to defend itself against the resurgent Taliban.

Why then has a doctrine that had such sound theoretical grounding and overwhelming empirical validation of its underlying rationale been so unsuccessful? That is the cruel conundrum Republicans must address and the crucial challenge they must rise to.

In next week’s column, I shall propose a possible answer to the conundrum and an operational policy paradigm to meet the challenge.

February 10, 2012 | 14 Comments »

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14 Comments / 14 Comments

  1. We would be remiss not to mention also that under this scenario. Jordan would build (or reactive) an oil pipeline running from Saudi Arabia through Jordan to Haifa in Israel for export to Europe and beyond. This would avoid current dependence on The strait of Hormuz and the Suez canal.

  2. The repubicans should be careful not to offer the US public only ideological solutions. I think the next election will be as b. clinton said “its the economy stupid” and it will be according to the perception of the voter sas to what the 2 parties offer. If the public does not believe that jobs can be created in a climate of exporting jobs then they may veer to a more socialistic solution for economic security reasons. The choice will be in how the public analyzes the situation causes. What troubles me is that neither party is talking about the effect of a generation of exporting capital and jobs to asia but rather blaming everything on political and economic corruption. The corruption issue is without a doubt a great factor however so is the the globalist issue. There has been no validation that globalism is good for the US and if the problems created are not dealt with believably then the public will choose a more “safety net” society. “Free global trade” works for the US in post war when you are selling everything to the whole world but now the reverse is true. Pragmatic rather than ideological policies would be more successful. Ideologies always prove to be less than “ideal”. Regarding democracies not going to war: again possibly true in theory but in practice democracies are manipulated by control of the media and it is very easy to inflame a population to war. Therefore who controls the media is the main question in a democracy. It is common sense to realize that a mafia vote to order a hit is a “democratic” process.

  3. The republican party is lost–as they have been taken over by Marxist democrats, i.e., RINOS!

    Like who?

    They are not Marxists just populist politicians pandering to their perceived support base.

    I think you are fixated on Commies.

    Americas are too greedy and self absorbent to be ideological, too stupid as well. Give-em Superbowl’s and Reality TV and they are distracted from all else. The greatest Ponzi Scheme the World has Known will soon collapse.

  4. No wars yet but they are expanding and developing a military capacity at an accelerated pace while America and the west are reducing theirs.

    At some point in the not too distant future it is reasonable to expect parity.

  5. I support Ron Paul, for essentially the reasons you state. I know where he stands, and his stance hasn’t changed for a good part of his lifetime.

    The best analogy I can think of with such brain impaired as you is that some Germans adored Hitler ecause he got the trains to run on time and built the autobahns.

    Now while many can agree with some of what Paul preaches what they can’t agree with nullifies the other.

    Societal values are developed through centuries and myriad interactions. Values are neither explicable nor formally provable. One option is to accept them as is, the other is to question them all. When questioned, values always fail.

    Libertarian societies lack values. They proclaim freedom to be their value, but freedom is the absence of restraints, while values are restraints. Freedom is the opposite of values.

    Libertarian societies abrogate values, and then abandon responsibility. They become quasi-socialist welfare states.

    Libertarianism is not an honest intellectual position, but a rationalization of fear. Affluent people want to make the most use of their wealth, and reject values along with other behavioral restrictions. Affluent people fear for their wealth, refrain from violence, and don’t want to repress deviants. Encountering no resistance, deviants take over societies.

  6. Obama’s foreign policy strategy of “out reach to the Muslim World”
    declares his policies and game plan for the destruction of both the U.S.
    and Israel. No one will address the reality of “His Agenda” to accomplish
    this. Why? His support of the Occupy Wall Street movement is prerequisite
    to his planned confrontation with the Tea Party movement. They will clash
    with resulting chaos in the streets. These “staged” events will be covered
    by “his controlled media”. He’ll use the Military to restore order–making
    sure he gets “Full Credit” for saving the Country. It’s his election ploy.
    Creating diversion and distractions to divert attention from his record is
    all he has. Sadly, America to date has bought into it. Else, he would have
    been IMPEACHED two years ago. Now, is this fact or fiction? You decide!!

  7. Ted Belman’s oblique reference to a possible emerging Israel-Crete Greece entente needs amplification. The discovery of offshore gas fields in the Levant Basin with estimated reserves of 122 trillion cubic feet will assure energy independence for Israel when production comes on stream next year. Coordination of processing and logistics for delivery of the combined Israeli and Crete gas fields could lead to Greece becoming a distribution center for natural gas to the EU. Beyond that natural gas exports could even reach as far afield as the LNG receiving ports in the US. Couple that with the on-shore development of an estimated 260 billion barrels of oil shale in the Shefla Basin, Israel becomes a significant supplier in the world’s energy markets possibly supplanting Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. That is not lost on the Islamist AKP regime of Erdogan in Ankara who has made threatening moves trying to encroach on the Israeli and Cretan Exclusive Economic Zones and maritime borders. The income from these developments could create one of the world’s most important Sovereign Wealth Funds. This should not be lost on the Middle East policy wonks of GOP contending hopefuls in the 2012 Presidential nomination race fashioning a pro-Israel plank in the platform for the GOP convention in Tampa this summer. For more on this significant geo-resource political paradigm shift read my New English Review article, “Will Israel Win the Energy Prize in the Levant Basin?”.

  8. Why are alot of the Republicans attacking Ron Paul for supporting their parties’ traditional place on overseas policy, as they are backing the Democrats’ situation on international policy?

    I support Ron Paul, for essentially the reasons you state. I know where he stands, and his stance hasn’t changed for a good part of his lifetime. The other candidates seem to shoot from the hip, with a broadly interventionist attitude. Paul has specifically said that the US should let Israel attack Iran. I don’t think any other candidate has said that.

    As it stands at this still early hour, Mitt Romney has fewer than half the declared delegates, with the rest going to Gingrich, Santorum and Paul in a reasonably tight race. Santorum has had the momentum lately, and looks like he will win several states. Perry is still the most popular in Texas; and if he runs as a favorite son there, we might see a brokered convention. As I said, though, it’s still very early in the game.

  9. While we are being sidetracked by Turban bearing illiterates, China is building up its influence and wealth all over Asia, Africa, and through its financial clout buying up North America. We ignore the Asiatic threat at our own peril.

  10. Hello Israpundit,
    Interesting Post, Giuliani and Romney realistically have the Democrats conventional international policy of intense undeclared war (for instance, Woodrow Wilson). Ron Paul’s international policy is the classic international policy of the Republican Party, which is that of the founders (peace and trade with all nations, entangling alliances with none “Mr. Republican” Senator Robert Taft also had the same exact international coverage as Ron Paul)

    Why are alot of the Republicans attacking Ron Paul for supporting their parties’ traditional place on overseas policy, as they are backing the Democrats’ situation on international policy? Is it due to the fact these are Neo-Conservatives who have arrive above from the ultra-still left Trotskyites (fans of Leon Trotsky, the rival who was defeated by Stalin for head of the Soviet Union and was later on offered a pick-ax in the again of the head by Stalin)? Could it be that these are leftists pretending to be conservatives?

  11. A 2011 Congressional Research Service paper notes that even after the US president’s visit to India, “observers continued voicing concerns at the Obama administration’s apparent ‘air of ambivalence’ toward India, with one going so far as to accuse the US administration of ‘diplomatic negligence.’”

    There is a pattern of Obama being hostile or indifferent to any nation that islam wages war against.