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Thursday, July 20, 2006
Abandoned and Bamboozled: New Ideas in the Republican Party

The left has often complained that the Republican party is not a party of ideas, just anti-intellectual hacks. Newt Gingrich, as the lead article of the The New Republic indicates, is selling himself as an ideas man. I'm not so sure anyone has an interest in new ideas on the right if their pre-midterm election soul-searching is any indicator of why the Republican party should soon lie in ruins (to be reforged into a new party).

From Newt himself:
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considering a bid for president, called the administration's latest moves abroad a form of appeasement. "We have accepted the lawyer-diplomatic fantasy that talking while North Korea builds bombs and missiles and talking while the Iranians build bombs and missiles is progress," he said in an interview. "Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong Il?" he asked, referring to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the North Korean leader..."I am utterly puzzled," Gingrich added.
Thanks, Newt, our North Korean relations are clearly suffering from too little bellicosity over the past five years. Leave foreign policy alone, Newt, it's a big-kid toy.

Newt is not alone in arguing that the administration has been insufficiently bellicose. The Weekly Standard, the repository of all ideas unsound and mediocre, wrote concerning Iran and Syria:
The right response [to the current situation in the Middle East] is renewed strength--in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions--and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.

Lest their point be misunderstood, the article continues at length:
No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria (a secular government that has its own reasons for needing Iranian help and for supporting Hezbollah and Hamas), little state sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah. And no Shiite Iranian revolution, far less of an impetus for the Saudis to finance the export of the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam as a competitor to Khomeini's claim for leadership of militant Islam--and thus no Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and perhaps no Hamas either.

The war against radical Islamism is likely to be a long one. Radical Islamism isn't going away anytime soon. But it will make a big difference how strong the state sponsors, harborers, and financiers of radical Islamism are. Thus, our focus should be less on Hamas and Hezbollah, and more on their paymasters and real commanders--Syria and Iran. And our focus should be not only on the regional war in the Middle East, but also on the global struggle against radical Islamism.

The Washington Post observes, however, that GOP lawmakers are shying away from the President and the imperialist foreign policy, though not for principled reasons, for political ones. "It has not helped the neoconservative case, perhaps, that the occupation of Iraq has not gone as smoothly as some had predicted." The paper continues at length:
Faced with almost daily reports of sectarian carnage in Iraq, congressional Republicans are shifting their message on the war from speaking optimistically of progress to acknowledging the difficulty of the mission and pointing up mistakes in planning and execution.

Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.) is using his House Government Reform subcommittee on national security to vent criticism of the White House's war strategy and new estimates of the monetary cost of the war. Rep. Gil Gutknecht (Minn.), once a strong supporter of the war, returned from Iraq this week declaring that conditions in Baghdad were far worse "than we'd been led to believe" and urging that troop withdrawals begin immediately

The evolving Republican message on the war contrasts with the strong rhetoric used by House and Senate Republicans recently in opposing a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. During a debate last month, Gutknecht intoned, "Members, now is not the time to go wobbly." This week, he conceded "I guess I didn't understand the situation," saying that a partial troop withdrawal now would "send a clear message to the Iraqis that the next step is up to you."

Being in power for all this time (in Congress more or less since 1994) is finally starting to clear the heads of the GOP. As Lord Acton famously observed, power purifies, right? That discovery-- that the GOP's enthusiasm for democratic imperialism has received a major setback in the muck of civil war and the mire of occupation--is really more than anyone should have to bear. "To pretend the war is resolving itself nicely is no longer an option, [Rep. Charles W. Dent (R-PA)] said."

And let's not forget the neocons, the veritable brain trusts of the American right who, in the mid-90s, penned the foundational texts for American empire: "the main threat the United States faces now and in the future is its own weakness." CATO at Liberty gets it right that neocons spend most of their time in an Orwellian political arm twisting to get the United States engaged in fights.
Prominent Iraq hawks like Max Boot and Cakewalk Ken Adelman are upset that their favored tactic, “bomb today for a brighter tomorrow,” no longer commands the respect it once did in Washington.

Now, you could marvel at the brazenness of all this: the same people who helped lead us into the biggest foreign policy disaster in 30 years trying to push another war (or wars) on us without so much as a prefatory “sorry about the whole Iraq thing, old boy.” But the current squawking also strikes me as a useful reminder of how very, very important war is in the neoconservative vision. It is as central to that vision as peace is to the classical liberal vision.

For the neoconservatives, it’s not about Israel. It’s about war. War is a bracing tonic for the national spirit and in all its forms it presents opportunities for national greatness.
Without the imperial misadventures and empire enthusiasm of the neocons, we would have lost the substance of Bush II domestic policy: "Shut up and salute the flag, you liberal thinkers!" George Will perhaps offers the best lament for the GOP foreign policy: "Still, it is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson -- one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job -- about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies."

After Derbyshire's, Gingrich's, and the GOP's untimely meditations, I think its best that we leave the thinking to the liberals for a while.