Tuesday, May 01, 2007

GOP Foreign Policy: A Study in Weakness and Cowardice

As our President prepares yet another address to the nation filled with talking points urging "determination" and "strength" in Iraq lest we lose faith in the Iraqi people, and Rudy Giuliani tours the country claiming that electing Democrats will lead to a new 9/11, it is appropriate to remind the nation of the fact that the Republican history of foreign policy at least since Ronald Reagan has been characterized by weakness, cowardice, and a lack of faith in the American values we all hold dear.

This idea really crystalized for me during a fantastic discussion between myself and clammyc on our Framework show at Political Nexus this week, dealing with framing on national security: the GOP is not just criminally belligerent and unbelievably inept in its foreign policy, but also incredibly weak and surprisingly lacking in faith for a party so filled with supposedly faith-based operatives.

clammyc's diary of yesterday, Destroying the "national security" meme, did a fantastic job of laying out the ways in which George Bush's GOP has failed to protect our ports and national security infrastructure, to respond adequately to terrorist threats, looked the other way or actively helped as hostile nations arm themselves to become our next enemies, voted against armor and benefits for our troops, dodged drafts, and otherwise behaved like sniveling cowards in the face of the tough national security challenges of the new millennium.

But really, it goes a great deal beyond even that. The reason Republicans are so weak on national security is that their entire outlook on national security is born of inherent weakness, fear and distrust in the righteousness of the democratic rule, self-determination and innovation so key to the American spirit--and it has been thus for decades.

This inherent weakness makes it all the more astonishing, frankly, that Democrats have been unable all this time to counter our single most significant political disadvantage vis-a-vis Republicans: that Republicans are somehow "strong" on national security, while Democrats are not. The GOP has been attempting to leverage this idea with the American public for well over half a century with figures as odious or extreme as Joe McCarthy and Barry Goldwater, but the hawkish stances of these figures backfired on Republicans as often as it succeeded until the era of Reagan and Jimmy Carter; meanwhile, the strength of figures such as FDR and JFK was enough to counter any notions of Democratic weakness in foreign policy.

It was only with the ascension of Ronald Reagan that the meme of Republican superiority in matters of national security truly took hold in a way that Democrats have been unable to counter; ironically, however, it is precisely with Reagan that the Republicans started a campaign of systematically demonstrating its own weakness in this area--weakness that Democrats have been unwilling or unable to exploit politically. Which is all the more pathetic, as the history of Republican foreign policy resembles that of a bully who lashes out randomly in terror of his own shadow. Consider some history:

--It was Republicans, led by the same convicted felon Ollie North who is currently a contributor to Fox News in a segment called "War Stories" (!), who were responsible for the Iran Contra debacle, wherein your and my government sold weapons to Iran in order to secretly fund murderous military insurgents in South America. These insurgents were led by the same villian currently responsible for suppressing insurgents in our ongoing occupation of Iraq. And let's really be clear about what this scandal was about: a Republican party so terrified of scary tin-pot socialists in banana republics that they were willing to sell high-level ballistic weapons to one of our greatest and most unstable international enemies--and so terrified of the opproprium of the American public that they found it necessary to do it in secret.

--It was Republicans who were in all probability involved in a deal with Iran to free the hostages only after their own election. If they were indeed guilty of doing this as common sense dictates and many respected experts continue to insist despite an utterly inadequate House investigation denying it, then they did so out of fear that they would not and could not carry the 1980 election on the merits of their own ideas--in spite of the major challenges facing Jimmy Carter's presidency.

--It was Donald Rumsfeld who shook Saddam Hussein's hand as the United States funded and aided him even after we were made well-aware of the man's brutality. We did this so that Saddam Hussein could weaken our declared enemy Iran--our enemy because they had taken our hostages (freed days after Reagan's inauguration), and because we were apparently terrified they would use against us the weapons we were selling them under the table--through an ugly war in which children were used to clear fields of land mines. Republicans were so terrified of Iran that they were willing to support a brutal dictator and allow children to clear land mines for them rather than face up to an enemy they were selling weapons to out of paralyzing dread of the banana republic socialists.

--It was Republicans in the United States who were so terrified of a teetering Soviet Union that had just made a desperate tactical mistake, that our CIA aggressively funded the Afghan mujahideen who would later become the Taliban--and quite possibly directly funded Osama bin Laden as well. Long after John F. Kennedy had done the real work of facing down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis (resolved through diplomacy rather than war, by the way), Reagan allowed Gorbachev to do the heavy lifting of glasnost while having so little faith in the superiority of the American way of life and economic system that he found it necessary fund those who would later cause more American deaths in one day than the Soviet Union had in decades.

--It was Republicans who, when faced with a rising drug problem, were so petrified of the possible consequences of having faith and trust the same system of regulation and taxation that had worked well for alcohol and cigarettes, decided to declare a "war on drugs" (the second stupidest phrase of GOP creation behind "war on terror") that has led to record incarceration rates and the easy availability of a black market living that is the greatest single factor in the ability of those living in ghettoes to find honest work. This strange preoccupation with a return to the days of Prohibition lest modern day Al Capones get high on marijuana instead of money has also helped contribute to the funding of Colombian death squads to the tune of $1.3 billion per year.

--It was Republicans who found it so necessary to maintain the American public's goodwill in a Gulf War necessitated by their own support of Saddam Hussein that they overstated the efficacy of Patriot Missiles, possibly resulting in the deaths of 28 American servicemen.

--It was Republicans who, from Reagan until today, have been so terrified of the prospect of change and so faithless in the American ability to create technological innovation that they have found it necessary to engage our nation in increasing disastrous oil wars in the Middle East over the last several decades.

--It was Republicans who claimed that Clinton was wagging the dog when he twice struck at Osama Bin Laden.

--It was Republicans who wanted to pack up with their tails between their legs and come home in the wake of Clinton's eminently successful, overwhelmingly internationally approved and relatively bloodless war in Kosovo.

--It was Republicans who were so petrified of phantom ICBMs coming from North Korea that they allowed 9/11 to happen on their watch, sending Condi Rice to give a speech on Missile Defense on 9/11 when it had been barely a month since the infamous August 6th Presidential Daily Briefing stating that Osama Bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States.

--It was Republicans who were so terrified of military losses in Afghanistan that they sent corrupt Afghan warlords to do the fighting for them in Tora Bora, allowing the most wanted criminal in America's history to escape and remain unaccountable for his murderous deeds to this day.

--It was Republicans who were so terrified of the consequences of peak oil that they allowed energy companies and neoconservative kooks to ignore Afghanistan and instead engage in an immoral, unconscionable invasion and occupation of Iraq.

--It is Republicans who are so afraid of losing the oil contracts in Iraq that they are desperate to keep American troops as fodder in the area as long as possible, rather than trust that the Iraqi people can manage their own affairs. Indeed, as long as extremists like Al-Sadr can point to an outside enemy, the Iraqi people can see them as latter-day Robin Hoods, rather than as power-hungry villains; it is only when men like Al-Sadr are forced to govern that progress will be made in Iraq. Yet Republcians are so afraid of Al-Sadr and so desperate to keep their grubby hands on the oil out of fear that American technological innovation will be inadequate to solve our energy crisis, that they are willing to allow Bush to veto funding for their own troops in the field.

And there is so much more where that came from.


It is a truly onerous list. And yet the Republican theme of "strength on national security" continues to earn dividends for them. It does so because Democrats are, by and large, afraid of going out on a limb and literally calling Republicans the petrified, terrified, corrupt liars that they are. Iran-Contra wasn't a "scandal"--it was treason predicated on cowardice. Arming Saddam wasn't a "mistake"--it was short-sighted stupidity borne of fear. Arming Bin Laden wasn't a "necessary evil"--it was myopic ineptitude created from panic. And the list goes on and on. Republicans have been unafraid to use the harshest possible language to slander Democrats on the issue of national security, and it is time we fought fire with fire.

This day, as President Bush prepares to deny funding to his own troops that he and his party have placed into harm's way due to fear and trepidation, it is time we brought their history of cowardice to mind--and to open the rhetorical floodgates against these sniveling bullies. No time like the present.

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