The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

T-Paw and ‘Robust Internationalism’

Posted on | August 22, 2011 | 8 Comments

What to make of this article by Jamie M. Fly in Foreign Policy?

The departure of Gov. Tim Pawlenty from the race for the Republican nomination for president deprives national security conservatives of one of the field’s leading champions of a robust internationalism. Despite the ludicrous rants of Rep. Ron Paul and efforts by some Tea Party organizations to back significant defense cuts, most of the remaining Republican contenders appear to be relatively hawkish. However, Pawlenty’s willingness to speak out on foreign policy and to push back against undercurrents of isolationism in the party will be sorely missed.

You can read the whole thing. My inner cynic tells me that the true subtext is: “One of Jamie Fly’s buddies was an adviser to Pawlenty on national security issues and is now hustling around for another campaign gig, so let me praise T-Paw as a way of promoting my buddy’s job-search.”

But that’s just my inner cynic talking. Less cynically, I’m mystified that Fly’s article didn’t mention Rick Santorum as a spokesman for “robust internationalism.” It’s probably because Fly wants to limit the discussion to candidates he thinks might actually hire his now-unemployed former T-Paw adviser buddy. (Damn that inner cynic! Always interrupting …) And most of the experts rate Santorum’s campaign as a hopeless long-shot, as opposed to Pawlenty’s can’t-miss campaign which, alas, imploded at its first contact with actual Republican voters.

Insofar as it involves actual policy — as opposed to politics — I am skeptical of Fly’s worries about an internecine GOP conflict between “robust internationalism” and “undercurrents of isolationism.” Is Fly attempting to throw us on the horns of a false dilemma? Does he overlook the possibility that the arguably excessive hawkishness of the Bush presidency could afford to be tempered by a mild dose of the “isolationism” he so dreads?

Conservatives with functioning memories will recall that Bush campaigned in 2000 promising a more modest approach to foreign policy, an opposition to the endless “peace-keeping” and “nation-building” missions to which Clinton had committed our armed forces. Then 9/11 happened, and suddenly the neocons jumped into the saddle and next thing you knew, the U.S. military was the global force for democracy tasked with bringing women’s suffrage to the Islamic world.

Three years ago, I heard from a childhood friend who had become a master chief petty officer in the Navy, and he was profoundly distressed by the readiness issues imposed by the GWOT (Global War on Terror). It took everything my friend could do to keep his choppers flying, the low caliber of incoming recruits indicated that personnel standards had been lowered to meet the manpower crunch, and my friend — well past the point where he could have retired with full beneifts — had recently re-upped out of sense of loyalty to the service and to his country.

Given that insight on the day-to-day difficulties faced by our troops at the peak of the surge in Iraq (and keeping in mind that Smitty’s nearing the end of his own Aghan deployment), I think I understand better than some of our think-tank “experts” that there are limits to what America can accomplish in the way of “robust internationalism” with an all-volunteer force.

Our resources of men and matériel are not infinite and we are, after all, confronted with the fiscal reality of a $14 trillion national debt, a sagging domestic economy and an entitlement crunch that will require difficult political choices. So one can endorse scaling back some of our overseas military commitments, at least in the near term, without being caught up in the “undercurrents of isolationism.”

From the standpoint of pure political pragmatism, Republicans will find it difficult to advocate painful reductions in social safety-net programs while simultaneously refusing to ask the Pentagon to trim its budget. I understand that military spending creates “good American jobs,” but that doesn’t mean we should just give Raytheon, General Dynamics, Lockheed-Martin, etc., every dime they ask for. Some of those procurement contracts would still be lucratively profitable at 90 cents on the dollar of what we’re paying now, and maybe the Military-Industrial Complex could make ends meet by economizing on their lobbyist fees.

We ought not reject as unworthy “isolationism” a foreign policy sentiment that aims to economize, by reserving our use of military force for occasions of clear necessity. America can be strong without mounting an endless series of invasion-and-occupation missions.

We can still have a goodly share of “robust internationalism” (by which I mean, kicking the asses of anybody who messes with us) without having troops constantly forward-deployed to every backward Third World pesthole with a jihadi problem. It is silly to require GOP presidential candidates to rant like Gen. Buck Turgidson or spout tough-guy one-liners like an action-movie hero, when we all know that any Republican president would be better than Obama in terms of national security.

Speaking of which, Glenn Greenwald smacks around some of his fellow lefties for their giddy “Mission Accomplished” moment in Libya.

It is remarkable how few liberals have stayed true to the anti-war rhetoric they so vehemently espoused during the Bush years. It’s almost as if they’re just a bunch of partisan hacks or something.

That inner cynic of mine just won’t shut up . . . Well, anyway, Rick Santorum just issued a statement on the events in Libya:

“Ridding the world of the likes of Gadhafi is a good thing, but this indecisive President had little to do with this triumph,” said Senator Santorum. “The stated task from the very beginning for this administration was to determine whether the US can positively influence the direction of the successor government. As we have seen in Egypt, the euphoria of toppling a dictator does not always result in more security for us and our allies in the region.”

Sounds like “robust internationalism” to me.


8 Responses to “T-Paw and ‘Robust Internationalism’”

  1. ThePaganTemple
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

    Robust internationalism my ass. Just another waste of damn money. How much Iraqi oil have we got so far? The only robust internationalism I know anything about is the robust ass-reaming we’ve been getting now every day since practically the end of WW II. But I guess if you get ass raped often enough you actually start to like it.

  2. dad29
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 8:30 pm

    This causes a problem.  Are TEA Party people more “RAAAAAACIST” or more “ISOLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATIONIST”?”

    Or are TEA Party people the only sane ones in the whole f’n house?

  3. rosalie
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

    Despite the fact that the Tea partiers are terrorists, racists, isolationists – and will probably go “straight to hell”,  they continue to be the sane ones.

  4. Anonymous
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

    Isolationism is not the opposite of naive Internationalism or naive Hawkish Foreign Policy. Isolationism is not the only alternative to naive policies either.

    The idea that we could “install” democratic governance in cultures that have never experienced it is naive. Israel is the only example in the Mideast or western Asia where democracy has flourished and this is solely due to being founded by people who had experienced democracy, even though they were often treated as second class citizens in those democracies.

    The idea that the ideals of democratic self government, can trump culture and historical relationships between the people and their governments is naive. The reasons for this are really very simple, first allegiance is still, more often than not, to tribe, clan and sect in most of the non Western world. The idea that all peoples of the world no matter their history are yearning for democracy is simply not so. Even when a minority of any given “Nation” are yearning for or even working towards acquiring their inalienable rights, most will settle for a less tyrannical, oppressive despotism, they always have in the past.

  5. John Fucking Madden
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    Santorum went right up against Ron Paul in the debate, but Santorum is unelectable and a fringe extremist. Pawlenty, in contrast, was a serious candidate and certainly electable but just didn’t do a good job campaigning.

    Since you make the comparison, Pawlenty’s campaign did do a lot better than Santorum’s. (Measure it by polling and by Iowa Ames poll. He did better in all the polls.)

  6. dad29
    August 22nd, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

    Well, of course.  But the whole damn Ruling Class project fails if you look at their clothing, which is why they call US ‘naked.’

  7. Anonymous
    August 23rd, 2011 @ 1:02 am

    The fact that he quit the day after the straw poll indicate his own failure meter registered him at above a tolerable level.

  8. Adjoran
    August 23rd, 2011 @ 7:18 am

    I love Santorum and he is as close as any of the current or rumored field to my own positions.  He lacks the requisite executive experience, though, and lost his Senate seat by over 13% to a blithering idiot who was on record as not showing up for his previous two public jobs more than half the time.  And he’s gone nowhere in terms of support.  Love ya, Rick – ‘bye now.

    Gingrich – similarly unqualified, although he gets some experience points for being Speaker.  Obviously just trying to keep his profile high to maximize book sales, speaking fees, etc.  Um, Newt, sweetheart, that catered spread costs money, so if you’ve have your fill, and your pockets, and Callista’s purse stuffed with delicacies, will you just move on?

    Michele Bachmann sounds great, says all the right things, but hasn’t demonstrated any leadership and has the least impressive experience of all the candidates (even Huntsman, Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson have been Governors but I shan’t give them another mention), and has a history of the sort of gaffes and misstatements which aren’t so bad of themselves, but help to create an image of foolishness ripe for political opponents without scruples.  You go, girl!  Away!

    Ron Paul.  Heh.  I was thinking, what would happen if Chauncey Gardiner and Lyndon LaRouche got married and adopted a child without a head?  Would they look at Ron Paul and realize that things could be so much worse?

    So Romney, Perry are the serious ones, Palin deserves attention if she gets in (as if).  It comes down to that.  Both have advantages and disadvantages in both policy and electability. 

    The important thing is to remember to unite behind the winner to beat the Democrats.  But if we want to decide on the best candidate, we should winnow the field of those who also ran.  Debates from now on should be Romney, Perry, Bachmann if she can stay in double digits, and Palin if she gets in.  The rest have had their showcase, it is time to get serious.

    We all understand who the players are now, and who they might be.  If a second-tier candidate is going to break through, they need to make some noise soon.