THE NEOCONSERVATIVE preference for populist forces over authoritarian ones propelled leading neoconservative thinkers and former Bush administration officials to enthusiastically support the anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January. And their criticism of Obama for not immediately joining the protesters and calling for Mubarak’s removal from power was instrumental in convincing Obama to abandon Mubarak. Between those who predicted a flowering liberal democracy in a post-Mubarak Egypt and those who predicted the empowerment of radical, Muslim Brotherhood aligned forces in a post-Mubarak Egypt, it is clear today that the latter were correct. Moreover, we see that the US’s abandonment of its closest ally in the Arab world has all but destroyed America’s reputation as a credible, trustworthy ally throughout the region. In the wake of Mubarak’s ouster, the Saudis have effectively ended their strategic alliance with the US and are seeking to replace the US with China, Russia and India. In a similar fashion, the neoconservatives were quick to support Obama’s decision to use military force to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from power in March. The fact that unlike Syria’s Bashar Assad and Iran’s ayatollahs, Gaddafi gave up his nuclear proliferation program in 2004 was of no importance. The fact that from the outset there was evidence that al-Qaida terrorists are members of the US-supported Libyan opposition, similarly made little impact on the neoconservatives who supported Obama’s decision to set conditions that would enable “democracy” to take root in Libya. The fact that the US has no clear national interest at stake in Libya was brushed aside. The fact that Obama lacked congressional sanction for committing US troops to battle was also largely ignored. Neoconservative writers have castigated opponents of US military involvement in Libya as isolationists. In so doing, they placed Republican politicians like presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the same pile as presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan. The very notion that robust internationalists such as Bachmann and Palin could be thrown in with ardent isolationists like Paul and Buchanan is appalling. But it is of a piece with the prevailing, false notion being argued by dominant voices in neoconservative circles that “you’re either with us or you’re with the Buchananites.” In truth, the dominant foreign policy in the Republican Party, and to a degree, in American society as a whole, is neither neoconservativism nor isolationism. For lack of a better name, it is what historian Walter Russell Mead has referred to as Jacksonianism, after Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US. As Mead noted in a 1999 article in The National Interest titled “The Jacksonian Tradition,” the most popular and enduring US model for foreign policy is far more flexible than either the isolationist or the neoconservative model. According to Mead, the Jacksonian foreign policy model involves a few basic ideas. The US is different from the rest of the world, and therefore the US should not try to remake the world in its own image by claiming that everyone is basically the same. The US must ensure its honor abroad by abiding by its commitments and maintaining its standing with its allies. The US must take action to defend its interests. The US must fight to win or not fight at all. The US should only respect those foes that fight by the same rules as the US does. THE US president that hewed closest to these basic guidelines in recent times was Ronald Reagan. A Jacksonian president would understand that using US power to overthrow a largely neutered US foe like Gaddafi in favor of a suspect opposition movement is not a judicious use of US power. Indeed, a Jacksonian president would recognize that it would be far better to expend the US’s power to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad – an open and active foe of the US – and so influence the nature of a post-Assad government. For all the deficiencies of the neoconservative worldview, at least the neoconservatives act out of a deep-seated belief that the US is a force for good in the world and out of concern for maintaining America’s role as the leader of the free world. In stark contrast, Obama’s foreign policy is based on a fundamental anti-American view of the US and a desire to end the US’s role as the leading world power. And the impact of Obama’s foreign policy on US and global security has been devastating. Read the whole thing
It will be interesting to see if Caroline endorses anyone in the Republican primaries. Note that the main principle of Jacksonian foreign policy is one that Obama has rejected: American exceptionalism.