Marco Rubio is back.
After a laudable, but politically disastrous, bid last year to convince his fellow Republicans to support citizenship for illegal immigrants, he’s now trying a new route to 2016: Foreign policy. Rubio made America’s role in the world the centerpiece of his speech last week to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). And among journalists, he’s getting good reviews. Rubio, reported Jonathan Martin in The New York Times, is “trying to become the leading voice for a muscular brand of foreign policy.” On Sunday, Times columnist Ross Douthat noted that “events in Venezuela and Crimea may be making [Rubio’s] hawkish foreign policy vision more appealing to conservatives.”
It’s too early to judge Rubio’s new foreign-policy focus politically. But intellectually, this much is already clear: If this is what passes for serious in today’s GOP, I’d hate to see unserious.
Read more.[Image: Reuters/Toby Melville]
Maybe this is how the “war on terror” ends.
Since entering his second term, President Obama has signaled his desire to close out a foreign-policy era that he believes has drained America’s economic resources and undermined its democratic ideals. But it hasn’t been easy. Partly, Obama remains wedded to some of the war on terror’s legally dubious tools—especially drone strikes and mass surveillance. And just as importantly, Obama hasn’t had anything to replace the war on terror with. It’s hard to end one foreign-policy era without defining a new one. The post-Cold War age, for instance, dragged on and on until 9/11 suddenly rearranged Americans’ mental map of the world.
Now Russia may have solved Obama’s problem. Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine doesn’t represent as sharp a historical break as 9/11 did, but it does offer the clearest glimpse yet of what the post-war on terror era may look like. To quote Secretary of State John Kerry, what comes after the war on terror is the “19th century.”
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Ina Fassbender]
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor gave a speech last week at the Virginia Military Institute that left little doubt about his foreign-policy agenda: more wars of choice.
The U.S. left Afghanistan and Iraq too early for his taste. “The plain truth is that we still have work to do in Afghanistan,” he said. “It would be a terrible mistake for the U.S. to make the same mistake we made in Iraq. Our hasty and total withdrawal squandered the hard-fought gains won by the military at such great cost.”
He likens Iran today to Nazi Germany before World War II.
He complains about the Obama Administration’s “light footprint” approach to Libya and calls for the U.S. to play a greater role in countries affected by the Arab Spring. And he asserts that President Obama’s remarks on Syria “committed the United States to a policy of regime change” that hasn’t been carried out
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
American judges, like American politics, often seem only dimly aware of the rest of the world—what Justice Scalia once dismissed as “foreign moods, fads, or fashions.”
Our Supreme Court’s priorities are entirely domestic—a bitter quarrel with Congress in particular and with the federal government in general. And to judge by the tone of an oral argument held Tuesday, the conservative justices think of foreigners chiefly as potential enemies in that domestic struggle. Justice Scalia, for example, worried that a treaty would surreptitiously impose gay marriage on the states. Justice Samuel A. Alito asked whether some treaty somewhere would reduce gun rights. Chief Justice John Roberts asked whether the United Nations could require the United States to give more power to Congress. Justice Anthony Kennedy worried that some treaty might give the president the power “to set aside any State law that in his view contravenes a national interest.”
These four conservatives were propounding these broccoli-style horribles (call them “florets”) in their eagerness to take the Treaty Power, and that pesky president, and the scheming Senate, down a peg. Remarkably enough, they seemed disposed to do this in a case where no such major doctrinal shift should be needed. Bond v. United States involves a criminal prosecution so lopsided that even the internationally minded Breyer found it ludicrous. The Court could—as Breyer himself suggested—make the problem vanish by reading a federal statute slightly more narrowly than the court below. But easy cases make bad law: that solution—which strikes me as clearly right, and would leave the Treaty Power untouched—seemed to command no other vote than Breyer’s own.
Read more. [Image: David Goldman/Associated Press]
President Barack Obama will have to deliver one of the finest speeches of his presidency tomorrow if he hopes to win Congressional support for a strike against Syria. Out of nowhere, the Syria vote has emerged as one of the defining moments of Obama’s second term.
With three years remaining in office, the vote will either revive his presidency or leave Obama severely weakened at home and abroad.
There are legitimate criticisms of Obama’s initial response to the Syrian government’s barbaric August 21st gas attack outside Damascus. The president should have demanded that Congress be called back from recess immediately. He should also have immediately made a far more personal and passionate case for strikes.
But what may doom the president’s effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies and unfulfilled promises by Obama himself.
Read more. [Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
A conversation with Stanley Hauerwas, pacifist theologian, on Syria and why “humanitarianism” is a red herring.
Read more. [Image: Luciano Mellace/Reuters]
— President Obama in a White House Statement accepting Susan Rice’s Withdrawal for Consideration for Secretary of State.
The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public. It so happens that one already exists, has a proven track record of electoral success, and is only slightly used: the ”humble foreign policy” that candidate George W. Bush espoused during the 2000 campaign but abandoned with the Global War on Terror and the Iraq invasion.
Bush’s wisdom during the October 12, 2000 debates is striking in hindsight. “If we’re an arrogant nation,” he warned, “they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”
Now, to a large degree, that’s platitude rather than policy prescription. But it’s the right mindset from which to approach policy analysis.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In the month of September 2012, the United States completed its withdrawal of the 33,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan in the “surge” of 2009. However, the U.S. still has 86,000 troops engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom, even as some coalition members are now finishing up their deployments. Also this month, coalition troops have curtailed joint operations with Afghan Army and police forces, due to increased attacks on foreign soldiers by members of the Afghan forces — and heightened tensions resulting from widespread anger over an anti-Islam movie produced in the U.S. Gathered here are images of those involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan.
See more. [Images: Reuters/AFP/Getty Images, AP]
[Image: NATO via Wired]