The End Of The Republican Foreign-Policy Consensus?

Eli Lake writes that the Republican foreign-policy consensus has collapsed, but I'm actually not so sure it has. As the last paragraph of his piece suggests, it's merely shifted from the ideological clarity of neoconservatism to a far more ... flexible principle:

And so, it’s hard to know for sure how Perry or anyone else would conduct themselves once in office. Moreover, it is important not to exaggerate the differences between the major GOP candidates. There are some things they do agree on. All are staunch supporters of Israel. And all seem eager to contrast their own patriotic rhetoric with what they see as Obama’s self-effacing style of speaking about America. Romney captures this idea in his book No Apology, when he writes, “President Obama, always the skillful politician, will throw in compliments about America here and there. But what makes his speeches jump out at his audience are the steady stream of criticisms, put downs, and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to represent and defend.” Pawlenty and Bachmann have both made versions of this argument, and you can expect to hear more of it as the campaign unfolds: In an era in which the Republican Party is trying to figure out what it stands for on the world stage, contempt for Obama is one thing that can still keep it together.

Contempt for Obama is a big part of what is motivating Republican policy preferences everywhere, not just in foreign policy, and when it comes down to it, the only leading Republican candidate who seems unlikely to go neocon is Michele Bachmann. According to Lake, she's the true Shariah panic believer in the top tier, which means unlike neoconservatives, she fundamentally believes Islam and Muslims are incompatible with Democracy and so is unlikely to engage in an activist foreign policy devoted to democracy promotion.

But the fact that Republicans are really only unified in criticizing Obama suggests to me that the breakdown we're seeing is temporary and situational. When the next Republican president takes office, they're likely to be taking advice from many of the same people who advised the last Republican president -- and that means, whatever Republicans are saying now, the neoconservative foreign-policy consensus is probably more alive than dead. That shouldn't surprise any of us, given that the president in the White House right now, whose candidacy arguably began with his denounciation of "dumb war," ended up following the advice of the liberal internationalists on Libya rather than the realists he supposedly really identified with.

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