A unified GOP foreign policy establishment, but for how long?

Our old friend Hugh Hewitt, who helped Power Line immeasurably during our early days, argues that Donald Trump is unifying the fractured GOP foreign policy establishment. His op-ed appears in the Washington Post.

Hugh is right, I think. Trump appears to have support from key figures in the camps that have made up the GOP foreign policy establishment. His foreign policy team has met with broad approval within Republican ranks. For example, as Hugh notes, Rex Tillerson was recommended for the Secretary of State job not only by former vice president Cheney but by Cheney’s perceived opponents, former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, and by former defense secretary Robert Gates, the model of bipartisan public service.

Several Republican Senators have expressed strong reservations about Tilleron, but don’t be surprised if, in this Era of Good Republican Feeling, the reservations soften.

Perhaps the most significant evidence in favor of Hugh’s view is the support Trump now receives from many in the “neo-conservative” camp. During his campaign, Trump was highly critical of policies and views attributed to “neo-cons” and other “interventionists.” He pushed a “come home America” theme.

Yet Elliott Abrams spoke favorably about Trump at a conference I attended earlier this month. And arch-interventionist John Bolton not only visited Trump Tower, he reportedly received serious consideration for Secretary of State.

Keep in mind, however, that because Trump is still only the president-elect, he has yet to make a substantive foreign policy decision (unless you count his telephone conference with Taiwan’s leader). Thus, it is fair to ask whether the unity Hugh correctly perceives will persist once Trump starts making policy choices.

It might. Many Republicans will be inclined to give Trump benefit of the doubt for a while. As Hugh says, “winning does that.”

Thereafter, the persistence of “The Era of Republican Good Feeling” will depend on the success of Trump’s decisions. Success does that — especially success against ISIS, if Trump can achieve it.

But achieving success in the eyes of all major camps of the GOP foreign policy establishment will be quite a feat in the post-Obama world. Success in Syria seems almost impossible at this point, so Trump will probably get a pass.

Russia is another matter. What would a successful Russia policy look like? There is no unity about that.

There appears to be broad Republican support for blowing up the Iran deal. But is Trump prepared to do it? And if he does, will there be a GOP consensus about how to deal with Iran’s response?

The unity Trump has brought about now is partly a function of his status and partly a function of his outreach and willingness to listen. It is not the product of a coherent substantive approach to foreign policy with wide-ranging appeal to Republicans.

What approach would have such appeal? An obviously successful one.


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