Nicholas Frankovich at NRO writes:
Foreign-policy veterans of past Republican administrations figure disproportionately in the ranks of prominent conservatives who have checked out of the GOP since 2016. Some have concluded in good faith that the foreign-policy instincts of the Democratic party are less incompatible [than President Trump’s] with America’s best interest. To Republicans who chide them for party disloyalty, they answer that loyalty to country takes precedence.
Republican foreign policy veterans who prefer the Democrats’ foreign policy instincts to President Trump’s may have, in most cases, reached their conclusion in good faith. But the conclusion is untenable. These veterans are to be chided not for party disloyalty, but for terrible judgment and/or bad memory.
“Whataboutism” — the tendency to answer criticism of President Trump by pointing to President Obama’s follies and asking “what about them” — is a poor defense of Trump. But it is the proper response to any claim that the Democratic party’s foreign policy instincts are more compatible with American interests than those of the current president.
What part of Obama’s Russia policy was compatible with American interests? Doing Putin’s bidding on missile defense systems for Poland and the Czech Republic? Ceding control of the Syrian skies to Russia? Farming out to Putin enforcement of the so-called red line on Assad using chemical weapons? Ridiculing Mitt Romney for saying that Russia is a major geo-political threat (words matter, as Trump’s critics remind us)? Doing precious little to help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression?
For that matter, what about President Obama’s reaction to Russian interference in the election? He says he told Putin to “knock it off.” That, apparently, was it.
Moving beyond the subject of Russia, if that’s still permitted, what about Obama’s Iran policy. Did it serve our interests to enrich an enemy regime bent on dominating the Middle East? What did we get in exchange? Promises, breakable at any time, that Iran won’t develop nukes for about a decade?
What about Israel? Obama was openly hostile towards our best friend in the region. Mistakenly assuming, probably for ideological reasons, that Israel was mainly to blame for the lack of a peace agreement, he tried to coerce our ally into making major concessions in exchange for virtually nothing. His instincts were terrible.
What about Iraq? Obama’s pullout paved the way for ISIS, which he dismissed as the jayvee, and the horror and terrorism that ensued.
What about defense spending? Democrats live to cut the Department of Defense budget, thereby weakening our military and our country. Trump has boosted defense spending significantly, thereby strengthening our military and making America more capable of thwarting our enemies and promoting peace.
Against Obama’s horrendous record, of which the above recitation is only a part, what can the GOP foreign establishment cite to support the view that Democratic foreign policy instincts are better than Trump’s? The fact that Obama got along well with Angela Merkel? It’s easy to get along with the leader of an ally when you wink at her failure to meet her country’s obligations to NATO, thus weakening the alliance’s ability to counter. . .Russia.
In this post, I have equated Obama’s foreign policy with the foreign policy of the Democrats. That’s not an unreasonable approach, but it may be too charitable to the Dems. The Democratic party has moved leftward since the end of the Obama presidency.
We’ll see whom the Democrats nominate for president in two years. It might be Joe Biden — hardly the worst case scenario — who stood behind Obama on all foreign policy issues and would not be able, given the party’s base, to adopt more centrist positions in the unlikely event that he wanted to.
Biden has been wrong about almost every important foreign policy issue — and Russia/the Soviet Union in particular — for as long as anyone can remember. Talk about terrible instincts!
More likely the nominee will be a hard leftist, someone like Kamala Harris, who would make Obama look like a centrist on foreign, as well as domestic, policy.
Would foreign policy veterans of past Republican administrations support such a candidate? If so, Trump derangement syndrome will be the correct diagnosis.