A humble foreign policy in 2012

The New Republic has a long take on the G.O.P. turn away from foreign policy interventionism between 2008 and 2011. The article presages the fact that the recent debt deal seems to open the door to defense spending cuts if that’s the price for no increases in taxes. The flip side of this shift away from international engagement is a paranoia about sharia law in the USA.


The author, Eli Lake, has neoconservative sympathies broadly speaking. So I didn’t get the sense that he was reviewing these changes positively. I do view these shifts positively, but I’m cautiously skeptical that this is a real trend at all.
George W. Bush was not an interventionist before 9/11. Arguably he campaigned as the less hawkish candidate in 2000. Barack Obama received a boost in 2007 because he was the most viable dovish alternative to Hillary Clinton. And look at how he’s turned out! Unfortunately the institutional forces of the federal military-industrial complex are such that there seems a strong tendency to push even reluctant heads of state to toward a muscular foreign policy.

The last issue is the fear of sharia law in the USA. In general I’m relatively sanguine about this possibility. American Muslims are far more integrated and proportionally a much smaller slice of the population than in places like France and the United Kingdom. Additionally their ethnic diversity makes it difficult for them to mobilize as a cohesive unit around any foreign policy endeavor aside from their quixotic wish to decouple America from Israel (contrast this with the dominance of Pakistani Muslims in Britain or North Africans in France). So some would argue that the greater danger is demonization of Muslims in America. But I’m actually rather sanguine about this too. You can look at the attitudes of Muslim Americans themselves. They report discrimination, but they’re broadly optimistic about America and their prospects. Honestly, I’d rather have marginal Republican candidates say objectionable things about religious tests here in the United States than invade foreign countries. In contrast George W. Bush espoused philo-Islamic views at home, and turned the whole Islamic world against the United States through fruitless interventions.

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