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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5 Responses to A humble foreign policy in 2012

  1. RandyB says:

    Our military commitments are one of our socio-political assumptions that haven’t left the fifties yet. Our role as world’s policeman is archaic, and has to be replaced by sharing responsibilities with other nations.

    As to Muslims in America — they’re primarily legal immigrants selected for education. They’re more similar to ethnic Koreans than Mexicans. The Muslims in Europe are analogous to the former — the highly-fecund neighbor replacing the native low-birth population.

    Which is the part Anders Breivik was right about. We have a low birthrate because of feminism, which is the result of having a superior culture. So why am I supposed to pretend that this foreign non-feminist culture is equal to mine?

  2. David Hume says:

    We have a low birthrate because of feminism, which is the result of having a superior culture

    kind of. though don’t be monotonic. southern europe, korea, and japan have lower birthrates than northern europe. though *within* developed nations those which are more socially liberal (more feminist) have fewer children.

  3. John says:

    Foreign policy is not much on the radar because there are few threats that are either imminent or that we can do much about right now. I don’t think most foreign policy conservatives have fundamentally changed their minds about how to deal with threats, it’s just that it is a safer world than it was 10 years ago (and yes, I think the neocons deserve a lot of credit for this).

    After the Cold War, conservatives were willing to cut defense a bit. That wasn’t because we wimped out, it was because we lived in a different world, and our needs for the military changed. When a new threat arises, and it will at some point, all of the old debates we saw in the Cold War and in the Bush years will resurface.

    Some people will see the bear, and some won’t:


  4. m.d. says:

    Relatively sanguine about the possibility of sharia law in the USA?

    Me too. I’m also fairly optomistic about the possibility of our pets turning on us and taking over the country, and I have my doubts the Earth will be invaded by space aliens within the next few years.

    Defense needs the same drastic cuts as medicare and SS but I don’t see it happenning any more than you do.
    Ike’s speech is looking pretty quiant at this point.

  5. Sean says:

    @David Hume: What, precisely, is your definition of “philo-Islamic,” as differentiated from “live and let live”? You’ve attached the label to a comment of mine in the past, and I’ve seen you use the term several times in blog posts, but I’ve never had a good sense of what you were specifically referring to.

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