The Pledge's Bizarre Foreign Policy

by Jonathan Bernstein | September 23, 2010

It’s GOP “A Pledge to America“ day. On the politics, see Marc Ambinder, who points out that the 1994 “Contract” didn’t help Republicans then, and the Pledge won’t help, and could possibly harm around the margins, Republicans now. On the budget proposals in the Pledge, see...oh, everyone: Chait, Yglesias, Klein. It’s a deficit-increasing plan, pure and simple. I have nothing to add to that.

No, what really struck me as I went through it the first time was the foreign policy section, which is...how should I say this...amateurish and pathetic. What’s the current Republican foreign policy? Stripping out the immigration stuff from that section of the document, what remains is (1) Gitmo; (2) Missile defense; and (3) threatening Iran. That’s it. Iraq and Afghanistan are referred to once, in passing. There’s nothing at all about what the United States should do in those nations. Nothing about Pakistan. Nothing about Russian, or China (China at least gets one mention, in the context of the deficit). Nothing about Europe. The rest of the world? Obviously not.

The document does mention terrorism, quite a few times. But there’s nothing here about catching, and virtually nothing about stopping, terrorists--apparently the only thing that really matters when it comes to anti-terrorism policy is where captured terrorists are held and under what conditions they are tried. Should we be expanding or contracting the use of drone assassinations? You won’t find that here. Is spreading democracy in Muslim nations still important to Republicans, or is nation-building a mistake? No idea. What should America’s mission be in Afghanistan? Apparently, that’s not very important to this crop of Republicans. We are, to be sure, told that defense spending can never be cut no matter what, but there’s really nothing at all in here to indicate anything at all, not even a hint, of why it’s important, why current levels are the proper ones, or what (other than missile defense) any of the money should be spent on.

Now, of course this is a campaign document for House candidates, not a presidential platform. But still, I’m pretty sure that there are high school students who could do a more professional job of spitting out Republican rhetoric. I don’t know what the thinking was that went into it...I suspect it was just amateurish carelessness, although other possibilities are that either a lot of standard GOP rhetoric on foreign policy doesn’t test well, or that there were internal divisions that couldn’t be papered over easily. All I know is that it’s a sad piece of work that really does not reflect well on the party.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-cohn/77901/the-pledges-bizarre-foreign-policy