Barack Obama and Tea Party Republicans have more in common than they might like to believe. They are both convinced that the United States is a spent power that needs to retreat and licks its wounds. Both share a pessimistic view of America’s future and both believe that to preserve any vitality that our nation has left, we need to husband our declining resources and national spirit. What binds Obama and Tea Party acolytes together is their certainty that we are in the grip of a national malaise; its a funk that they don’t believe we will be escaping any time soon. They both hate what post World War II American has become; in their own way, they both want our nation cut down to size.
Obama pretends to believe that we have to exit the turmoil of the Middle East in any way possible so that we can pivot to Asia and the Pacific; but this is a pipe dream. What lesson does he expect Asian allies to learn from America’s willingness to abandon age-old Middle Eastern allies as soon as the going gets tough? How exactly does Obama think he can constrain Chinese (and Russian) ambitions by handing them the Middle East on a silver platter?
Whatever Tea Party isolationists may think, we live in 2013 not 1813. The world is a far more complicated place than the mental fantasy land that they inhabit. Retreat will not solve America’s problems, it will make America poorer, weaker, more enfeebled and more irrelevant. Refusing to use military power to cut Assad down to size only emboldened Syria’s Iranian overlords. Iran has already used its Hezbollah terrorist wing to kill American marines in Lebanon and its Iraqi proxies to kill American soldiers in Iraq. Do Tea Party isolationists really believe that by retreating with our tail between our legs that we will make future attacks on the United States less likely?
The Obama wing of the Democratic Party and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party are both urging the United States to take a path that directly opposes our nation’s manifest destiny for greatness.
Whether they like it or not, we can’t escape either the messy unpleasant world or our role as the most important nation in the world.
We should bomb Iran until it unequivocally and abjectly surrenders.
The Tea Party does not believe that the U.S. is a ‘spent power.’
What it does believe is that we are not the world policeman nor do we have a responsibility to protect & defend the ingrates of the world.
Power at home and a ruthless willingness to use it will protect America.
The Tea Party does not really have a single view on foreign policy, and in any case foreign policy is not what animates their interest in politics. A strong leader who agreed with their views on domestic economic issues and seemed competent could probably gain their support for a range of different foreign policies whether interventionist or not.
yeah, WigWag confuses the Paulite-Libertarian-isolationism with the TEA Party, which is mostly focussed on domestic issues and a determination to make fiscal conservatism popular again, before Detroit’s bankruptcy looks minor in comparison to a USA default.
As for Iran? Maybe someone should make Obama and Kerry read a few of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels.
Clancy’s “Locked On” and the older “Executive Orders” give a preview of what Iran and Pakistan are capable of. I assume THEY read Tom Clancy, a fountain of creative terrorist plots involving nukes, bio-terror, and all sorts of other ideas.
“Executive Orders” (1996) even included a rogue AQ seizure of the Swedish embassy in Libya.
The post-modern USA can not build a secure website, let alone maintain any credibility with ‘allies’ or enemies.
Presidential leadership is now a hazy memory.
With all due respect, USNK2, it strains credulity to suggest that what you call Paulite-Libertarian isolationists are not central players in the Tea Party.
The Tea Party was practically invented by Ron Paul; he is one of its founding fathers. He ran for President by proudly proclaiming his leadership of the Tea Party movement and his isolationism united the far left and the far right behind his candidacy. His son, Rand, ran for Senator of Kentucky proclaiming the Tea Party line and Rand is nearly as enthusiastic about an American withdrawal from the world as his father is.
It is true that not all self-professed Tea Party types are isolationists. Sarah Palin isn’t, though she is now largely irrelevant after having turned herself into little more than traveling freak in a Tea Party carnival. To the extent that Marco Rubio can be considered a Tea Party type, he’s not particularly isolationist either.
Other Tea Party acolytes don’t favor isolationism, they are merely proudly oblivious of the ramifications of foreign policy on domestic tranquility. Senator Cruz may or may not be a card carrying member of this see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil crowd.
Like it or not, the Ron/Rand Paul wing of the Tea Party movement is large and may represent a majority of the movement.
Tea Party isolationists joined far left Democrats to oppose American intervention in Syria. In doing so, there is not doubt that they reflected the views of tens of millions of Americans who desire nothing more than refuge from an increasingly difficult world.
There may have been some good reasons to oppose American military action against Assad, but the results are clear. The fact that Americans were divided on the issue and that President Obama couldn’t rally support for his policy signaled Iran, Syria, Russia and the rest of the world that American is weak and frightened.
A substantial portion of the Tea Party may not think that fecklessness matters.
They are wrong.
None of my business but one ****** line or turn of a phrase: little more than a traveling freak…carnival.
If the sanctions against Iran are dismantled even as the religious war and the Syrian conflict continue, Iran and its allies will be greatly strengthened.
The problem is, the Administration is already weakening the sanctions by ceasing to update Treasury Department notices targeting the ever-proliferating number of Iranian shell companies that cover for their illicit dealings with other countries. And they have been doing so for months. You might argue that this is reversible, but unless they have been keeping track of this, the Iranians will be that far ahead if the deal falls apart.
My fear is that the Obama administration is seeing their “legacies” implode around them – NSA spying, ACA crashing, and no hope for a budget deal with a polarized Congress, the Israelis and Palestinians being, well, Israelis and Palestinians – and will take any half-baked deal with Iran so they can come home and proclaim “Peace in our time!” and leave a following administration to mop up the fallout (figuratively and possibly literally) after he’s retired to the speaking circuit.
Professor Mead is right; President Obama has allowed himself to fall under the spell of realists who believe that the best way for the United States to pursue its interests in the Middle East is by playing the role of off-shore balancer; this is pure delusion.
To play even this role a nation needs a modicum of credibility; Obama has spent the last few years destroying American credibility. By treating allies as if they were annoying albatrosses tied around his neck and by treating adversaries as if he was petrified by the prospect of confronting them, Obama has enfeebled the United States; its little wonder that Iran, Syria and Russia view our nation as a paper tiger. My guess is that paper tigers are not particularly effective off-shore balancers. To be fair to Obama, he was aided immeasurably in his effort to weaken America by progressive Democrats and Tea Party Republicans who opposed American military intervention in Syria. The left of the Democratic Party and the right of the Republican Party share a central belief; projecting weakness is the best way to project power.
The question remains; how should the Saudis and Israelis react to Obama’s decision to surrender in the Middle East? I think Professor Mead is right; it goes way beyond Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It’s about Iranian aspirations for hegemony in the Middle East (perhaps in partnership with the Russians) an ambition made considerably easier by America’s humiliating retreat.
The Israelis should immediately terminate the ridiculous negotiations with the Palestinians midwifed by Kerry the clueless. The Americans and Europeans will wail and rend their garments, but their fits of pique will amount to nothing. Congress has Israel’s back and the Europeans can’t agree about anything. Israel has nothing to fear from an “outraged” America and Europe and everything to fear from a Iranian-allied Hamastan on the West Bank which will be the inevitable result of any agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Israel needs to figure out what parts of the West Bank it desires and annex those. The rest of the West Bank it will need to militarily occupy for decades into the future.
In Syria, Israel is faced with a terrible dilemma; both sides in the Civil War are implacable and violent foes. But I think Obama’s decision to hand Syria to the Iranians on a silver platter changes the equation. A nuclear capable Iran is a more dangerous adversary than a violent but less capable Al-Qaeda. Israel is more than able to overthrow Assad (they’ve been bombing Syria with impunity for months). Israel should destroy Assad’s Airforce, relentlessly attack his positions in Damascus and send a message by inflicting pain on Alawite dominated regions of Syria. Overthrowing Assad would send a very useful message to the Iranians, Russians and Obama even though the long term results of empowering Sunni extremists would be problematic.
It’s time for Israel to launch a preemptive war in South Lebanon. As Iran gets stronger, Hezbollah will only get stronger. There will never be a more propitious moment to attack Hezbollah than there is now. The costs in lives and treasure will be great but cutting Iranian allies down to size is something that needs to be done now; it will only be harder latter.
In Iraq, Israel should dramatically expand its already robust assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga. Israel’s aim in Iraq should be to encourage an independent Kurdistan; that this will infuriate Iraqi Shia and annoy the United States, Iran and Turkey is only an added bonus.
In short, Israel should be actively confronting Iranian allies throughout the Middle East now not later.
What should Saudi Arabia be doing?
Well, it’s already been acquiring its own nuclear arsenal from Pakistan; watch for Saudi-Pakistani ties to grow even more intimate. Saudi Arabia should be on the look-out to diversify its enormous cash reserves out of US dollars whenever feasible. It should encourage Egypt which has become its client state to move even further away from the United States. It should provide even more lethal support for Syrian rebels and Iraqi Sunnis.
Most importantly, Saudi Arabia needs to decide who it hates more the Shia or the Jews. Actually the answer is clear; apostates are always the biggest enemy no matter the religious tradition.
What the Saudis need to come to grips with (if they haven’t already) is that in the new Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia are natural allies.
“…but the agreement proponents say, would be a first step towards something more durable…. Given all this, whatever Iran is negotiating in Geneva, we don’t think it is a surrender…. We hope that the White House is not looking at this negotiation purely through the prism of the Iranian nuclear program….”
Geopolitics imply hard power and strategic/regional interests ought to be complementary (or go hand in hand). Now, WRM’s essay infers realpolitik must also guide our Iranian exchange going forward. That U.S. national interests are paramount not just Iranian nuclear constraints. Further, the essay argues that foreign policy and security goals vis -a-vis region and allies need to be given proportional weight by Obama administration. In that regard, most Americans would probably agree yet as intimated the Middle East has absorbed much American treasure and resources over last decade plus.
What to do….? Some have proffered “there will be no reductions in sanctions without verified steps to show that Tehran is abandoning, not just freezing, its nuclear weapons program.” Offshore balancing assumes relatively equal nations/states as well as competing interests. The region and its dynamics remain historically taxing and even more so since 1948.
Those who advocate using our power overseas forget a couple things. One, it hasn’t worked well over the past 5 decades in VietNam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, it costs money and we don’t have any money. We’ve crippled ourselves and the TP is aware of that. Regarding cutting a deal with Iran, I think VM understands that many of us think that the possibility of thorough verification of their nuclear program is almost zero. We can verify what they are doing at the facilities we know about, but not the others. Doing legitimate deals with Iran isn’t possible. Doing face-saving deals for pols is the best we can expect. Hopefully, our leaders will know they are being lied to.
Professor Mead points out,
“the French are said to be taking a tougher line in the talks than the deal-hungry Americans.”
When the United States is even more anxious to surrender to the Iranians than the French, you know something has gone seriously wrong in the United States.
gunsArmchair Political Forecasting Time!
1. Whoever gets elected the next president of the U.S., if they play their cards smartly, will be Churchill: Part Two, for reasons described below.
2. Whether the U.S. and Iran strike a deal may prove immaterial. The region formally known as ‘Syria’ is in the middle of a civil war in which treasure, guns, and willing bodies are being fed in by outside parties. Said outside parties want their ‘friend’ to win, but not enough to send anything other than support. If one side wins decisively or a ceasefire is reached, a lot of angry young men with combat experience and guns will be there for the taking. If the civil war simmers on indefinitely, the best case scenario is not much different from the same as the previous. Expect war, but not nuclear war.
3. The far east worries me more than the middle east ever will. The dress code has changed, but the ‘imperial courts’ of Japan and China have not. I do not know enough of Korea to predict even generally, but N. and S. Koreas’ actions are the wild card in the event of a ‘spark,’ and the region could be a powder keg. Japan don’t like China, and China don’t like Japan. i cannot help but feel there is a combination of hot nationalism and cold etiquette running through both countries, and that both are straining to not blink.
tl;dr version: world war three won’t be nuclear, but the view from North and South America will be spectacular.
The truly pessimistic think the US is ready to accept Iran’s regional conquests in exchange of the appearance of Iranian nuclear restraint.
No fair reader of this column could conclude that its author thinks otherwise.Which begs the question of why the author repeatedly includes such disclaimers. Might it simply be fear of criticism from less fair readers… readers such as his colleagues in the government, the academy and the media?