Republicans Have No Foreign Policy

It would be difficult to find a time in our recent history, when the foreign policy of a Presidential administration was as unsuccessful as under George W. Bush. Not just one, but two wars started and carried out for years without any success, bin Laden still hiding after years of fruitless search, a worsening situation in the Middle East, and anti-American feeling growing all over the world.

Not one mission was accomplished.

So it’s not surprising that Republicans since 2008 have been scrambling to figure out what they should advocate. The ideas that the Republican Presidential candidates have proposed over the past year demonstrate the bankruptcy of their foreign policy thinking. These problems are exemplified by expressions of the candidates’ policy towards Israel.Obama called on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and to use the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians. This is the position taken by every President since Nixon.The Republican candidates, for all of their criticism of each other, have spoken with one voice about their Middle East policy. Michele Bachmann said last November, “President Obama hasn’t been willing to stand with Israel. Israel looks at President Obama, and they do not see a friend.” In February, she called Obama “the most dangerous president” when it comes to the Middle East.

Rick Perry said in September that “the Obama policy in the Middle East” is “naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.”

Mitt Romney, the front-runner, said last May, “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.” Romney liked that image, and has repeated it over and over. In June, in an interview with Sean Hannity, Romney said, “Obama threw Israel under the bus. You stand by your allies, you don’t dictate to them.” In an interview in October: “My view is that he threw Israel under the bus by laying out his view of the policies he thought Israel should adopt in the peace process. I believe that the role of an ally is to stand behind your friends and let them speak for themselves, rather than be spoken for by the United States of America.” And again in January.

Herman Cain could do no better than copy Romney’s words. When he was briefly the front-runner in October, Cain said that the President “threw Israel under the bus.” And Rick Santorum last week also played copy-cat: “We’re throwing Israel under the bus, because we know we’re going to be dependent upon OPEC. Folks, the president of the United States is selling the economic security of the United States down the river right now. This is a president who is not standing by our allies.” He is “trying to find a way to allow Iran to get this nuclear weapon.”

Jews have always been concerned with the word, spoken and written. Jews are also very attuned to metaphorical language about killing. Buses, by the way, are a much more common method of transportation in Israel. That is why there have been so many suicide bombing attacks on buses. So using the metaphor of murder, throwing someone under a bus, means a lot to Jews, here and in Israel. It means that Romney and his fellow Republican leaders think that President Obama is a deadly enemy of Israel and thus of Jews.

I don’t remember any time in my life when all the official representatives of one party have called a President an enemy of Israel. US policy towards Israel has shifted often, from one critical moment to the next. But it has always been bi-partisan and supported across the political spectrum.

Now the Republican Party says something different. Obama is your enemy. Oppose him with everything you’ve got. Make no deals with him, because he will betray you. Wait for us, until November, or if we lose, which is quite possible, wait another 4 years before trusting the American government.

steve hochstadtI’m sorry. I have been saying I was writing about foreign policy, but I wasn’t. There is no foreign policy here, except “whatever Obama has done is wrong.” Every foreign policy act in Obama’s three years, a time of continual and unpredictable Middle East crisis, has received the same Republican treatment, from Obama’s comments about Israeli settlements, to his decisions about what to do in Libya, to his gradual withdrawal from the wars which were Republican policy the last time one was President.

Here is what a conservative Israeli leader thinks. After President Obama sided with Israel in opposing the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to get a seat at the UN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations.”

Steve HochstadtThese would-be Commanders-in Chief act like they don’t know how much America is weakened by their political posturing. They don’t seem to care that if they win, they will be trusted less to know what they’re talking about.

But these guys are not talking to Jews. They are talking about Israel to their base, where Jews are few and far between. Israel for them is just another weapon in their war against Obama. And everyone in Jerusalem knows it.

Steve Hochstadt
Taking Back Our Lives


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    On the matter of Israel, Mr Hochstadt, like other Obama apologists, would have people heed only the broad general claims that he attributes to Obama, shared in outline with other recent presidents, and not to other quite unique Obama actions and stances.   

    Obama is the first US president who presumed (in his Cairo speech) to know that Palestinians find it intolerable not to have a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan (besides the de facto Palestinian state which exists east of the Jordan).   His transcendental presumption ignored the actual history of Palestinian leadership’s rejection of a separate Palestine Arab state in 1939 and 1947, and in 2000 and 2008 of such a state at peace with Israel, even Israel almost totally the 1949 armistice lines.  

    In other regards too Obama has not been readily deterred by mere facts or by blatant statements of intent.  In response to Abbas writing last summer in the NY Times that the prime purpose of a new Palestine state would be to more effectively fight Israel, Obama made sure to insist that Israel take new steps to seek talks with Abbas to bring about a Palestine state. 

    To be sure, it was not Israel but rather Abbas and company which had kept away from such talks – despite Obama’s painstaking efforts to bring them about, and Israel’s agreement to his special request to cease settlement activity to that end.   In his request, Obama had presumed and insisted that Israel-Palestine talks would have to depend on cessation of new Jewish settlement activity.  This presumption not only went beyond expressions of preference from some past US presidents but indeed contradicted actual past practices of PA leaders Arafat and Abbas, so we can only speculate just why Obama was committed to it.  Altho Jewish Israelis are used to Arab communities and Arab fellow citizens in Israel, Obama apparently wanted Israelis to appreciate that the true Palestine state to be sought must be Judenrein – ethnically pre-cleansed of all Jews.  After all, the overriding objective was to get a Palestine state as the due successor of today’s Palestine Authority – which nowadays almost daily eulogizes suicide bombers and murderers of Jewish civilians as national heroes. 

    The first big Obama blowup at Netanyahu, during and after a Biden visit to Israel, occurred in response to one of several local planning steps for approval of new housing in a part of Jerusalem which from 1949-1967 was not in Jordan but had been in no-man’s land.

    But since that early miscalculation, Obama’s policy has become less confused.  Obama has now become the first US president since Israel was founded whose State Department has acted (as it does right now) to dispute the fact that WEST Jerusalem (overwhelmingly Jewish since the mid-nineteenth century, utterly within the 1949 armistice lines, and early on proclaimed Israel’s capital) is a part of Israel. 

  2. JoeWeinstein says

    Typically, only the White House gets to have a foreign policy – so no one noticed that the Dems had no foreign policy when Bush was in the White House and no one notices or worries that the Gops have no foreign policy now.  Typically the party out of the White House focuses its public critique on domestic policy. 

    This year is different.  The Gops have decided to be outrageously pro-1% – a course which will re-elect Mr Obama handily.  Often that prospect does not much bother the Gops, but sometimes they have second thoughts, and so as a result they fitfully turn to foreign policy.  But anyhow, simply because Obama is the incumbent, the issue now in 2012 is Obama’s foreign policy, not Bush’s or Bill Clinton’s or George Washington’s. 

     As to whether YOU find Obama’s policy successful or not depends on your policy aims.  I agree with commenter Jay that from one point of view the policy is incoherent.  (Wikileaks would bear him out:  intercepted reports from lower-echelon folks on the ground in foreign lands conveyed pictures totally at odds with premises invoked by the Obama White House.)  

    But from another point of view Obama’s policy makes sense.  Obama seems to find his policy successful (to judge from his statements and those of his staff)  – and on that basis we can try to deduce from the observed results just what those aims might be.    

    The apparent broad aim of the Obama foreign policy seems to be to make it clear that the USA’s traditional scopes of power and influence are now to be deemed inherently overwrought if not outright evil, and as a corrective the USA will endeavor to not intervene (except where still tied down, notably Afghanistan), act less, and to tie whatever it still does to collective decisions by as many other nations (large or small, democratic or not) as possible – e.g. by the UN or European Union or Arab League or the African OAU.  Thus, the USA has no interest in intervening militarily anywhere, even to protect its own interests. 

    In fact, the notion that the USA has specific actionable interests anywhere is now deemed suspect.  Early on Obama showed (for instance in regards Iran and Syria but not only there) that he does prize having dialogs especially with adversaries of the USA –  not necessarily to resolve anything in favor of USA interests, but just for the sake of having the dialogs.  Most adversaries evidently view his keenness to dialog – and readiness to indulge their misdeeds so long as there is a prospect of dialog – as a sign and even confirmation of USA weakness or disinclination to act, but Obama (who presumably is aware of their common-sense thinking) is not bothered by this. 

    The intervention vs Gaddafi owed to special causes:  it was prompted by the Europeans, and it served to exonerate the USA from militarily intervening for human rights anywhere else in Africa or the Moslem world.  It provided great cover for helpless-giant handwringing over local government-induced or tolerated slaughters in Darfur, South Sudan, Congo, etc.- not to mention Syria.  Just as the sanctions vs Iran, as executed by the Obama administration, were phased in as slowly as possible, and are as porous as possible:  all to provide the minimal cover to Joe Sixpack for Obama’s pretense that he wants to stop Iran from getting nukes (as opposed to Iran just not displaying the nukes while Obama is in office). 

    In the wake of Obama’s Cairo speech, it is also evident that Obama feels that the USA really owes expiation to the Moslem world per se, and that it owes this expiation above all to the most genuine representatives of true Islam – which are taken to be not liberals and modernists but fundamentalists and strong-man tyrants. So what’s actually happened would be explained by taking the broad aim of Obama’s Mideast policy to be not only to get USA power and influence out of the picture but moreover to make it clear there (but for domestic purposes hide at home) that we are deliberately doing that in favor of Islamic supremacists, especially terrorists (except those stupid enough to label themselves Al Qaeda) and tyrants.   So that has called for:   undermining traditional liberal and democratic allies – including Israel, relatively liberal Arab regimes (Mubarak in Egypt, the Hariri-led anti-Hezbollah coalition in Lebanon), undermining or withholding support (but for domestic US cover, with lots of pious handwringing about ‘bearing witness’ or about  ‘Assad should go’) from relatively liberal opposition movements (especially in Iran and Syria) and other regimes.  It means special indulgence not only to Iran but also to the leader, Erdogan, of the new Turkish AKP regime which has – in the name of ‘anti-militarism’ – been reversing the country’s ninety years of progress to a relatively free secular state and rapidly instituting an ever more repressive Islamic state. 

  3. Jay says

    Well let me see- we have a President that boldly moved into Libya. AFter all, Libya was a big threat to the world!!  This same President lets Syria (a country that exports terrorism) do whatever it wants. He winks and nods at Iran because his re-election is more important than doing anything about their nuclear weapons. When Iran had it’s uprising he stayed mum. When Egypt had it’s uprising, the leader, our friend Mubarek had to go. He is going to be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood the same people that worked with the Nazi’s in WW2. I would suggest this President’s foreign policy is incoherent. It makes no sense. I didn’t even get into his complete antipathy to Israel.  I would suggest if there is a problem with foreign policy, it  is at the doorstep of this White House.


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