Cratering Consensus

June 12, 2012

The realities of a more interconnected world, and the ascendancy of U.S. policies based on pragmatic, results-based engagement with friends and opponents alike, have made election-year politics of national security more problematic for the U.S.  Candidates must show they understand how the global economy works, and how the U.S. can prosper and be secure within it. Elder statesmen such as Gen. Brent Scowcroft and former Senator Chuck Hagel have noted that now would seem exactly the wrong moment to bring into question U.S. support for Europe’s efforts to end economic crisis, or a strong international consensus – supported by our military – on seeking a negotiated end to the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.  But that is exactly what two leading Romney campaign advisers have done in the past week.

Romney advisor attacks president in a foreign media outlet. The New York Times reports, “A senior economic adviser to Mitt Romney criticized President Obama and his policy toward crisis-torn Europe, and Germany in particular, in an op-ed article in a leading German newspaper on Saturday, raising the question of the propriety of taking America’s political fights into international affairs. The article — written by R. Glenn Hubbard, the dean of the Columbia Business School and a former adviser in the Bush administration, and published in the business journal Handelsblatt — drew a rebuke from the Obama campaign.”

In addition, Hubbard’s piece advocated bad economic policy. As ThinkProgress found, “According to the International Monetary Fund, ‘Income and employment don’t fully recover even five years after the austerity program is enacted.’ Yet that’s exactly the prescription that Hubbard and the Romney camp have in mind for both Europe and the U.S.” [NY Times, 6/9/12. ThinkProgress, 6/11/12]

Romney advisor calls diplomacy “failure,” pushes for war with Iran.  As the National Journal’s Michael Hirsh writes, “Bolton, a key foreign-policy advisor to Romney, created a stir recently by appearing to rejoice in an op-ed in The Washington Times that talks between Iran and the U.S. and the ‘P5 plus one’– the U.N. Security Council members and Germany — had ‘produced no substantive agreement.’ Bolton said any talks with Iran were merely ‘a well-oiled trap’ and declared that President Obama had become ‘increasingly a bystander’ in Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon (despite the disclosure that Obama has authorized aggressive cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities).” Bolton’s assertions are both wrong and surprising from a key adviser to an aspiring commander-in-chief. Former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy said in response, “Bolton has made it clear that he’s rooting for American diplomacy to fail and has repeatedly called for a rush to war with Iran. Gov. Romney needs to be clear with the American people: Does he believe there’s still time for diplomacy to work? Or is he ready to take us to war, like his advisor John Bolton is advocating?” [National Journal, 6/6/12. Michèle Flournoy, 6/5/12]

Elder statesmen raise concerns about state of the political conversation. The New York Times reports, “As Republican leaders fell in behind Mr. Romney this spring, many members of the party’s foreign policy establishment have been more muted. Reluctance by this group to come forward for Mr. Romney more quickly reflects an unease over some of his positions, including his hard line on Russia and opposition to a new missile treaty… But some nevertheless believe that Mr. Romney has taken approaches too confrontational or too hawkish, or worry that harsh campaign-trail statements could hurt later diplomatic efforts and may signal a drift toward neoconservative passions as the party seeks to take back the White House, say Republicans familiar with the discussions.”

Conservatives have used strong words to describe the movement’s shift from earlier, more nuanced positions and tactics:

Gen. Brent Scowcroft (ret.). Speaking about conservative opposition to the New START Treaty, Scowcroft called it, “baffling,” noting that “to play politics with what is in the fundamental national interest is pretty scary stuff.” [Brent Scowcroft via ABC, 12/20/10]

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Foreign Policy reports: “‘Reagan would be stunned by the party today,’ Hagel said in a long interview… Reagan wanted to do away with nuclear weapons, raised taxes, made deals with congressional Democrats, sought compromises and consensus to fix problems, and surrounded himself with moderates as well as Republican hard-liners, Hagel noted.” [Foreign Policy, 5/11/12]

[NY Times, 5/30/12]

What We’re Reading

Rebels in western Syria said they were scrambling to smuggle out civilians trapped amid heavy shelling.

According to prison officials, Hosni Mubarak’s condition has stabilized.

The Yemeni army took back two cities from al Qaeda control.

A senior U.S. official urged Pakistan to re-open trade routes to NATO in order to ease tensions.

Thousands of anti-Putin protesters marched in Moscow, in the largest demonstrations since Putin’s May swearing-in.

An EU banking union could be implemented as early as 2013.

Kenya’s Prime Minister asked the EU and the United States to help fight Somali Islamists.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take a new look at how its 2008 decision on the rights of detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is being carried out.

Hugo Chavez formalized his re-election campaign in Venezuela.

Two Mexican politicians were killed, casting a shadow over upcoming elections.

 

Commentary of the Day

Bassem Sabry argues that Egyptian revolutionaries can still feel optimistic even during a tenuous runoff election.

Thomas Wright discusses Greece’s unlikely powerful position in negotiations with Germany.

The New York Times editorial board criticizes Congress, especially House Republicans, for perpetrating Cold War nuclear policy.

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