The Gop's Paranoid Foreign Policy

By Freedman, Michael | Newsweek International, May 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Gop's Paranoid Foreign Policy


Freedman, Michael, Newsweek International


Byline: Michael Freedman

To the Republicans, everything Barack Obama does is a sign of weakness and a threat to American sovereignty.

Listening to the paranoid Republicans, you'd think that Barack Obama is working night and day to give away what's left of U.S. power. He's exposing America to a mortal threat from ... Nicaragua. Setting up the dollar to fall as the premier global currency. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton recently said, in all seriousness, that "people close to" the Obama team are conspiring to cede U.S. sovereignty to a world government. Former GOP leader Newt Gingrich sees a "weird pattern" in which Obama administration lawyers have sought to defend the terrorists that Bush tried to put away. One GOP congressman after another complains that Obama himself is aiding the "enemies of America"--Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--by talking to them, and is setting the country on the road to -European-style socialism.

Not so long ago, the GOP was dominated by seasoned foreign-policy thinkers like Brent Scowcroft and James Baker. Now the mainstream of the party has a paranoid world view that sees America's rivals plotting with ruthless efficiency against a weak-kneed president. Former vice president Dick Cheney recently said he no longer considered Colin Powell a GOP member, because in the presidential elections Powell endorsed Obama, someone who in Cheney's view is making the nation "less safe." Cheney cited as a real Republican the popular radio personality Rush Limbaugh, whose has this to say on foreign policy: "I'm telling you, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are disasters. Russia, China, Third World communist countries are all on the move--and we're doing nothing other than begging them to talk to us by telling them it's a new era of diplomacy." Leslie Gelb, a foreign-policy expert who has worked in two presidential administrations, calls the new GOP tone "worse than paranoid, it's cynical." That is, a desperate attempt to shore up a failing party by defining itself in sharper contrast to Obama.

The new GOP line represents the triumph, if one can call it that, of the party faction that has always been hostile to multilateralism, and to global institutions and treaties like the U.N. and the Geneva Conventions. This faction dates at least as far back as the 1940s, and over the years it has clashed repeatedly with the party's internationalist, business-oriented wing. Ronald Reagan managed to unite the factions, briefly. His successor, George H. …

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