Changing Direction On Foreign Policy

With all the claims during the election that Obama was on the far left, some have missed the fact that Obama is far more a centrist than a leftist. We might agree or disagree with what he does, but it is futile to become shocked when he takes a more moderate course than some might like. His moderation was quite clear to those who actually paid attention to what Obama was saying as opposed to what others were saying about him. He may or may not be doing what we  would prefer on every issue, but a centrist such as Obama is far different than a far right extremist such as George Bush.

We’ve seen this on a number of issues but this post is primarily promoted in response to a comment claiming that Obama’s policies in Iraq are no different than Bush’s as they now have a similar time schedule for withdrawal. It is certainly possible to cherry pick facts to make an argument that Obama and Bush are similar. For starters, both are featherless bipeds. This misses the significant differences between the two.

An article from Huffington Post from February claiming McCain supports Obama’s position gives additional evidence to those who chose to cherry pick their facts to make such a bogus argument. This ignores many areas of differences, such as those in Dick Cheney’s frequent attacks on Obama’s foreign policy.

Obama’s overall position on Iraq is radically different from that of Bush and McCain. For starters, Obama opposed going in while Bush and McCain were in favor of the war. If political fortunes had not changed it is likely that this would remain a never ending affair with plans for far more than a residual force. It is because of the success of people such as Obama that the entire debate has shifted and people such as McCain are no longer able to call for continued war. If McCain had won the election, things would be entirely different.

There have been many other differences on foreign policy since Obama has won, some of which were described in a recent account from Bloomberg. Obama has changed US foreign policy from George Bush’s cowboy philosophy of going it alone to once again considering the views of other nations. The United States is no longer a nation which supports unilateral invasions of other nations without cause, or which makes torture part of its national policy.

It is also significant that Obama has admitted that the United States was wrong in its policies during the Bush years. While wrong about their interpretation of this, the right is correct in recognizing the great significance of this (as they distort this with attacks of an apology tour).

It has been too early for Obama to make tremendous changes but he is putting us on the right trajectory by changing the terms of the debate. United States policy is now firmly based upon withdrawing from Iraq, even if not quickly enough.

It is notable that right wing opposition is far weaker on this than on other areas. While conservatives are clinging to policies which are both wrong and politically unpopular on social issues, the economy, and health care, they are putting up far less of a fight on Iraq. I think that on this issue, at least, many do realize deep down that the Republicans were wrong and many do want to return the GOP to a more sensible position on foreign policy, while others such as Dick Cheney still cling to defending torture and past mistakes.

In the past Republicans, right or wrong, had the reputation of being the sane and solid party on national defense. They lost this position by making terrible blunders in Iraq and responding irrationally to the 9/11 terrorist attack. Republicans know what the polls are showing. For example, yesterday’s Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll found:

Democrats are at full parity on perceptions of which party would best manage national security, while they have moved far ahead of the GOP on specific challenges such as Afghanistan, Iraq, working with our allies, and improving America’s image abroad.

As to the question of whether Obama is pursuing the same policies as Bush, most responding did not feel this way. They saw a clear difference in response to Cheney’s attacks and preferred Obama’s policies:

Given their approval of the president’s performance on foreign affairs, voters flatly reject the claims from former Vice President Cheney and other Republicans that Obama’s policies put America at risk. By nearly a 2 to 1 margin, Americans say that President Obama is doing better, not worse, than his predecessor, George W. Bush, when it comes to national security.

In a political atmosphere such as this it comes as no surprise that some, but by no means all, Republicans are limiting their attacks on Obama’s foreign policy despite the radical change in course from the Bush years.

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  1. 1
    Alan says:

    I am a conservative on most issues but I am very willing to hear what liberals think about these things, so I invite the blogger to write me at the above address.  Specifically, I want to know if lowering taxes for small businesses is a good thing, and if so, why Obama doesn’t lobby for that. Data indicated that when taxes are lowered, the federal government gets more revenue, and it leaves more money for investment in the private sector. I thought that was a good thing, as opposed to taking more from the private sector. Of course, you cant lower taxes and continue to spend profligately, as Bush did disgracefully. On foreign policy, Iraq made no sense to me, but I dont understand why presidents in both parties insist that Israel make all the concessions without demanding that the Arabs renounce their charter that calls for Israel’s destruction before they call for a two-state solution. Thank you.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Actually the Laffer curve, which is what you seem to be citing, does not necessarily say that lowering taxes will necessarily lead to the federal government receiving more money. If this was always true we would be lowering taxes until they were zero. (Beyond that, would we apply a version of Milton Friedman’s negative income tax and start giving payments to business? 🙂 While it makes no sense fiscally, as a small business owner I could be convinced of the value of this.)

    As for Obama, he has called for tax cuts for small business.

  3. 3
    Christoher Skyi says:

    Since Rich Lowry, Karl Rove, and Charles Krauthammer have all admitted that Obama’s anti-terror policies are substantially the same as Bush’s, I assume they’ll refrain from arguing that Obama’s making the country less safe, and they’ll hold the recriminations if and when there’s another terrorist attack. Right?


  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    In a way this makes Cheney the most honest of them. While he is wrong as to the results, at least he recognizes how much Obama has changed direction from Bush/Cheney policy.

    I also don’t get why these conservatives would want to claim that Obama’s policies are essentially the same as it does limit their ability to attack him.

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