Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Pledge's Bizarre Foreign Policy

It's GOP "A Pledge to America" day.  On the politics, see Marc Ambinder, who points out that the 1994 "Contract" didn't help Republicans then, and the Pledge won't help, and could possibly harm around the margins, Republicans now.  On the budget proposals in the Pledge, see...oh, everyone: Chait, Yglesias, Klein.  It's a deficit-increasing plan, pure and simple.  I have nothing to add to that.

No, what really struck me as I went through it the first time was the foreign policy section, which should I say this...amateurish and pathetic.  What's the current Republican foreign policy?  Stripping out the immigration stuff from that section of the document, what remains is (1) Gitmo; (2) Missile defense; and (3) threatening Iran.  That's it.  Iraq and Afghanistan are referred to once, in passing.  There's nothing at all about what the United States should do in those nations.  Nothing about Pakistan.  Nothing about Russian, or China (China at least gets one mention, in the context of the deficit).  Nothing about Europe. The rest of the world?  Obviously not.

The document does mention terrorism, quite a few times.  But there's nothing here about catching, and virtually nothing about stopping, terrorists...apparently the only thing that really matters when it comes to anti-terrorism policy is where captured terrorists are held and under what conditions they are tried.  Should we be expanding or contracting the use of drone assassinations?  You won't find that here.  Is spreading democracy in Muslim nations still important to Republicans, or is nation-building a mistake?  No idea.  What should America's mission be in Afghanistan?  Apparently, that's not very important to this crop of Republicans.  We are, to be sure, told that defense spending can never be cut no matter what, but there's really nothing at all in here to indicate anything at all, not even a hint, of why it's important, why current levels are the proper ones, or what (other than missile defense) any of the money should be spent on.

Now, of course this is a campaign document for House candidates, not a presidential platform...but still, I'm pretty sure that there are high school students who could do a more professional job of spitting out Republican rhetoric.  I don't know what the thinking was that went into it...I suspect it was just amateurish carelessness, although other possibilities are that either a lot of standard GOP rhetoric on foreign policy doesn't test well, or that there were internal divisions that couldn't be papered over easily.  All I know is that it's a sad piece of work that really does not reflect well on the party.


  1. Looking at the roster of men who are in charge of Republican talking points and leadership positions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that "The Pledge" is thin on foreign policy. The foreign pol stalwarts of yesteryear have been pushed aside by the zeal of the righteous. John McCain has finally made clear who/what he is. Dick Lugar is off somewhere doing god knows what. I mean, who else is there?

  2. Been hanging with Repubs for a few decadesSeptember 23, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    One of the unfortunate, and unfortunately seldom spoken, truths about the the Republican Party is that more than ever they are the party of the isolated. While many Republicans and more than a few Democrats like to imagine the Republicans as the party of the plutocrats, the electoral majorities come from catering to the prejudices of the isolated, so foreign policy is always a low priority. Hang out with contemporary Republican 'thought leaders' and you will see they are picked for their ability to touch the buttons of rural, small-town, and exurban voters who don't really think much about their country as a whole, let alone the world.

  3. I would not expect a document from House members to say much about foreign policy because their role is small compared to the Senate and the President.

    I do expect them to talk about the budget and what they say is a joke. Since they don't have a coherent plan to reduce the deficit I think they would have been better off not producing this document.

  4. Jonathan Bernstein:

    On the politics, see Marc Ambinder, who points out that the 1994 "Contract" didn't help Republicans then . . .

    That's not what Ambinder says. He says 'the evidence is equivocal at best'.

  5. The points the Pledge makes on Iran are so UNBELIEVABLY backwards and uninformed it is not even funny.
    Sanctions. Seriously? We've imposed how many? How effective have they been? They really don't seem to realize that, THEY DONT WORK! They're also they least effective deterrent when compared to other options. The the US spearheading renewed talks between Israel and Palestine is essentially stripping Iran of if legitimacy in pushing for the 'liberation of its Arab brethren." That in the past month has been more effective than years of sanctions. But NO, we're still stuck in a Soviet-era foreign policy mentality.

    -Javs (

  6. Major typos in the last post. Sorry about that. Let myself get too far :/

  7. My favorite word in the pledge, indeed one of my favorite words ever from a 'government' document, comes at the top of page 5, bolded in the following: "saving us at least $100 B in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt."

    Friends, these guys are so serious! about deficit reduction that they are going to save $100 B in the first year ALONE! where "alone" is included for emphasis that it refers to something really impressive, so impressive that it is surely a no-brainer to jump from that awesome year 1 accomplishment to inevitably not only balancing the budget, but even - heaven forfend! - paying down the debt.

    The problem with so much liberal commentary - including some of that linked to this thread - is that it grants Republicans too much intellectual seriousness (see, for example, Yglesias unpacking the lack of funding pools to supply the alleged $100 B of deficit reduction).

    No, the use of the word "alone" in the text above is like you facing a very difficult problem and telling your peeps: "No worries! I am on top of it! In fact, I am so in control of the situation that I will be able to solve almost 10% of the problem in the first year alone!!!"

    Your listener would probably not respond to your claim by contesting whether you can really solve almost 10% of your very difficult problem.

    No, your listener will wonder whether you've lost your mind.

    Kudos to Jonathan for pointing out the intellectual shoddiness of the foreign policy section - really, though, the whole damn pledge is an embarrassing joke.

  8. While I'm at it, the underwhelming 'promise' of the pledge might be exhibit A of why government sucks and private enterprise rules. Imagine the multinational with a business unit that is struggling, such that the GM calls a special management meeting to break the bad news that everyone will have to make painful cuts. Suppose you were managing a group of engineers, and the GM informed you that you needed to cut your cost center by $250 K, up to you how to get there, just make sure not to reduce staffing such that you damage operations. Meet back in a week with a plan.

    A week later you reconvene, and when its your turn, you stand up, proudly spout a bunch of incomprehensible mumbo jumbo and conclude with a triumphant "This plan is so great, boss, that it will save you $25 K in the first year alone!"

    Your career wouldn't last the day in this hypothetical. But, that's okay, because a well-paid job as a leader in Congress might nevertheless await you.

    This got me thinking about Jonathan's earlier observation that CEOs are not needed for posts like head of the NEC. Aside from the specifics of the job, it could be that the career civil servants in Washington are so far removed from accountability that someone like Anne Mulcahy or another like her could not re-introduce the concept.

    But at least Mulcahy knows what success by accountability looks like. Considering the laughable lack of accountability in the Pledge, I have to think we could use more like Mulcahy in Washington, not less.

  9. I cant say that i am big time supporter of Obama, but republicans acts really terrible. For example they send spam to mailbox that there is a new very dagerous virus for computer called "black in white house". in a real way there is no such virus, but it just leaves negative emotions about black person being in white house. it is cheap and terrible trick.


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