I'm flattered that my essay on the decline of the Republican foreign-policy establishment has temporarily converted Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog into a forum devoted to enumerating my deficiencies in examining the GOP. If anything, I thought that in examining this topic, I might well be accused of carrying coals to Newcastle. Instead, my critics contend that I couldn't have got it more wrong: intellectual ferment is alive and well in the Grand Old Party.
The very unanimity of my reviewers' attacks, however, underscores my original point. Their missives carry the distinct whiff of a mutual admiration society, as they generally begin by praising each other's earlier critiques for having already demolished my argument. Yet none of the critics succeeds in demonstrating that true debate and dissent is taking place in the GOP on Afghanistan, Iraq, or a host of other issues. Rather than directly tackle the arguments in my essay, they impute motives to me -- "neocon bashing," bad faith, "crocodile tears" -- while going for the capillaries by raising a number of picayune objections.
One tack adopted by the Shadow Government critics is to point to moderate Republicans that I didn't mention. Thus, Will Inboden asks what figures such as Condoleezza Rice and Andrew Natsios "have in common?" Andrew Natsios! OK, I admit that it had eluded me that the former director of USAID was a real heavyweight in George W. Bush's inner councils leading up to the Iraq war. While Rice managed to eke out some influence in the last two years of the Bush administration, she was essentially a nullity for the first six, surrounded -- like her sometime State Department ally Colin Powell -- by an alliance of neoconservatives and nationalists who rendered her impotent. Had Rice displayed a smidgen of backbone in the run-up to march on Baghdad, she might have managed to stand up for the warnings that Brent Scowcroft prominently sounded in August 2002 in the Wall Street Journal about the perils of a preemptive war. Instead, Scowcroft became persona non grata as Rice refused even to meet with her erstwhile mentor in the White House. Now Scowcroft, a lifelong Republican, is an informal advisor to President Barack Obama. And when was the last time Rice weighed in on a major foreign-policy debate?
Another avenue of attack is to maintain that there really isn't all that much distance between the realists and the rest of the party. Dov Zakheim notes that both George Shultz and James Baker were "Reagan Republicans" and that Reagan followed a muscular approach. Fair enough. But when they pushed moderate economic policies or favored reaching out to Moscow, Shultz and Baker were denounced by the right with the slogan, "Let Reagan be Reagan!"
A wide chasm separates Shultz, Reagan, and former arm-control negotiator Richard Burt from the current crop of Republicans, such as Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who is raising doubts about Obama's nuclear treaty with Russia, which I used as Exhibit A of the GOP's abandonment of internationalism. Kyl has made it plain in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that his opposition is not so much to New START itself as to what he views as the Obama administration's lukewarm desire to modernize the U.S. nuclear force to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Essentially, Kyl is holding the treaty hostage in exchange for ironclad promises to spend vast sums on a fresh generation of useless and dangerous nuclear weapons. What will it cost the administration to get further, more substantive arms treaties approved in the future? Meanwhile, conservatives are lodging a host of niggling, if not outright false, objections about the Obama administration's putative abandonment of missile defense.