Here W. James Antle III analyzes the reasons behind resurgent interventionism in the GOP.
Republican hawks have regained some of their swagger. Lindsey Graham is talking with a straight face about running for president. Stephen Hayes opened a piece in the Weekly Standard by claiming, “The Republican flirtation with dovish noninterventionism is over. It wasn’t much of a thing.”
After trying and conspicuously failing to unseat Walter Jones or Justin Amash, what accounts for this new confidence? First, obviously, is the effect of world events on domestic political conditions.
Until recently, the most promising foreign-policy attacks on President Barack Obama came from a less interventionist direction. Being anti-drone and anti-surveillance, at least as far as the existing policies are concerned, was also “anti-Obama.” So was opposing weapons transfers and some forms of aid to Egypt.
It’s no accident that the most effective Republican criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy were related to these issues. When Republicans tried to out-hawk Obama, the president triangulated easily: his administration was killing terrorists like Osama bin Laden but avoiding costly new Iraq-style occupations. By and large, that’s the foreign policy the American people want.
But Iraq has since descended into chaos. The Islamic State is on the march in Iraq and Syria. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is on the move against Ukraine. The objective results of Obama’s foreign policy no longer look so good—Joe Biden’s 2012 boast that bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive feels like it was uttered a lifetime ago—and partisan jibes about “leading from behind” or Democratic dovishness have attained an air of plausibility.
Of course, the blame for many of these problems could be at least partially assigned to inept interventions on which many hawks wish to double down. It is hard to imagine that either Iraq or Libya would currently be teeming with jihadists, for example, in the absence of wars for regime change.