Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Walter Russell Mead: Sarah Palin: America’s Foreign Policy Messiah?

Governor Sarah Palin observes flight operations aboard the USS Stennis

By Gary P Jackson

While doing research for the article: Carolyn Glick: U.S. Needs Sarah Palin’s Foreign Policy, Not Rick Perry’s, I came across this piece from Walter Russell Mead, who Caroline Glick quotes in her article. Mead is a proponent of Jacksonian/Reaganesque foreign policy. The title of his article, written back in February, may be a bit much, but his thinking is spot on.

The rise of the Tea Party movement has been the most controversial and dramatic development in U.S. politics in many years. Supporters have hailed it as a return to core American values; opponents have seen it as a racist, reactionary and ultimately futile protest against the emerging reality of a multicultural, multiracial United States and a new era of government activism.

Nonetheless, the Tea Party movement has clearly struck a nerve in American politics, and students of American foreign policy need to think through the consequences of this populist and nationalist political insurgency.

As is so often the case in the United States, to understand the present and future of American politics, one must begin by coming to grips with the past.

The Tea Party movement taps deep roots in U.S. history. It is best understood as a contemporary revolt of Jacksonian common sense — the idea that moral, scientific, political and religious truths can be ascertained by the average person — against elites perceived as both misguided and corrupt.

And although the movement itself may splinter and even disappear, the populist energy that powers it will not go away any time soon. Jacksonianism is always an important force in American politics; at times of social and economic stress and change, like the present, its importance tends to grow.

In foreign policy, Jacksonians embrace a set of strongly nationalist ideas. They combine a firm belief in American exceptionalism with deep skepticism about the nation’s ability to create a liberal world order. The Obama administration is trying to steer U.S. foreign policy away from Jacksonian approaches just as a confluence of foreign and domestic developments are creating a Jacksonian moment.

Forecasting how this newly energized populist movement will influence foreign policy is difficult. Public opinion is responsive to events; a terrorist attack inside U.S. borders or a crisis in East Asia or the Middle East, for example, could transform the politics of U.S. foreign policy overnight.

Nevertheless, some trends seem clear.

The first is that the contest in the Tea Party between what might be called its Palinite and its Paulite wings will likely end in a victory for the Palinites. The Palinite wing of the Tea Party (after Sarah Palin) wants a vigorous, proactive approach to the problem of terrorism in the Middle East, one that rests on a close alliance between the United States and Israel. The Paulite wing (Rand Paul) would rather distance the United States from Israel as part of a general reduction of the United States’ profile in a part of the world from which little good can be expected.

The Paulites are likely to lose this contest because the commonsense reasoning of the American people now generally takes as axiomatic that security at home cannot be protected without substantial engagement overseas.

Terrorist attacks and events such as the Iranian effort to build nuclear weapons are likely to keep that sense of international danger alive (recent polls show that up to 64 percent of the U.S. public favors military strikes to end the Iranian nuclear program). Widespread public concern about perceived threats from a rising China will also strengthen public support for a strong military force and global American engagement.

Paulites and Palinites are united in their dislike for liberal internationalism — the attempt to conduct international relations through multilateral institutions under an ever-tightening web of international laws and treaties.

There is much in the Tea Party movement to give pause, but effective foreign policy must always begin with a realistic assessment of the facts on the ground.

Today’s Jacksonians are unlikely to disappear. Americans should rejoice that in many ways the Tea Party movement, warts and all, is a significantly more capable and reliable partner for the United States’ world-order-building tasks than were the isolationists of 60 years ago. Compared to the Jacksonians during the Truman administration, today’s are less racist, less antifeminist, less homophobic, and more open to an appreciation of other cultures and worldviews.

Furthermore, today’s southern Republican populists are far more sympathetic to core liberal capitalist concepts than were the populist supporters of William Jennings Bryan a century ago.

Foreign policy mandarins often wish the public would leave them alone so that they can get on with the serious business of statecraft. That is not going to happen in the United States. If the Tea Party movement fades away, other voices of populist protest will take its place. American policymakers and their counterparts overseas simply cannot do their jobs well without a deep understanding of what is one of the principal forces in American political life.

A robust foreign policy that concentrates on making sure our enemies are defeated is the best use of our blood and treasure. Blood and treasure that should never be wasted trying to be the world's policeman. Nation building is an exercise in futility. Yes, we can aid and help guide the willing, but it should never be our foreign policy goal.

Again, I'm not comfortable calling Governor Palin some sort "messiah" but I am confident she is the one person that, as President, would have the right strategy. Her doctrine of foreign policy is well defined and based on common sense.

One thing we can never say enough, is Sarah Palin's energy policy will have an incredible impact on our foreign policy. Energy is Sarah's strong suit. She was relentless in Alaska, not only with reform and safety, but with getting maximum production from the field.

A United States that is energy independent will change the world in many ways. It will change how America looks at problems around the world. Many of the conflicts we are involved in are due to the fact our oil supply is in peril. Instability in the Middle East, as well as an emerging China and Russia have made things complicated and volatile.

Remove energy dependence from the equation and all of a sudden things look a little different.

Most of America disagrees with what Mead calls the "Paulite" wing of the Tea Party, most notably Ron Paul's extreme views. [like it's OK for Iran to have nukes] I recently directed a reader, who is a Paul fan, to an article I wrote last December reporting that Iran was placing nuclear capable missiles in Venezuela. Missiles that could hit targets in the United States. So no, Iran having nukes is not OK in any way, shape, or form.

That said, there is a strong case to be made for people who support Ron Paul, because of foreign policy, to take a hard look at Sarah Palin. Her energy policy alone will mean that America will not only be stronger, but better able to aggressively prosecute the war on terror, without having to take interruptions in oil supply into consideration.

Reagan's foreign policy philosophy was "Peace through strength." A stronger America always means a safer world. Here are two Reagan quotes that say it all:

Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.

History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

The Japanese attacked the United States on December 7, 1941 because they thought we were weak, based on our isolationist, "Paulite," sort of foreign policy. They didn't think the price of their aggression would be very high at all.

A strong America makes the rest of the world think twice before doing something that will destabilize the world. On the other hand, look at what's going on now, with Obama running things. Rogue nations and thug dictators world wide are emboldened now that America is perceived as weak.

Sarah Palin is cut from the same cloth as Ronald Reagan, and shares his "Peace through strength" ideals. Nothing could make America stronger or more secure than an aggressive energy policy with a goal of being 100% energy independent at it's core. This would help ensure not only our national security, but our financial security as well.

Governor Palin is not some sort of "messiah" [with all due respect to Mead] but she is America's best chance at having a leader who gets it. Someone who will bring common sense with her in all of her dealings.

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