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The Empty Absurdity Of The Democrats’ Dangerous Foreign Policy

I&I Editorial

Part 1 of 2

Despite the huffing and puffing during last week’s CNN debate against President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the Democratic Party’s deep thoughts about America’s strategic role in the world are more dovish and non-interventionist – and illogical – than ever.

We see this from some members of Congress who may not be household names, but who for years have been vying to be a future Democratic president’s secretary of state.

Take Maryland’s Sen. Ben Cardin, second in seniority among Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Cardin always presents himself as tough against the terrorist state of Iran, having been one of only four Democratic senators who voted against the resolution supporting Obama’s deeply flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He loves to lash out at “one of the most nefarious actors on the world stage, playing a destabilizing role across the Middle East and proudly carrying the mantle of the greatest nation-state threat to Israel today.”

But by the time two years ago that Trump pulled out of the deal, which released $100 billion to Tehran with which to go on a terrorism spree, Cardin had fallen in love with it. He said, “I did not support the agreement, but we want to make sure the agreement is enforced. We don’t want the United States to be the one who walks away from preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state.”

And asked last month on Fox News if there should be a U.S. military response in the event of another attack by Iran on American ally Saudi Arabia, Cardin replied, “There’s really not a military solution to the problem of Iran. We need to make diplomacy work.” He added, “We have to defend ourselves, no question about that, but … It would be disastrous if we got into a fighting war in Iran.”

That’s like your security guard leaving his gun home because he plans on negotiating with the burglars. Diplomacy can’t work when you rule out the use of force before you even begin bargaining.

Even worse than faux hawk Cardin is his foreign relations committee colleague from Connecticut, Sen. Chris Murphy, who’s been using foreign policy to try to be a star for years. It’s apropos that the website Murphy launched in early 2015 seeking the public’s ideas for the specifics of a progressive foreign policy,, is now a dead link.

It must have brought Murphy some online feedback though, since he was in the pages of The Atlantic earlier this month explaining “How To Make A Progressive Foreign Policy Work.” (We already know how to make a conservative foreign policy work, since it won the Cold War and has prevented Islamist attacks on the homeland since 9/11.)

Faint Faith In Force

The senator’s theorizing is all about taking options away and weakening America’s hand. “Military power can, at most, help set the stage for the necessary political work that must be done, but U.S. military actions have too often become ends in themselves.” Apply this logic to 1930s Nazi Germany; it’s doubtful Murphy would have been on the side of the isolationists as Hitler’s preparations for European conquest kept building.

“Any progressive call for military intervention must be paired with a plan for what comes next,” according to Murphy. But this sounds distinctly Neocon. What comes next is going to be nation building of one kind or another, and isn’t that the left’s rap on the Iraq war, that Bush and Cheney foolishly thought democracy can take instant root in alien soil?

Murphy performs acrobatics when it comes to President Barack Obama’s foreign policy failures. “The 2011 American airstrikes in Libya, which led to the toppling of the Gaddafi regime, are a stark example of a well-intended military intervention turning into a massive failure,” he charges, but he twice points the finger at “Obama officials,” absolving the judgment of the man we were so often told was the smartest president ever.

Later, we find his party’s 2016 nominee in Murphy’s sights. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked boldly about smart power projection, but by the time she left Foggy Bottom, she was still stuck deploying the same meager smart power tools that she inherited.”

Through the progressive lens, to “launch a strike,” as in Libya, “in order to prevent mass civilian casualties” is laudable. But then Murphy argues: “Sometimes, military restraint, though it may feel unsavory in the face of evil, is still the best policy.” He’s embracing the principle of exercising U.S. force for human rights reasons, removed from defending U.S. interests. But then blaming failure of this misguided approach on the decision to use force in itself. To Murphy, “confrontations based upon contested values are fights we can be proud of” – as opposed to, say, fighting specifically to protect the lifeblood of the world’s economies, oil.

Initial U.S. success in Iraq allowed force-backed diplomacy to convince Gaddafi to abandon Libya’s nuclear weapons program, because he worried he’d be next. Obama and Hillary undid a remarkable Bush administration foreign policy achievement – perhaps because it was exactly that. In other words, out of spite. As Murphy points out, Libya today, eight years later, “lies in ruins, thousands are dead, and there is no end in sight for the state of near anarchy wrought by our intervention.”

The senator might also have pointed out that Libya ended up, and continues to be, an ISIS stronghold that the U.S. continues to have to clean up. But then, incomprehensibly, Murphy’s grand manifesto on a future U.S. foreign policy never mentions ISIS – or Jihad, or Islam, or the Arabs, or Israel.

Murphy wants more multilateralism, and the extension of U.S. security guarantees to more countries. “Why spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the world’s largest military if you aren’t willing to extend its security protection when circumstances merit?” But this is like asking: Why should a high-crime city spend a lot to have the country’s largest police force if it isn’t willing to extend its security protection beyond the city limits to other municipalities?

Many Democratic politicians and their expert advisers have never understood deterrence. Because we never fired any of our thousands of atomic weapons during the Cold War does not mean we wasted all those billions of dollars building and deploying nuclear missiles for four decades. They performed their task by being able to annihilate cities on the other side of the world. The same applies to our non-nuclear military abilities today.

Limiting America’s Vital Alliances

“Defense alliances should only include nations that share both our interests and values,” Murphy contends. “Thus, progressives should reject any suggestion to extend our security guarantees to nations like Saudi Arabia, and focus instead on countries that have made a full commitment to democracy and rule of law.” Presumably the senator thinks it would be better to let the Saudi royal family be replaced by what a democratic vote in Saudi Arabia would produce: a jihadist regime bent on exporting terrorism to the free world. That will happen if the U.S. turns its back on our severely flawed but vital Saudi ally.

To Murphy it doesn’t matter because Saudi has crossed “a line so bright (kidnapping and dismembering a journalist under American protection, for instance) that we need to reassess the entire nature of our bilateral relationship.”

Like others on the left, Murphy wants the ways of the Big Government domestic state to replace the Pentagon, with a benevolent, globetrotting bureaucratic army carrying out elected politicians’ schemes. We “must radically upscale the non-military capabilities of the U.S. national-security apparatus, and employ them aggressively around the world.” And “a national-security budget where we spend 20 times as much money on the military and intelligence agencies as we do on diplomacy, democracy promotion, and smart power” simply won’t do that. According to Murphy, “building up non-military means to project strength is a sound strategy.”

Visiting Afghanistan in 2011, Murphy found U.S. soldiers protecting farmers from the Taliban. Their crop was poppy that they were selling to the Taliban. “What those farmers really needed were agricultural advisers to help them grow another crop, and Afghan-speaking political advisers to help them negotiate a détente with the Taliban once the poppy supply disappeared.” Does diplomacy work with terrorists? It’s doubtful Murphy thinks détente should have been our course against the Taliban after 9/11, instead of all-out military force.

He complains that “We haven’t developed a hybrid class of diplomat/warriors, despite the general failure of soldiers to do effective diplomacy. That can change, and progressives should lead the effort.” In fact, soldiers are great at diplomacy when they’re victors, or have superior force with authorization to fight standing with them. Ask Sun Tzu.

We already have our cadets playing “Model United Nations,” inflict lectures from State Department officials on them, and even send them off to work for NGOs in the Third World and to various U.S. embassies before they graduate. It’s truly remarkable how we’ve been doing it all wrong all these centuries and need hybrids to replace soldiers. Somehow the feeble minds of George Washington, Wellington and Churchill didn’t realize this. It took Chris Murphy.

Murphy believes he’s filling a policy vacuum on the eve of an election year. “Critics are not incorrect to point out that the 2020 candidates have not yet sufficiently fleshed out their views of America’s role in a post-Trump world,” he contends.

Translation: Democrats running for president have no foreign policy. Is Sen. Chris Murphy right? In fact, the “progressive foreign policy” many of the candidates propose, along with others better known than him on the party’s left, is even more dangerous than his.

— Written by Thomas McArdle

Read Part 2 of The Empty Absurdity of The Democrats’ Dangerous Foreign Policy.

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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • The only sane alternative for the voter in todays’ world of American politics is the Democratic Party.
    Trump is in the process, with Republican help, of alienating the USA from the world…… America sinks into redundancy.

  • “Defense alliances should only include nations that share both our interests and values,” Murphy contends. “Thus, progressives should reject any suggestion to extend our security guarantees to nations like Saudi Arabia, and focus instead on countries that have made a full commitment to democracy and rule of law.”

    Really? Someone actually thinks this? I don’t ….because the world is not that simple nor that black and white. It’s complex with many intertwined variables, and sometimes competing (on some levels) priorities, agendae, and interests between and even within other nations. Besides, even defining what in our country are “our interests” and especially “our values”, is impossible in any clear cut way; some would even argue whether our constitution is adequate for that. I suppose we could all agree (except for those on the lunatic fringes) that survival of our way of life and our very existence as a nation (warts and all) is in our “interest”. If that’s what’s at stake, as opposed to being subject to rule by the Chinese Communist Party for example, I vote for a security alliance with any nation that is willing to stand with us against sworn or obvious adversaries and seems to be (for the time being) trustworthy in that regard.

    Alliances are tricky and potentially messy, but they are not “forever”. There’s a theory that we elect people to figure out what to do in this regard. They will make mistakes as human beings, even if they actually ARE “the best and brightest” and have good intent, but to say they need some kind of philosophical straight jackets placed on them would be naive.

    Stalin’s Russia, after all, was kind of helpful in putting down the Hitlerites’ ambitions.

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