Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Failure Of Marco Rubio's Neocon Foreign Policy Agenda


Marco Rubio appears young. And he should; he was born in 1971. Donald Trump, the oldest Republican in the race, unless you count 70-year-old George Pataki, had already graduated from Wharton, joined his father's real estate company and was getting into serious trouble with the Justice Department for violating the Fair Housing Act. By covering up his bald spot with a weave a couple of months ago, Rubio appears even younger and more boyish. But his political agenda is not just reactionary but also so decrepit and backward that one would expect it to be espoused by someone stuck in the 1950s.

In foreign policy-- an area he claims, for no apparent reason, some kind of expertise in-- Rubio proudly wears the tattered mantle of spectacularly failed neoconservatism. Yesterday Daniel Larison reminded readers of The American Conservative reminded that Rubio's ideas are bankruptAlthough the now disgraced and reviled Project for a New American Century has changed its name to the Foreign Policy Initiative, its goals haven't changed at all. Friday they sponsored Rubio's simple-minded foreign policy speech, which was, Larison wrote:
focused entirely on attacking engagement with Iran and Cuba, and as such it is a useful window into how he thinks U.S. diplomacy should work. In short, he doesn’t think the U.S. should seek to engage hostile and pariah regimes except through coercive measures, threats, and intimidation in the mistaken belief that these convey 'strength' and produce better outcomes for the U.S. If an agreement is mutually beneficial to both the U.S. and the other country, he will misrepresent it as a giveaway to the other regime, and unless the other regime yields to U.S. preferences on every issue he will refuse to accept progress on any of them. His proposed Iran policy illustrates this very well. He offers Iran no incentives for cooperation, but expects to be able to compel Iran to give way on every front. This not only grossly overestimates the ability of the U.S. to dictate terms to Iran, but it deliberately ignores the reality that almost all other countries in the world don’t share this uncompromising, hard-line agenda and won’t support the U.S. in what Rubio wants to do. Rubio’s desire to link nuclear talks to all these other issues guarantees that the talks will go nowhere, which is presumably the point of tying them together.
Here's what Rubio told the gathered neocons about Iran on Friday:
First, I will quickly reimpose sanctions on Iran. I will give the mullahs a choice: either you have an economy or you have a nuclear program, but you cannot have both. I will also ask Congress to pass crushing new measures that target human rights abusers and Iran’s leaders involved in financing and overseeing Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.

Second, I will ensure our forces in the Middle East are positioned to signal readiness and restore a credible military option. This will be bolstered by my administration’s efforts to rebuild our military by ending defense sequestration once and for all.

Third, after imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, I will link any talks to Iran’s broader conduct, from human rights abuses to support for terrorism and threats against Israel.
Rubio is living in a childish Republican that doesn't intersect with reality. In that way the youngest and the most elderly of the Republican candidates have something in common. Back to The American Conservative:
Rubio fails to understand the limits of applying pressure to another state. Not only does the U.S. lack the ability to force Iran into the capitulation he desires, but in the attempt Rubio would guarantee even greater intransigence from Iran. Iran isn’t North Korea, but the experience with North Korea is nonetheless instructive. When the U.S. tried to pressure North Korea in much the same way that Rubio has in mind for Iran, it led to North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT and its first nuclear weapons test. Confrontational policies may appeal to certain ideologues, but they frequently produce some of the worst outcomes. Then again, hard-liners don’t think they can or should be judged by the outcomes of the polices they promote. In general, they aren’t actually interested in resolving disputes, but hope to exploit them. The goal of Rubio’s Iran policy is not to limit Iran’s nuclear program or to bring about any discernible improvement in the Iranian government’s external or internal behavior, but it is rather simply to reinforce the mutual distrust and hostility between the U.S. and Iran for the sake of justifying more aggressive U.S. policies in the region.

The audience Rubio was addressing are sure to love what they heard, since FPI is simply the old neoconservative PNAC with a new name. He told them exactly what they wanted to hear, but there is also every reason to assume that Rubio is deeply committed to the same reckless foreign policy views that this group promotes. Rubio boasts about wanting to usher in a “new American century,” and these are the bankrupt, discredited policies he wants to use create it.
Even former George W. Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson recognizes Rubio's prescriptions for what they are: unrealistic and doomed to failure. Paulson was in charge of setting up Bush's Iranian sanctions in the first place. Unlike Rubio he thinks the nuclear deal that's come out of those sanctions should be approved.
"It’s somewhere in between naive and unrealistic to assume that after we’ve, the United States of America, has negotiated something like this with the five other, you know, parties and with the whole world community watching, that we could back away from that-- and that the others would go with us, or even that our allies would go with us," Paulson said during a forum sponsored by the Aspen Institute on Thursday night to discuss his new book on China.

"And unilateral sanctions don’t work, okay?" Paulson continued. "They really have to be multilateral."

..."I think it’s totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal that the multilateral sanctions would stay in place," Paulson said. "I’m just trying to envision us sanctioning European banks or enforcing them, or Japanese banks, or big Chinese banks."

..."I had a seat in Washington when we dealt with a big, intractable, messy problem, where there weren’t any neat, beautiful, elegant solutions," Paulson said. "You were deciding between doing something that was objectionable or doing nothing at all, which could even be more objectionable.

"So I don’t particularly like it when people criticize something that’s big and important that’s been done if they don’t have a better idea," Paulson said.
And one thing is clear about Rubio: He has no better ideas-- not on Iran, not on Cuba, not on immigration reform... not on anything.

Republican voters sense there's something wrong with Rubio. The brain-dead Beltway media may be thrilled by his youngish looks, and Sheldon Adelson may have struck a deal with the Koch brothers to make him Scott Walker's running mate, but GOP voters have relegated him to second-tier status despite all the hype. The new Fox News poll shows a steady decline from last spring, when 13% were buying the Rubio hype. His monthly trajectory among Republican voters has been steadily sinking and is now at 4%, a point above Rand Paul and Chris Christie, each of whom is being talked about as probable dropouts. There are 7 Republicans, according to the Fox poll, more likely to win the nomination than Rubio-- and even if his real goal is to be Scott Walker's running mate... well, Walker isn't faring much better with likely Republican primary voters. He's tied with Mike Huckabee at 6%, behind Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Jeb!

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