LOS ANGELES, August 11, 2013 — From a spectator’s point of view, American politics can become a bit dull sometimes. The sides are always so predictable. Republicans want lower taxes, Democrats want higher spending. Conservatives proselytize for chastity and tradition while liberals stress freedom not from government but for lifestyles.
On most issues it is clear where the sides will align before the battles begin, but you just can’t tell where the sides will come down anymore when it comes to foreign policy. The liberals who once bemoaned military adventurism abroad now support a president who has engaged us in one Middle-Eastern country, is poised to do so in another, and who has not only not eliminated but has actually augmented the Bush-era counter-terrorism and domestic policy programs that the liberal left once decried as unconstitutional.
No, the Democratic party of 2009-2013, in stark contrast to that great party of principle which was the Democratic party of 2003-2008, is now the party of broad-based, centralized domestic surveillance and remote control assassinations of our enemies in the absence of due process. It has now fallen to the Republicans, some of them anyway, to take up the battle for a restrained foreign policy and for a homeland security regime that does not purchase safety by the price of liberty.
Ironically a few short years after the departure of President George W. Bush, we see the anti-war left springing anew on the right, valiantly battling against Barack Obama and a Democratic party stubbornly committed — to defending the national security legacy of George W. Bush.
Laugh out loud. Is this an exaggeration? Yes, but only a little.
Of course, the Republican establishment as personified by the likes of John McCain, Peter King and others has remained as hawkish as it always has been, criticizing the president for not doing enough to foil our enemies even as he ratchets up our drone strikes by multiples and takes domestic security provisions to places the Patriot Act never dreamed of.
There are a few commentators and prominent people among the Democrats who have lashed out at this seeming hypocrisy, but very few in high office. Rachel Maddow and Van Jones notwithstanding, the party has locked in behind a new order that in many ways looks quite a bit like the old.
It is also not necessarily the case that Rand Paul, hereditary poster child for the Libertarian movement, is really the enlightened pacifist that many liberals and libertarians think he is. This is a man who does not oppose drone strikes in general and who has supported keeping Guantanamo Bay open (albeit with stronger due process for detainees). Rand Paul is not his father, and that is either a good thing or a bad depending on your point of view.
Chris Christie made an accurate point when he commended President Obama for staying true to the aggressive national security policies of George W. Bush and when he went well out of his way to attack Paul for being something of an anti-war hippie in comparison.
Paul, the Libertarian movement and the Democratic Party of several years ago (the Barack Obama of several years ago, or so it may have seemed) do not and did not see the interests of America or the global community as being served by our military or generally our financial involvement in the regimes and affairs of peoples and countries far beyond our shores.
Obama, the current Democratic Party, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush do and did. There are differences among them, certainly. But as far as interventionism goes, they are differences of pace and degree, not so much differences of principle. If McCain and Lindsey Graham are sprinting into Syria, Obama is following with a brisk jog, but he’s going or willing to go all the same.
Rand Paul on the other hand would not and will not take America into Syria. He and the increasingly powerful Libertarian movement within the Republican Party do not have the attitude that says that we must fight them over there to keep from fighting them over here. Theirs is a military policy that truly is restrained and even disinterested in our interjecting ourselves in the affairs of others. Just the way liberals used to be.
These issues are complicated, with arguments to be made for any point of view. But be consistent. If you were for Bush then, give some credit to Obama now. If you were against Bush then, be critical of Obama now. But let the American people have some principles at least, lest we be as wayward and un-tethered as so many of our politicians.
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