Sunday, June 19, 2011

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ: Republicans Return to Reality

And We All Welcome Them Back

Every weekend brings this wonderful columnist of the Wall Street Journal to the mailbox of The Dismal Political Economist, and with only few exceptions it is a very pleasant visit.  This week is no exception as Ms. Noonan comments on Monday’s Republican Presidential debate.

Ms. Noonan does open with the usual praise of the candidates, this is the WSJ after all, and says

But the GOP debate in New Hampshire was a big success in two ways. First, there was no obvious candidate from Crazytown

(we know who she means, don’t we) and then remarkably focuses on foreign policy, which no one, including The Dismal Political Economist was thinking about.

Second, and more important, the foreign-policy discussion, though limited, was marked by a new sobriety. There was no spirit of adventurism, there were no burly promises of victories around the corner and lights at the ends of tunnels. It was more muted than that, more realistic, different in tone and tenor from four and eight years ago. This signaled a real shift, and a heartening one.

The gist of her analysis is that Republicans are retreating from their “let’s go out and militarily solve every problem in the world” philosophy that has been in existence since the cold war.  The candidates recognized the limits of American power and the limits of the American taxpayer.  They did not bash the Democrats for lack of military action, but for the military action they were currently unsuccessfully pursuing. 

This is huge progress.  The United States is facing a reduction in its ability to militarily influence world events.  That Republicans realize this, and will campaign on that theme rather than the George Bush/John McCain policy of military intervention means good things ahead for foreign policy.

Having come out against the Iraq war, Barack Obama used his support for greater military action in Afghanistan to blunt criticism that he was weak on defense and weak on terrorism.  If future presidential candidates no longer have to commit U. S. forces to prove that is not true. Everyone will be better off.

In conclusion

We cannot lead, or even be an example, without money. And we are out of it. Therefore, reordering our financial life and seeing to our financial strength is the single most constructive thing we can do to create and maintain a sound U.S. foreign policy. If we want to be safe in the world, we must be sturdy at home.

That is why those inclined to take an unfriendly or competitive view toward us increasingly see us as a paper tiger. Because they hold our paper.

The problem with Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, is not only that after 10 years our efforts have turned out to be—polite word—inconclusive. We are spending money we don't have for aims we cannot even articulate.

Thanks Ms. Noonan for bringing this to our attention.  That’s what a good columnist does.

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