Domestic politics has always over-hyped international politics for political gain, and oftentimes outright fear mongering is a successful tactic for political campaigns. This is partly how Republicans have won many elections throughout the country for decades: they have connived to convince roughly half of Americans that Democrats are weak on foreign policy.
It isn’t that Democrats are weak, though, it’s just that Democrats, and President Obama in particular, tend to think long and hard about what America should do before committing to impulsive, reactionary wars and occupations that lead to decades of anti-America sentiments and political blowback. This may come across as weak-willed, but it is certainly not political hubris.
The case study is in Republicans’ minority-party, foreign policy critiques of the current Commander-in-Chief. Throughout the Obama Presidency, Republicans have been calling for non-stop war coupled with claims that Obama doesn’t know how to keep us safe, ironic, of course, coming from the party whose most recent president ignored warnings and failed to prevent 9/11. These same conservatives have called for continued occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan (in fact, one of Senator John McCain’s campaign planks in 2008 against then-candidate Obama was that America should keep soldiers in Iraq for 100 years), and they have called for new wars in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Ukraine.
Doing the math, that means that if neoconservative Republicans had been granted their hegemonic wishes America would be fighting today in seven wars, including two against regional superpowers Russia and Iran, across three continents. It may be a military-industrial complex wet dream, but berserking imperialism certainly is not rational leadership.
Yet Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush all are over-hyping threats to America’s safety in order to try and win Election 2016 against the Democratic Party. This is a textbook example of how a party with minority power attempts to take control from a competent, majority power party. The GOP could not usurp the Democratic Party’s electoral dominance if Republicans did not convince voters that the status quo is utterly destroying America and bringing about the literal end-times. And within the Republican primary for the presidential nominee, whoever preaches the apocalypse with the most vehemence stands out from the rest of the candidates.
Given the sheer number of candidates running in the current and last two Republican primaries, and the necessity of appeasing the radicalized ideological partisans that vote in Republican primaries, separation from the pack can only be achieved through increasingly grandiose and fear-inducing lies about everything liberal.
Because of this the GOP has created a mythology in which Republicans are not just politicians debating and compromising with an opposition political party, but are saviors waging Godly battle against the treasonous, America-hating, Sharia law-loving straw-men tyrants in the Democratic Party that they invented. And they have spent the last eight years existentially opposing President Obama within an increasingly insular echo chamber moving further away from reality.
Republican politics has become nothing more than a zero-sum game for egotistical, power-hungry political careerists willing to sell their souls in their obsessive pursuit of the White House. If successful, Republican fear mongering will begin new wars that kill thousands of American soldiers and incubate new terrorists with legitimate reasons to hate America. All for Election 2016 political gain.
The most bullshit part of this is that the new push for land war in Syria and re-occupation of Iraq is a repeat-of-history masterpiece by the same war hawks who pushed us into Iraqi Freedom, which opened the vacuum from which ISIS sprung out. Surely there is a better way to keep the American people safe than by repeating the same Romanly mistake of imperial decay twice in consecutive Republican Administrations. And for Jeb Bush to win, oompfh. Three Bush Iraq Wars in a row.
Perhaps it is no longer current to suggest that the military-industrial complex has bribed the Republican Party. Conservatives celebrate the economic philosophy that Americans do not deserve free education or healthcare because our tax money must eternally fatten the military budget. Remember that Dick Cheney and Halliburton, the company from which he stepped down as CEO to become vice-president, got fabulously rich from the last Iraq War, and the next Iraqi occupation would be just as special interest-serving. These special interests have a lot of sway in Republican governmental lobbies, and as such Rand Paul is right that Conservatism is a sham. Military quagmires, both political and monetary, are not conservative, and they do not keep us safe.
And is there any evidence to believe that neoconservatives care at all about nation-building in Iraq and Syria? Or the wellbeing of those nations’ citizens and the effects of our supposedly necessary occupation? Republican presidential candidates are nearly all unashamedly Islamophobic, and several have called for perpetrating war crimes against Syrian civilians. Not a single Republican candidate wants to absorb Obama’s pledged 10,000 Syrian refugees. Conservatives accuse liberals of being all heart and no brain, but conservatives have neither.
It is obviously not a moral idea to refuse entry to desperate Syrian refugees made destitute in part by our foreign policies. America has repeatedly opposed immigration throughout our history, against groups as diverse as the Irish, Germans, Italians, Roman Catholics, Chinese, Japanese, and Jews, and every time we have embarrassed ourselves and regretted it since. It certainly will be a guilt this time with war-battered Syrian refugees as well.
Refusing Syrian refugees is also a strategically stupid idea. Islamophobically turning our backs on the refugees makes ISIS’ anti-America rhetoric comes true. Even Canada’s more sympathetic plan to admit some refugees, but to refuse entry to unaccompanied, male refugees will backfire. What will those unaccompanied, male refugees do when they return to their war-torn homes? They will have the choice of joining ISIS or death. Our nativist, exclusionist policies toward refugees will create new terrorists because the only source of opportunity left in their rejection will be terrorism. Iraq and Syria have been destroyed, it’s not like these refugees can go back to their crumbled cities and start a business. They will be young vagrants in a terrorized wasteland without much to live for beyond vengeance toward our enmity.
Republican opposition to taking in refugees is uninformed as well. Suspicion that Obama does not want to vet the refugees, or that the vetting process is a lackadaisical farce of governmental competency, is as unfounded an allegation as it is unnecessarily political. John Oliver actually researched and explained the vetting process in a recent monologue, and, predictably, Republicans are wrong about everything. Not only do Republicans not know how exhaustive the vetting process is, they clearly have no interest in learning. It is easier politics just to claim that all Muslims are evil and that Obama is ruining the country.
And that’s the problem with Republican politics. They put so little effort into their role as the minority party in government that it reveals their disinterest in trying to govern effectively. They simply criticize everything liberals do as “un-American” and even “anti-American,” and hope that their empty fear mongering will scare enough, increasingly, old people into voting Republican. This is doubly effective in our fair-and-balanced political climate, in which the media actually presents Republicans’ bullshit as a legitimate side of a national debate.
And so it is political necessity that requires Republican presidential candidates to overhype and exaggerate our smallest security threats, and seek to force America into needless international brinkmanship on every issue. Republicans would rather fear monger and place American soldiers in harm’s way than lose an election to a political party actually working effectively to protect America and end the disastrous Republican policies of the past.