Monday, December 17, 2007

We need to talk!

Perhaps we should have done this a long time ago, but it is certainly time now for the Republicans to have an intra-party conversation about the near-term concern over who we will nominate to represent our concerns to the American people. Republicans and conservatives seem unready as of yet to coalesce behind one candidate; as it should be, for the race has yet to begin in earnest and we have a diverse field of options, none of whom is without their appeal. But to be sure, there are certain choices that are better-considered than others.

It would be unseemly to spend a lot of time denigrating the candidacies of Ron Paul and Alan Keyes. The former seems destined - hopefully later rather than sooner - to end up on the Lyndon LaRouche-Lenora Fulani-Ralph Nader-Ross Perot-John Anderson ash heap of third-party candidacies. Being from Illinois, and having watched his senatorial campaign derail itself in slow motion, I can attest that the latter is suited only for vainglorious speechifying; Keyes is having a good day if he does not foam at the mouth in mid-sentence. Mercifully, neither has a remote chance of getting the nod.

There are others, great men and small alike, who will make their appeals as the campaign season unfolds. I direct my attention for the purpose of this discourse to Mike Huckabee. After barely polling in the single digits a mere three months ago, the former also-ran has now "thrown the Republican race into disarray." Not entirely surprising given Huckabee's selling himself as a "Christian leader," evangelicals have now begun to flow away
from Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson to support him. (H/T: RedState) Despite his recent slur against Mormons - and his ham-handed apology to Mitt Romney - the momentum on the Republican side seems to be with Gov. Huckabee.

This comes to the dismay of many conservative thought leaders - John Fund of Opinion Journal, Pat Toomey of National Review Online, the American Spectator's
Quin Hillyer and syndicated columnist Robert Novak among others - who might well consider Huckabee as more of a huckster, selling movement conservatives out on issues of fiscal responsibility with the promise of his pro-life and anti-gay marriage credentials as a former Baptist preacher. To be sure, the Club for Growth assailed Huckabee for his fiscal policies while governor of Arkansas; similarly, the CATO Institute gave Gov. Huckabee a "D" on their Fiscal Policy Report Card. For its part, The Economist had little good to say about Huckabee's FairTax plan, describing it as "as radical as it is ill-thought out," adding that it was a "non-starter."

But it is in the areas of national security and foreign affairs where Gov. Huckabee's star shines dimmest. Even now, Huckabee has not enunciated his positions on American foreign policy vis-a-vis U.S. action in Darfur, let alone relations with India, North Korea or Russia. Nor -
as evidenced by his not being aware of the contents of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear weapons program - has he had a cogent thought on domestic intelligence, defense policy or on how our country's interactions with the United Nations should look going forward. (H/T: Council on Foreign Relations)

We have no more manifest a example of the fuzziness of Huckabee's thinking than in an essay he wrote for the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs. To put a none-too-dull point on it, the idea that such an apparent foreign policy lightweight would be given space in the magazine was laughable. That Huckabee befouled it with his inane scribblings was deeply distressing. To begin with, Huckabee accuses the Bush administration of having a foreign policy characterized by an "arrogant bunker mentality," and states that his administration would not "pit us against the world but [pit] the world against the terrorists." He then simultaneously argues that our enemies in al Qaeda must be destroyed, while averring that "Iran is a nation that just has to be contained."

To Huckabee's way of thinking, those who carry out the terror (al Qaeda, Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah) can be seen as discrete entities from the nations who sponsor such terror (Syria and Iran).
Ole Huck says that we should "intensify our diplomatic efforts" with China, India, Russia, South Korea and our European allies in order to contain Iran through economic pressure, and considers America to have a storehouse of incentives to offer Iran, to include "trade and economic assistance, full diplomatic relations, and security guarantees." For Huckabee, Iran's unwillingness to comply with U.N. resolutions (i.e.: resolutions 1747, 1737 and 1696), its responsibility for attacks on U.S. servicemen in Iraq, its sponsorship of terrorists throughout the Middle East and its aggressive nuclear energy program are exemplary of a nation merely "playing the game of power politics."

If any of this has a familiar stench, it certainly should. For it all reeks of the thoroughly malodorous Carterism, which - as recapitulated by Huckabee
in his piece - sounds as ridiculous now as when it was originally posited by President Jimmy Carter.

We must first destroy existing terrorist groups and then attack the underlying conditions that breed them: the lack of basic sanitation, health care, education, jobs, a free press, fair courts -- which all translates into a lack of opportunity and hope. The United States' strategic interests as the world's most powerful country coincide with its moral obligations as the richest. If we do not do the right thing to improve life in the Muslim world, the terrorists will step in and do the wrong thing.
Then as now, those who espouse the the Carter Doctrine suggest that America's national security is predicated on how others assess our moral authority, which to the Carterist is further predicated on our largess towards real and potential foes. Huckabee goes on to condemn current U.S. policy towards Pakistan. Where he proposes diplomacy for Iran, Huckabee would take military action to "cut to the chase by going after al Qaeda's safe havens in Pakistan." But true to the Carter paradigm, he would commit more of America's treasure to the Pakistani people.
Since 9/11, the United States has given Pakistan about $10 billion, including some $5.6 billion to pay for counterterrorism activities against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Less than $1 billion has gone to projects that directly help the Pakistani people by providing them with schools, food, or medical aid. The lack of schools creates demand for the madrasahs that produce terrorists. We have wasted money on counterterrorism that has not happened and spent precious little on projects to win hearts and minds.
In truth, no attempt to create a bifurcation between terrorist and sponsor by way of using foreign aid "to win hearts and minds" has ever been successful in the Middle East, due almost entirely to the fact that both are of a piece with each other and both take their roots in the fertile soil of Islamofascism.

In any event, America spent more than thirty years attempting to appease, ignore or deter terrorists and terror states, all no no avail; not until the implementation of the Bush Doctrine did we attempt to confront them on our terms. Mike Huckabee would singlehandedly tear asunder all that has accrued from President Bush's approach to Islamic terror, with nothing to place in its stead but more of that which emboldened the terrorists to strike at us in the first place.

All of which brings us back to the evangelicals. Long before they were a political force in the Republican Party, Southern evangelicals came out in force for Gov. Jimmy Carter, sensing that he was a good choice as he was a "Christian leader" who could salve the wounds that were fresh from the Vietnam War and Watergate. They quickly learned the error of their ways, as Jerry Falwell and others came out in support of Ronald Reagan. But not before Carter was able to fritter away our national prestige and usher in a nascent Islamofascism.

So we must contemplate and discuss what has been learned from the Carter years, and what we as a party will do differently now. Will evangelicals place their trust in their faith (which for political purposes is little more than trusting one's gut) or will they trust their party? That is the central question for now and the future. Are Republicans to be the wholly-owned subsidiary of the evangelical movement or will the GOP be a truly comprehensive party - of which evangelicals are an integral part? If we are to be solely the party of evangelicals, and Mike Huckabee becomes the Republican nominee, we might as well get ready for at least four years of Barack or Hillary, and deservedly so.

No comments: