Today and in the coming months and years, there will be a lot of soul-searching in the Republican party and the conservative movement over what went wrong in the 2012 elections
The Party of Victory
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Next to the American people themselves, Israel is no doubt the biggest immediate loser in the U.S. presidential election. President Obama’s foreign policy is predicated on the false notion that the U.S. and Israel themselves are the principal causes of the Islamic world’s antipathy toward them. Consequently, Obama has cultivated the anti-American, genocidally anti-Jewish Muslim Brotherhood and facilitated the Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt and Tunisia and its gains in strength throughout the Middle East. In addition, Obama has appeased Iran’s Islamist regime and has enabled it to reach the cusp of nuclear capability.
Obama’s policy of relying on the United Nations has placed Israel’s diplomatic viability at risk as the Palestinians and the international Left that supports and feeds on their cause use the U.N. to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. Finally, Obama’s animosity toward Israel has strengthened the hand of anti-Israel forces within the Democratic party. In the coming years, Israel will become an increasingly partisan issue in American politics.
While Obama’s reelection clearly places Israel in jeopardy, the plain truth is that the inevitable continuation of his foreign policies places the United States at risk as well. The jihadist assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi must be viewed as a sign of things to come, just as al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole were precursors of the 9/11 attack on the U.S. mainland. Obama is empowering the United States’ worst enemies in the Sunni and Shiite Muslim worlds alike. Thereby emboldened, they place America at increased risk.
Israel can and must take the actions necessary to mitigate the dangers that Obama’s reelection poses to its national security and indeed its very survival. It must embrace its advantages in economic growth, the domestic support it can count on from its deeply patriotic populace, and its demographic advantages—it is the only Western country with a high and growing fertility rate. It must boldly assert its national rights. In its relationship with the U.S., it must move from being a dependent to being an ally. It must take the military steps necessary to prevent Iran from making good its promise to annihilate the Jewish state. It must deter the Muslim Brotherhood-led Egyptian military from making war against it.
As for the U.S., Israel’s allies in the Republican party and the conservative movement must now take a serious look at their own foreign policy positions and reassess them in the light of the Republican defeat in Tuesday’s elections and in the face of the growing dangers to the country that are the inevitable consequence of Obama’s reelection. This is not merely a partisan interest. It is a matter of the United States’ own national security.
For a host of reasons, Republicans have failed to make the case for an alternative to Obama’s policy of appeasement. During the election campaign, Mitt Romney embraced Obama’s support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. He refused to say that the U.S. must take military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear aspirations, despite the clear failure of the current bipartisan policy of sanctions against Tehran. Justifying Obama’s abandonment of the United States’ longtime ally Hosni Mubarak, Romney said that he would have abandoned Mubarak as well, even though Mubarak was the anchor of the United States’ alliance system in the Arab world. Romney failed to criticize Obama’s open-door policy for friends of the Muslim Brotherhood within the U.S. government.
Romney’s “me too” foreign policy was not simply a consequence of his hope to make suburban mothers in Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio feel comfortable voting for him. Rather, it was a function of his political camp’s greater failure to recognize and contend with the unpleasant and hard realities of the world as it is. The conservative camp in general has been too timid to face the strategic implications of the Islamic world’s embrace of the cause of jihad and its goal, Islamic world domination.
During the Bush years, the so-called neoconservative camp believed it had formulated the means of convincing an American electorate dominated by the leftist media to support the projection of American power in the Islamic world. Claiming, and believing, that the purpose of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was to liberate otherwise tolerant and liberal-minded Muslims from the yoke of authoritarian governments, neoconservatives promoted an argument that permitted Republicans to avoid making the hard case for victory.
Even more destructively, the neoconservative campaign to make the Islamic world ripe for democracy necessarily ignored the larger pathologies there that rendered the totalitarian dogma of the Muslim Brotherhood the most salient and popular ideology among Sunni Muslims. The neoconservatives’ focus on democratization blinded them to the fact that authoritarian and problematic allies like Mubarak were often the only possible allies available to the United States. Finally, the neoconservatives’ insistence that the urge toward democracy and freedom is universal led to their failure in places such as Iraq and Egypt to use U.S. resources wisely. If everyone is just like us, then there is no reason to cultivate the habits of liberty. There is no reason to empower women. There is no reason to financially and politically support nascent and weak democratic forces or to postpone elections until the scales are properly tipped in the direction of moderate forces congruent with U.S. interests. There is no reason to support Christian minorities. There is no reason to insist on the normalization of relations between countries such as post-Saddam Iraq and Israel.
Instead, elections were perceived as a panacea. Give the Arab world the vote and all will be well. In the event, the result was just the opposite. The Palestinians elected Hamas—their branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptians and Tunisians elected the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Bush administration’s false claim that the masses of the Islamic world share the values of the American people led to other problems as well. First and foremost, it confused Bush and his advisers about the distinction between Israel and its neighbors and so brought about Bush’s full-throated support for Palestinian statehood. His endorsement came even as it was becoming undeniable that the Palestinians, with their addiction to terrorism, their support for jihad, and their anti-Americanism and genocidal anti-Semitism, are the embodiment of all the pathologies of the larger Arab world. If you believe that Israel is no better than the Palestinians, then it is a short step to concluding that weakening Israel on the Palestinians’ behalf is only fair.
Losing sight of what makes Israel America’s closest strategic ally, the Bush administration relegated it to the uncertain category of “special friend,” sending to the Arab world the message that the U.S. was a treacherous ally and fundamentally confused about its interests in the global arena. If the so-called “peace process” was America’s chief concern in the region, then it followed that the U.S. should empower its worst enemies at the expense of its closest ally.
And indeed, by supporting Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and insisting on an Israeli ceasefire with Hezbollah in the 2006 war in Lebanon and northern Israel, the U.S. did in fact help its worst enemies. In Gaza, it supported the establishment of a jihadist state that has since contributed to the transformation of Sinai into a jihadist base of operations, and it emboldened the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan. And it facilitated Hezbollah’s—that is, Iran’s—takeover of Lebanon.
The Republican party’s failure to reconsider the ill-founded assumptions of Bush’s foreign policy toward the Islamic world led inevitably to Romney’s adoption of it in the election campaign. And as a consequence, his endorsement of Palestinian statehood and of Obama’s abandonment of Mubarak made it impossible for Romney to draw a meaningful distinction between Obama’s foreign policy and the foreign policy Romney himself would follow if elected.
There are two reasons that it is essential today for the Republican party and the conservative movement to reassess their foreign-policy positions and sharpen the distinctions between their positions and those of the Obama administration. First, while we cannot say exactly how Obama’s policy of appeasing jihadists will play out, its trajectory is clear, inevitable, and dangerous for America. When the dangers become obvious to the American public, the Republicans will have to have a clear, distinct vision and plan for American foreign policy. If they fail to present one, they will not only hurt themselves. They will hurt their nation.
Second, today and in the coming months and years, there will be a lot of soul-searching in the Republican party and the conservative movement over what went wrong in the 2012 elections. And with that soul-searching will come the inevitable temptation to adopt the Democrats’ policy of appeasement in a bid to woo various constituencies—suburban mothers, for example, and perhaps Muslim communities in Michigan, Tennessee, Minnesota, and other states. But Republicans must understand that, while this is tempting, it is a recipe for repeated electoral defeats. Democrats will always and forever be able to out-appease Republicans. And so constituencies that want the American government to appease our enemies will always and forever vote for them. If the Republicans wish to return to power in the foreseeable future, they must boldly draw a distinction between themselves as the party of victory and the Democrats as the party of defeat.
Originally published on National Review Online