Republicans re-think hawkish foreign policy

(By Deutsche Welle) Recent congressional debate over counterterrorism and Syria has revealed deep fault lines among Republicans on national security. The party that launched the Iraq war has taken a noticeably isolationist turn.

The Republican Party once won elections on national security. Back in 2004, incumbent George W. Bush maligned his Democrat opponent John Kerry as a weak “flip-flopper” on the Iraq war, convincing voters that the Republican ticket would lead America decisively during the “war on terror.”

But after more than a decade of war, Americans have become increasingly critical of Bush-era foreign policy decisions. According to the pollster Gallup, 53 percent of Americans now believe the Iraq war was a mistake. And although 66 percent of Republicans still stand by the invasion, nearly a third of the party now regrets the misadventure.

“There really is a kind of international commitment fatigue among the general public and that includes a lot of Republicans,” Colin Dueck, the author of Hard Line: The Republican Party and US Foreign Policy since World War II, told DW. “It’s just simply the case the people are in no mood in this country for further military interventions overseas.”

One of the more stunning foreign policy confessions came recently from an old GOP warhorse, former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich. A foreign policy hawk who led Republicans to congressional dominance in the mid-90s, Gingrich also ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.

“I am a neoconservative,” Gingrich told the Washington Times, referring to the hawkish wing of the Republican Party. “But at some point, even if you are a neoconservative, you need to take a deep breath to ask if our strategies in the Middle East have succeeded.”

“It may be that our capacity to export democracy is a lot more limited than we thought,” he said.

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Republicans lose budget battle, but US fiscal war may continue

(By Deutsche Welle) In the last-minute deal that averted a default, Republicans won no substantive concessions from the White House. After taking a hit in the polls, the Grand Old Party is licking its wounds and contemplating what’s next.

For more than two weeks, Republicans went to the mat in Washington’s latest partisan fiscal battle in a push to defund President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act (ACA). But on Wednesday, the Tea Party caucus couldn’t hold the line any longer, with many moderate Republicans agreeing to cut their losses and support a bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling through the New Year.

“We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner told conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Under Wednesday’s agreement, the federal government will receive funding through January 15, while the debt ceiling has been raised until February 7. In exchange, Republicans secured only a token concession, which tightens income verification rules for Americans applying for health care subsidies under the ACA.

“Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue,” Boehner said in a press release.

Although Boehner had encouraged his party to support the bill that the president would eventually sign, only 87 Republicans heeded the speaker’s call and voted for it. In the Senate, where the bill originated, 18 Republicans cast their ballots in favor of the legislation.

“The real question going forward is the same question as this time,” Theda Skocpol, author of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” told DW. “When will other Republicans, conservatives who want to operate within normal governing procedures, when are they going to stand up to these folks?”

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Romney banks on Ryan to shore up conservative base

(By Deutsche Welle) In an era of deep partisanship in the US, Mitt Romney has chosen rising conservative star Paul Ryan as his running mate. Romney is hoping that the party base can deliver him with the White House.

With the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Florida less than a week away, presumed presidential candidate Mitt Romney has sought to unite a party badly bruised during a brutal primary process by selecting conservative icon Paul Ryan as his running mate.

“The old Romney was a moderate centrist Republican who would not have liked a Paul Ryan type figure,” Darrell West, an expert on US domestic politics at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C., told DW.

“But the political landscape has changed dramatically and Romney has concluded that he has to move to the right to win this election,” West said. “The new Romney is much more conservative than the old Romney was.”

According to Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, although Romney’s rightward pivot has electrified the Republican Party, it carries serious pitfalls that could alienate him with centrist voters in November.

“Given that Ryan represents a much more hard-edged kind of conservatism on social issues as well as on economic issues, it is a gamble – a very large gamble,” Ornstein told DW.

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Tea Party grapples with US role in the Middle East

(By Deutsche Welle) As the Republican presidential primary intensifies and turmoil in the Mideast simmers, Tea Party candidates are venturing beyond their focus on the economy and articulating their views on America’s role in the world.

As the Republican presidential primary gets into full swing, the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement has made its voice heard at an early stage. In Iowa, populist candidate Michele Bachmann and libertarian Ron Paul came in first and second respectively in a preliminary poll seen as a test of campaign strength, beating out establishment candidates such as Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who subsequently quit the contest.

Although foreign policy has been largely overshadowed by the dismal state of the American economy, political upheaval in the Middle East has forced increasingly prominent Tea Party-associated candidates to articulate clearer positions on the US role in the world as the battle for front-runner status escalates.

“The Tea Party did not arise out of a concern with foreign policy,” Stephen Walt, an expert on US foreign policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told Deutsche Welle.

“You haven’t seen them articulate or weigh in a well-defined foreign policy position in the way you have seen them weigh in on the budget battle and on health care.”

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