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Barack Obama Election 2008 Foreign Policy McCain National Security Obama Politics

The Scowcroft Conspiracy

Not quite a conspiracy – but Joshua Micah Marshall just reported on the final piece of the puzzle I seem to have been missing  that helps explain:

  • the endorsement of Obama by Colin Powell;
  • the constant chatter about keeping Bob Gates on as Defense Secretary since at least September; and
  • the tacit support of Obama by Chuck Hagel – from his criticisms of McCain during the election to his accompanying Obama on his European tour during the campaign.

The final piece being – Brent Scowcroft (h/t Andrew Sullivan), the former National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush and a former Lieutenant General in the Air Force, and a guy so personally close to George H. W. Bush that he co-wrote Bush’s memoirs with him.

Hagel, Powell, and Gates all have been close allies of Scowcroft, especially in fighting against neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush administration. And he has apparently been working behind-the-scenes with Obama and his foreign policy team since the summer at latest.

Indeed, the roots of this defection of foreign policy realist Republicans to the Obama camp can probably be seen in this April 2008 article in the New York Times in which Lawrence Eagleburger, of the realist camp himself, describes a battle going on for McCain’s “soul” between the realist and neoconservative Republican foreign policy camps. By the summer, it became pretty clear which side had won that battle – as McCain embraced one neoconservative position after another and surrogates claimed he wanted to “kill the United Nations.”

By the summer, Scowcroft had begun to unofficially advise the Obama campaign; there was talk of Bob Gates staying on at Defense; Senator Hagel began to criticize McCain while praising Obama; and Powell decided to endorse Obama publicly.

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Election 2008 Libertarianism McCain Political Philosophy Politics The Opinionsphere

The Collapse of the Republican Consensus

In the event of a Republican bloodbath a week from this coming Tuesday, a battle is clearing brewing between competing visions of the Republican party – neoconservatives, the National Greatness Conservatives, the libertarians, and the christianists.

It should be interesting to watch – and I make no claim to specials powers of vaticination.

David Brooks’s last column was especially poignant – as he points out that the Republicans in this election have ceded the center and abandoned the legacy of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. He has been speaking for some time of the need for a pro-government conservative movement – which he calls National Greatness Conservatism.

Meanwhile, Radley Balko, editor of Reason, editorializes that the Republicans must lose so that in their time in the wilderness they can become, once again, the party of limited government.

I don’t think both of these visions can work together very well – as Bush’s neoconservative/christianist presidency demonstrated.

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Election 2008 McCain National Security Politics

John McCain, Neoconservative

Neoconservatives extol the virtues of American hegemony and believe that other states will welcome U.S. leadership so long as it is exercised decisively. They attribute opposition to American dominance to deep-seated hostility to U.S. values (rather than anger at specific U.S. policies) and believe that enemies can be cowed by forceful demonstrations of American power. Thus, neoconservatives downplay diplomacy and compromise and routinely charge anyone who endorses it with advocating “appeasement.” To the neocons, every adversary is another Adolf Hitler and it is always 1938.

So saith Stephen M. Walt in The National Interest in the cleverly named “The Shattered Kristol Ball.”

The more I talk to people who support McCain, the more easily I forget that he is a neoconservative and a believer in American empire. Certainly, this paragraph describes John McCain’s foreign policy as well as it does George W. Bush’s.