Jeremiah Goulka: A Post-Iraq Security Consensus?

tags: Iraq, Rand Paul, Jeremiah Goulka, consensus, American Prospect, Ron Paul



Jeremiah Goulka writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party, of which he is a former member.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a recovery worker in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice.  He lives in Washington, D.C.  You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him at jeremiah@jeremiahgoulka.com.  His website is jeremiahgoulka.com.

On the tenth anniversary of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, we may be witnessing a seismic shift in America's politics of national security. After decades of using hawkish positions for partisan advantage, the Republican Party is facing a foreign policy identity crisis. Its brand is still stained by the Iraq War and the Global War on Terror, and the once-fringe views of Ron Paul are becoming mainstream among the public and party activists, as shown by the response to Senator Rand Paul's March 6 filibuster and his success at this past weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference. This is liberating progressive Democrats to criticize the Obama Administration—now safely reelected—for its hawkish national security policies, and it might even free the party from some of its ceaseless fear of looking "soft" on terror.

It's about time. One can't help wondering what took so long, since this is clearly a winning issue: opposition to the Global War on Terror abroad and civil liberties infringements at home in large part won the Senate for Democrats in 2006, the White House for Democrats in 2008, and the House of Representatives for Republicans in 2010. But once elected, there is something about Washington that turns most everyone into a military-industrial establishmentarian, and all those promises to trim Pentagon waste, fight for civil liberties, and maybe even restrain American imperialism get forgotten.

Here is where Paul's filibuster and the response to it are instructive: they highlight where America is today. He clearly touched a major nerve. Half the country is ready for real change—and not just on drones. According to a 2009 Pew poll, 49 percent of Americans thought the "U.S. should mind its own business" and 76 percent thought we should "concentrate on our own national problems" more than on international leadership. In 2011, 55 percent of respondents told Pew that it wasn't necessary to give up civil liberties to curb terrorism. Some 45 percent of respondents to a January 2012 Pew poll thought a smaller military could be just as effective as the one we have; 58 percent told Gallup last November that they wanted major cuts in military spending. And 66 percent said that no countries—including the United States—should have nuclear weapons (in a 2005 Associated Press/Ipsos survey)....



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