Republican Political Fail on Foreign Policy

Ted CruzJames Gibney wrote a very interesting article following of a recent Gallup poll, Everyone Likes Obama’s Foreign Policy Except Americans. It seems that the world is actually quite keen on American leadership. And contrary to what pretty much every Republican will tell you, our allies are the most positive of all. The one exception to this is Israel, which thought that the US foreign policy was great under George W Bush. I think we can disregard any group of people who think that the high point of American foreign policy was the Iraq War. In addition to our friends being very happy with us, our enemies (at least as most would define them) are very unhappy with us. In Russia, the United States gets an amazingly low 4% approval rating. (I assume this is a reflection of the fact that Russian media is as biased and jingoistic as the American media is.)

But it is wrong to say that Americans don’t like Obama’s foreign policy. Right now, Americans aren’t that keen on foreign policy as a thing. But their opinion has improved steadily since Obama took over the presidency. So clearly, the Republicans who are shouting about America’s standing in the world are just preaching to the choir. (Gibney seemed strangely a bit confused on this point.) American approval of our own foreign policy reached a nadir at the end of Bush’s presidency with less than 30% and now it is almost 40%. And this is for a poll taken “even as Russia was annexing Crimea, Islamic State was beheading its way across the Middle East, Ebola was taking its toll in West Africa, and Europe was dealing with an unprecedented crisis in Greece.” If the poll were done today, I’m sure the numbers would be better.

But should we pay much attention to what Americans think in a general way about foreign policy? After all, we are the people who gave Bush a 51% approval rating the week before 9/11 and an 86% approval rating the week after. Even more stark, his disapproval rating went from 39% down to 10%. This is after he oversaw the worst attack on American soil ever — where his initial reaction was to sit there reading, The Pet Goat. (Although I will admit: goats really are charming animals!) Similarly, approval of our foreign policy went up after the Iraq invasion — the very thing that now makes Americans sad about foreign policy in general.

The main thing to consider here is that Americans are unhappy with the idea of intervention altogether. Since 1964, the Pew Research Center has been asking Americans if the United States should “mind its own business, internationally.” In 1964, only 20% said we should. The number went up quite a bit in the decades after that. But in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, it dipped back down to 30%. And as of 2013, it is at an all time high: 52%.

So I don’t think it means much when Ted Cruz rants, “Today, the consequence of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy is that our friends no longer trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.” The truth is that he is completely wrong on the facts. Our friends do trust us. Our enemies fear us even more. But most of all, the American people just don’t care.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Republican Political Fail on Foreign Policy

  1. Is it a fail? “Foreign policy” is largely about fluffing Americans concerned with their phony toughness. I wouldn’t be surprised if support for Gulf War II went up every time gas prices spiked a few pennies.

    I suspect we’d have to go outright bankrupt before Americans stopped loving war, and even then the right would scream we were bankrupt because we weren’t vigilant enough in bombing Enemies. Remember — NFL football, which appeals almost entirely to the fake brave, is the most popular thing on TV. By a huge margin.

    (I actually liked football for a few years. When I moved here, locals were bitching about the black quarterback being no good, so I rooted for him. The quarterback, Daunte Cunningham, had a great arm and threw to a black wide receiver, Randy Moss, who was crazy-fast, and more than once in every game the play-calling basically amounted to “go long and I will hit you.” Whenever those two connected, I enjoyed football quite a lot. They eventually both goth traded, because they were too black for the locals, and I lost interest in football.)

    • I think it will always be easy to sell war to the American people. But if you look at the polls, the people are not keen on it in the abstract. And they aren’t keen on it in a practical sense if it isn’t being constantly sold to them. I discussed in another article, that the Democrats could have won in 2004, if they had run on the war. Kerry was a good candidate, but he couldn’t do that because he voted for the war. I don’t think it really works the other way around. I don’t think at this point the people are going to vote against the economy in the name of going to war.

      I can appreciate football, I just don’t much like it as a game. I used to really like basketball, but my interest has waned. I like baseball. I like its subtlety. I like the fact that the pitcher has to manage the men on base even as he has to directly face off with the batter. Anyway, baseball suits my personality. But do you really think the Vikings traded these guys for racist reasons?

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