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The Republican Candidates are a Boil of Hawks
A Foreign Policy Guide to a Dreadful Primary
“And furthermore, it is my opinion that Carthage must be destroyed!”
- Cato the Elder [Plutarch, Life of Elder Cato, 27]
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America’s Permanent Elections Roll On
The Republican primary season is in full swing and, perhaps even more than usual, it is all bad. The discourse about our nation’s role in world affairs reminds me of a quote which is titled Woods’ Law #3:
This, of course, being in reference to the late Senator’s incredibly hawkish foreign policy. I will give this current crop that, unlike McCain, most are broadly socially conservative and have varying degrees of interest in controlling immigration. However, it is foreign policy where the US President has a nearly free hand and these candidates certainly intend to use it to embark on all sorts of deranged and violent ventures. Some of them are somewhat better on Russia/Ukraine than the media and establishment consensus- some of them- but this is primarily framed as it being a distraction from aggression towards their preferred enemy.
On top of the usual points of concern- slavish devotion to Israel and hatred of Iran, fearmongering about China while simultaneously provoking them over Taiwan, etc- this group is also nearly unanimous on blaming Mexico for the fentanyl crisis. This, of course, despite the fact that Mexico’s failure to prevent fentanyl supply is no different from our government’s failure to prevent fentanyl demand and this has caused Mexico quite a lot of problems as well. It is all very depressing, and you can be sure that if any of these men- or perhaps especially the woman- win, it will not usher in an era of peace and prosperity, but instead subject us and the world to yet more constant and unnecessary conflict. I can’t tell anyone what decision to make, but I hope this guide will at least cause people to step back and see that we are being offered nothing but madness.
Some Notes on the Campaign and this Guide
At this point in the campaign there has been little coverage of the candidates’ foreign policy, and they haven’t said much themselves. In fact, only Donald Trump, Asa Hutchinson, and Vivek Ramaswamy even have “Issues” sections of their websites at all. This means that covering their foreign policies mostly relies on a smattering of statements, and there have not been events suitable for directly comparing the candidates’ positions. Of course, we can learn some things from the past of each candidate. Fortunately for our purposes here, American politicians are rarely shy about their lust for violence. Still, our information about their platforms remains limited. Thus far, the most useful interaction we have seen has been Tucker Carlson interviewing candidates at Blaze Media’s “The Summit” event which was recently held in Iowa. As Tucker is one of the only powerful media figures who opposes the policy of indefinitely arming Ukraine, this is the only “pushback” they are likely to receive on that topic. However, the drawback is that Tucker was only able to interview 6 of the 8 candidates, and further, Tucker himself is a China alarmist [or hawk, even,] and is a leader of the “Blame Mexico” discourse regarding the fentanyl epidemic. Beyond this, Tucker asked questions which were specifically targeted at each candidate’s career; while this made it interesting and informative, there was no uniformity on the issues discussed. Regardless, that series of interviews remains a major source of information for this guide.
It had been my desire to sort this by the countries which generate excessive interest among the foreign policy class, however, that was not a viable option since the candidates so commonly frame countries in relation to each other. Whether it is the revival of Bush-era “Axis of Evil” rhetoric linking Russia, China, and Iran, or viewing Iran solely through the lens of Israeli “interest,” or viewing fentanyl as a joint Chinese-Mexican plot to poison our precious bodily fluids, it is not possible to break the policies into separate parts [which they really should be.] Instead, I had to organize this by candidate and from there discuss countries separately when possible Overall, I will be looking at the candidates’ views on the Russia-Ukraine War, China, Israel, Iran, and Mexico [specifically the cartels and the insane drive for a new war on drug terror.] I will be making commentary on proper policies as I go, while trying to not repeat myself more than necessary, which inevitably means that discussion of the candidates I cover first will contain more such commentary. Where possible, this discussion will be limited to the platforms the candidates are setting out, only mentioning their past career actions or reputations as necessary. One note I would like to make now is that despite how common it is, I will be avoiding using “neocon,” to describe these candidates, in favor of the more generic “hawk,” or “imperialist.” This is because neoconservatives are a specific cabal that none of these people are particularly a part of.
Of the 8 candidates I have selected as significant enough to cover, I will go over the 6 minor candidates first, in no particular order, followed by DeSantis, and then the former President himself. The ratings will be solely on the candidates’ foreign policy, though domestic policy will occasionally be mentioned where appropriate.
With that, we’re off to the races.
The Republican Primary Field
Former Governor Chris Christie
Chris Christie, the corpulent former Governor of New Jersey who “beat” lap band surgery, was also a candidate for President in 2016. In that election, he was initially a harsh opponent of Trump, then became his apparatchik for a time when it was convenient, then again turned on him. Christie has recently called Trump a “puppet of Putin,” which of course comes with a range of deranged “Russiagate” type views. He has further attacked Trump as “weak on China,” saying that he would give China “salutes and love letters,” and criticized Trump’s attempts at peace with North Korea. He is generally considered to be a usual amount hawkish for a “mainstream” American establishment Republican, which is to say, quite hawkish.
Christie was one of two candidates who did not attend the “The Summit” in Iowa hosted by Tucker. He did find time to attack Tucker, presenting the absurd argument you can find at the beginning of this clip:
He says, “In fact what is going on is this is a proxy war with China, they are funding Russia by buying Russian oil.” This is in the running for the single dumbest take I have heard about this war since it began. By this standard, Biden has turned the US into a Venezuelan proxy by purchasing their oil. Christie proceeds to say that China is coordinating with Iran on weapons shipments, which is presumably a reference to the fact that those Iranian kamikaze drones use a GPS system which the general public can purchase on the Chinese commerce site Alibaba. He then proceeds to say that if the US backs down in Ukraine it will be a signal to China about our determination to protect Taiwan, which is at least reasonable, though he misses that Taiwan is basically indefensible due to China’s advanced anti-ship missiles. He also says ghoulish things about using Ukraine to degrade Russia and claims he isn’t concerned about Republican voters who oppose never-ending aid to Ukraine.
Christie also has a history of being close to Israel and a decade ago apologized to megadonor Sheldon Adelson for calling the occupied territories occupied. Last year, when he clearly was already planning this Presidential run, he made a bizarre comparison of Trump to Iran while speaking in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition,
“Every day we need to stand with the only democracy in the Middle East with Israel and stand against the terrorism of Iran, all across the world. Because whether you’re talking about Iran, or whether you’re talking about those who aspire to this in our country, authoritarian dictators only want one thing — they just want one more chance to fool the crowd one more time.”
As one would expect, he didn’t bother to say what threat Trump posed to democracy, and he ignored the fact that Iran has multiple centers of power and their elections clearly have some impact on how the country is governed.
Regarding Mexico, Christie, who is sometimes nuanced on drug policy, is in favor of more drug treatment, and thus at least acknowledges the demand side of the cartel problem. He wants to deploy the National Guard to the Southern border. I don’t particularly have a problem with using the military to guard borders because that is what they’re for in a sane country, but this would accomplish little as most fentanyl comes through legal ports of entry. My problem is that though he says he doesn’t want to do it, Christie is clearly threatening to attack Mexico with the following quote: “If I see no improvement in what Mexico is doing with the cartels, then I will have a plan with our intelligence community and our Pentagon to be able to do what the Mexicans are unwilling to do.” Being as Mexico cooperates on narcotics now and basically every drug war strategy is a proven failure, it seems impossible Mexico should meet his standard of dealing with the cartels, so I suppose he would then attack the cartels in Mexico.
Overall, Christie’s interest in addiction treatment is the only bright spot in any of his foreign policy related positions, and that is in fact a domestic policy position relating to public health.
Candidate Rating: F
Senator Tim Scott
Tim Scott, a US Senator from South Carolina since 2013, would perhaps be described by Joe Biden as, a “mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Unfortunately, Scott appears to have some sort of traumatic brain injury which causes him to believe it is 2002. In his interview with Tucker at “The Summit” he called Russia, China, and Iran a rising “Axis of Evil,” perhaps the most discredited phrase in US foreign policy besides “cakewalk.” While he did say he would never put US “boots on the ground” in Ukraine, that is what they all say until their constant escalations create a situation which calls for “boots on the ground.” His statements include saying that the conflict in Ukraine is a “genocide,” that degrading Russia is a “vital national security interest,” and that keeping the land contiguous with Russia safe keeps our soldiers at home by keeping Russia out of NATO countries. He argues that what is wrong with Biden is his failure to explain why this is a vital national security interest. When pressed by Tucker on it being our interest to fight Russia with other people’s soldiers, he went on about the “order we created after World War 2,” which as I explained at the time of the invasion, is gone and is never coming back.
Tucker pressed Scott on Russia and China having been pushed into an alliance, which from a “global chessboard” perspective has certainly been a geostrategic disaster for the United States. Scott proceeded to blame this entire situation on Obama’s “red line” in Syria where he didn’t act after it was allegedly crossed. Of course, there is quiet a lot more going on in Ukraine in 2014 than Obama making us look weak, but I will give him that it was a bad move on Obama’s part to declare such a thing and then not act on in. When asked about peace he said some things I cannot parse through despite watching the clip several times, but in short he is concerned about a premature peace while “alliances are still cementing” and believes after Ukraine takes back “as much territory as possible” that both sides could negotiate on permanent borders. This is seemingly an acknowledgement that Ukraine will never regain it’s prewar borders, and makes it clear he is indeed just in favor of sacrificing Ukrainians to degrade Russia and doesn’t care about their “territorial integrity.” When asked about Biden sending cluster bombs to Ukraine, he refused to express an opinion about if they should be sent besides the problem being that Biden acknowledged we were out of ammunition. He then proceeded to speak in favor of strengthening what he labeled the “defense industrial complex.” It seems there are few Eisenhowers in today’s Republican Party.
Thus far, Scott has remained non-committal about how he would respond to an invasion of Taiwan, but is in favor of arming the statelet. At the same time, he has just released an ad stoking anti-China sentiment and trying to appear tough. When speaking to Tucker he called China an “existential threat” that we face in the long term. I will give to him that the increasing power of China is a genuine concern, but it’s not clear how they constitute an “existential” threat. He also blames China for sending fentanyl precursors to Mexico, which in reality probably has more to do with the difficulty of suppressing crime than with some sort of nefarious CCP plot to poison our youth.
Scott has supported Israel at every opportunity, and is also a founder of something called the “Black-Jewish Caucus” in the Senate. He is currently raging at the so-called “Squad” for refusing to affirm that Israel is not racist. Scott doesn’t appear to hold any particularly unique positions on Israel, but of course he called Iran evil in the quote referenced above, which is the most important way in which Israel impacts US policy.
Regarding Mexico, he seemed relatively less hawkish than Tucker, though like the rest of them, he thinks a militarized and walled border will stop fentanyl. Unfortunately, he must have just been having an off day in this regard, because he is extremely hawkish on this issue. In his campaign announcement in May, Scott said,
“When I am president, the drug cartels using Chinese labs and Mexican factories to kill Americans will cease to exist. I will freeze their assets, I will build the wall, and I will allow the world's greatest military to fight these terrorists. Because that's exactly what they are.”
Notice his use of language, “Mexican factories to kill Americans.” Republicans frame this as the cartels being “terrorists” whose purpose is to poison Americans for its own sake, as opposed to criminals unethically profiting off of human suffering, as criminals do. Some actions cartels take in Mexico could fairly be framed as being intended to terrorize the public and government out of opposing them, but in America one hears very little about deaths from cartel violence, only from overdoses. Of course, declaring the cartels terrorist organizations has a lot of legal ramifications with terrifying domestic and international repercussions to a country which just lived through the “Global War on Terror.” Scott has also introduced legislation which is designed to “sanction” criminals bringing fentanyl into the United States as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, thus classifying it amongst military matters. What the most concerning about this is of course that crime is already illegal, and assets associated with crime can already be seized, meaning this could only possibly function by reducing what legal protections the public currently has from assets being seized and taking away due process from those who have not been convicted of any crime.
To the extent Scott has any positive qualities on foreign policy it is simply that he is a master of vagaries and one has some room to pretend to not understand how he thinks.
Candidate Rating: F
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
Former South Carolina Governor and Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who is currently best known for being one of Trump’s many confounding staffing decisions. A hawk’s hawk whom we all know too well, perhaps the most interesting thing about her as a candidate is to discover if they label her “Governor” or “Ambassador” on the debate stage. She would also be reasonably good looking if one knew nothing about her. Haley took part in an interview with Tucker, however, there was little foreign policy discussion, which one assumes is because everyone knows what she is about. The one noteworthy part was that he asked her who she thought blew up the NordStream pipeline, and they had a strange interaction where she thought it surprising anyone should have a theory while not arguing against the idea that the Biden Administration was involved.
Of the candidates, Haley is the one who is most widely considered to be a neoconservative, and this shows in her Ukraine position. She said at a CNN Town Hall in June, “This is bigger than Ukraine, this is a war about freedom and it’s one we have to win.” Worse, though, in earlier this month she said that Biden “Made Putin’s day” by saying it was “not the time” for Ukraine joining NATO. She earnestly argues that just by bringing Ukraine into NATO with a war ongoing we could make Russia to withdraw. This is absolutely deranged. However, according to Haley, her experience shows that NATO gets “weak in the knees” and she regularly had to “stiffen their spines” in her capacity as UN Ambassador [it is unclear how these things are related.] Her line of reasoning with all of this is that Russia hasn’t invaded a NATO country previously. She also claimed that Russia invaded Moldova, which is presumably a ridiculous and misleading reference to the Transnistra War of 30 years ago [where Ukraine took Russia’s side in supporting Transnistra, by the way.] In this election, Haley is the candidate determined to take reckless aggression far past foreign policy establishment norms.
As a “big picture” imperialist, Haley’s concerns are beyond Russia and she sees necessity in aggressive posturing towards China. She has said in the event of an invasion of Taiwan there would be a “complete decoupling” from China, meaning an end to commerce. This would of course crash our economy in an unprecedented fashion and put all of our lives at risk from a lack of essential goods [admittedly, this degree of dependency on China is a national security issue.] She further declared the Chinese Communist Party “an enemy” and “most dangerous foreign threat we’ve faced since the Second World War.” To the sane among us, our enormous volume of trade with China is more valuable to both sides than any of the other imperialist matters we may have to fight for, but Nikki Haley’s elections would mean that realists had suffered a horrible defeat. She is also critical of Trump’s attempts at a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, but this, at least, represents a continuation of a course we are all long used to.
Haley’s real passion is for Israel, more so than anything else. An Al Jazeera article from February of 2023 stated that “Nikki Haley’s Israel advocacy defined her tenure at UN.” It is of course fair to point out that Al Jazeera as a source is critical of Israel, but there is no reason to believe Haley would contest that characterization. The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz referred to her as a “pro-Israel establishment favorite.” Making the same attacks on the “squad” as Tim Scott, Haley recently told the Christians United for Israel conference that,
“Like you, for me, supporting Israel is a matter of faith. But supporting Israel is also a basic test of American leadership. It’s not just the right thing. It’s the smart thing. Standing with Israel has always been in America’s interest."
Think about it. Israel shares our values and our vision for peace. She’s a nation of faith and a beacon of freedom — a democratic island in a sea of tyranny."
This is, of course, complete bullshit for a variety of reasons, and further, weird religious views about specific places should not be guiding a nation’s policies. I would note that I am neutral on Israel, but believe that it should not hold this sort of special status, and further, that it can, and should, stand on its own, a position recently argued for in the prominent Jewish periodical Tablet Magazine [which, in my view, is one of the better publications in print today.] My biggest opposition to such devotion to Israel is that it promotes a violent obsession with Iran, which is primarily driven by hardline politicians in both countries who see domestic political benefits in stoking tensions, and thus is something we should stay far away from. Haley, on the other hand, is busy recycling old propaganda, including recently at the CUFI event:
I would note that Netanyahu’s infamous bomb chart is now over a decade old, so saying Iran is “months if not weeks” away from getting a bomb is simply insulting to our intelligence at this point. It appears that at any second Haley will go full John McCain and actually start singing his “bomb Iran” song.
Despite everything going on with the above-mentioned countries, Haley still finds time to threaten our southern neighbors:
In this short clip, she explicitly threatens Mexico. She doesn’t say, she intends to bomb Mexico, but she says, “just like we dealt with ISIS, you deal with the cartels.” What we “did to ISIS” was so brutal that the Amnesty International report was titled, “War of Annihilation” Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa— Syria. One civilian interviewed told Amnesty, “If you stayed you died and if you tried to escape you died.” This is a picture from that report, with the blackened areas being the city center which was destroyed by airstrikes. We absolutely cannot do that to the cartels on Mexican- or American!- soil:
We already narrowly escaped being ruled by an evil war queen in 2016, may we be so fortunate again in 2024.
Candidate Rating: F
Former Vice President Mike Pence
Former Vice President Mike Pence is religious fanatic who is perhaps best known for looking like the dad from the old cartoon Johnny Quest. Despised by supporters of the President he previously served under, his base in this primary are people who write op-eds about “democratic norms.” As a long-time political insider, he is a wholly a ‘swamp creature” who follows a “mainstream,” and thus wildly reckless and aggressive, foreign policy.
From Tucker’s side, his interview with Mike Pence was the best and most useful in learning the candidate’s foreign policy positions. Tucker grilled him hard on Zelensky’s crackdown on the Russian Orthodox Church within Ukraine and what it means for religious freedom. Pence’s response was that he spoke to one religious leader- who as Tucker implied was clearly a Kiev partisan- who said religious freedom has been preserved but these men are collaborators. According to Pence such clergy “work with the Russian military who are murdering people by the thousands.” It is not clear if “work with” means “give counsel about how God wants peace on Earth” or “spy on Ukraine army positions,” but Pence, and Zelensky, do not want you asking such questions. Obviously, Pence does not consider US military actions to ever be murder. It was a profoundly unsatisfying answer and Pence ultimately had to demand that Tucker agree to disagree. Pence further called Russia’s invasion “unprovoked” which as, Caitlin Johnston has written, they only keep saying because it absolutely was provoked. He went on to say that in visiting Ukraine he saw not only war but “evil,” which is an apt description of any war but is obviously intended to be prejudicial.
Pence argues that it is in our national interest to arm Ukraine, that they keep sacrificing themselves so we don’t have to, saying if they are overrun Russia will invade a NATO country we have to defend in no time. I’m sure it says, “Hate your enemies and arm your neighbor’s sons to die fighting them” somewhere in the Bible. The “will invade a NATO country” line is of course to pretend there is nothing unique about the situation and history between Russia and Ukraine, and that instead of the world’s largest country which has far more land than it has the population to properly utilize that land is recklessly desperate to increase its territory. In his defense, unlike Haley, he does oppose letting Ukraine into NATO while the war is ongoing, but says that in the future Ukraine as a member would make us stronger. He did quip that while “a year and a half ago Russia had the second strongest military in the world, now it has the second strongest military in Ukraine,” which though untrue, is reasonably clever and will probably be lifted by the Biden campaign, who have to find a way to sell this as as success for their own political purposes.
Pence proceeded to tell Tucker that we do not talk about China enough, which signals a mindset that we should focus on nothing but real or imagined enemies; in reality, people talk about China all the time. According to Pence, success in Ukraine will send a “deafening” message to China and stop their ambitions in the Asian Pacific which become “more clear by the day.” He did express concern about China’s rapid naval buildup, which is indeed a valid concern, though one wonders if that is not a massive waste of resources on China’s part in the era of submarines and modern anti-ship missiles. Still, according to Pence, with the current budget that has been passed in 2025 our military spending will go down 1% when adjusted for inflation, which he frames as some sort of serious national security problem. However, what is truly incredible, is when Tucker asked him why we are spending all this money when our cities are rapidly deteriorating and becoming crime ridden hellholes, he said, “that’s not my concern” after which Tucker sat there quietly looking incredibly dejected. Pence now claims that clip being shown edited is “fake news.” He say his meaning is that he does not think those issues are in competition with each other. Politicians love to say “I believe we can ‘walk and chew gum at the same time,’” an American expression meaning one can do two things at once. While they can believe whatever the hell they want, this is demonstrably not true as our country inevitably fails at both things a politician ever says this about.
Regarding Israel, Pence is what you would expect from a right wing imperialist religious fanatic, which is to say, he is completely unable to view the situation rationally. Pence also spoke at the CUFI summit where he touted his role as Vice President in the “most pro-Israel Administration of all time.” He also received a “Defender of Israel” award from the from the radical Christian Zionist megachurch pastor John Hagee who runs the event. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider, Pence decried what he calls “rising antisemitism” globally. He proceeded to say, “Israel is our most cherished ally…The heart and mind of the American people are with the Jewish state of Israel, and I think there can be no tolerance for antisemitic rhetoric in this country, in our streets.” Of course, questioning why Israel is our most cherished ally, and not perhaps France or the United Kingdom would, to Pence, be antisemitism. He also called it “shocking” and “totally unacceptable” that the Biden Administration has “delayed” meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, as long-running judicial reform protests in Israel have put distance between Netanyahu’s religious right-wing government and the secular, over-educated class who make up the protestors and who also comprise Biden’s Jewish base in America. For his part, Pence is such a hardliner on Iran that in 2022 he traveled 5000 miles to address the MEK terrorist cult, who have long been lauded by such men for their opposition to Iran’s government. Currently, he is attacking Biden for allegedly working to “rehabilitate” the Iran nuclear deal, which was famously ended by Trump. Of course, as much as these people rage about Iran’s support for Russia, it is ending this very deal for no good reason which meant the United States had no leverage over Iran to stop them from supporting Russia.
Regarding Mexico and the cartels, Pence is the only candidate who hasn’t said anything insane, presumably because since America “Isn’t his concern” he has no cause to promote reckless actions. Instead, he has made generic statements about border security. The truth is, in this one issue, the establishment and professional class are substantially better than the populists, though in Pence’s case this seems to arise from simple indifference to the well being of Americans, not from any sort of wisdom or genuine responsibility.
If Pence’s campaign continues as it has, he can take some comfort in knowing he will soon permanently retire and can devote all of his time to working to use Israel to bring about the apocalypse.
Candidate Rating: F
Former Governor Asa Hutchinson
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson first rose to prominence as a member of the Bush Administration, meaning he held a governorship once held by Bill Clinton and also served a President who is deeply unpopular among the Republican base. A former US Attorney, he has also criticized Trump’s claims that the Department of Justice was weaponized against Trump and other Republicans. It is unclear who Hutchinson perceives his base to be since all of those things are alienating to people who vote in Republican primaries. He is a conventional imperialist, which is also of faltering popularity among Republican voters.
Hutchinson follows the company line that any weakness in Ukraine will empower China in Taiwan [being an empire seems exhausting.] In May, he discussed the topic with Lawrence Jones on Fox News, saying,
“I'm supporting our funding of the fight in the Ukraine because if you show weakness there, you're going to have our aggressors take more significant action, like China towards Taiwan, but Russia will not stop at Ukraine. You don't need to draw a red line, you need to support those who are being oppressed against the oppressor, and right now that is Ukraine. Hopefully, we can stop it there.”
Once again, this is the argument that Russia is some sort of autonomously expanding Borg Cube that does this for its own sake and there are no extenuating circumstances. When the host suggested Republicans have grown tired of supporting Ukraine, Hutchinson said he doesn’t “sense that” and believes there is “broad support.” He doesn’t seem to be particularly good at reading the public. Such retired governors with no chance of going anywhere commonly run for President; now on my 20th year of closely watching elections, I know his type well. He also said that Trump gives away all negotiation leverage in advance by saying he wants negotiations to end the conflict. I don’t follow the line of reasoning here, so you need to read it for yourself as I cannot explain,
“He basically talks about himself being a great negotiator. Well, he set the stage by saying, ‘We can end this in one day, if I’m president.’ That gives away [any] negotiating leverage that he has because he tells Putin that, ‘You’re going to win, you’ve got the leverage as we go into the negotiation.”
It seems to me that could just as easily mean Trump intends to be such a brutal negotiator that he would threaten Putin into a settlement. I certainly don’t read that as Trump would give up anything necessary to ensure negotiations last under 24 hours.
Regarding China, Hutchinson seems to take the standard view of this field, which is to say that he wants to contest China’s rising economic power and prevent them from attacking Taiwan, but also seems unwilling to consider improving relations as a path to lasting peace. Hutchinson is one of only a few candidates with an “Issues” section on his website, where he says he wants to make China answer “tough questions” about the origin of covid and “hold China accountable.” It does seem clear that China played a dishonest role in whatever brought about covid insanity, and are among many parties who should ideally be held accountable in one way or another. Hutchinson did do better than most rulers at resisting covid madness as the Governor of Arkansas, which perhaps indicates a general belief that brute force is not always the best solution.
Hutchinson also has a relatively conventional mainstream Republican stance on Israel, which is to say, a great deal of devotion, including signing a bill prohibiting the “Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions” movement in Arkansas. This is common among Republican politicians, and I only bring it up here because there is little else on this topic besides him having gone on trade missions to Israel. Hutchinson has little background on foreign policy issues in this area. He also does not appear to have made any statements on Iran. There is every reason to believe that he will fall in line with the foreign policy establishment when he does take a position on these issues.
Asa Hutchinson also did a Tucker interview, and though it was mostly about Mexico, where he was better than other candidates, it was his general view on our military that is more concerning. Hutchinson expressed his support for labeling the cartels foreign terrorist organizations, which brings with it an enormous number of problems. However, he pushed back on the insanity of bombing fentanyl labs in Mexico, saying that while we call illegal immigration an invasion, bombing another country is an invasion. With his background as the DEA chief for a time 20 years ago, and as the one who was put in charge of the border for Homeland Security after it was formed, Hutchinson is distinguished from the other candidates by understanding this issue, even if he has bad policies. Most importantly, he worked with former Mexican President Vincente Fox on dismantling the cartels and wholly understands that Mexico is generally a cooperative partner on such issues and working with them is better than bombing their country, though he did talk about pressuring Mexico into further cooperation. However, this leaves me concerns that he just wants to bring Mexico into a drone war against cartels, and further, that he could use drone strikes on American soil, since that is the general practice of targeting terrorist organizations.
When Tucker pressed Hutchinson about deploying the military to the border, Hutchinson’s primary concern was that we would then not have those troops to maintain our military presence around the world. Particularly, he worried about our ability to counter China in Taiwan. This is curious, as it’s not clear what utility ground troops have in countering China in the South China Sea. The message was clear though: our military is for manning imperial outposts across the globe and should not be used in defense of our homeland, though he was willing to deploy the National Guard to the border. He further said a peculiar thing: “Our military is trained to kill people, not for law enforcement.” There are a few things wrong with that statement, the first being that our military is not “trained to kill people.” Any idiot can kill someone, and many do. Our military is trained to achieve strategic objectives, including defending territory, with deadly force if necessary. The military has spent an enormous amount of time doing “police actions” all over the globe in the last several decades, and is surely qualified to drive back and forth along our own border looking for men whom Trump might call “bad hombres.” Beyond this, the vast majority of combat the current military has been involved in are situations where the enemies are wearing plain clothes, thus they always [allegedly, at least] must follow rules of engagement designed to minimize civilian casualties. There are certainly drawbacks to further militarizing our border with Mexico, but Hutchinson’s real issue is that he cares more about Europe and Asia than the homeland he once had a quite high level position “securing.”
I expect Hutchinson to drop out quickly, as these senior statesmen [he is the oldest candidate, excepting Trump] who have been governor rarely want to humiliate themselves for long by going to debates with 1% support while wasting the money of friends they’ve made over the course of a lifetime. It seems most likely we not only won’t miss him, but that we will rapidly forget he was in the race. Fortunately for him, at least, he will surely get his wish of our military continuing to be spread out all over the world.
Candidate Rating: F
Vivek Ramaswamy, the first millennial to seriously run for the Republican nomination, is an entrepreneur who has never held public office. He is something like the Andrew Yang of this election, which can be an important role which stimulates real policy discussion. Ramaswamy founded some sort of medical patent investment company known as Roivant, which at a surface level appears to be extremely scammy, a perception reinforced by the fact that he became fabulously wealthy as the never-profitable company lost eye-watering amounts of investor dollars. Most of his supposed wealth remains in the company’s stocks and seems likely to ultimately evaporate. I can’t shake the feeling he is the next Elizabeth Holmes or Sam Bankman-Fried and it just has not crashed down yet. I hadn’t looked into him previously, as I completely wrote off Ramaswamy when he was the first one who I saw propose bombing Mexico back in March, though the idea had floated around Republican circles for years. That being said, I was overall quite impressed with his interview with Tucker, as in other areas he is smart and thoughtful and he speaks well; he seems likely to thrive in the debate format. One interesting point he brought up, which does not fit into the rest of this, is that perhaps “Woke-ism” in the military is a function of the fact that they keep losing wars and had to re-orient themselves around another goal, which perhaps explains its permeation through our entire troubled society.
In my opinion, Ramaswamy is comparatively very good on the Russia-Ukraine War. That said, he is one of three candidates with anything resembling an “Issues” page, and that page doesn’t mention it at all, which seems strange given the centrality of the conflict to current global affairs. Speaking to Tucker, he said roughly the opposite of Asa Hutchinson, and expressed that our military should be used to secure our own border instead of a different border all the way across the world. He says that the Republican field is little different from Joe Biden on this issue, and is for pouring ever more resources into an ill-defined war that is destined to become something like Vietnam or Iraq. Ramaswamy’s proposal is to end the war immediately and freeze territorial control where it is, creating a Korea sort of situation. This is not ideal in some ways, however, the Korea ceasefire has held for 75 years and it seems unlikely to me that any future territorial change in Ukraine is going to be significant enough to justify the horrific ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. He also made an insightful observation. He said that though he loses prospective donors because of his unpopular, to big donors, Ukraine stance, he doesn’t think they are coming from a place of financial corruption due to arms profiteering, but instead that the psychology of our establishment can’t see things any way but winning the “good” war. This is surely at least partially true, as we have seen this with covid and many other things, where our ruling class does not know how to deal with any problem except by going to war with it or buying it off.
Regarding China, Ramaswamy has made “independence” from China a key part of his platform. He notes that any way the Russia-Ukraine war continues brings Russia closer to China, which is absolutely true. The difference the results of the conflict will make are the balance of power within their alliance. I can assure you that the Western response to Russia’s invasion is not deterring China from doing anything, and Taiwan is massively more vulnerable than Ukraine. Only stopping the war can stop this alliance from solidifying.
Passing over the fentanyl part, as I will get to Mexico shortly and this isn’t the right place to explain how badly that misrepresents the Opium Wars, he broadly makes good points in the above image. However, while it is impossible to hold China “accountable” for covid, as the damages were caused by our own idiot rulers, China could be pressured into cooperating with various investigations we conduct for our own purposes. The West’s relationship with China as a whole has been drastically mismanaged, and though strong economic ties in some ways help ensure peace, we’ve also let ourselves become far too dependent and should diversify our sources for many products, including semiconductors. Though some would disagree, in my view a problem with neo-liberalism is that neo-liberals act like it works in interactions with countries which operate by different rules. For example I see no reason why Chinese nationals should be allowed to store their wealth in American real estate when Americans can’t do the same in China. Further, many recognize that China joins international agreements which cripple economies and then does not itself follow them. Working to change such agreements is indeed wise statesmanship, though also too complex of a topic to be properly covered in five bullet points on an issues page.
Regarding the threat to Taiwan, Ramaswamy has suggested opening a branch of the NRA and getting an AR-15 into every household. While this is what one would called “based,” it is not serious foreign policy. Still, one loves to see a child of immigrants grow up to be that much of an American; he has certainly assimilated into our culture. This does indicate a sentiment that Taiwan’s defense is mostly its own business and also that he doesn’t see the threat as too severe.
Ramaswamy has not made any strong statements on Israel, though appeared to suggest he would be open to cutting off US aid; when pressed by the Washington Free Beacon, he clarified that aid to Israel should be viewed in the context of US aid to many other countries in the region. This, unfortunately, demonstrates that he supports the general regime of handing out foreign aid all over the place. He has not made any statements about Iran which I have seen, besides a strange reference to it as a country we have in a way “propped up” in the same statement about aid to Israel.
It is on Mexico where Ramaswamy is really bad, though in the normal range of the Republican candidates. He wants to use our military to “annihilate” cartels immediately, perhaps with a civilian death toll such as was described in the Amnesty International report on Raqqa listed in the Nikki Haley section. He also says he wants to use the military, “including drones” to secure the southern border. Being as the Border Patrol surely already uses surveillance drones, one fears he means armed military drones and would bomb various people crossing the border. He also said in a March interview,
“And treating the cartels like terrorists doesn't just mean freezing their assets, which is what some believe. I think it means justified military force to decimate the cartels, Osama bin Laden–style, Soleimani-style. This is doable. And this is something that I actually expect to do as the next president of the United States in the first six months. And I think it's important to do it in…one cycle of aggressive shock and awe. And that solves the fentanyl supply-side problem."
This guy clearly has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Firstly, the killings of Osama bin Laden and Qassem Soleimani had no impact on their respective organizations’ operational capacity, whereas capturing either man alive would have had enormous utility. He also uses the term “Shock and Awe,” which is perhaps only surpassed by “Axis of Evil” and “cakewalk” amongst discredited foreign policy terms. Everyone who knows anything about either the illegal drug trade or terrorism is completely aware that a one-time brutal bombing campaign will never cause long term disruption, much less “solve” anything. It is clear from watching the interview that Ramaswamy is smarter than this, so one holds out some hope that in the extremely unlikely event Ramaswamy becomes President someone will explain to him all the reasons this is terrible policy in a way he will understand; that does not change the fact that he has pledged to bomb our friendly southern neighbor.
I have to give Ramaswamy an above failing grade because he wants to end the Russia-Ukraine War immediately and unconditionally, and further, he seems to oppose using the military for things with no obvious connection to the safety of Americans. However, his first instinct upon seeing a complex issue which is causing harm to Americans is to recklessly use brute military force, which makes him just as much of a hawk as anyone in the field, though less of an imperialist.
Candidate Rating: D-
Governor Ron DeSantis
One of only two current office holders in the race, Governor Ron DeSantis has made a name for himself for opposing covid lockdowns and woke insanity in Florida. However, in his time as a United States Congressman he is described as having been a “darling of defense hawks.” As Governor of Florida, he also targeted “hostile,” countries with various economic penalties, meaning communist countries or those hostile to Israel. This makes sense from the perspective of Florida’s state politics, as Miami is basically the 20th century Paris of Latin America, in that it is full of exiles from countries such as Cuba and Venezuela. Further, Florida has an enormous Jewish population in the southern part of the state, so in a way this all at least represents the will of groups of voters within his state. Since I like the man’s domestic policies, I was excited by his prospects as a Presidential candidate following his enormous victory in the 2022 governor’s race. Though I was aware of his bad foreign policy, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait to see his platform, especially as he seemed mostly interested in domestic issues. Further, as he is competent and seems to have an upright family life, my hope was that he wouldn’t have reasons to gin up international conflicts to distract the public from other problems. My hope was misplaced, and DeSantis is again proving himself a darling of the hawks.
DeSantis is relatively less of a Russia hawk than in other areas. This is presumably because Russia is a socially conservative, non-communist, Christian country which maintains good relations with Israel, and thus checks none of his enemy boxes. In March, DeSantis referred to the Russia-Ukraine War as a “territorial dispute,” which is objectively true though one could argue about if that is appropriate framing. He also said it was not “central to America’s interests.” He was described as having “walked back” the remark, though his clarification just explaining that Russia invaded, which is also objectively true. Russia invaded, has annexed territory, and thus they disagree- dispute, if you will- on who owns which territory. Supporting Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders” changes none of this. He did, however, call Putin a “war criminal” for good measure. In his interview with Tucker, DeSantis referenced his own time in Iraq as a JAG attorney, and expressed the importance of having clear goals in these situations. In May, DeSantis said he wanted a “settlement,” something he repeated speaking to Tucker. Curiously, he criticizes their lack of an objective or endpoint, but he himself doesn’t seem to have one. His overall position on Russia-Ukraine has been decent, but one can tell he is uncomfortable with the issue and doesn’t want to challenge the establishment. He, at least, has not taken the position that it is a positive to use Ukrainian men to bleed Russia; he thinks the war continuing will cause few territorial changes, which I mostly agree with. Still, it seems clear that DeSantis’ vacillation on Ukraine would lead to the very “quagmire” he says we must avoid. For now, at least, he claims he would keep US troops out of Ukraine.
Ron DeSantis is much more comfortable being hostile towards China. He has surrounded himself with a group of advisors referred to as “China Hawks.” One, Brandon Weichert, said DeSantis recognizes, “Taiwan’s status as our unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Indo-Pacific,” which is one way to view an island that is home to 23.5 million people. Speaking to Tucker, DeSantis said that running out of ammunition in Ukraine is an embarrassment that opens us up to a major threat in the Indo-Pacific from the CCP in China. He said, “The top threat to this country is China, it’s China’s ambitions, it’s China’s industrial capacity, it’s the CCP’s ability to pollute our culture.” He then proceeded to tout how he banned CCP land purchases in Florida. DeSantis wants to counter China on all fronts and everything he lists seems likely to increase tensions, though he uses “peace through strength” rhetoric. DeSantis says we need to focus on our “core national interests,” which is less annoying than when they blow smoke about “universal values.” However, DeSantis said in March that he considers Taiwan to be a “critical interest;” he refused to elaborate except to say it is near other other allies which presumably taken in toto represent something. While DeSantis says “deterrence” is necessary in Taiwan, as he believes China ultimately intends to invade, he has also pledged to revoke China’s permanent normal trade status, which likely deters them from invading Taiwan more than anything our military does. There is no doubt that the policies DeSantis would pursue would mean little but continuous escalation with China.
Ron DeSantis is also functionally as pro-Israel as it is possible to be, so, equal to some of the other candidates. He went so far as to pull the stunt of signing anti-hate crime legislation while in Israel, which was specifically designed to criminalize speech. On this same visit to Israel, DeSantis praised the movement of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the end of the Iran Nuclear deal [while giving Trump, who did both, credit for neither.] He also referred to the occupied West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” and also criticized Biden for what he described as “interfering” in Israeli politics regarding the judicial reform protests, despite that the United States gives Israel quite a lot of money which should rightfully come with some influence. He has also gone as far as anyone at cracking down on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement in his state, and the irony that this anti-woke crusader is “cancelling” speech which he dislikes is absolutely lost on him. However, where this matters most is that it causes DeSantis to take his hatred of Iran to an extreme degree, with him insisting the United States will stop “appeasing” Iran as soon as he takes office at the Christians United for Israel conference:
It’s not even clear what “appeasement” here refers to, especially given as all the deals made with Iran are specifically meant to stop them from acquiring the nuclear weapons which DeSantis claims would “create an unprecedented threat in this region.” It needs to be emphasized that Iran consistently shows remarkable restraint even in the face of constant hostility, and the idea that they would suicide their own country by dropping a nuclear bomb on Israel is absolute nonsense. But according to DeSantis, those “mullahs” in Iran only understand strength. In a June interview with the publication Israel Hayom he said,
“And so I think squeezing Iran, making sure that they understand that their pursuit of this is going to be bad for them economically, diplomatically, and potentially even militarily, that is the way the only thing that the mullahs understand – strength. You can't try to cozy up to them. It just doesn't work.”
This is a blatant lie, since no one ever presented credible claims that Iran did not follow Obama’s nuclear deal, the hallmark foreign policy achievement of that administration. It is provably the case that with actual diplomacy Iran will enter into and follow an international agreement. But, on this issue at least, “the tail is wagging the dog,” and thus, due to Israel’s own hardliners, the Iran hawks remain overwhelmingly ascendant on the American right.
DeSantis has gone all-in on aggression towards Mexico. He also said he wished the DC elites cared as much about our border as the Russia-Ukraine border. That is a fair criticism, but he says that he would authorize the military and the border guards, “to deal with the cartels, if they are breaking into our country bringing product, if I’m in charge, that’s going to be the last thing they do, because they’re going to end up stone cold dead.” I don’t want to get into a whole thing here, but anyone on our soil has a degree of human rights, you can’t just go around wasting every sketchy looking group of people wandering about, even near the border. How long before they murder American aid workers? Fentanyl is quite small, so it’s not clear how he would instruct them to differentiate carrying fentanyl from carrying a bedroll before killing people. Also, contra to what these people say, the cartels are not at war with our government like they are with Mexico’s, and thus far avoid violent confrontation with our government’s agents. The cartels have advanced weaponry: a “kill on sight” policy from the US may deter the more fainthearted smugglers, but how long would it be before cartel soldiers are hiding out with rocket propelled grenades and blowing up Border Patrol vehicles to clear a route to rush across the border? As long as you’re moving by brute force, you can put a shitload of fentanyl in one vehicle.
This also all ignores the fact that much fentanyl enters the country through legal ports on cargo ships and that sort of thing, so his policy would unleash further carnage while doing little to prevent overdose deaths. Beyond which, it’s entirely possible that his kill-on-sight border stormtroopers would accidentally blow up a Mexican military vehicle that is patrolling their side of the border, as we demand they do, causing God knows what long term repercussions. Importantly, This “kill the cartels” shtick is not an off-the-cuff comment from DeSantis, he told Florida Phoenix in May, “you gotta really go in with all guns blazing.” That doesn’t appear to be a metaphor: this ostensibly serious man seems to think that you can deal with this problem like it’s a revenge film and not real life.
The late anti-war authors Justin Raimondo and Murray Rothbard had opposing, but strangely complimentary views on judging how Presidents might behave. Raimondo believed that foreign policy misadventures are generally driven by domestic problems, to distract the public from your failings. Rothbard, alternately, believed that you could tell a politician’s domestic policy from his foreign policy, that someone, for example, who wants to start a potential nuclear war lacks restraint, wisdom, and concern for human rights, and this would show in oppressive domestic policies. I had hoped that DeSantis’ governance in Florida showed he might be restrained on foreign policy since he is good at governing, but it’s clear his foreign policy shows he would likely be recklessly oppressive at home. I mean, he has pledged to instruct his agents to quite literally kill people on the border first and then “let God sort it out.”
Candidate Rating: F
Former President Donald Trump
In a way, it seems futile to even discuss our former President Donald Trump, being as everyone already holds a strong opinion about this man. He is mostly a known commodity, though he could argue all day about if he will be “off the chain” or finally make competent staffing decisions in a second term. What I will give him in foreign policy is that he is one of the last remaining powerful figures in our society who seems to genuinely believe in negotiation. As I’ve explained repeatedly, our ruling class no longer believes in speaking to people with whom you disagree. There is no sense in re-litigating Trump’s first term, but it needs to be pointed out that despite his widespread use of military violence he holds the distinction of being the first President to not start any new major conflicts in the last several decades. His campaign website brags of all the people Trump killed followed by saying, “President Trump kept America out of new wars and brought thousands of brave troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and many other countries.” Trump did not attend “the Summit” and appears to be embracing a strategy of not appearing around other candidates to prevent an appearance of parity. However, he is the only candidate who has an extensive “Issues” page on his website- it seems he’s had some time to think about these things in his last few years of unemployment. Where possible, I will be looking only at Trump’s recent statements and his platform, as I will change no one’s mind about this particular man.
From the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Trump has claimed Putin would not have invaded Ukraine under his leadership. As I have said before, I generally believe that Biden’s inept “diplomacy” was a primary cause of the invasion. At the same time, in a typical Trumpian fashion, he has boasted of all the weapons they sent to Ukraine, which, of course, increased the threat Ukraine could pose to Russia and clearly didn’t deter anything. However, Trump has also driven his opponents absolutely crazy by expressing the belief that the war should be ended immediately by negotiations and that he could do so. Trump has finally explained how he could end the war “in 24 hours,” he says that he would tell Zelensky he has to make a deal and tell Putin if he doesn’t make a deal he would give Ukraine “more [weapons] than they ever got.” The problem with this plan is that weapons will not save Ukraine due to the difficulty with training and logistics, and that the West lacks some of the necessary supplies. Further, in some ways delivering NATO weapons to Russia’s doorstep to be destroyed is ideal for Russia. Still, what Trump’s detractor’s miss here is that Russia has been open to negotiations the whole time and it has been the Western leadership talking Zelensky out of negotiating. [Of course, they maddeningly say that Ukraine will negotiation when Russia has completely withdrawn from everywhere and there is nothing left to negotiate but reparations and surrendering Putin to go to the Hague.] As Tucker pointed out in some of the above interviews, Ukraine is a client and their state will collapse without direct US support, so Kiev does have to do what we say, at least about the bigger picture things. If a moderately coherent US President led negotiations there would be great prospects for ending the conflict, which is surely why the war party has opposed all negotiations.
Trump is well known for his hostility to China. However, he recently called Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “brilliant man” who rules with “an iron fist.” He strangely hasn’t made any recent comments about Taiwan and does not include it on his issues page. Trump does, however, speak of the need to compete with China in various economic ways. For someone who made such a feature of opposition to China it is strange that this seems to have been so greatly reduced in Trump’s repertoire, to the extent that he speaks of it the least of the candidates. What differentiates Trump from the other candidates is that as a born political pugilist who loves drama he seems to genuinely enjoy competing with China and not see it as something which could cause a devastating global war. In a way it’s simultaneously comforting that he is not scared and terrifying in that he is not treating the situation with the gravity it deserves, but that is the entire Trump experience.
Where things get much worse is Israel, to which Trump remains incredibly devoted. Under an issues section entitled “Reject Globalism, Embrace Patriotism” his website brags,
“He combated Radical Islamic terrorism, withdrew from the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal, and suspended travel and refugee resettlement from the world’s most dangerous regions. He recognized Israel's true capital and moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem and acknowledged Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
This is framed as part of an ideological belief in what you could call a “world of nations,” but it comes before he even mentions anything about our own sovereignty, so I guess support of Israel is the highest form of American patriotism. The site then touts the Middle East peace deals the Abraham Accords, after just having said he withdrew from an agreement in the region for no reason. It continues, “Joe Biden’s humiliating defeat in Afghanistan has emboldened rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran that were in retreat.” This must just be phrased poorly, as it is not clear who is what, but I suppose we should assume the Taliban are the terror group, North Korea and Iran are rogue states, and China and Russia are rivals. This still shows a world view shaped by the idea that we must be in constant conflict. However, the part that bothers me the most is under “Renew American Strength and Leadership” the website reads, “[he] eliminated the world's number one terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.” There are many things wrong with this, most notably that Qasem Soleimani was a uniformed military officer of a sovereign state, thus definitionally not a terrorist. He was also on a diplomatic mission in a friendly country and thus murdering him from the sky went against all historic and current laws and standards. Further, no one believes it impacted Iran’s military readiness in a meaningful way. And still, Trump brags about the time he murdered a military officer away from the field of battle.
The real problem with Trump’s policies, more than any of the above, are his plans for the cartels and fentanyl. It was reported in March that Trump was asking for “battle plans” to deal with the Mexico problem. Like Haley, Trump pledges to “take down the cartels like he took down ISIS.” It was indeed Trump who did to Raqqa the things outlined in the Amnesty International report linked in that section. He also says he will enact a “total naval embargo” on the cartels. I am not sure what that means being as drug smuggling is already illegal and ships are already inspected for contraband. One can hope that he just means the Coast Guard will increased interdiction efforts, but one suspects he will blockade whole sections of Mexico’s coast- an act of war against Mexico. He would also probably have to get up in the business of the yachts of all his oligarch buddies, which sounds inconvenient to such a man.
Trump also wants to “inflict maximum damage” on cartel leadership and designate them foreign terrorist organizations. In the following curious passage his platform reads, “President Trump will get the full cooperation of neighboring governments to dismantle the cartels, or else expose every bribe and kickback that allows these criminal networks to preserve their brutal reign.” This begs the question of if they have that intelligence now and if so what they have been doing with is thus far. He also wants Congress to pass a law to execute drug smugglers, something currently illegal under Supreme Court precedent, but which could potentially be allowed by the current court- I suppose in this instance he thinks it’s better to be more like Iran.
Donald Trump is overall better than the other candidates on foreign policy, and certainly seems to keep the risk of nuclear war somewhat lower, but besides droning fentanyl labs- which he only implies he may do- on Mexico and fentanyl he combines every bad policy of all the other candidates and then adds more of his own. In his defense, he does at least support comprehensive federal drug treatment spending, and in doing so recognizes the demand side of the issue.
Candidate Ranking: D-
Discussion & Conclusion
The Republican primary candidates offer little but more conflict- diplomatic, economic, and military. Clearly, this won’t be our election cycle for a moving towards a more cooperative world. While they have identified some real problems, such as navigating a China’s increase in power, almost all of the solutions are bad. There was a temptation to grade on something of a “curve,” to recognize that there are small bits of less bad. However, “A” of that curve would be the “D-” which I awarded Donald Trump and Vivek Ramaswamy. I did feel that nuclear war happening is the worst you can do on foreign policy, so that only those who had any sort of plan to move us away from that could get above an F. When these candidates meet for a foreign policy debate it will be nothing but dangerous and often batshit crazy ideas, and them competing on who they can get you to hate and fear the most. Really the only charitable thing I can say about this group of people is that they actually span an appropriate age range for a Presidential primary and the end of Boomer government may be in sight. It’s profoundly depressing how impressed I am left to be with the small bits of light, like Asa Hutchinson’s general understanding of how our relationship with Mexico works, DeSantis understanding the hazards of lacking a clear objective, or Ramaswamy being thoughtful about the impact constant unsuccessful wars are having on our society, and of course Trump supporting an immediate end to the Russia-Ukraine war. These are the most basic things one should expect for the men who are trying to lead this enormous and powerful country. There has to be some way to restore reason and real leadership.
It is perhaps inevitable that due to size and power that NATO, Russia, and China must live as something like Orwell’s Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, always shifting loyalties and fighting over hinterlands. But I promise you that with some basic creative leadership it would be entirely possible to move past all our problems with Iran and remove that as a thing to worry about- they are far more willing to mind their own business than we’ve been relentlessly propagandized to believe. As frustrating as I find the slavish devotion to Israel from American politicians, I suppose it is at least nice that they like someone amidst their constant and irrational hatred, even if the one country they love encourages them to hate others by proxy. We simply need someone to take power who can convince the public we don’t have to live like this anymore, which I don’t think will ever happen.
What this makes me think of most of all, is how privileged we are that our government saves so much of its violence for places far away from us. The violence they want to place right on our border is terrifying to me, and as a northerner I live about as far from the border of Mexico as the Atlantic coast of France is from the fighting in Ukraine. But the Republicans have reached consensus that our warfare state must come home and in a way it almost seems as if we should be grateful they finally care about the deaths caused by fentanyl which indeed reach a count similar to the deaths one would see from a relatively large and bloody conflict. However, for all of this, not a single one of them mentions what we have done to Mexico, where it is as much our fault that Mexico suffers from cartel violence as it is we suffer from fentanyl deaths. It would be as fair for Mexico to go round up the homeless drug addicts who are allowed to wander our streets as it would be for us to bomb fentanyl labs in their country. But this is what American exceptionalism has come to mean- never considering if roles could be reversed.
All I can really recommend to anyone who should read this guide is to sit out this dreadful primary if you can, because none of these men [and especially not the woman!] should receive yours, or anyone else’s, support.
Thank you for reading! The Wayward Rabbler is written by Brad Pearce. If you enjoyed this content please subscribe and share. My main articles will always be free but paid subscriptions help me a huge amount [payment in defense industry stocks preferred.] I have a tip jar at Ko-Fi where generous patrons can donate in $5 increments. Join my Telegram channel The Wayward Rabbler. My Facebook page is The Wayward Rabbler. You can see my shitposting and serious commentary on Twitter @WaywardRabbler.