With the Republicans taking over the House of Representatives, there has been much speculation about what policy changes will be made. The focus has been mainly on domestic issues, where the agenda is ambitious. The first priority seems to be to turn back the clock to the good old days when insurance companies got to determine your health.
Very little attention has been paid to what the new majority might do with regard to foreign policy. There is at least one strong indicator in that area, however. In the "Pledge to America," the policy document issued by Republicans back in September to show they were ready to govern again, there was a section entitled “A Plan to Keep Our Nation Secure at Home and Abroad.”
At less than 750 words, the Plan was not a comprehensive foreign policy blueprint, but it did have a clear theme. The theme that runs through all its main points is quite simple — the outside world is largely populated by scary, dark, swarthy foreigners. Let’s call them SDSFs for short.
Here is how that theme plays out in the Plan’s proposals. It promises to “Pass Clean Troop Funding Bills” because our military is the only way to deal with a world full of SDSFs. Its description of the need to “Keep Terrorists Out of America” is essential because the homeland is no place for SDSFs; and apparently keeping them abroad solves our security problems.
In line with the need to keep terrorists out, the Pledge asserts the new Congress should “Demand an Overarching Detention Policy.” The U.S. has more people in prison, in relative and absolute terms, than any other country in the world, so perhaps there is simply no more room. But a more likely explanation is that the Guantanamo Gulag must be maintained forever because it keeps SDSFs over there instead of over here. An assertion that suspected terrorists have no Miranda rights and should be tried in a military court, however, makes it seem that a country that prides itself on the rule of law makes up new rules when it does not like the law.
Everywhere else in the Pledge there are references to cutting government programs, but the Plan has one that calls out for an increase by making a commitment to “Fully Fund Missile Defense.” Clearly there is nothing scarier than SDSFs with missiles. Never mind the fact that the missile defense program does not work or that an offensive system needs only one more missile than the defensive system to defeat it. Spending billions on such a system, even if were effective, also makes little sense when a bomb is far more likely to arrive in a shipping container.
The Pledge says it will “Require Tough Enforcement of Sanctions against Iran” because in the post-Saddam Hussein era, they are the scariest SDSFs around. Unfortunately effective sanctions cannot be imposed unilaterally and our allies need to be convinced, and cannot be required, to enforce them.
And finally, the Pledge pledges to “Establish Operational Control of the Border”, “Work with State and Local Officials to Enforce Our Immigration Laws” and “Strengthen Visa Security.” Those steps are necessary to keep out all SDSFs, except of course those who do our gardening, dish washing and menial construction jobs.
So it is a new day in America with a new approach to international, as well as domestic, issues. The only question left is whether this foreign policy of fear is a political ploy or a true reflection of public opinion in America. The world has no doubt noted the latter is exactly what the new majority claims everything it intends to do is based upon.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.