Tulsi Gabbard and the Dichotomization of Foreign Policy
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is running for President and is making foreign policy the centerpiece of her campaign. She has no chance of winning, for one, foreign policy is not something the average person considers to be at the top of the “most important issues list.”
Gabbard is a 2004 or 2008 candidate running in 2020, meaning that Gabbard’s soft approach to foreign affairs, especially on Russia and Syria, is not going to resonate with a party that thinks the Kremlin installed Donald Trump as president. Her party thinks Trump is too soft, at least rhetorically, on Putin, but she still wants to run against George W. Bush. Running interference for the Taliban, as she did on Wednesday night’s debate, won’t help either.
But when Gabbard talks about foreign policy she and the Democratic Party writ large have a problem of intellectual honesty. This was on full display on Wednesday when Gabbard accused Trump and his “chickenhawk cabinet” were leading the country to the brink of war with Iran. Putting aside the fact that Mike Pompeo, who she name checked went to West Point, Gabbard’s declaration of Trump Administration warmongering is hardly an original one.
The Democratic Party and the media have been banging the pots and pans over this alleged warmongering. It does not matter how many times the Administration says it doesn’t want war, because, to use a turn of phrase, Mustachioed Man Bad. Invading Iran would require the vast movement of air forces, naval forces, and hundreds of thousands of ground troops, none of which could be moved quickly nor quietly for some sneak attack without Congress finding out about it. Still, the false dichotomy of shilling for Obama-era deal making or war continues. Still, people scream “Iraq, Iraq” into the void, despite quite literally nobody saying “Iraq went so well, let’s it again, only this time with a bigger, more powerful enemy.”
Anybody who has studied foreign policy seriously for more than five minutes knows it to be complicated and that if you can fit your foreign policy on a bumper sticker, you’re probably doing it wrong. The situation in Country X requires a different solution than the one in Country Y which is a different than Country Z and your favorite historical analogy is probably a false one.
Precisely because foreign policy is so complicated, it is hard to have foreign policy discussions with people who aren’t either experts or laypeople who simply identify as foreign policy nerds. Voters develop strong opinions on Iran, for example, without even knowing where Iran is and have favorite analogies that they apply to all situations, regardless of the situation’s specifics (for the left, everything bad is like Iraq or Vietnam. For the right, everything bad is like Munich).
Candidates like Gabbard rely on this as it allows them portray themselves as the candidates who will “give peace a chance,” but whose foreign policy can be boiled down into asking the nation’s enemies “if we could all just get along, pretty please.”