If you have been plagued in recent days by not knowing the answer to the question, “What would Dick Cheney do?”, then your sleepless nights may be behind you. The former vice president is back, with a new book (written with his daughter Liz), media interviews, and a much-promoted speech coming up next week.
But are the Republicans running for president listening?
That may seem like an odd question to ask. After all, the candidates seem united in their belief that Barack Obama is a weak weakling making America weak, and that if they’re president they’ll be so strong they might just install an arm-wrestling pit on the South Lawn so those terrorists know who they’re messing with. But if you look a little closer, it’s hard to see much appetite even in the GOP for the kind of ambitious empire-building that Cheney advocates.
True to form, the excerpt of the Cheneys’ book published in the Wall Street Journal delivers all the falsehoods, bizarre leaps of logic, and panicky fear-mongering we’ve come to expect from them. Cheney tried to convince America that Saddam Hussein was responsible for September 11th. He said that “we do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” He said, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
And that very same man now writes: “The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
World War II figures prominently in Cheney’s new narrative, and not just because he, like so many other Republicans, compares Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain. For Cheney, that war isn’t just a story of what could go wrong, it’s a story of what could go right. It’s a tale of American greatness and triumph, a heroic battle in which brave American boys are sent forth to beat back evil and secure our place as the guarantor of freedom in every corner of the globe:
As citizens, we have another obligation. We have a duty to protect our ideals and our freedoms by safeguarding our history. We must ensure that our children know the truth about who we are, what we’ve done, and why it is uniquely America’s duty to be freedom’s defender.
They should know about the boys of Pointe du Hoc and Doolittle’s Raiders, the battles of Midway and Iwo Jima. They should learn about the courage of the young Americans who fought the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge and the Japanese on Okinawa. They should learn why America was right to end the war by dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and about the fundamental decency of a nation that established the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They need to know about the horror of the Holocaust, and what it means to promise “never again.”…
They should learn about great men like George C. Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. We must teach them what it took to prevail over evil in the 20th century and what it will take in the 21st. We must make sure they understand that it is the brave men and women of the U.S. armed forces who defend our freedom and secure it for millions of others as well.
It’s been said before that to today’s conservatives, it’s always 1938 and every diplomatic agreement with a foreign power is Munich. Which is true enough, but you don’t hear the Republican presidential candidates using World War II to evoke this vision of the glorious future to come once we start building a new Pax Americana. They may be hawks who want to increase military spending, but they also have all come to agree that the Iraq War, our biggest military adventure in recent decades, was a mistake (Cheney, for the record, believes no such thing). They always want to “keep all options on the table,” but they’re not presenting a future of limitless war as something we should actually aspire to.
That’s the difference between a standard-issue Republican and a true neoconservative. In the field of 17 GOP candidates, the closest thing to a neocon is Lindsey Graham, and even his thirst for war seems more a product of the white-knuckle terror in which he apparently spends every waking hour, and not Cheney’s yearning for the majesty of empire.
You’d think there would be few things the GOP could want less than to have Cheney be its most visible voice on foreign affairs, if even for just a while. After all, the greatest defender of the Iraq debacle and America’s foremost torture advocate had an approval rating upon leaving office that in one poll measured a remarkable 13 percent. At this point the average voter probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the candidates’ foreign policy visions, and that’s in large part because those visions are so vague, once you get beyond the part about Barack Obama weakening America. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, has vision to spare. But it’s probably not the one his party wants to spend too much time promoting.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 31, 2015
“If Cheney Wants A Conversation About Iran…”: He Needs To Appreciate The Role He Played In Creating This Mess
Even most Republicans will concede that the GOP campaign to derail the international nuclear agreement with Iran is going poorly, and barring any major developments, the diplomatic deal will move forward over the objections of far-right lawmakers.
But Politico reports that one die-hard critic still has something to say.
Dick Cheney will speak out against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran during a speech next month at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. […]
Cheney will speak on Sept. 8 – just a week ahead of the Sept. 17 deadline for Congress to vote on the deal’s authorization.
The White House hasn’t officially said anything in response, but I have to assume officials in the West Wing are delighted to see the failed former V.P. take the lead in condemning the agreement. It makes it that much easier to deliver a simple message to congressional Democrats: when it comes to national security in the Middle East, and the prospect of yet another war, do you want to partner with Dick Cheney or with President Obama?
But even putting all of the political wrangling aside, what the former vice president just doesn’t seem to appreciate is the role he played in creating the mess that the president is cleaning up.
Revisiting our discussion from several weeks ago, let’s not forget that Iran didn’t have a meaningful nuclear weapons program until Tehran developed one – during the Bush/Cheney administration. It was on Cheney’s watch that Iran’s total number of centrifuges grew from 164 to 8,000.
What kind of price did Iran pay for taking these provocative steps? Actually, Cheney didn’t do anything – he was busy watching his Iraq policy destabilize the entire region while allowing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to expand without any pushback from Cheney’s administration.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an aggressive hawk and no ally of Democrats, conceded not too long ago, “I think the Bush administration, they were a miserable failure when it came to controlling Iran’s nuclear ambition.”
I suppose it’s possible that Cheney has scheduled his AEI speech to deliver a public apology and acknowledge the ineptitude of his approach. But I have a hunch that isn’t what he has in mind.
About a year ago, Cheney appeared on a Sunday show and was asked about his stunning failures while in office. “If we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face,” he replied.
In other words, the failed former V.P. can’t be bothered to defend his own record – probably because it’s indefensible. The fact remains, however, that Cheney stood by and watched as Iran’s nuclear program expanded, and it’s President Obama who didn’t just talk about addressing the problem; he’s actually doing it.
The less Cheney has to say on the subject, the better.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 24, 2015
“Jeb Bush, Like Many Republicans, Wants A War With Iran”: That’s The ‘Pretty Good Deal’ Republicans Have In Mind
Like all Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush is opposed to the world powers nuclear agreement with Iran, and has denounced it in withering terms as a “bad,” “horrific” deal. Late last week, he offered some valuable perspective on what counts in his mind as a “good deal” in global affairs, when, speaking at a foreign policy forum in Iowa, he argued, “I’ll tell you, taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.”
Because almost nobody in America thinks the Iraq War was a particularly good deal, the political media is holding his comment up as a gaffe. But against the backdrop of GOP opposition to the Iran agreement, it’s much more revelatory than that. It crystallizes the increasingly open secret in the world of foreign affairs that the “pretty good deal” we got in Iraq and the “better deal” Iran foes allude to so frequently are actually the same deal. Not in every particular—nobody of any prominence on the right is currently arguing for a wholesale invasion and occupation of Iran. But forced regime change was what we got in Iraq, and it’s what the supporters of the war there ultimately want in Iran.
There’s a danger whenever Bush is asked to comment about national security or Middle East policy that his comments will stem less from any considered position than from the poisoned soils of family loyalty and legacy redemption. For precisely that reason, it took him a week this past spring to make the easy migration from outright support for the Iraq invasion to conditional opposition (“knowing what we know now”).
But Bush has now rolled out, and adhered to, a tangle of views that could be mistaken for his brother’s—void the Iran agreement and possibly attack Iran, rescind President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order banning torture, and possibly send thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq—and none of them is even remotely controversial among his co-partisans.
Republicans of a neoconservative bent grow prickly when accused of promising a “better deal” in bad faith, or of harboring ulterior motives, and they became especially prickly when Obama points it out, as he did in a resolute speech at American University earlier this month. What makes their thin skin so odd is that these motives aren’t even really ulterior. They’re articulated unabashedly by many, many conservatives all the time. Republican presidential candidates, including Bush, have expressed interest in military strikes to set back Iran’s nuclear activities. Conservative writer Norman Podhoretz has been arguing for them for years.
That this view is widely shared on the right emerges as well from the cold logic of the multilateral negotiations themselves, and from the growing consensus among Republicans that the next U.S. president should walk away from the agreement as a first order of business.
This matrix is slightly oversimplified, but only slightly. Thanks to the agreement, there’s a decent chance that Iran won’t produce a nuclear weapon for many years. If the agreement collapses, the diplomatic channel will essentially be closed, Iran will probably manufacture a weapon, and the drumbeat for airstrikes will intensify. That’s a cardinal truth, no matter who violates the agreement. The ancillary benefit for hawkish Iran foes is that if Iran breaches the deal, it will provide U.S. policymakers with a robust rhetorical foundation for demanding the reimposition of sanctions, and coordinated airstrikes. Republicans are effectively saying that this isn’t good enough, and that we should void the deal ourselves—sacrifice all of that good will—to precipitate the crisis more rapidly.
That’s what Jeb Bush meant, in his foreign policy address last week, when he said, “If the Congress does not reject this deal, then the damage must be undone by the next president—and it will be my intention to begin that process immediately.” Ripping up the global powers agreement is the predicate for the “pretty good deal” Republicans have in mind. It’s the whole show.
By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 17, 2015
In the early months of his candidacy, Jeb Bush fumbled whenever he faced extremely predictable questions about his brother’s foreign policy. When asked about Iraq again at last week’s debate, he said that, knowing what we know now, “it was a mistake,” then inelegantly pivoted from praising veterans to blaming Obama for the current situation in the Middle East. This week Bush debuted a new stance: Whatever mistakes President George W. Bush made along the way, the Iraq War ultimately turned out for the best (at least until President Obama and Hillary Clinton messed it all up).
On Thursday in Iowa, he even used one of the most notorious lines from his brother’s presidency. “I’ve been critical and I think people have every right to be critical of decisions that were made,” Bush said at a Q&A hosted by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. “In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. [The] mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there and it was because of the heroic efforts of the men and women in the United States military that it was so.”
Bush also declared, “Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.” He said it was a mistake to stop the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ metadata because there’s no evidence that “civil liberties were violated, that people’s privacy was violated.” He defended the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, saying he’s been there and “this is not a torture chamber.”
Torture is one point where Jeb slightly disagrees with W. He thinks “torture is not appropriate,” and he credited his brother with ending enhanced interrogation techniques (which the George W. Bush administration initially authorized). “The change of policy that my brother did and then was put into executive order form by [President Obama] was the proper thing to do,” he explained. But Bush wouldn’t commit to keeping that executive order in place, saying, “I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement.”
In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday, Bush argued that President Obama and Hillary Clinton should be blamed for the current situation in Iraq, not his brother. “Why was the success of the [2007 troop] surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?” Bush said. “And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”
Trying to turn one of his biggest liabilities into a problem for Clinton is a bold strategy, but so far there isn’t much evidence that it’s working. Following Bush’s remarks, a number of people pointed out that the withdrawal was his brother’s idea. “I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration. That was always the plan, we had promised them that we would respect their sovereignty,” said U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, an architect of the surge.
And TheNew Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins argued that, while Clinton “played a supporting role in a disastrously managed withdrawal,” that stemmed from a “disastrously managed war itself.” Plus, she wanted to leave some troops in Iraq:
By all accounts, she was one of the people inside the Administration who advocated for keeping a residual force in Iraq. “Hillary very much wanted to keep troops in the country,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador to Iraq at the time, told me. This does not amount, in Jeb’s words, to “standing by” while Iraq burned.
When asked about that point on Thursday, Bush called it an “aggressive effort to rewrite history,” saying it was obvious that Obama needed to renegotiate the Bush administration’s agreement.
Bush’s nuanced (or rather, factually shaky) argument may win over some Republicans, but convincing America that Obama and Clinton deserve more blame for the Iraq War fallout than the president who started it is a tall order. It seems the only mission Jeb accomplished this week was providing sound bites for attack ads linking him to his brother.
By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 14, 2015
Republican primary front-runner Donald Trump pledged Tuesday morning, in a factually-challenged screed, to send American troops to invade Iraq and Syria so as to “take the oil” in ISIS-controlled territories.
“I would go in and take the oil and I’d put troops to protect the oil. I would absolutely go and I’d take the money source away. And believe me, they would start to wither and they would collapse,” Trump said on CNN’s New Day. “I would take the oil away, I’d take their money away.”
Asked last month whether U.S. troops were needed to protect the oil, Trump said, “You put a ring around them. You put a ring.”
Ironically, Trump said he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying in May that he would “have never been in Iraq.” Some 200,000 troops were required for that invasion.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most hawkish members of the GOP presidential field, has called for between 10,000 and 20,000 troops to bolster the anti-ISIS campaign.
Trump’s word-salad foreign policy also fundamentally misunderstands the nature of ISIS. While it does make some money from oil sales, the so-called Islamic State does not derive its main source of revenue from oil revenue, as The New York Times points out. The vast majority of its operating resources in 2014 came from extortion, taxation, and theft.
The U.S.-led coalition has struck portions of ISIS’s oil infrastructure as recently as three weeks ago. On July 20, military airstrikes hit three ISIS crude oil collection points near the Deir Ezzor. A recent CNN article, citing military experts, points out that destroying oil infrastructure would be counterproductive to the future recovery of territories held by ISIS if and when the terrorist organization is expelled.
“You have to understand the issues a little bit better than just bombing things,” retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling told CNN.
Nor does Trump seem to understand the basic dynamics of the Middle East. “Believe it or not, Iran is funneling money to ISIS, too,” Trump said Tuesday morning. Iran’s government is a theocracy based on Shia Islam, while ISIS is a terror group based on a jihadist branch of Sunni Islam. They see each other as mortal enemies. In fact, Iran has been willing to offer Iraq an “open check” to fight the extremist group, Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily has said.
Trump also criticized the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration. His Iran deal would be “a hundred times better,” he told CNN. “They didn’t read The Art of the Deal, obviously.” First Trump would have “doubled the sanctions,” demanded Iranian-held American prisoners back, and then “made a good deal.”
“It’s going to go down as one of the dumb deals of all time, and one of the most dangerous deals ever signed,” Trump said.
When challenged by CNN about how America’s allies weren’t likely to go along with additional sanctions, Trump gave a bewildering answer. “I don’t care—that’s part of leadership, you got to get the allies with you. You got to get them… The different people that are involved aren’t going to be with you. You know why? Because they have no respect for our president.”
CNN host Chris Cuomo almost seemed like he was apologizing to Trump for asking tough questions about national security.
“Forgive me if it sounds if I’m teaching you about the world. You know it, and I know you know it. But I’m saying that there’s a tendency to oversimplify situations, people buy into that, and you’re setting them up for disappointment,” Cuomo said.
“Sometimes oversimplification is a good thing. Sometimes we make it too complicated,” Trump said, before going on to call the Chinese currency the “wan.” It is called the yuan.
By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2015