The 1980s are Calling, and They Want Their Neocons Back
Among the many contentious issues in the recent Republican debate, none seemed to stoke more passion than the subject of the Ukraine war. It’s always fun to watch old Republicans, their feet firmly planted in the 1980s, pontificating on the virtues of another forever war.
The fireworks started when Bret Baier asked if there was anyone on the stage who wouldn’t support sending more aid to Ukraine, which, by the way, now stands at roughly $75 billion. Ron DeSantis, who is quickly earning the reputation of a flag in the wind on controversial subjects, tepidly raised his hand. Standing next to him, Vivek Ramaswamy, who was simultaneously filling roles as the new guy, the outsider and a pseudo-Trump surrogate, raised his hand high in the air.
DeSantis was in his wishy-washy mode, and made the weak case that Europe ought to be shouldering a larger share of the Burden. Okay, but he never addressed the actual question. Ramaswamy, on the other hand, passionately argued that the U.S. has no business involving itself in a border dispute that’s costing billions of dollars when our own southern border is a total mess. He also maintained, correctly, that the Ukraine war is driving Russia into the arms of China, resulting in an alliance that directly threatens the U.S.
Then all hell broke loose.
After a rambling response from Chris Christie that framed Putin as nothing less than a satanic demon, Mike Pence, who becomes less likable every time you watch him, unloaded on Ramaswamy with neocon orthodoxy straight out of the 1980s. Invoking the Reagan doctrine, an outdated policy that advocated fighting foreign wars to ostensibly keep our enemies from attacking Los Angeles, Pence dutifully recited the dogma down to using the word “communists,” even though Russia hasn’t been a communist country for 50 years.
Naturally, Pence parroted the tired 80s talking point that if we allowed Putin to take certain areas of Ukraine, which are largely pro-Russian anyway, the maniacal madman would become emboldened and attack Poland next. Oh, and according to Pence, ceding Donetsk and Kherson to Putin would somehow immediately lead to Xi Jinping invading Taiwan, as if anything happening in Ukraine would sway that decision one way or another.
Despite his condescending attempts to undermine Ramaswamy’s foreign policy credentials, Pence displayed a stunning lack of awareness in understanding the difference between two radically different geopolitical situations.
Missing from Pence’s analysis is how Russia could attack NATO since it is suffering from a severe weapons shortage and has lost a quarter of a million men in Ukraine.
Then, Nikki Haley weighed in, blasting Ramaswamy for abandoning America’s friends, including Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Sticking to the neocon doctrine that no war is a bad war, Haley echoed Pence’s fear mongering argument that Ukraine is the first line of defense in preventing Putin from taking Poland and the Baltics. Again, remember that Yevgeny Prigozhin marched within 25 miles of Moscow with virtually no resistance. That’s how depleted Putin’s army is. The idea that once Putin achieved his goal of annexing a small tract of land in Ukraine, he would immediately look to attack NATO is utterly absurd.
Looking back on the debate, the forever war discussion showed Pence and Haley at their most animated, passionate and engaged. It makes you wonder whether Vladimir Putin actually did ask Bill Clinton if Russia could join NATO in the 1990s and why the U.S. and its NATO allies did everything they could to ensure Russia remained an enemy.
There is a lot of money to be made in a cold war, and if you beat a dog enough, you can guarantee he will turn mean.
The Irony of Haley and Pence
At one point, Haley scored an applause line when she said to Ramaswamy, “You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.” Pence called Ramaswamy a “rookie,” and said now is not the time for “on-the-job training.”
The irony is that both Pence and Haley were enthusiastic supporters of the Iraq war. You know, the war that was started because Saddam Hussain supposedly had weapons of mass destruction, except he didn’t. The war that cost American’s 4,487 lives and resulted in 32,226 wounded. The war that added $2 trillion to the deficit, with another $5 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The war that turned Iraq into a vassal state of Iran and allowed Iran to become the dominant geopolitical force in the middle east.
Go back and listen to George Bush’s justification for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the same rhetoric you heard on the debate stage from the neocon stalwarts. We were told Iraq represented a threat to the region. All the foreign policy “experts” said Iraq was ready to unleash a devastating chemical weapons attack on its neighbors. If we don’t stop Iraq now, they said, we’ll be fighting Saddam in Saudi Arabia.
While the donor class applauded and egged on Pence and Haley, it’s not hard to imagine Ramaswamy won the day in the minds of ordinary Americans. Let’s hope so, because the last thing America needs is another forever war these zealots seem to enjoy so much.
And here is a message to Pence and Haley: The 1980s are calling, and they want their neocons back.