The GOP And Afghanistan

Chris Good asks a question rather bluntly:

Would GOP primary voters rather hear that we should stick with the war effort, or would they rather hear that something is going badly on Obama's watch?

That's probably how many primary voters feel, which is a pity. The trouble with the American discussion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that it has often been about America and abstract arguments, rather than Afghanistan and reality. But it does strike me as interesting how skepticism about the war has gained traction on the right. The CW is that the neocons are winning in the GOP. And it's true that the likeliest nominees, Palin and Romney, are still sounding the 1980s drum.

But others? Not so much. Huckabee has mused publicly about the ever-receding end-game; Ron Paul opposes it and is now joined by Gary Johnson.

Santorum has expressed skepticism about democratization in places like Afghanistan. Mitch Daniels' position is opaque, but he is very close to the realist-moderate Dick Lugar. Ditto Huntsman, whose social moderation would be well complemented by a non-ideological foreign policy stance.

The point is not that interventionism and rhetoric have lost their primacy in Republican foreign policy thinking. It is that as the primary debates begin, there will actually be a debate about Afghanistan and Iraq and their legacy. It may even be the case that, when you add in the fiscal hawks seeking savings from the Pentagon budget, those skeptical of neoconservative militarism and nation-building could out-number the true believers. And that's a major shift.