Numerous commentators have noted the complete lack of any debate over foreign policy in the run up to congressional midterm elections, a curious omission for a country that is at war in at least two places overseas with prospects for more. Ironically, the lack of any discussion comes at a time when most Americans are weary of Afghanistan and no longer support the war effort. Many observers would attribute the lack of any expressed concern over the issue of war vs. peace to a unanimity on the part of both Republicans and Democrats over the necessity to continue to wage the so-called "long war" against international terrorism. That the struggle itself is based on a number of false premises and the tactics are questionable and even counterproductive does not appear to bother America’s Solons, who are first and foremost focused on getting reelected and are willing to say or not say whatever it takes to further that objective.
Tuesday’s Republican conquest of the House of Representatives might serve as a welcome rebuke for President Barack Obama if only the GOP were genuinely concerned with constitutionalism, the rule of law, and small government. But they are not, and the downside is that the change in the dominant party in the legislature might well lead to an unmitigated disaster in foreign policy. It has often been noted that the Democrats under Obama have largely embraced the Wilsonian policies of his predecessor, but it has been easy to forget that there is nevertheless a strong anti-war strain within the party, exemplified by the 102 "no" votes over the July 2010 war supplement funding bill for fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. When one considers that the White House lobbied heavily and sometimes threateningly to pass the measure and had to rely on Republican support to do so, it has to be conceded that a large bloc of Democrats is very uncomfortable with the Obama war policy. There is no such group among Republicans, just a scattering of contrary voices like Ron Paul and Walter Jones here and there without any real identity or ability to influence policy.
Make no mistake, Republicans have deliberately cast themselves as the party of war in hopes that the American public will feel threatened and rally round the flag. Possible presidential contenders within the party, to include Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee all embrace endless war against the "Islamofascist" threat. They all claim to support constitutionalism (though one has to wonder if any of them have actually read the constitution) but draw the line at what they define as national security, favoring military tribunals and uninterrupted destruction of civil liberties by the police and judiciary instead of a rule of law.
And then there are the changes that will take place in committees and the pecking order in Congress, changes that will bring the long war advocates to the fore. It is where the real damage can take place. Not coincidentally, the hawks are also calling for military action against Iran and are notable in their affection for the state of Israel. The Israel connection is significant because Israel has long been at the heart of America’s foreign policy woes. America’s misguided war on terror is in fact a complete adoption of Israeli security paradigms without any regard for the actual threats that confront the US, making Israel’s many enemies also the foes of Washington. The Israeli Lobby might not have single handedly brought about the disastrous Iraq war but it certainly was a major factor in the push to invade, taking its cues from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. And today Israel and its friends in Congress and the media are the most powerful advocates of a military conflict with Iran, which will only take place, if it does, because of them. At the same time the Lobby is doing its best to sour relations with Lebanon and preempt any possible rapprochement with Syria.
Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia is poised to become the House majority whip, the second most powerful position in the House Republican hierarchy, and is frequently spoken of as the heir apparent to John Boehner as majority leader if Boehner opts to become speaker of the House after the Republican win. The Jewish Journal reports that Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives. On October 25th, Cantor told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that a GOP win in the midterm elections would lead to moves to decouple current assistance to Israel from the foreign aid budget, which has to be approved every year and which "includes nations that do not share US interests." Cantor explained that Israel would then receive its aid directly from the treasury or through some other mechanism, possibly the defense department budget, and the Republicans would be empowered to reject the entire Obama foreign aid request to punish the nations that it considers to be unworthy of the largesse without in any way harming Israel. As Cantor explained it, the assistance to Israel would thereby be "protected."
Equally dangerous is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is poised to take over the House Foreign Affairs committee. Ros-Lehtinen is Cuban born and can be relied upon to block any moves to improve relations with her homeland, a political position mired in the 1960s and completely counterproductive today. She also is strongly in favor of selectively trimming foreign aid, though, like Cantor, she will take whatever steps are necessary to protect Israel’s slice of the pie. She has already called for cutting funding for the United Nations and aid to the Palestinian Authority. Ros-Lehtinen has been a consistent critic of what she sees as the Obama Administration’s "cool approach" to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
It is reasonable to assume that Ros-Lehtinen’s zeal for Israel is at least somewhat motivated by her desire to maintain support for her primary objective, which is sticking it to Fidel Castro. She knows that in Congress being perceived as a strong supporter of Israel makes up for other shortcomings and, in this case, results in tolerance of her totally ridiculous and counterproductive views on Cuba. This produces a double whammy for the American people, who are thereby forced to endure a ridiculous foreign policy in both the Middle East and in Latin America.
Neither Cantor nor Ros-Lehtinen is troubled by giving more than $3 billion of taxpayer money annually to a relatively wealthy country whose policies damage US interests and place US citizens at risk worldwide. With friends like Cantor and Ros-Lehtinen in key positions in Congress it is the American people who should be in despair. The GOP embrace of a permanent blank check drawn on the US Treasury for Tel Aviv coupled with a foreign policy that is to say the least Israel-centric should be a terrifying notion for anyone who actually cares about the United States. The only remaining question is whether the White House will oppose Republican moves, an unlikely prospect as Obama has consistently folded his tent whenever confronted by the power of the Israel Lobby. But if Obama does develop some gumption or even if he just becomes tired of being pushed around it might lead to two more years of gridlock in government, which might be the best outcome. If Congress and the White House can’t do anything they will be unable to make things worse.