The Republican Foreign-Policy Meltdown

Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin vents frustration at the Republicans' inability to advance and defend a coherent foreign-policy alternative to the Obama administration's:

The reaction of some hawks on the right to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster suggests a refusal to recognize why Paul was so successful in garnering praise. They are seemingly unable to recognize the deeply held perception of many, if not most, of the American people that Iraq and Afghanistan were unsuccessful and that enthusiasm for the Arab Spring is misplaced. They have lost credibility with the American people and they need to both acknowledge that and strive to get it back.

Good for Ms. Rubin. But the retooling of Republican policy, if ever it occurs, will be painful, because our errors have deep and stubborn roots. Mitt Romney read the popular mood well enough to keep his mouth shut through the whole of the disastrous second debate on foreign policy, and to keep George W. Bush under wraps through the whole of the campaign. Apart from a general commitment to maintain American military strength, though, Romney advanced not a single new idea in foreign policy.

The problem is about to get much, much worse. Syria's civil war has already spread to Iraq, as Al-Monitor reported March 10:

On March 5, Syrian militants reportedly affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked a convoy of Syrian and Iraqi soldiers near the Rabia border crossing in western Iraq. Forty-eight Syrians, mostly military, and nine Iraqi soldiers were killed. The Syrians had earlier received medical treatment in Iraq.

As Mushreq Abbas reported for Al-Monitor, the ambush at the border should not just be considered a  “military confrontation in the strictest sense of the word, but rather was an extension of the national turmoil on both sides of the border.”

The forces of Iraq's Sunni Awakening, funded and armed by Gen. David Petraeus during the 2007-2008 surge, will be drawn into a regional Sunni-Shi'ite war that began in Syria but will extend to Iraq as well as Lebanon. I wrote in 2010 that "Petraeus' 'surge' of 2007-2008 drastically reduced the level of violence in Iraq by absorbing most of the available Sunni fighters into an American-financed militia, the 'Sons of Iraq,' or Sunni Awakening...Petraeus created a balance of power between Sunnis and Shi'ites by reconstructing the former's fighting capacity, while persuading pro-Iranian militants to bide their time. To achieve this balance of power, though, he built up Sunni military power to the point that - for the first time in Iraq's history - Sunnis and Shi'ites are capable of fighting a full-dress civil war with professional armed forces."