Walter Russell Mead: Sarah Palin: America’s Foreign Policy Messiah?

Governor Sarah Palin observes flight operations aboard the USS Stennis

By Gary P Jackson

While doing research for the article: Carolyn Glick: U.S. Needs Sarah Palin’s Foreign Policy, Not Rick Perry’s, I came across this piece from Walter Russell Mead, who Caroline Glick quotes in her article. Mead is a proponent of Jacksonian/Reaganesque foreign policy. The title of his article, written back in February, may be a bit much, but his thinking is spot on.

The rise of the Tea Party movement has been the most controversial and dramatic development in U.S. politics in many years. Supporters have hailed it as a return to core American values; opponents have seen it as a racist, reactionary and ultimately futile protest against the emerging reality of a multicultural, multiracial United States and a new era of government activism.

Nonetheless, the Tea Party movement has clearly struck a nerve in American politics, and students of American foreign policy need to think through the consequences of this populist and nationalist political insurgency.

As is so often the case in the United States, to understand the present and future of American politics, one must begin by coming to grips with the past.

The Tea Party movement taps deep roots in U.S. history. It is best understood as a contemporary revolt of Jacksonian common sense — the idea that moral, scientific, political and religious truths can be ascertained by the average person — against elites perceived as both misguided and corrupt.

And although the movement itself may splinter and even disappear, the populist energy that powers it will not go away any time soon. Jacksonianism is always an important force in American politics; at times of social and economic stress and change, like the present, its importance tends to grow.

In foreign policy, Jacksonians embrace a set of strongly nationalist ideas. They combine a firm belief in American exceptionalism with deep skepticism about the nation’s ability to create a liberal world order. The Obama administration is trying to steer U.S. foreign policy away from Jacksonian approaches just as a confluence of foreign and domestic developments are creating a Jacksonian moment.

Forecasting how this newly energized populist movement will influence foreign policy is difficult. Public opinion is responsive to events; a terrorist attack inside U.S. borders or a crisis in East Asia or the Middle East, for example, could transform the politics of U.S. foreign policy overnight.

Nevertheless, some trends seem clear.

The first is that the contest in the Tea Party between what might be called its Palinite and its Paulite wings will likely end in a victory for the Palinites. The Palinite wing of the Tea Party (after Sarah Palin) wants a vigorous, proactive approach to the problem of terrorism in the Middle East, one that rests on a close alliance between the United States and Israel. The Paulite wing (Rand Paul) would rather distance the United States from Israel as part of a general reduction of the United States’ profile in a part of the world from which little good can be expected.

The Paulites are likely to lose this contest because the commonsense reasoning of the American people now generally takes as axiomatic that security at home cannot be protected without substantial engagement overseas.

Terrorist attacks and events such as the Iranian effort to build nuclear weapons are likely to keep that sense of international danger alive (recent polls show that up to 64 percent of the U.S. public favors military strikes to end the Iranian nuclear program). Widespread public concern about perceived threats from a rising China will also strengthen public support for a strong military force and global American engagement.

Paulites and Palinites are united in their dislike for liberal internationalism — the attempt to conduct international relations through multilateral institutions under an ever-tightening web of international laws and treaties.

There is much in the Tea Party movement to give pause, but effective foreign policy must always begin with a realistic assessment of the facts on the ground.

Today’s Jacksonians are unlikely to disappear. Americans should rejoice that in many ways the Tea Party movement, warts and all, is a significantly more capable and reliable partner for the United States’ world-order-building tasks than were the isolationists of 60 years ago. Compared to the Jacksonians during the Truman administration, today’s are less racist, less antifeminist, less homophobic, and more open to an appreciation of other cultures and worldviews.

Furthermore, today’s southern Republican populists are far more sympathetic to core liberal capitalist concepts than were the populist supporters of William Jennings Bryan a century ago.

Foreign policy mandarins often wish the public would leave them alone so that they can get on with the serious business of statecraft. That is not going to happen in the United States. If the Tea Party movement fades away, other voices of populist protest will take its place. American policymakers and their counterparts overseas simply cannot do their jobs well without a deep understanding of what is one of the principal forces in American political life.

A robust foreign policy that concentrates on making sure our enemies are defeated is the best use of our blood and treasure. Blood and treasure that should never be wasted trying to be the world’s policeman. Nation building is an exercise in futility. Yes, we can aid and help guide the willing, but it should never be our foreign policy goal.

Again, I’m not comfortable calling Governor Palin some sort “messiah” but I am confident she is the one person that, as President, would have the right strategy. Her doctrine of foreign policy is well defined and based on common sense.

One thing we can never say enough, is Sarah Palin’s energy policy will have an incredible impact on our foreign policy. Energy is Sarah’s strong suit. She was relentless in Alaska, not only with reform and safety, but with getting maximum production from the field.

A United States that is energy independent will change the world in many ways. It will change how America looks at problems around the world. Many of the conflicts we are involved in are due to the fact our oil supply is in peril. Instability in the Middle East, as well as an emerging China and Russia have made things complicated and volatile.

Remove energy dependence from the equation and all of a sudden things look a little different.

Most of America disagrees with what Mead calls the “Paulite” wing of the Tea Party, most notably Ron Paul’s extreme views. [like it’s OK for Iran to have nukes] I recently directed a reader, who is a Paul fan, to an article I wrote last December reporting that Iran was placing nuclear capable missiles in Venezuela. Missiles that could hit targets in the United States. So no, Iran having nukes is not OK in any way, shape, or form.

That said, there is a strong case to be made for people who support Ron Paul, because of foreign policy, to take a hard look at Sarah Palin. Her energy policy alone will mean that America will not only be stronger, but better able to aggressively prosecute the war on terror, without having to take interruptions in oil supply into consideration.

Reagan’s foreign policy philosophy was “Peace through strength.” A stronger America always means a safer world. Here are two Reagan quotes that say it all:

Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.

History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

The Japanese attacked the United States on December 7, 1941 because they thought we were weak, based on our isolationist, “Paulite,” sort of foreign policy. They didn’t think the price of their aggression would be very high at all.

A strong America makes the rest of the world think twice before doing something that will destabilize the world. On the other hand, look at what’s going on now, with Obama running things. Rogue nations and thug dictators world wide are emboldened now that America is perceived as weak.

Sarah Palin is cut from the same cloth as Ronald Reagan, and shares his “Peace through strength” ideals. Nothing could make America stronger or more secure than an aggressive energy policy with a goal of being 100% energy independent at it’s core. This would help ensure not only our national security, but our financial security as well.

Governor Palin is not some sort of “messiah” [with all due respect to Mead] but she is America’s best chance at having a leader who gets it. Someone who will bring common sense with her in all of her dealings.


Filed under In The News, Politics, Ronald Reagan, sarah palin

13 responses to “Walter Russell Mead: Sarah Palin: America’s Foreign Policy Messiah?

  1. Pingback: Walter Russell Mead: Sarah Palin: America’s Foreign Policy Messiah? (via A Time For Choosing) | My Blog

  2. Seattle

    Mr Mead states,
    “Public opinion is responsive to events; a terrorist attack inside U.S. borders or a crisis in East Asia or the Middle East, for example, could transform the politics of U.S. foreign policy overnight.”

    Yes, public opinion is responsive to events – but to internal events or ideas, too. Mr. Mead says, “today’s [Jacksonians] are less racist, less antifeminist, less homophobic, and more open to an appreciation of other cultures and worldviews.” And I say that this is because of the events within the US over the past 60 or more years. Indeed, the Tea Party is NOT racist, reactionary nor futile. To the Tea Party, those three things are so passe.

    (Besides, what part of TEA [Taxed Enough Already] do the progressives not understand?!)

    • Gary P

      I almost edited that racist part out, but I get where Mead was coming from. Oddly enough, years ago the Republicans were the doves and the democrats the hawks. That said the democrat party has a long history of racism, so it figures the Tea Party would be less racist. I also find Tea party members more accepting of anyone not just like them, gays for example.

      I figured our readers would get it, and I just hated to chop his words up.

      That said, you are dead on!

  3. Excellent post Gary. I’m not a war monger or neo-con, nor am I an isolationist. I’ve been somewhere in the middle because , I have always believed that as a World Power, we have the right and the might to protect our interests abroad when necessary. I’m in favor of surrogate wars, ie the Nicaraguan Contras, and covert operations because they don’t require boots on the ground or expensive air strikes which only gives us the appearance of being an aggressor.

    Sarah Palin is the perfect match for me on foreign policy because she believes in the Reagan philosophy of peace through strength. We pride ourselves more on not having to use our military because potential opponents are deterred by our power. It puts us in a common sense position where we are not isolationists but not aggressive neo-cons either. Nation building is very expensive. When considering military action, we should always consider whether the forces we support are capable of self governance in advance, if the mission is quickly winnable and if it is in our national interest. This way we don’t have to shell out as much money and risk lives because we can get in and get out quickly and achieve our pre-stated objectives.

    I understand that Afghanistan and Iraq are different animals. In fact, we should have used the opportunity to take out Iran, too, right after 9/11. A three part approach would have established our power and put us in a position where Syria could have fallen without a shot if we were capable of giving them the appearance that they were next. Remember, this would be n response to a direct attack on our homeland, not a desire to flex our might for the sake of flexing our might.

    • Seattle

      ReaganTMan, I agree with what you say. And you say, “When considering military action, we should always consider whether the forces we support are capable of self governance in advance, if the mission is quickly winnable and if it is in our national interest.” We should also know exactly WHO are the forces we are supporting; none of this, in my opinion, was done when getting involved in Libya. We still don’t have a clear picture of who we have supported in this Libya mess. To suss that out would have taken research and some time, neither of which Obama treats with any seriousness. What scares me is that some of the Obama Talking Heads are saying that Libya should be the new foreign policy model. What a mess Sarah will have to clean up.

  4. IwjwI

    “Ron Paul And Fhe Neoliberal Reeducation Campaign,” goes into great detail on this. Mark Levin Tweeted this earlier today:

  5. Loadmaster

    Now that is a worth while article. It’s spot on and to the point. I didn’t say that the writer did..I’m just agreeing.

  6. Joy

    Either typos or mistakes: Early on, Mead mentions the two wings of the Tea Party (interesting comment, but maybe not altogether inclusive of ALL “wings” of the TP Movement, IMO): Namely the Palinites and the Paulites (clever!), but he names the latter after Sen. Rand – NOT Rep. Ron, when, in fact, it’s dad’s overt anti-Zionism/anti-Israel ties that sets him QUITE apart from the so-called Palinites, political descendants, I would suggest, of the Sen. HENRY Jacksonians – rather than the old Pres. ANDREW Jacksonians!!

    Then, a bit later, he alludes to the isolationism of 60 years ago (i.e., between WW2 and the Korean War – during Truman & Eisenhower’s Presidencies); but I would suggest that the REAL isolationism in American History/US Politics was much earlier – before and after WW1 and, in particular, during the 1930s, right up ’til Pearl Harbor.

    As for the anti-Semitic, anti-all the other stuff, that was the ugly profile of the GOP Establishment that we hate today for both the same and different reasons, but who are still, at core, very elitist and anti-all the other stuff (at least in their personal, country-club lives). And our foreign policy has been directed by these types since the beginning of time – they’ve riddled the Dept of State and, in a way, still do: ‘Cause although State has turned decidedly Left, and multi-culti abounds, the philosophy of that whole cabal still reeks of elitism – only this time, since the fish stinks from the head down, it’s BHO’s regime, with Hitlery at the helm of State – and the American elites of a slightly different political stripe still hold sway. Frankly, I simply cannot wait for Pres. Palin to clean THAT house in the course of her 8 years in office!!

  7. Pingback: Sarah Palin’s Libyan Statement Shows Leadership and Common Sense | A Time For Choosing

  8. Pingback: Walter Russell Mead: Sarah Palin: America’s Foreign Policy Messiah? (via A Time For Choosing) | blogsense-by-barb

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