In the May/June issue of “Cato Policy Report,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough lamented conservative foreign policy as overly dogmatic and ideological and questioned whether winning the war in Afghanistan is in America’s national security interest.
“Dogma and rigid ideologies are the enemies of conservative foreign policy,” lectured Scarborough. “Those who are still arguing in 2010 that we can somehow export democracy across the globe and rebuild other countries on the other side of the world in our image–these are the people that we have to call out today, tomorrow, and everyday, as the dangerous radicals that they are.”
With a broad stroke, Scarborough--who was the keynote speaker at the libertarian Cato Institute’s “Escalate or Withdraw? Conservatives and the War in Afghanistan” event in March--labeled all conservatives who support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as radical. But in the same address, the MSNBC anchor made the radical pronouncement that the war in Afghanistan is not a vital national security interest.
“And I would like Barack Obama, I would like Harry Reid, I would like Nancy Pelosi, I’d like John Boehner, I’d like Mitch McConnell,” rambled Scarborough. “I’d like Republicans and Democrats alike to tell me at this point in 2010 what is ‘vital to US national interests’ in Afghanistan?”
For Scarborough, the desire to root out al-Qaeda, which is using Afghanistan as a safe haven and breeding ground for planning and executing terrorist attacks against the United States, is not only not a vital national security interest, but is also a “dangerous” and “radical” policy position.
Adding to the inanity, Scarborough claimed that “there’s not much difference between the Republicans’ view of foreign policy and the Democrats’ view of foreign policy.” Apparently Scarborough was asleep when throngs of anti-war Democrats were calling for Republican President George W. Bush’s impeachment over the Iraq War.
Rather than speculate as to why Scarborough would hold such radical views, it is best to let the man himself explain: “And so there are some very very difficult decisions that we have to make, but my feeling, and I’ve got to say, my feeling has I’ve grown, as they say, when somebody becomes more liberal.”
A transcript of the relevant portions of Joe Scarborough’s keynote address at the Cato Institute’s March 18, 2010 event, “Escalate or Withdraw? Conservatives and the War in Afghanistan,” can be found below:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: There’s a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll that came out two days ago. Barack Obama is upside down is his approval ratings when it comes to the economy, when it comes to health care, when it comes to just about every single issue–deficits, debt–but when it comes to his handling of Afghanistan, he’s plus eighteen percentage points. His handling of Iraq, he’s plus fifteen percentage points. When it comes to his handling–well, not actually his handling of Iran–but whether we should invade Iran. Actually, plus fourteen. Americans believe that if we think that Iran is moving toward having nuclear weapons, we should invade the third Muslim country in a decade.
So with this backdrop, I would suggest that one of the reasons why those numbers are as skewed as much as they are is in 2010 there’s not much difference between the Republicans’ view of foreign policy and the Democrats’ view of foreign policy. And I’ve got to echo what Ed said. I don’t really understand why the president’s approval rating is so high when it comes to Afghanistan because he’s doubled the troops–this anti-war president has doubled the number of troops in Afghanistan to nearly 100,000. We’ve spent 33 billion dollars more, he’s asking for more. And he’s continued, I think most critically, he’s continued the transformation of the Afghanistan effort from a counter-terrorism mission to a nation-building mission. There’s no end game; there’s no exit strategy; there’s no definition of success for Afghanistan. We’ve got no idea what the ultimate price is going to be.
And, you know, we always would lecture Clinton officials on what we considered to be the Magna Carta of conservative foreign policy. And that was the Weinberger doctrine. And I think it bears repeating. Cap Weinberger, after Beirut, got together with people in the Defense Department and he said, “you know, we really need to narrow the focus of when we send US troops abroad so we don’t repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, we don’t repeat the mistakes of Beirut” And he had a young army man working with him, Colin Powell. And this is what they came up with: US troops should only be deployed when, one, it is vital to US national interests and our troop commitment is full and overwhelming. Two, the objectives for our troops are clearly defined. And three, leaders will be willing to constantly reassess troop levels. Four, Americans support the war before the engagement. And five, US combat troops are sent in only as a last resort.
You can apply those looking back obviously to some wars that we got involved with, and to George W. Bush’s policy pronouncements, especially during his second inaugural address. But I think more importantly, for this conversation, we need to apply it to where we go in the future with Afghanistan. And I would like Barack Obama, I would like Harry Reid, I would like Nancy Pelosi, I’d like John Boehner, I’d like Mitch McConnell–I’d like Republicans and Democrats alike–to tell me at this point in 2010 what is “vital to US national interests” in Afghanistan? And after answering that question, I would like them to tell me “what are the objectives for our troops?” Our clearly defined objectives. And then, of course, what you brought up as well, most troubling–we’ve been in Afghanistan for nine years, we still have not had a leader, Republican or Democrat alike, to tell us what’s the end game. What’s our exit strategy?
One of the arguments that we’re hearing is we’ve got to stay in Afghanistan because of what will happen to the women of Afghanistan if we leave. It is a compelling moral argument. And I think it’s made more compelling by the fact that we kept telling Afghanistan women, “go to school, your eyes won’t get gouged out. Get an education, get a job. You won’t have acid thrown on you.” So I understand the concerns there.
I’ve got to say though America did not go into Afghanistan because the Taliban was violating women’s rights. If that was the case we would have been in there five, six, seven years earlier. We went in there because that’s where al-Qaeda was, and because al-Qaeda used Afghanistan as a shelter to attack America on September 11th. We didn’t go in there to wipe out the Taliban, we went in there to wipe out al-Qaeda. And so there are some very very difficult decisions that we have to make, but my feeling, and I’ve got to say, my feeling has I’ve grown, as they say, when somebody becomes more liberal. Ed, you’re going to like this. Back in 1995 I proudly as an act of defiance put a bill on the floor to get America out of the United Nations and to start a new international organization that actually only allowed Democratic countries in. I’ve changed my mind on that front.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.