When Conservatives Undermine National Security

Or, is Israel a harbinger of the United States?

By Daniel Drezner, Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

I have an essay out in Politico today that directly confronts a national security question that The Discourse has been tiptoeing around. Here’s the lede: 

Americans are watching the Hamas attacks on Israel and the ensuing war with horror, mourning the death of innocent civilians, thinking about their family and friends, and worrying that the violence in Gaza will trigger an even more violent conflagration in the Greater Middle East.

There’s another reason Americans should be worried.

What’s happening in Israel now is a disturbing example of what can happen when elected officials use partisan and personal motivations to warp national security. For years, Republicans in Congress have attempted to sabotage what they call the “Deep State.” This includes placing holds on political nominees and castigating diplomats, officers and analysts employed in the government as captives to “Big Woke.” They might see it as political theater, necessary to boosting profiles and fundraising. But as this week shows, there can be a price.

Read the whole thing to see the parallels one can make between Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition and the current incarnation of the Republican party. The tl;dr bullet point version: 

  • The evidence is mounting that Netanyahu’s cabinet ignored intelligence warnings due to a preoccupation with their domestic agenda;
  • While Donald Trump has sett the tone within the GOP about national security, it’s not just him. Other presidential candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis have sounded just as bad. Senate Republicans have placed so many holds on so many national security positions that the executive branch lacks confirmed diplomats and officers in the region. The House of Representatives is just a flaming garbage fire that makes the Senate look like a beacon of bipartisanship.
  • This is all on the Republicans. What happens when Bob Menendez gets accused of compromising national security and acting like a foreign agent? Democrats do not stand by him but call for his resignation. It’s the Republicans who keep defendingthose accused of felonies from judgment. 
  • If Israel is a harbinger for the United States, beginning in 2025 things could go from bad to worse. My editors at Politico asked me to game this out, so I went there: 

Imagine… what a second Trump term would actually look like. If he only appoints toadies to cabinet-level positions, there would be no adults in the room. His planned jihad against the permanent bureaucracy would trigger an exodus of the best, most independent diplomats, general officers and intelligence analysts. The ability of Trump’s weakened administrative state to accurately assess or respond to any national security threat would be suspect at best and incompetent at worst. The likelihood of a successful terrorist attack on U.S. soil, undeterred Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, or open war in the Pacific Rim would rise exponentially. The U.S. military would be too busy bombing Mexico or governing U.S. cities to respond. As chaotic as Trump’s first term was, his second term could set the world on fire. 

One last point. This might be the most partisan thing I have written for a mainstream media outlet. And, to be honest, I don’t care at this point. Life is short. Pretending like the current incarnation of the Republican Party is accomplishing anything other than enabling its base’s worst impulses seems pointless. As flawed as the Democrats are — and they’re quite flawed — they are at least attempting something like a rational policy discussion. While there are individual Republicans taking national security seriously, the party as a whole has become worse than a joke. Their actions threaten the national interest. It is no longer possible to act as if that is not true.

(This post is republished from Drezner’s World.)

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