Wednesday, January 30, 2013

bipartisan consensus on foreign policy?

The always interesting Shadow Government blog on Foreign Policy magazine's site reports research that seem to suggest an underlying bipartisanship on a broad range of foreign policy issues. The authors earlier did a survey of Democratic and Republican officials with executive branch experience and noted many areas of agreement. They have now completed a poll of congressional staffers on defense and foreign policy issues and report similar signs of potential agreement. More analysis here.

Don't get your hopes up yet. I think the researchers are exaggerating the areas of agreement and overlooking strong evidence of disagreement on things that matter. The actual tables are here.

What jumps out at me are the following:
  • On almost every issues, the congressional Republicans are significantly more critical of international institutions and international security agreements than their executive branch counterparts. It also turns out that they are about a decade younger -- suggesting they are the next generation of GOP leaders on these issues.
  • Republicans in general seem basically opposed to international efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, compared to Democrats. Congressional Republicans don't even support George W. Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative.
  • The only one of the four groups still favorable to U.S. relations with Irag and Afghanistan is executive branch Republicans.
  • There is a profound split on climate change, with only 10% of executive branch and 3% [!] of congressional Republicans considering it an important issue.
The biggest reason that the areas of disagreement are likely to overwhelm the few items of agreement is the hyper-partisanship that makes even minor issues major confrontations that must be won at all costs. Until people on both sides recognize bipartisanship as a virtue rather than a sign of weakness, we're not going to get very far.

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