October 24, 2012

THE MOST CONFORMIST COUNTRY:

The Missing Debate (ROSS DOUTHAT, 10/23/12, NY Times)

The big secret of the Obama administration's approach to national security, which neither party has had a strong incentive to admit, is that the president's first-term policies have mostly been a continuation of policies put in place during George W. Bush's second term, when the Cheneyite maximalism of the immediate post-9/11 era was tempered by a dose of pragmatism.

Obama campaigned in 2008 as a critic of the entire Bush record, first and second term alike. But the president has mostly governed - sometimes by choice, sometimes out of necessity - as a steward of the powers Bush successfully claimed and the war-on-terror architecture that he established. What's more, in his presidency's biggest decisions about the use of force abroad - the Afghan surge, the Libya intervention, the escalated drone campaign (and the "kill list" that accompanies it), the green light on the raid to get Bin Laden - Obama has almost always erred on the side of hawkishness and expanded executive authority.

In the 2012 campaign, Romney has often talked as though this hawkish record doesn't exist, painting the president as a dove and an appeaser at every opportunity. But a closer look suggests that a Romney administration, too, would promise more continuity than change: On the issues that have earned the most press this campaign season -- from the Arab Spring to Syria's civil war to the Iranian bomb to our looming withdrawal from Afghanistan -- Romney has attacked the president in general terms while remaining deliberately vague about what exactly he would do instead.

So it was healthy for American voters to see this Bush-Obama-Romney overlap crystallized on stage Monday night.

Posted by at October 24, 2012 5:30 AM
  

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