The Great Chickenhawk Rally of 2014

All sorts of conservative militarists got themselves a new lease on life during the various “foreign policy crises” of 2014, wherein anybody rattling a saber seemed to have something to say, even if it was just bellicose nonsense. It’s very likely that the whole Mitt ’16 thing began as a subset of this Rally For Chickenhawkery, in the particular crisis breaking out on the border between Russia and Ukraine. Mitt, you may recall, was richly mocked during the 2012 campaign for calling Russia our big peer competitor, as though he couldn’t get his brain out of the Cold War. Lookee lookee, his backers seemed to say in the winter and spring of 2014, Mitt was a prophet!

Well, with Russia now looking once again like a basket case, all the prophecy talk is nearly as threadbare as it was in 2012. But leave it to the American Conservative‘s Daniel Larison to put the whole Chickenhawk Rally into perspective–particularly the argument that IS would not even exist if Romney had won:

It would be one thing for Romney backers to think that U.S. policies would be better than they are if he were president, but it is absurd to believe that other regimes and groups around the world would behave in a dramatically different fashion or would not exist under a different administration. By what magical powers of resolve would Romney have eliminated ISIS? How exactly would he have made Putin to “know his place”? Presumably this adviser thinks this would happen because Romney’s policies would convey “strength” rather than “weakness,” but that just underscores that this adviser-like Romney-doesn’t have a clue how this would happen. These are nonsensical claims, but then that is typical for Romney and his advisers.

One of the recurring claims that has popped up in articles about Romney over the last year or so is that he showed “prescience” about Russia, but that’s also silly. In order to be prescient about something, knowledge is required. There was never any hint that Romney understood Russia or Russian behavior better than any of the other generic hawks in his party, and that means he didn’t understand very well at all. When people say that he was “prescient” about Russia, what they mean is that he took a hard anti-Russian line as a candidate, but all that this proves is that he took a reflexively hostile position towards another country. He didn’t foresee or predict anything correctly. He promised that his policy towards Russia would be thoroughly confrontational, and along the way he horribly misjudged and grossly exaggerated Russia’s role in the world (“number one geopolitical foe”). That is what he and his advisers are using as proof of his “vindication,” which reconfirms that they still don’t know what they’re talking about. Worse yet, they don’t understand that they don’t understand.

You’d think by now just about everyone in this country would understand that the projection of “strength” via the possession of an ever-larger military that is used promiscuously is not any guarantor of global stability. But this hammer-headed approach lives on, and it’s actually terrifying that it is considered “adult” in so many circles.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.