Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 21, 2010

THE ONGOING SPLIT BETWEEN GOP AND MILITARY LEADERS.... It wasn't too long ago that there were certain expectations about political and military policy. If, in the midst of two wars, the Pentagon asked Congress for some help, lawmakers were likely to oblige. This was especially true of Republicans, who took pride in characterizing themselves as the "pro-military" party.

This week, we received yet another reminder that these partisan assumptions are in need of revision.

An unusual split has opened between conservative Republicans and the American military leadership over the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty, with current and former generals urging swift passage but politicians expressing far more skepticism.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) "essential to our future security." Retired generals have been so concerned about getting it ratified that some have traveled around the country promoting it.

Seven of eight former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces have urged the Senate to approve the treaty.

But five Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a recent report that New START was "a bad deal." They added that U.S. military leaders had made assumptions about the pact -- including that Russia will honor it -- that are "optimistic in the extreme."

Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation's grass-roots lobbying arm is targeting Republican senators with mailings warning that the treaty "benefits Russia's interests, not ours."

Retired Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, the former deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, told the Washington Post that it's "puzzling" that the advice military leaders are giving Republicans is being "ignored." Jameson added, "I don't know what that says about the trust that people have and the confidence they have in our military."

Democrats, I suspect, aren't willing to make the case in these terms, but that's why it's all the more important when someone like Jameson is making these arguments publicly. He's effectively arguing that most Senate Republicans are blowing off the judgment of America's military leadership -- a charge that used to be unthinkable.

But what's especially noteworthy here is the consistency in which we've seen this pattern. On New START, obviously, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense are actively urging Senate ratification, but the GOP is convinced they're mistaken. Mullen, Gates, and other military leaders also want to see Republicans end their filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act, but the GOP is ignoring this request, too.

In fact, the U.S. military leadership and congressional Republicans are also on opposite sides of everything from civilian trials for terrorist suspects to closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay to Iran to torture to how the U.S. perceives the Middle East peace process in the context of our national security interests. GOP lawmakers haven't even fared well on some veterans' groups congressional scorecards.

The notion of Republicans siding with the military is supposed to be one of those assumed truths that we're all supposed to just accept. But over the last two years, on most of the major policy disputes related to national security and defense, it's been Democrats (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue), not Republicans, who've been siding with U.S. military leaders.

Those old partisan assumptions just don't apply anymore.

Steve Benen 12:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

I don't know if it's the Republicans ignoring the military so much as it's knne-jerk opposition to anything that has support from the Democrats. Digby has noted time and time again, Republicans say and do things simply because they know it will drive liberals nuts.

Then again, the GOP is absolutely determined to allow nothing to succeed under Obama as president; not cutting back nuclear arms; not getting the economy going again; not extending unemployment benefits; and so on.

We're talking about politics of pathological partisanship here. They'd try to block the sun from coming up if they thought it was a White House initiative.

Posted by: xaxnar on November 21, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Do these intransigent Republicans know something that the rest of us don't -- that Russia has not abided by the previous two START treaties?

You're never going to get the media to cover this in such a way as to embarrass Republicans or turn the public against them, because crazy people make better television than sensible discussions.

We are screwed, and most of the rest of the world is going to end up going down with us when we crash.

Posted by: karen marie on November 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Listen, what's more important, the security of the country or making sure you never cooperate with Obama? If you're a red-blooded Republican, then you know the best possible decisions are those that keep Obama from ever getting anything done so that Republicans can blame him as a do-nothing failed president. What's so complicate or newsworthy about that?

Posted by: tomb on November 21, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder whether the split is due in part to the necessity of a reality-based worldview for the military. While domestic politicians in the GOP can believe any number of things contrary to reality, the military would quickly get into serious trouble with that approach. So as the GOP sinks further into delusion, it's natural that their alliance with a reality-based group would fray.

Posted by: Leisureguy on November 21, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

To quote from the great president, George W. Bush, "Either you are with us or you are against us!"

The generals and admirals are correct when they agree with republican positions and full of crap when they do not. Obviously, the generals and admirals have all become anti-American.

As far as Benen's mini-discussion of GOP support for veterans, he mis-states our republican position. "Support Our Troops" is a great bumper sticker that really means "Support Our President, when he is a republican."

As far as veterans who have finished military service, f*ck them. They have no further value to us and they should go away and shut up (unless they want to parrot our GOP talking points).

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on November 21, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

While the military is known to be quite, if not ultra, conservative, along with the intelligence empire, if the Rethugs really piss off this powerful bunch then maybe their considerable resources will be put to some good use for a change: watching out for the best interests of the country. The Rethugs won't let the Dimocrats govern, and they themselves don't know how so maybe some adults will work their magic behind the scenes.

Posted by: rrk1 on November 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

You can easily tell that republicans are the true patriots and supporters of our military, because they put two Chinese made 'Support Our Troops' bumper stickers on each of their SUVs.

Posted by: SadOldVet on November 21, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

But it's OK. As soon as there's a Republican President, the Republicans will be the only party that honors the military leaders and will insist that their opposition during the Obama years is a liberal lie that never happened.

The media will provide the shovels and manpower. People who point out the obvious will not be invited back to the round table.

Posted by: CJ on November 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

If the military won't support the conservative dream of never ending war, across all corners of the Earth, how can conservatives be expected to support the military? Just asking

Posted by: JoeW on November 21, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's even worse than obstruction for obstructions sake. As our dominance of the global stage, both militarily and economically begins to wane, the wingnuts become increasingly sensitive to what they perceive as weakness in dealing with the rest of the world, whether enemy or ally ( or in the case of many countries - some gray area inbetween ).

In the simplistic world view of the teabagger, treaties sound like some sort of appeasement. They live in a fantasy world where we should be able to bomb Iran and North Korea, make military incursions into Mexico, dictate the the economic policies of our trading partners, and violate any conventions, treaties and laws both domestic and international that we see fit in order to show the rest of the world who is the boss, and that the negative consequences of these actions will be trivial.

Republican's project an image of being pro-military through a willingness to let defense contractors dictate military spending, a
knee jerk desire to look for military solutions, and an embrace of
jingoistic rhetoric, and their poor record in regards to veteran benefits and care is papered over with empty praise ( "we honor your service"). Sadly, this image has given them a pass in the minds of many Americans when they openly denigrate the service and patriotism of those veterans who would dare to question the conservative line.

Posted by: Rip on November 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

No, no, Steve...the GOP is merely split with the military leadership, which is just another out-of-touch elite.

Civilian teabaggers know better what will benefit the rank-and-file G.I. Janes and Joes out there than a bunch of overedumacated Pentagon know-it-alls.

Posted by: Chet on November 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Those old partisan assumptions just don't apply anymore.

benen, I keep thinking you're putting us on with your naivete.

Disagreeing with the military will be the biggest crime in the history of the nation, punishable by death as soon as it suits the republicans purpose. When it doesn't suit their purpose (like something so important as denying obama the perception of success) blowing off the military is just fine.

Posted by: pluege on November 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Disagreeing with the military will be the biggest crime in the history of the nation, punishable by death as soon as it suits the republicans purpose. When it doesn't suit their purpose (like something so important as denying obama the perception of success) blowing off the military is just fine.
Posted by: pluege on November 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK********************

Right you are pluege. Haven't we seen this a thousand times before in a thousand different ways?

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on November 21, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans really have to get smart about START. They already look like the shallowest of politicos, putting party waaaay ahead of country. They think opposing Obama on everything makes them look like the tough guys that they actually are not.

Instead they just look RIDICULOUS.

Why isn't everybody laughing at them, rather than taking their utterly phony pieties so seriously?'

Where's the pithy Reaganism of "There you go again?"

Posted by: jjm on November 21, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

future step .. Limbaugh removed from armed forces radio for racist comments ?

Posted by: justsomeguy_06 on November 21, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's all part of the ongoing Republican War on Expertise, because experts sometime tell them things they don't want to hear.

Posted by: dp on November 21, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Check to see if these guys have stock in Boeing, Northrup or even Estes -- anyone who builds rockets. That usually explains Republican behavior.

Posted by: Ted Frier on November 21, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Unternehmen Barbarossa, anyone?

Posted by: S. Waybright on November 21, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think that [the Russians] have ... nuclear warheads pointed out our cities?

Uh, because we pointed nuclear weapons at their cities first, and the Russians quite understandably felt that they needed to respond in kind?

Posted by: joel hanes on November 21, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Get ready for a PR and media blitz against this treaty that will be as ugly and vicious as you can imagine. Of course the media will gleefully play along, and it will end up such a toxic issue the Democrats will abandon it.

That's what I'm expecting, 3, 2, 1...

Posted by: SaintZak on November 21, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Criminy!
They intend to nuke Iran fer crying out loud!

Posted by: thebewilderness on November 21, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Get ready for a PR and media blitz against this treaty that will be as ugly and vicious as you can imagine. Of course the media will gleefully play along, and it will end up such a toxic issue the Democrats will abandon it.

That's what I'm expecting, 3, 2, 1...
Posted by: SaintZak on November 21, 2010 at 3:59 PM ************************

EXACTLY. Which is why I implore us all to support truly independent media. FSTV (Free Speech TV) and LINK TV need our help. Pls visit one of their websites today and strike a blow for honest journalism. Journalism with integrity. Journalism that will hold both parties accountable.

It matters.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on November 21, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama wanted to put Reagan's face on Mount Rushmore, the GOP would reflexively oppose it as "communism." This is pure partisanship, nothing more.

Posted by: Speed on November 21, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

Floyd Alvis Cooper: That's some of the best troll performance art I've seen in a long time. Straight out of Dr. Strangelove.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on November 21, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, it's Second Amendment remedies New GOP is siding with, rather than the Obamacare takeover of the military... or something like that. Just too much big government in all that U.S. military stuff.

Posted by: Goldilocks on November 21, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

The cold war team b'ers are still trying to encircle Russia.

Of course they dont want treaties.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 21, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

The belief that the GOP holds the defense corner isn't the only misguided notion. They also once claimed superiority on fiscal responsibility as well as law and order. The only uncontested positions they now hold is rabid stupidity and borderline treason.

Posted by: chopin on November 21, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Have people forgotten Georgian president Saakashvili provoking Russia? Ossetia? Georgian and Ukraine stalled membership into NATO? The Bush admin backpedal?

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 21, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't that complicated. Obama is for it. To a McConnell Republican it must be opposed. On the otherhand McConnell knows that if he allows a vote and a lot Republican senators are forced to choose the treaty will get 80+ votes. If it is stalled until next sesson they might be able to block a vote permanently or allow the Heritage Foundation to manufacture something the media will accept as a reason to oppose the treaty and that will make Obama look weak. To McConnell's way of thinking denying an up or down vote is a victory. Sometimes you have to destroy a nation to save it.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 21, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Opposing START is tangential, it is disagreeing with the military leaders on a foreign policy issue. Dems doing better than the GOP on veteran group scorecards is also tangential (veterans, not active duty). If you want to go beyond preaching to the choir, you need evidence of the GOP opposing programs supported by the military (pay?) or supporting continuing programs the military wants to drop (Specific weapons systems?). DADT is getting there but is still supported by Air Force and Marines). Without that kind of evidence, the people who do not read political blogs will continue to believe the GOP is pro-military and the Democrats anti-military.

Posted by: Tom on November 21, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP is pro-military...pre-emptive operations

They just didnt add the last part.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 21, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Bush didnt listen to military advice before starting polo-step into the middle east. I recall he ignored the amount of troops required. Talk of a six month war and so on.

The only time Bush listened to the generals was after the military operations had started and that was about surges etc not foreign policy.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 21, 2010 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

I think Russia should start a rumor they are about to sell nukes to Iran because it needs to get rid of some to save money and since the U.S. isn't willing to reduce their stockpile, they see no reason to lesson the amount that would be used against the U.S. or its allies.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on November 21, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

GOP is pro-defense contractor, not pro military.

Don't conflate the two.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on November 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

On this or any other related issue, the media will take the Republican point of view as universal if we, you, me and the guy behind the tree, don't pitch a fit. Have you written a letter to your local newspaper or some other publication? If not, don't bitch if the McConnell Republican view of the issue isn't accepted as gospel. I think it is high time we, commenters on Political Animal got off our asses and became proactive. Don't let anybody tell you it's not our country too.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 21, 2010 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

For more insight along similar lines, see this great website:
http://www.politicsofselfishness.com/

Posted by: neil b on November 21, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Retired Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, the former deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, told the Washington Post that it's "puzzling" that the advice military leaders are giving Republicans is being "ignored."

Well, to take it from the perspective of the Republicans, just what do the military and Obama think they're going to do about it? The Republicans can do whatever they choose. They've made their choice, and who's going to tell them to do otherwise?

Posted by: Tyro on November 21, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Wingnuts now have decided they hate treaties.

The second half the Oklahoma "Sharia Law" ballot initiative forbid the state courts from considering treaties.

This was to pick up more ignorant bozos who might not know what Sharia was but might know the Sen. Coburn had ranted about the Law of the Sea treaty or Sen. Inhofe had babbled about the Kyoto treaty or just recognized in the reptilian part of their brain that treaties had to do with "furners".

The other use was that by denying word for word Art. 6, Para. 2 of the Constitution any court would rule the entire seditious thing unconstitutional on it's face. The point of the exercise was to rile up idiots, not make law.

Posted by: OKDem on November 21, 2010 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

I was gonna say something similar to mikefromArlington, the GOP is the party of war, not the party of national security, and treaties make for lousy wars.

Posted by: GP on November 21, 2010 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats, I suspect, aren't willing to make the case in these terms

That pretty much sums it up.

Posted by: Big River Bandido on November 22, 2010 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

My background is in history and sociology, but I have a hard time thinking of precedents to the cynicism and callousness of the Republican party, which is willing to undermine the economic and political stability of this country solely for additional wealth and power.

Of course there is a depressing number of regimes in Africa and South America that have followed this same path, but I thought there would have been some safeguard somewhere that would have prevented that kind of bust out from happenning here. I guess I was wrong.

Posted by: broken arrow on November 22, 2010 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Like DUH! A vital Nuclear Treaty isn't complete without a permanent tax cut for the top tier of Amurkins. The GOP can't find that language in the treaty so the START has got to STOP.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on November 22, 2010 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Its all about the Grandiose Obese Potty's desire to destroy President Obama and regain control. It matters not how they do it, just that it gets done. Control and power, simple as that.
Destroying the country we know and love along the way.

Posted by: jonthebru on November 22, 2010 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the military and the general public (or those of it that are interested) will finally realize the GOP is mostly interested in courting the military for political gamesmanship purposes any only when they agree.

Posted by: ET on November 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

A thoughtful insight and ideas I will use on my website. You've obviously spent a lot of time on this. Well done!

Posted by: Early Learning Center on December 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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