In the years following 9/11, the United States adopted a foreign policy position known as the Bush doctrine. It has come to mean many things, notably the spread of democracy. After it was discovered that Iraq did not contain weapons of mass destruction, which had been our sole cause of invading the country, Bush switched the cause to deposing a tyrant and bringing democracy to Iraq. Republicans stood united behind this philosophy, running as the party of freedom. Recent developments have caused a fissure in their unity.
Last year, the Arab Spring brought Democracy to many nations across the region. This change occurred without much US interference. It was an organic movement, spurred by ordinary citizens yearning for freedom. The results have not always been to our liking, with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power in Egypt. We have seen a similar occurrence happen in the Palestinian territories, where elections brought the terrorist group Hamas to power.
In the wake of the embassy attacks, Republicans are beginning to turn against the idea of a free middle east. Pundits have actually claimed that we would be better off if we had helped dictators stay in power. This is a far cry from the dark days of the Iraq War. Back then, conservatives argued that the shedding of American blood was worth it because we ended the rule of a tyrant and freed the Iraqi people.
The Republican Party today is unrecognizable compared to the GOP of seven years ago. At his second inauguration, George W. Bush said, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” He went on to say, “”For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny — prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder — violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.”
There are still some elements of the Republican Party who support the spread of Democracy in the region. John McCain is still a strong advocate of US intervention. He called for Mubarak to step down early in the process. McCain believes the US should help the rebels in Syria, and he also felt the US should have done more during the protests in Iran a few years ago.
A divide has formed between the foreign policy wing of the party, and those that are more focused on winning the 2012 election. The political wing sees the embassy attacks as a chance to score political points. That was the thinking that led to Mitt Romney’s ill timed remarks on the night a US Ambassador was killed. They also believe that the US should cut off aid to Egypt for its slow response to the protests. McCain opposes that view.
This divided approach has actually hurt Republican chances in the 2012 elections. Mitt Romney’s political attack was hammered in the media. Romney was already behind President Obama on the topic of foreign policy, and has now likely cemented that position. For the first time in generations, the Democrats are viewed as the stronger party on foreign policy.