Maybe he’ll run and maybe he won’t, I for one don’t care much. But Next Gingrich has just become the latest in a long line of Republicans to express deep skepticism about our strategy in Afghanistan. He had this to say:
We are in enormous danger because we consistently underestimate how hard this is…You’re dealing with Afghan culture that is fundamentally different than us, in ways we don’t understand. [The war] is not going to end well.
Gingrich joins Michael Steele, Ann Coulter and a host of other Republican luminaries in this view, including people like George Will who are straight-up against continued war in the country. I predict that every week that goes by will bring more Republicans who will switch positions until the Republican party’s new stance is against the Afghanistan war.
This shift is easily predictable in a two party system:
The political landscape in a country with two major parties is a landscape of poles. It is a rare moment when the two parties hold the same position on a major and controversial issue. For the last few decades or so, and certainly during the Bush years, the popular conception of the Democratic Party – warranted or not – has been the party of doves, where Republicans are the party of hawks. However, as the Democratic Party has responded to very effective criticism from the right that they are "soft" on national defence by becoming more hawkish in aggregate, and as the Democratic Party has begun to own the issue of Afghanistan specifically with President Obama’s embrace of escalation, the Republican party is naturally pushed towards the opposite position.
Having owned the "Party of War" brand for so long, it is taking a long time for Republicans to return to their earlier roots as the party of isolation. But as Ron Paul showed in 2008, the isolationist, anti-interventionist message is one that resonates with a lot of Republicans (and many progressives – I myself agree with a fair amount of Ron Paul’s ideas on foreign policy, though certainly not all). As the Democrats own Afghanistan further and get themselves further mired in war, Republicans will move to oppose the President.
It’s really remarkable how quickly this shift seems to be occurring recently, with comments by Steele, Coulter and Gingrich in consecutive weeks. Democrats, if you haven’t heard the warning bells by now, listen up: You’re about to get out-flanked on Afghanistan.
The war is unpopular. We can’t "win" it. It’s expensive. It doesn’t keep us safe. Americans don’t want to be there. Being against the war in Afghanistan and being for a swift and responsible conclusion to our invasion is the right position to hold.
Because President Obama is for continued war, and because opposing the President is more important than being principles for Republicans (especially if it means you get to take a politically popular position at the same time), you will soon find yourself as the party that supports war while Republicans reap the political gains by being the party of peace.
Don’t let that happen.