Polarization and Foreign Policy


Do the fruits of Rove include the death of bipartisan internationalism in American foreign policy? Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz fear so:

The Bush administration’s brand of international engagement, far from being an aberration, represents a turning point in the historical trajectory of U.S. foreign policy. It is a symptom, as much as a cause, of the unraveling of the liberal internationalist compact that guided the United States for much of the second half of the twentieth century.

The polarization of the United States has dealt a severe blow to the bipartisan compact between power and cooperation. Instead of adhering to the vital center, the country’s elected officials, along with the public, are backing away from the liberal internationalist compact, supporting either U.S. power or international cooperation, but rarely both. … Prominent voices from across the political spectrum have called for the restoration of a robust bipartisan center that can put U.S. grand strategy back on track. … These exhortations are in vain. The halcyon era of liberal internationalism is over; the bipartisan compact between power and partnership has been effectively dismantled.

In retrospect, this may have been a goal of some of the more hard-core neoconservatives all along: to destroy the bipartisan consensus of using force for internationalist ends in the world, and to replace it with raw power, one-party rule at home, and American militarist unipolarity abroad. Today's Republicans have palpable disdain for sharing power with another party - and almost as much discomfort for allies abroad. The Rove project was an attempt not just to defeat but to destroy the Democratic party at home, by cultural polarization, gerry-mandering, a K-Street monopoly and even abuse of the Justice Department. And the neoconservative project is close to degenerating into a program of constant war-making abroad that can be used in turn to polarize the country still further.

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty.)