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America's war in Afghanistan and post-war in Iraq were barely blips on the campaign radar this election, but foreign policy "could well re-emerge as a front-burner and contentious issue in very short order," Peter Feaver writes at Shadow Government. Obama will have fewer national security moderates in his party to rely on when selling his Afghan strategy. The result is that "this election reverses a trend that could be traced to the party's response to the 9/11 attacks: the cultivation of a 'strong on national security' wing among House Democrats," Feaver says.
But a new Republican majority in the House doesn't necessarily mean President Obama will have to compromise--Democrats interpreted their win in 2006 as a mandate to get the country out of Iraq, but President Bush doubled down with the surge. "A highly resolved president can prevail on a foreign policy issue even against a highly motivated oppositional Congress," Feaver says. Even if the opposition comes from his own party.
- Democrats Will Move Left on Afghanistan, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol forecasts. "I haven't had a chance to do the math, but I bet the Democratic caucus now has a higher percentage of antiwar members than before--and President Obama had already lost a majority of his party in the House on the war. So if Obama intends to stay the course in Afghanistan, as I think he does, he'll do so with GOP support in Congress."
- Feingold's Loss Has Big Implications for the Senate, Josh Rogin writes at The Cable. Soon-to-be-former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold was the third-ranking Dem on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after John Kerry and Chris Dodd. "With Dodd retiring, Feingold stood to become chairman if Kerry were ever tapped for secretary of state. In fact, the rumor around town is that the prospect of an independent-minded Feingold leading the panel worried the White House so much that it had negative implications on their consideration of Kerry for Foggy Bottom," Rogin reports. "Feingold was more active on foreign policy than most. ... Feingold had an extensive foreign-policy agenda, the leading item of which was his call for the administration to set a flexible timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan." Rogin continues, "With Feingold gone, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic roster is more centrist, just as the Republican side of the bench is set to become more conservative. With Dodd also leaving the Senate this year, that's a lot of institutional knowledge to lose in one night."
- Major Dem Casualties on the House Armed Services Committee, Spencer Ackerman writes at Danger Room. "Longtime Democratic leader and outgoing chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri lost his seat," Ackerman says. "So did next-up John Spratt of South Carolina. So did next-up-next-up Solomon Ortiz of Texas." Other casualties: Gene Taylor, Jim Marshall, Carol Shea-Porter, Glenn Nye, Frank Kratovil, Bobby Bright, and Scott Murphy, added to that list is three retirements. Incoming chairman Buck McKeon is highly skeptical of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and closing Gitmo. "And if ever John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wanted to wage a fight against the administration’s plans to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011, the new Republicans in the Senate are likely to have his back. ... The future course of the war is likely to be the first major defense battleground between Obama and the expanded GOP minority in the Senate. And it’s definitely not going to be the last."
- Facing Congressional Deadlock, Obama Will Work on Foreign Affairs, Jackson Diehl argues at PostPartisan. After Bill Clinton's stunning loss in 1994, he focused on the Balkans, the Mideast, nuclear nonproliferation, and Iraq. Likewise, Obama begins a long trip to Asia this week. If he can completely pull out of Iraq by the end of next year, and start pulling out of Afghanistan by next summer, as promised, "he will have two more big accomplishments with which to impress voters -- particularly in the Democratic base." Diehl continues, "foreign affairs will loom larger in the political debate by the time the next presidential campaign begins. Thanks in part to the timetables he has set, Obama will either have some big successes to talk about -- or his opponents will have some fresh clubs."
- This Is Not 2006, Matthew Hoh argues at The Huffington Post. "[T]he lack of debate on the war in Afghanistan, something 6 of 10 Americans think is now a lost cause and something that is scheduled for review by a divided and conflicted Administration, is striking. All the more striking as the war in Iraq was a significant reason, if not the reason, for many voters to push the Democrats into control of Congress in 2006." That election forced President Bush to fire Don Rumsfeld, deploy an 18-month troop surge, and create a road map for transitioning to Iraqi control. On the other hand, Hoh notes, less than 1 in 10 Americans said the war was their main motivation for voting this year. "So, if the exit polls show in the next day or two that apathy among voters towards the war in Afghanistan held true, don't expect the Administration to feel much compulsion to change a failed strategy as President Bush was forced to do in 2006."
- The Election Didn't Change a Thing, Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie argue at Reason. Neither party is talking seriously about changing foreign policy or defense spending. "President Obama is following George W. Bush's painfully slow withdrawal plan from Iraq and has tripled down in Afghanistan without clarifying U.S. goals and leaving lots of wiggle room when it comes to supposed deadlines for leaving. The only folks more hellbent on maintaining an unexamined status quo than the president are the Republicans."
- It's Still the Economy, Stupid, Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt writes. "First and foremost is America's parlous economic condition: if the economy doesn't improve, we'll be pinching pennies across the board and our international clout will decline accordingly. As other great powers have discovered to their sorrow, it is damn hard to run the world when you owe lots of people money and your debts keep piling up and you're stuck in costly wars."
"Afghanistan." I just thought somebody should say that.
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