Domestic vs. foreign concessions

From New Republic columnist (and fellow Camp Nebagamon alumnus) Jonathan Chait:

It's kind of funny how, when it comes to domestic politics, many liberals employ assumptions about human nature that are wildly at odds with the assumptions they use about human nature when it comes to foreign policy. When you read the liberal blogs on domestic politics, concessions to the enemy are always counterproductive, will must be met with will, etc. When you read them on foreign policy, all those asumptions are flipped on their head. I'm not saying that these two sets of assumptions are completely impossible to reconcile, but it is pretty odd how easily they sit together.
While we mostly agree, Jonathan and I have disagreed on many things over the years: the Iraq war (I was right), Michigan vs. Ohio State (he was right, we both hate OSU now), and the Strat-o-Matic value of John Wockenfuss (part-time MLB player, golden in sim games). And while I agree that they're not impossible to reconcile, I don't find it very odd how easy it is for people to justify those positions.

You need look no further than this past week's events to see what the results of conciliatory gestures to the republicans are. It's been an overused description, but Obama extended his hand to the right, and they figuratively slapped it away by only having three of the over 200 congressional republicans voting for the stimulus bill. Then when they didn't get everything they wanted, they accused the Democrats of not being bipartisan enough, and every MSM news outlet gave them outrageous amount of air time to air their grievances and demand more of the same policies that got us into this mess.

Add in the fact that, for the past several years, the republicans have shown absolutely no interest in negotiating or dealing in good faith with the Democrats, and it's not hard to see why those on the left find it pointless to concede anything to the right. After all, their definition of bipartisanship has essentially been "you agree to let us do what we want".

But when it comes to foreign policy, I think Dems find it easier to stomach concessions in foreign policy, mostly because we tend to perceive those we negotiate with to be more honest brokers. That's really weird to say about some of our "enemies", but the truth is that they have quite a bit at stake in any negotiating scenario; in the Obama administration, America is going to be much more likely to have the backing of other major powers. And then there's the whole "well we do have enough nuclear weapons to wipe any country off the face of the earth" thing, which kind of acts like a stick in the carrot + stick = results equation (not saying we would, but obviously any country negotiating with us is pretty cognisant of the possibility).

There's no real stick to use with the republicans. They've already lost about as many congressional seats as they're going to, and their recipe for success clearly lies in the failure of Democratic policies. So they have no incentive whatsoever so be a party to honest negotiations with anyone, because there's no consequence for them that they haven't already endured.

So when someone points out the disconnect between foreign and domestic policy attitudes on the left, I guess I just shrug my shoulders and say "yep, makes sense to me".

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