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What do Republicans want in Afghanistan?
Michael Steele's salvo against Obama's Afghanistan policy sparked a Republican civil war over war. Who's going to win?
 
Michael Steele's words have put him at odds with his own party.
Michael Steele's words have put him at odds with his own party.
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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's remark about Afghanistan now being an unwinnable "war of Obama's choosing" has paired up strange bedfellows. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol agree with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Steele was wrong, for example, while conservative provocateur Ann Coulter, libertarian Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and liberal columnist E.J. Dionne are defending him. At the root of the GOP split is a widening rift over the nine-year-old Afghanistan war. Now that Obama's in charge, what is it Republicans want? (Listen to Rep. Eric Cantor's take on the Afghan War)

Republicans don't want nation-building: "I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government, and a strong national defense," says Ann Coulter in Human Events. But if the Steele-bashers are right, "the official policy of the Republican Party [is] to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest." And we should have no interest in building up "a country of illiterate peasants living in caves."
"Bill Kristol must resign"

Steele exposed a "potentially unbridgeable" rift: I thought the GOP settled this fight in 1952, says John Avlon in The Daily Beast, when internationalist Eisenhower trounced "play-to-the-base" isolationist Sen. Robert Taft. Republicans won with Ike, and Reagan — whose internationalism "won the Cold War" — and Afghan interventionist Bush, and they'll lose if they now embrace the ascendent "neo-isolationist" Tea Party wing led by Ron Paul and Glenn Beck.
"The war that will split the GOP"

This is more about domestic politics than foreign policy: Sadly, "Steele's statement is not a sign of a rising antiwar Republicanism," says Sean Scallon in The American Conservative. It's part of "the grand GOP strategy of OEOP (Oppose Everything Obama Proposes)." But the best way to beat Obama is a "non-interventionist foreign policy." Bringing the troops home will not only win over a "war weary public," but also cut the deficit. That's what Republicans want.
"Views now acceptable"

 

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