How Not To Debate Foreign Policy: A Response To Jordan Bloom’s Ramblings

On Thursday, Daily Caller opinion editor Jordan Bloom published what I would generously call one of the most incoherent op-eds to ever appear on TheDC.

Bloom is a non-interventionist and believes neoconservatives, which I gather he erroneously defines as anyone who deviates from the policy positions of the late Republican Sen. Robert Taft, recklessly plunged America into the war in Iraq. That’s a fine position to take. An op-ed espousing this position would proceed from there to argue how the Iraq war has empowered our enemies and broken the United States financially. It would then explain why a non-interventionist foreign policy would be preferable.

I don’t necessarily agree with that position, but that’s an internally logical argument. Someone could engage that argument.

Jordan Bloom didn’t make that argument. In fact, he barely makes any argument at all.

Bloom frames his essay around an op-ed BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith wrote attempting to understand the foreign policy fight currently taking place in the Republican Party. Smith’s column isn’t particularly provocative and doesn’t really take sides in the battle, but somewhere between the lines Bloom seemed to think that Smith was attempting to whitewash neoconservatism.

This got his blood boiling and led him to suggest that Center for American Freedom founder Michael Goldfarb, who was at one time a lobbyist for the Georgian government (and may still be), is Ben Smith’s puppet master because Goldfarb uses one of the terms in Smith’s piece to define his brand of conservatism and, what’s more, exchanged a couple of emails with Smith about Georgia when Smith worked for Politico several years ago. From there, Bloom proceeds to list a litany of things, which while all true, don’t seem add up to anything in the mind of a healthy person.

Did you know that BuzzFeed writer Rosie Gray is dating Daily Beast foreign policy writer Eli Lake? Did you know Ben Smith’s father once donated to George W. Bush? Did you know that BuzzFeed hired someone from the Washington Free Beacon, which is a subsidiary of Goldfarb’s Center for American Freedom?

I should stipulate that some of the people mentioned in this bizarre conspiracy I consider friends. But if you are asking yourself what any of these random facts are supposed to mean, pat yourself on the back, you’re not a lunatic. It’s unclear what any of this means and what any of this has to do with Ben Smith’s op-ed.

Fortunately for us, we are next told Bloom is ready to explain what his jumble of facts adds up to and why they’re important. Unfortunately, he doesn’t follow through with his promise. Instead, he decides it would be a good time to lash out at Smith for claiming neoconservatives are responsible for the term “freedom fries.” Bloom says the claim was a “strategic elision” by Smith. That term, he informs us, was actually the genius of Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who has become an ardent non-interventionist and enemy of so-called neoconservatives. Great to know. It would be better to know his point, though.

At the end of Bloom’s 1,500-word bridge to nowhere, we finally get to a real live argument — one that’s worth engaging. Bloom believes the Republican Party is turning non-interventionist. He believes this is a good thing but the party must go further and boot out those he defines as neoconservatives. They are not interested in debate, he says, and the party is far better off without them.

All of this is theoretically possible, I suppose, but it would be nice to see evidence for the fact the GOP is becoming a non-interventionist party. The evidence Bloom provides, closer to the top of his essay, is either weak or a misreading of what he is citing.

For instance, Bloom cites a Wall Street Journal poll from April to prove his point, but the poll is internally contradictory. The poll — which surveyed American adults, not specifically Republicans — asked respondents whether the United States should become more or less active in world affairs. Forty-seven percent said less active, while only 19 percent said more active. Thirty percent said they should remain the same.

But one question later, 55 percent of respondents said America “needs a president who will present an image of strength that shows America’s willingness to confront our enemies and stand up for our principles,” compared to just 39 percent who said America needs “a president who will present an image that America has a more open approach and is willing to negotiate with friends and foes alike.”

Not quite a slam dunk for the non-interventionists.

Bloom also points to an article that he says shows that “neoconservative darling Tom Cotton is finding the good people of Arkansas aren’t interested in Kristolian platitudes,” referring to neoconservative Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol with the term Kristolian. But the article didn’t say Cotton’s policy positions were the problem. It merely makes the case that Cotton is not a very good retail politician.

“The overarching problem: While Cotton’s resume is sparkling, his persona is flat,” the article reads. “He speaks with authority, but lacks warmth. His wooden delivery is more often academic, lacking an everyday, common touch that’s still essential in a place with slightly less than 3 million people, the smallest state in the south.”

Bloom’s other evidence includes the fact that Mitt Romney supposedly ran from the “neocon” label. Perhaps that’s because Romney isn’t a neoconservative. Bloom seems to think everyone who is not a non-interventionist is a neoconservative, which is probably why he shouldn’t be writing articles about foreign policy.

Look, I am not saying there is no evidence that the GOP is less hawkish than it was after 9/11. But I don’t think its reluctance to engage in Syria or the unconvincing evidence Bloom cites shows the GOP has become Rand Paul on foreign policy. In fact, polls have shown that a large majority of GOP voters favor military action against Iran if it is necessary to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons capability, which is far more Kristolian than Paulian.

Foreign policy debates are healthy for the country. I have engaged in many at The Daily Caller myself and will continue to do so. But Bloom’s article is a perfect example of how not to debate foreign policy. Accusing your opponents of being “far happier if the hayseeds in flyover country just shut up and filled their bodybags” isn’t particularly serious. In fact, Bloom’s piece made him appear more like a hobo on the street screaming about some conspiracy that only he can see than a thoughtful columnist.

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