There is a meme in foreign relation policies that it is good to be seen as a “loose cannon.” The reasoning is as follows: if a state leader and therefore the state he/she represents is seen as an irrational, unreasoning, punitive and powerful, the rational response from other states that don’t want to fight is to give such states wide breadth. It moves discussions from international law, principles of justice, etc. to simply what does the “loose cannon” state want, and what can we have to give them so they don’t attack us.
Foreign policies are extensions of domestic politics. The United States would not be occupying Iraq right now if it were not for the grim realities of American oil dependence. A dependence that has not seriously been addressed since the Carter administration, which was later abandoned under Reagan. The ultimate goal of Iraq invasion is to leave Iraq’s oil in the hands American corporations. The extent that oilmen like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney overlap with high-levels of the government is not coincidental.
The most concerning aspect of “loose cannon” diplomacy is its domestic equivalent. The notion that the executive needs to be unchecked and unquestioned in order to “protect” America. This is evident in the mental gymnastics George W. Bush has to perform to endorse and later deny U.S. torture. Or his declarations that the U.S. is on the side of righteous against the evil-doers in the world in the context of a blatant oil grab. It is only surprising in the degree that other members of government, particularly the legislative, go along with it. The wide breadth Democrats give the president has consistently proven to be a mistake, yet confoundedly, when the next opportunity presents itself they play along.
This consistent cave-in presents the Democrats as a party of partisanship instead of principle. It took me by surprise when George W. Bush was elected for a second term. The reason was more surprising, voters who voted for Bush were more concerned about “values” than the Iraq war. In the eyes of Kerry supporters, the Iraq war was at the forefront of issues and same-sex marriages was just noise. To the Bush voters, same-sex marriage was the foremost issue, the Iraq war was something the U.S. had already won. The same schism exists today, I feel that we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis that Democrats have done a poor job of addressing, but most intellectually honest people who study the issue acknowledge. The other side just sees it as politics as usual.
The Democratic party paints itself as hypocrites and partisans because when push comes to shove Democrats and Republicans are two faces to the same party: the corporate party. Democrats are the liberal variety and Republicans are the conservative variety, but what they are truly vying for is money from corporations and wealthy individuals to finance the marketing campaigns to win elected office. The centrist policies and liberal gestures are the part of the complex balance that it takes to win elected office as a Democrat, and principles rarely survive unscathed. To be fair, there are exceptions like Dennis Kucinich, Patrick Leahy, and John Conyers. However, when Hillary Clinton states lobbies are people too and she doesn’t think the money affects her, it is a warning. U.S. democracy is weak right now because it is one dollar one vote, not one person one vote. If candidates don’t understand that, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.