Thinking Aloud: President Graham, Foreign Policy Guru?

June 1, 2015 by Darius 

Today South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced that he is entering the 2016 presidential race.  Graham feels that his record as a leader of the Republic Party on foreign policy issues qualifies him to be president.  I think it’s time to revisit an article published earlier this year in Foreign Policy: “Lindsey Graham: Wrong on Everything.”  I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs below.  This article is pure gold.

“A review, however, of the senator’s foreign-policy pronouncements speaks to a different reality.  Lindsey Graham is, in fact, far more often wrong than he is right.  Occasionally, he is more than just wrong: Sometimes, he’s completely out of his mind.  In a town filled with threat-mongers, fear-merchants, and hand-wringers, there is no one mongering more threats, selling more fear and wringing more hands than Sen. Graham.  It’s going to be awfully hard for candidate Graham to lift people up when he’s constantly telling them the sky is falling.

“At its core, however, Graham’s rhetoric is driven by an extraordinarily dystopian — and factually incorrect — view of the world. In January 2014, he said, ‘The world is literally about to blow up.’  A year later, we’re still here and Graham is still wrong.  ‘We live in the most dangerous times imaginable,’ he said in July 2013. But it requires memory, not imagination, to realize that this is not true — unless Graham believes that World War II was the global equivalent of a traffic dispute.  Considering that Graham, who was born in 1955 lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and 9/11, it’s a bit hard to square his regular alarmism about the state of the world with reality.  Indeed, Graham is so convinced that the world is about to proverbially tumble off its axis that this summer he said it ‘scares him’ that Secretary of State John Kerry ‘thinks the world is in such good shape.’  Even optimism causes Lindsey Graham to clutch pearls.  Remarkably, being consistently and habitually wrong about the nature of global affairs in the 21st century has not impeded Graham in being taken seriously as a foreign-policy voice. Like many Republicans, he enthusiastically supported the Iraq War, but even then he stood out with his trademark bombast and incorrectness.  For example, in 2002 and 2003 he repeatedly declared that Saddam Hussein was ‘flat-out lying’ about having weapons of mass destruction.  In fairness, a lot of people got Iraq’s WMD wrong, but as is so often the case with Graham he matches being incorrect with over-the-top statements for which he is almost never held accountable.  For example, in 2002 he said that ridding the world of Saddam Hussein was essential because the Iraqi regime represents ‘a threat to our way of life’ and that, with Hussein gone, the United States could subsequently introduce democracy in the Middle East.  Oops.

“Yet Sen. Graham is not one to allow the rule of law, facts, or reality get in the way of a political talking point.  As was the case in 2003 with Iraq — and 2007 — and pretty much every international crisis since, Graham has a simple solution for when bad things are happening around the world.  Use force.

“It’s on Syria, however, where Graham has practically outdone himself in both belligerence and dark warnings of impending peril. In September 2013, he predicted, ‘Chemical weapons in Syria today means nuclear weapons in the U.S. tomorrow.’  One can only assume that Graham was using tomorrow in the broadest possible sense, though even then the fact that Assad no longer has chemical weapons would suggest Graham’s fears are probably misplaced.

“A few months earlier he said if the Washington didn’t change course in Syria, it would ‘become a failed state by the end of the year’ (it probably already was); ‘the chemical weapons are going to be compromised and fall into the wrong hands’ (or the international community’s after a U.S.-brokered deal to destroy them; Jordan ‘could fall’ (still waiting); and ‘we’re going to have a war with Iran because Iran’s going to take our inaction in Syria as meaning we’re not serious about their nuclear weapons program (since that statement, Tehran signed an agreement with the P5+1 to limit its nuclear ambitions and, by all accounts, has adhered to it.)

“Like Syria, Iran is another bugaboo for Graham. In 2009, he said because of Tehran’s nuclear program, ‘We’re walking down the road to Armageddon.’  In 2012, he said the United States was facing an ‘existential threat’ from non-nuclear Iran. And in September 2013 he said, ‘The last place in the world you want nuclear weapons is the Mideast.  Why?  People over there are crazy.’  One can assume that doesn’t include Israel’s leaders.

“Still, Graham’s rhetoric on Iran almost looks quaint in comparison to his comments on the Islamic State, which he now calls a ‘direct threat’ to the United States and if unchecked, ‘will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world.’

“It’s easy to dismiss this kind of bluster as mere political theater.  After all, there is little question that Graham’s incessant fear-mongering is largely partisan posturing — and makes for such great lowest-common-denominator TV.  Still, whether political or genuine, the result of such inflated rhetoric is that Graham is only adding to the mistaken view, held overwhelmingly by Americans, that the world is a dangerous place with countless threats to national security.”

You can find the entire article at “Lindsey Graham: Wrong on Everything,” Foreign Policy, January 27, 2015,

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