Foreign Policy Winners and Losers in Iowa

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Iowa Caucus voters likely voted mainly on domestic policy issues, though security and terrorism have been a big part of the campaigns as well. Now that the smoke is clearing, it is worth considering the foreign policy implications of the winners of the primary.

Iowan conservatives awarded the victory to Ted Cruz. Cruz has pledged to carpet-bomb eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq to get at Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), leveling e.g. Mosul (a city, in 2013, of 2 million, i.e. the size of Houston). Cruz also hinted that he might drop a nuclear bomb on eastern Syria (he wondered if the desert sands would glow thereafter). The population of al-Raqqa Province in eastern Syria before the rise of Daesh was roughly 900,000, of whom I figure a good half have fled the brutal rule of the phony ‘caliphate’. The province is thinly populated. The capital, also called al-Raqqa, probably had a population of 220,000 before Daesh took it. My guess is that at least half the people have run away. In any case, a nuclear bomb would kill everyone left in al-Raqqa and the radioactive fallout will likely land on Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey– American allies.

On the other hand, Cruz is sanguine about allowing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to remain in power.

So Iowans chose the Mad Bomber over everyone else.

The second place was taken by that yuuuge loser, Donald J. Trump. Me, I like people who don’t come in second place. Trump advocates turning Syria over to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump wants to start major trade wars with Mexico and China. He wants to abrogate the Iran deal and take over Middle Eastern oil from its owners. He will charge Saudi Arabia for supplying it with an American security umbrella.

Third place went to Marco Rubio.

Marco Rubio has said of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), “This group needs to be confronted and defeated. They are not going to go away on their own. They’re not going to turn into stockbrokers overnight or open up a chain of car washes. They need to be defeated militarily, and that will take overwhelming U.S. force. ” He insults Iran’s Shiite Islam.” Rubio wants to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible. Rubio wants to exclude Syrian refugees from the US, except for Christians, orphans and the elderly.

Rubio’s major backer is corrupt Likudnik casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who also gave us Bibi Netanyahu, so he would further crush and immiserate the Palestinians.

They gave fourth place to Dr. Ben Carson. It is genuinely difficult to know what Carson’s policies are, since he is a confused conspiracy nut. I mean moreso than the first three. But anyway he is not going to be president.

Neither in all likelihood are the first three. They’ve alienated the Latinos, African-Americans, women, gays, non-religious, youth, and other major constituencies. To win they would have to get the three million votes out there that Mitt Romney couldn’t. Instead they’ve chased those 3 million away again plus lots of others. Romney would have done worse if Latino youth had voted in greater numbers (as they did in 2008), and the word is that Trump has galvanized them to register and participate in this one. W. called the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign a “seven-spiral crash.” This one has more spirals.

Iowan Republicans gave short shrift to the least hawkish and interventionist Republican candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, though I argue that he is more hawkish and interventionist than he is typically depicted.

As for the Democrats, whatever the final vote tally they more or less tied. So Iowan Democrats can’t make up their minds between a dovish Sanders who opposes most interventions in the Middle East and the more hawkish Hillary Clinton. But note that both support the Iran nuclear deal and neither would put ground troops into the Middle East. Both are therefore way less hawkish than most of the Republican candidates.

So, to sum up. Iowa Republicans had difficulty making up their minds between crazy and completely insane. More reasonable conservatives like Kasich and Paul were dismissed from the field.

Iowa Democrats just had difficulty making up their minds, though there was a powerful generational divide, with young Dems going for Bernie and those over 45 favoring Hillary. Since, with the exception of 2008, most elections in the US are dominated by older, wealthier voters, that is bad news for Bernie in my view.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

CBSN: “Ted Cruz delivers victory speech in Iowa”

23 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    The most disturbing part of Hillary’s appearances were the inclusion of Chelsea in the hangers on on stage.

    It looks like she is being groomed for succession.

    Last time I looked the US presidency isn’t hereditary.

    Otherwise obe of the Bush girls would be running.

  2. “Me, I like people who don’t come in second place.” I am going to repeat that line all day to my Trump supporting friends.

  3. Seems to me that Bernie Sanders took foreign policy off of the table in Iowa. His campaign seems to have decided to play defense on those issues. Clinton’s real firewall is the black voter support she enjoys. Black Americans have a “thing” for the Clintons.

    • Except that Obama got those Black voters away from Clinton over a period of time in 2008 after it was thought that it was impossible. If it was just about stereotypes, they would all have flocked to him instantly. I still don’t know why they went back to Clinton or what they expect her to do. Detailed survey data would be nice.

  4. My wife and I caucused for Bernie.

    The Democratic caucus in our precinct was a dysfunctional mess. Our precinct had 516 voters in a high school auditorium. That number was determined by our counting off, one by one. It is probably the only accurate count of the evening.

    At the end, the precinct captain merely announced that there were 6 delegates for Sanders and 5 for Clinton. It appeared to us not to have been that close, but the number of voters for each candidate was never announced, nor was the process for assigning delegates explained. Talk about a lack of transparency.

    The Republican caucuses in Iowa use a secret ballot, resulting in reasonably accurate vote counts for the respective candidates. The Democratic caucuses have no secret ballot. Why the difference? No one seems to know.

    In any case, this is not the first time I left a presidential caucus feeling robbed. I would have guessed it should have gone 8 delegates for Sanders; 3 for Clinton.

    This Iowa Caucus dysfunction is a symptom of larger, unresolved, problems with election procedures in the US, as was obvious in Florida in the 2000 election.

    • Democrats are historically pretty good at governing, but not so good in organizing the party. I think it was Will Rogers who famously said, I don’t belong to an organized political party–I’m a Democrat.

  5. On the Democratic side: much sound, fury, and money expended for nothing. Iowa’s caucus saw 186,795 Republicans voting, to a MERE 1,402 Democrats (repeat that, 1,401) that is just .0075% compared to the Republican turnout. Huge turnouts at the rallies, but nobody showed up to caucus – not the students, not the elderly, etc. Neither HRC (who fraudulently crowed -claimed- victory), nor Sanders were winners – the Democratic Party and its apparatus LOST. Yes, Iowa is unique, and hardly representative of America, but the candidates and the media are playing to a Disneyland, Mel Brooks’ “Rock Ridge” 1950’s fantasy land. If ever we saw why a new system of primaries is needed, this was it.

    • The numbers you cite are in error – AP at least is reporting that over 170,000 dems voted, down by about 25k from the last caucus or two.

      But the whole question is moot – at this late date the absurd complexities of our electoral system are a joke. It is no way for a mature people to run a modern democracy (I know I know, I said a MATURE people!).

    • That just didn’t sound possible, so I have tried to do some research. There are almost 1700 precincts, so there had to be way more than 1,402 Democrats voting. I think maybe you are reporting on the number of precincts that had reported in when you last saw it. Unfortunately, after checking about a half dozen different web sites, I have found only the % of precincts won and the number of delegates awarded. I have not been able to find the number of votes actually cast. But, obviously it must have been many more than you report. I saw a picture from one precinct that showed about 40 to 50 Democrats caucusing.

    • Incorrect. Party turnouts were roughly equal…
      “early Tuesday morning, the Iowa Democratic Party announced that 171,109 Iowans participated in its caucuses”. The number of voters registered as Democratic slightly exceeds the number of Repubicans in Iowa.

  6. In addition to campaign finance reform the US also needs some way of disqualifying potential candidates who are sociopaths and psychopaths. An intelligent electorate could do that – if we had one.

    As for the Democrats -” But note that both support the Iran nuclear deal and neither would put ground troops into the Middle East.” – I don’t buy anything the Queen of Chaos says.

    • Presumably, Marjorie Cohn also distrusts Hillary:

      Hillary Clinton’s Hawkish Record: Surviving Iowa in a dead heat with Sen. Bernie Sanders, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now hopes her establishment-backed campaign will grind down her opposition and pave the way for her presidential nomination. But many Democrats remain leery of her hawkish foreign policy, writes Marjorie Cohn. – link to … Although Clinton supports the nuclear deal, she talks tough about Iran. In September 2015, she provocatively declared, “I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement. Iran is the subject of the agreement,” adding, “I will confront them across the board.” She said, “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

  7. “Both are therefore way less hawkish than most of the Republican candidates.” Not so. Hillary backed Iraq, a war based on lies (Trump and Paul didn’t), spearheaded the bombing Libya based on lies, backs drone strikes and asked for a no fly zone over Syria–shades of Libya–which could have resulted in a war with the new Hitler Putin. Hillary is a bona fide mass murderer, so far Cruz and Rubio are only wannabees.

    • I was wondering when the libertarians would finally show up today to tell us that Cruz is more anti-war than Clinton because he hasn’t had a chance to get blood on his hands yet. I guess in 1932 you could have said that Hindenburg had more blood on his hands than Hitler. But you should have known better.

  8. Is it true that some areas chose between Bernie and Hillary by a coin toss? How is that legal?
    Sad to see O’Malley leave…

  9. “According to a statement from Iowa Democratic Party chair Andy McGuire, just over 171,000 Iowa Democrats showed up to caucus for their chosen candidate…” The 1402 figure cited by leuih ging-dak is probably based on the number state party delegates at stake.

  10. Can anyone explain why Blacks and Latinos have a ‘thing’ for the Clintons? Is it that ‘Sick Willy’ played the sax?!

    I mean how many have suffered when he kicked them off of welfare in the mid-90s! How about the mass incarerations from the insane drug wars! The repeal of Glass-Steagall screwed everyone equally -except the1%!

    Bernie would be so much better for all the disenfranchised, including Blacks and Latinos! Somehow myths have a life of their own!!!

  11. most elections in the US are dominated by older, wealthier voters, that is bad news for Bernie in my view.

    This may be true but misses the bigger picture. 80+% of the <30-year-olds voted for the movement candidate and against the establishment candidate.

    While Bernie may be unique in some ways and as he himself is getting old (though not showing it yet), the movement may have more difficulties galvanizing voters in the years to come. Still the implications are clear:

    The establishment is finished. If not now, then in a few years.

    They say that demographics work against the Republican coalition. Clearly demographics also works against the establishment Democrat coalition (unless people of my generation begin converting back to them as they get older which I don't find likely as the system is giving us nothing).

    As in the German Weimar Republic, the "center" (or whatever that really has become by now) has lost legitimacy and likely cannot hold.

    This could go either way now.

    • At least there was an organized Left in Weimar. The Right always uses the threat of a seizure of power by militant Leftists to justify coups and electoral coups (Chile, Spain, Indonesia, Germany). Yet it’s unnecessary for one to actually exist for that gambit to work under our corporate media. The Right is waging a one-sided civil war against democracy.

  12. Glad someone is aware that this “future hope” of the Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sheldon Adelson. If Rubio were elected, we’d not only have Bibi addresssing our Congress, he’d be moving into the Lincoln bedroom!

  13. Interesting observation at the end, w/ the generation gap.
    Still, as JC points out, it worked for Obama.

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