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Overcoming Foreign-Policy Disunity

Author: Richard G. Lugar
November 20, 2012

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The sharpening partisan divide within United States politics is routinely affecting foreign policy, far more than in years past, writes Republican Senator Richard Lugar.

I tend to resist hyperbolic assessments of the condition of American society. But when I reflect on what is different now from when I entered politics, it is clear that partisan divisions are much sharper than they were in past decades.

These divisions routinely affect U.S. foreign policy in ways that they rarely did in years past. It was never strictly the case that "politics stopped at the water's edge." During the Cold War and the Vietnam War, for example, it was common for some candidates to be attacked as being soft on Communism and others to be attacked as warmongers. But there almost always was an undercurrent of bipartisanship and communication between party leaders on national security issues that enabled action when it was needed.

That is not the case today. In recent years, the U.S. Congress has been unable to act decisively on foreign policy, or, in many cases, even debate international issues. Faced with reflexive partisan roadblocks and the growing number of unresolvable hot button issues that get attached to foreign policy bills, Congress has retreated from legislation dealing with foreign policy.

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