The Capitulation of Susan Collins

Maine Senator Susan Collins is typically the first to cross over party lines in Congress and support fiscal legislation sponsored by Democrats. She is among the likely members to support a three-month extension for unemployment insurance, voted for the stimulus package in 2009, and has criticized fellow Republicans for their stance on Obamacare. With fiscal conservatives in Maine frustrated, she is forced to compromise in other areas, particularly foreign policy.

With opposition from both Maine conservatives and Republican defence hawks, Sen. Collins would go into her 2014 re-election without any support from her political base. But by capitulating to neoconservative foreign policy leaders, Sen. Collins gains the political capital necessary to stem the tide of Tea Party conservatives in Maine. While undoubtedly a shrewd political move, Collins compromises America’s global interests by tying herself to dangerous conservative hardliners.

Her political assault on Ambassador Susan Rice due to statements she made after the U.S. Embassy in Libya was attacked in 2012 were the product of political opportunism. After the attack, Amb. Rice went on television and reiterated a report which suggested that it was a spontaneous reaction to anger over a video. But with Tea Party Conservatives frustrated over her policies, Sen. Collins created political cover by leading the charge to vilify Amb. Rice, even though exhaustive reports have confirmed that Rice’s initial statements were correct.

More dangerously, Sen. Collins is a part of a growing caucus which threatens efforts for Iranian nuclear rapprochement. After the international community agreed to temporarily reduce sanctions on Iran in exchange for an understanding to limit their nuclear capacity, Sen. Collins criticized the agreement. Again forced to take a hardline approach to maintain credentials within the Republican party, Sen. Collins advocated not a reversal, but rather a ramping up of economic sanctions.

Further economic sanctions would dangerously compromise our national security by strengthening the hand of hardliners within Iran who support a more confrontational foreign policy. The exhaustive sanctions that were placed on Iran in 2012 are not an ends, but rather a means to diminish the negotiating leverage that Iran has in nuclear negotiations. Sanctions have the most impact when they are implemented and then pulled back; they boost the economy so citizens feel economic progress and pressure leaders to maintain positive relations.

Only one-third of the Iranian population supports a nuclear program, and punishing the Iranian people with further economic sanctions would prove the point of hardliners- that the United States does not seek peace. Adding more sanctions would not only undermine ongoing negotiations, but ruin the United States’s best chance at rapprochement in 60 years.

Until Sen. Collins stops advocating the most conservative foreign policies to gain cover after backlash from the Maine Tea Party, our national security will be further compromised. Instead of creating political cover with a needlessly aggressive policy on Iran, she should face the internal problems with the Republican party.

 

 

Justin Lynch

About Justin Lynch

Justin Lynch is the former president of the University of Maine International Affairs Association. A former BDN employee, he now lives in Washington, D.C.