The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.
It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.
The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.
Turkey in particular is expressing hope that this new Senate will push the administration toward dramatic escalations of the war, particularly in Syria, where Turkey has been hoping that an outright US invasion will happen and gift them with all the foreign policy goals they had in mind when they started backing Islamist rebels against the Assad government.
The new senators are seen as even more hostile toward Iran as well, and while some are presenting this as a victory for Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, others in the Israeli press wonder how well Netanyahu will be able to balance the increasing US-Israel split in the new political environment.
Still Iran negotiations are the one thing the Senate can most easily sabotage, as it would likely just take a new round of sanctions aimed specifically at killing the talks to get the job done.
That’s the silver lining elsewhere, as presidents have become so dictatorial in foreign policy in recent years that Congress has little direct say in wars and such, and can’t directly force escalations of conflicts.
But President Obama’s commitment to any particular level of escalation in his assorted wars is paper thin, and in the face of a more confrontational Senate he’s liable to agree to trade war escalations for other issues without much thought.
The victory of Senate hawks has also put NSA reforms and the CIA torture report in serious doubt, with Senate Intelligence Committee member Mark Udall (D – CO) losing his seat. Udall was one of the most public critics of government surveillance and intelligence community abuses, and the committee’s pending reshuffle with more pro-surveillance, pro-torture figures could spell the end to a push for reform.