Foreign Policy Smackdown
Pat Hynes covers the ongoing battle
over the direction of conservative foreign policy between National Review and the Weekly Standard. As usual Pat's analysis is spot-on, although I do wonder about this part, where he summarizes Rich Lowry's major points:1. The best defense is a good offense.
2. A healthy skepticism of government action.
3. A healthy appreciation for all instruments by which national power is projected.
4. A healthy appreciation for the role of democracy in fostering liberty.
5. A solid grounding in American traditions, “built on the four schools identified by Walter Russell Mead.”
In my view, the neocons would have no gripe with items 1, 3, and 4 above. As for number two, I think the neocons are more optimistic on the question of the government’s competence than the average conservative.
The term "neocon" has migrated a bit from its original meaning. The central tenet of neoconservatism is the Principle of Unintended Consequences, which holds that the unintended consequences of government action are frequently equal to and opposite from the intended consequences. Thus welfare, which was intended to help people out, ended up trapping them in poverty.
So the idea that neocons might object to item 2 on that list seems a little odd. I understand where Pat's coming from on this, but it highlights the need for some new terminology. It's obviously true that if you are a big believer in the Principle of Unintended Consequences, then you should have been opposed to the notion of remaking the Middle East, which is a vast government project rife with potential for bad unintended consequences.
And yet, it is clear that neocons have been pretty enthusiastic supporters of the war in Iraq. What's going on here?
1. Neocons (true neocons) are a much smaller and less influential group than is commonly assumed. This should be obvious given that Bill Kristol is arguably the most influential and famous neocon. I myself came over to the Republican Party via the neoconservative bridge, but I no longer consider myself a neocon. I'm more of a National Review guy than a Weekly Standard guy.
2. The War in Iraq is not necessarily a violation of the Principle of Unintended Consequences. We have put the systems in place to allow the Iraqi people to determine their own future. The systems that were in place were preventing that to happen, which was boiling over elsewhere.
3. Not all the people who support the war are neocons. This should also be obvious. Yeah, the paleos are against it. But those in favor include the traditional conservatives at the National Review, and folks like Michael J. Totten
who are liberal on just about everything else.
This is (I think) what our good friend Neo-neocon
is getting at with the name of her blog.