Blaming National Security Conservatives for Republican Problems

Blaming National Security Conservatives for Republican Problems



Usually, when people debate why the conservative movement has hit hard times, they argue about whether Republicans are fiscally conservative enough or whether they are too focused on social issues. Rarely does the third tent pole of modern conservativism get mentioned: the national security conservatives. But that’s the exact group to blame argues Daniel Larison in The Week:

The faction most responsible for the GOP’s political failure is national security conservatives. Yet within the party, they remain unscathed, their assumptions about the use of American power largely unquestioned, and their gross errors in judgment forgotten or readily forgiven. Among the mainstream right, the foreign policy of the Bush administration is barely a subject of debate. Rather than reorienting Republican foreign policy towards a political center defined by realism, humility and restraint, the GOP’s leadership and activists have redoubled their commitment to Bush and Cheney’s hawkish stances and to a lock-step defense of the Bush administration’s policies.

Larison is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, part of the Pat Buchanan wing of the conservative movement (wing? More like alcove these days) – so you know he comes at this with a certain isolationist bias. But is he right? Are Republicans losing because they can’t divorce themselves from the national security policies of the Bush years?

Seems to me it’s a lot more complicated than that. But it’s worth considering. After all, the Republicans were once known for their realism abroad and that, in turn, made the party look mature and capable. Without that realism on weighty matters, can the party hope to regain the trust of the American people? Does Larison have a point?

  • kranky kritter

    My sense is that strong aggressive foreign policy is not really an issue where the GOP is that out of step. Not at its core. In the aftermath of a war that was a divisive subject, and also in the wake of the end of a very unpopular admin, I think it seems that way more than it really is in terms of whatever the native perspective on foreign policy is.

    In other words, we are definitely not a nation of doves, although the are plenty. And we are not really much of a nation of realpolitikers either, because that’s a perspective so sophisticated and fraught with troubling detail that most folks don’t get it or don’t like it.

    Sure, the GOP and the Bush admin carried the water for our 9/11 outrage. Maybe they carried it way too far, but the outrage was real. Sure, it has diminished somewhat over time and in light of more pressing domestic circumstances. Unquestionably. But if you ask me, for at least the next generation, the fear and anger from 9/11 will be near the surface, We as a nation will not be more than one small but scary domestic terror-related event away from the defcon-5 panic we saw circa 9/12/2001. Nearby events will have similar effects, as will substantially-sized events among our allies. And direct violent challenges to our forces overseas or acts against our citizens abroad.

    I am very, VERY familiar with the traditional democratic argument that there’s a better smarter way to be strong, to engage, to use diplomacy. In the end, this argument never closes the deal. The argument just ebbs and flows with the times. Folks who don;t agree are entitled to their mileage. When you give it 10 or 20 years you will see it work this way. So keep your eyes open.

    Conservatives know this, and will always keep the democrats flanked on the right on foreign policy. Democrats are not by any stretch of the imagination on the cusp of ridding themselves of the worry that they will look weak on foreign policy compared to Republicans. In fact, this is the most important reason why we are going to be stuck wasting our time, money, and soldiers lives trying to fix Afghanistan. I hope we can achieve some successes there, but my expectations are extremely low.

  • SpkTruth2Pwr

    Very good read. I do think that this group of ppl is forgotten and is turning in to a stubborn display of poor judgment for their party.

  • Bubbaquimby

    I have always said that the neocons were the real reason that the GOP has sunk so low. Because unlike the socons, they have real power. While I agree with Kranky that Afghan may lead to a mess, that was supposedly a realist war. We went their with just cause.

    And while the torture issue is more shakey on what was acceptable on 9/12/01 and what is acceptable now, it was obvious that people didn’t like things like Abu Ghraib. And I think most indies don’t like Gitmo and waterboarding. It’s the other parts of the enhanced integration public opinion might be more mixed.

    But still the worse crime was the war of choice as Richard Haass calls the Iraq War. In 2006, which candidates did Dems use to win? Anti-Iraq candidates. They even had some that were socially conservative like Casey and Schuler and people like Harold Ford who is fiscally and socially conservative (although Ford lost).

    That’s why I am surprised when people like Michael Reynolds rant about the socons since they don’t really have much power. They do vote more consistently for the GOP but what have they gotten? Most of the things they got were at least somewhat bipartisan measures. Don’t ask/Don Tell, state gay marriage bans, partial birth abortion ban. And even the Terri Schavo case had 47 Dems vote on it (only 53 No votes). But they didn’t get the main goals they wanted like overturning Roe v Wade and federal amendment banning gay marriage. Which I never thought either of those two would happen even when they were in control, now it’s guaranteed it won’t.

    The only thing that was truly a win was holding back stem cell research but that now is gone.

    So in my minds it’s always been the neocons which I have been more pissed at. Socons don’t have as much power in reality and it’s waning anyways. While neocons helped create the debt we have, made us less safe (although I honestly think the last 4 admins have done that), ruined our image aboard and bogged us down in two wars.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    If Bin Laden had been caught, or if the Iraq war had been executed properly from the beginning (i.e. the current success of the “surge” had been applied immediately after the fall of Bagdad) then this whole argument would be moot. It was the Bush administration’s incompetence when developing the strategy and conducting the foreign policy initiatives that was the problem, not the actual initiatives themselves.

  • TerenceC

    It isn’t questioned because to do so would bring direct confrontation with the military industrial complex and all the fraud, waste, abuse, and chicanery contained therein. For decades many people commented that the “third rail” of American politics was Social Security – nothing could be further from the truth.
    The third rail of American Politics is the military industrial complex – including the DoD, all of the intelligence apparatus’, and the off the books contractor projects – combined they exhaust over $1 Trillion annually from the treasury – with very little success to show for it, and even less critical over sight.

    Despite popular theory that Republicans are strong on defense the facts indicate the contrary. Any idiot can start a war. A true statesman and a country that is diplomatically involved with the world can get most of what they want through diplomacy, and the remainder by showing the “stick” without having to use it. In the past 10 years the Republican majority has weakened us throughout the world by not taking diplomacy seriously and then committing the military to no-win situations that do nothing but give the appearance that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

    Billions upon billions spent – but no one can account for fully 30% of the money……….who got rich? Why hasn’t anyone been allowed to follow the money? The Republicans are weak on national defense, and they always have been. They are great at bloviating, changing the subject, staying on their talking points, robbing us blind, and then blaming their adversaries when questioned. The Republican national defense meat puppets are the bratty, spoiled, illogical children of American politics .

    I don’t necessarily brand all Republicans in this light, and there are certainly several Democratic meat puppets that enabled this behavior the past decade – but the Republicans were in power, and they did put us in the situation we are currently in. That isn’t opinion, it’s simply fact.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    I like this because now we have some symmetry. All three wings of the GOP — Money, Bombs and Jesus — now hate each other and blame each other. Usually Money and Bombs get along great with Jesus being the outlier.

    In the end Money and Bombs will reconcile. I think there’s a 50/50 chance they form a separate party from the Jesus wing. It’s not just a question of issues, it’s cultural. There’s no core cultural antipathy between Money and Bombs like there is between the Jesus wing and . . . well, everyone else in both parties.