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?

Politics Blaming National Security Conservatives for Republican Problems