The True Path

Spackerman draws my attention to Heritage foreign policy honcho Kim Holmes’ big new idea which is basically that New Left ideology has taken over the “newsrooms and the halls of universities, churches, movie houses, European foreign ministries, and the United Nations” and, therefore, while America’s traditional allies “continue to espouse a rote commitment to the basic principles of freedom and democracy, they no longer believe that these principles are the ideological heart of the free world.”

What follows from this, for some reason, is the idea that we need to double-down on unilateralism, militarism, and assertion of hegemony.

Spencer takes apart most of Holmes’ specific points, so I would just add a historical note. If you’re the American conservative movement and the question is “what should we do about our foreign policy” the answer is always to double-down on unilateralism, militarism, and assertions of hegemony. There’s a tendency toward amnesia on this, as if the right-wing was the original architect of NATO and containment, when in fact just as Holmes is right now arguing that liberals and diplomats and Europeans are selling out freedom and Americanism back then this was their argument to. If conservatives hadn’t gotten us bogged down in fruitless invasion of Russia in 1946, they would have destroyed the world in a nuclear war in 1956, had the United States spend the entirety of the 1970s bogged down in Vietnam, rebuffed Gorbachev’s efforts to wind down the Cold War, etc. To a striking extent, American security and prosperity has relied on the fact that not only have Democrats usually propounded a sounder course, but at key moments Republican presidents have turned off the true path of the movement.

George W. Bush has been different, of course, in consistently rebuffing the entreaties not just of liberals, but also of right-of-center establishmentarians like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft to show some appreciation for reality. And we can see all around us what it’s wrought. Homes’ theory is that the massive failures of conservative foreign policy can be blamed on a vast swathe of the democratic world turning its back on the true path. The truth, however, is that pre-9/11 we’ve almost never seen the United States actually try the true path for any period of time — we’ve never tried it because the true path is crazy and impractical — and what’s happened since then is just the result.