Peter Scoblic did an op-ed over the weekend making the point that yelling “appeasement!” at the slightly sign of diplomacy is a longstanding trend in post-war rightwing foreign policy thinking and it just happens to be wrong all the time. You can read more about this in Scoblic’s excellent book or, for that matter, in my book.
The crux of the matter is that while truly conservative foreign policy thought has a long history of wrongness in the United States it’s rarely genuinely held sway on the big issues. Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan all at key moments broke with elements of their conservative base to preserve containment, to initiate détente, to continue with the bilateral arms control process, etc., leaving run-amok rightwingery mostly to fester in third world battlefields rather than on the central point of America’s relationship with Europe, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Under Bush, though, we’ve seen it take center stage with disastrous consequences and John McCain is, if anything, more of a true believer than Bush.