Sunday, March 15, 2009

Core Values and Foreign Policy

I've been reading Dan Riehl's posts the last couple of days. Dan's fleshing out what it means to be conservative in our new age, and in the context of Ross Douthat's appointment to the New York Times, he's got some particularly pointed words for neoconservatism, and he laments more broadly the disgraced ideological fragmentation on the right:

Any real voice of conservatism today, and it hardly exists, has been all but relegated to radio talk where it's often too easily marginalized as a sort of carnival bark, even in cases when it is not.

Truth be told and in what I hope is a passing mood, I'm mostly sick of it and hard-pressed to find good reason for good conservatives not to simply go off the grid. If the day ever comes for conservatives to have a serious voice again, I'm unconvinced it will be through the GOP and I know for a fact, it'll never be through the New York Times. And the events that would have to take place for conservatives to have a meaningful voice again are so profound, I can't bring myself to entertain the thought just now.
I actually touched on this a bit in my post yesterday, "Core Values Conservatism."

I was writing primarily about domestic policy in that post, however. Recall in particular the point
Peter Berkowitiz made the other day, when he suggested the path forward for partisans of the right is to grapple with the realities of big government and to accommodate the sexual revolution. I have some issues with Berkowitz's argument, as I noted at my post, but here I need to reiterate Berkowitz's assumption that the future direction of conservatism includes a robust, forward-looking foreign policy orientation as given. The U.S. is certainly in for some retrenchment in foreign affairs, but much of America's difficulties in foreign policy will be found more so in the economic realm than the strategic. As the news this week showed, for example, for all the talk that China might dump its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities, "Beijing has not given indications of any major shift in its current investments or future buying plans." Moreover, at the level of the international system, for all the talk of American decline, there's no viable challenger to U.S. preponderance, and recent poll findings suggest that U.S. public support for the United Nations is at an all-time low. When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. That is, our economic and political fortunes have dramatic implications for the well-being of the world community. The primacy of America's outward orientation is here to stay, and folks who identify as paleoconservatives, who call for a "come home America" isolationism, are not only near-sighted to America's strategic interests, but unpatriotic as well.

Recall yesterday, in "
Soft on Our Enemies," I mentioned Barry Goldwater's libertarian nationalism in foreign policy. Goldwater, whose 1964 campaign is often seen as the beginning of the modern conservative movement, evinced an intense clarity on the nature of the Soviet threat during the early Cold War. His theme? Liberty at home depends on security abroad. This verity is no less appropriate in the age of Islamist terrorism than it was during the era of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary expansionism.

So, let me shift here to a brief discussion of neoconservatism. I want to suggest that not only has neonservatism been wrongly and unnecessarily identified as an exclusive theory of foreign policy, there's also a natural affinity between classically-liberal conservatism and the neoconservative orientation. Indeed, the future of the right will depend on some sort of strategic alliance between "
hard classical-liberals"and socially-traditional neoconservatives.

As Robert Stacy McCain recently pointed out, neoconservatives are former liberals who were mugged by reality. While Irving Kristol is usually held up as the central example, I like Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Their writings on race (Podhoretz, "My Negro Problem - and Ours") and social welfare policy (Moynihan, "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action") are among the best in public intellectualism in the last 50 years. Not only that, the policy successes of the neoconservative paradigm were achieved in the Reagan administration's righteous assault on big-government handouts to "welfare queens," for example, and Charles Murray's argument that public-assistance makes poverty worse was validated by the GOP's 1996 welfare reform legislation. Whereas some have suggested that neocons are indifferent to the right's pro-life agenda, this is more a function of individual policy priorities - and a faltering devotion to the neoconservative moral vision - than an explicity hostility to pro-life politics.

Keep in mind that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin - who is the darling of social conservatives - is
doctrinally neoconservative in her robust embrace of inalienable rights worldwide, and in her vision of American's exceptionalism in both the domestic and international realms.

All of this might remain controversial for some traditionalists, perhaps Dan Riehl and others. But folks must keep in mind that erstwhile (neo)conservatives such as David Brooks, David Frum, Richard Perle are soft-and-squishy self-promoters who have abandoned the populist persuasion that's necessary for the rejuvenation of the political right. These people are cancers on the cause. They'll push a fluffy electoral centrism over the clarity and vision of ethical rationalism.

As I noted previously, the way forward for the GOP is to build an alliance between between hard classical-liberals and socially-traditional neoconservatives. If the "neocon" label is essential "toxic" for many on the right, that's fine. Neoconservatism preceded the Bush doctrine and "compassionate conservatism." Its clarity of moral purpose will remain, and for building a victory coalition going forward, I'll simply be advocating a "
core values conservatism," one that combines the primacy of the pro-life movement for total human dignity with moral clarity in international politics - a combination that Barry Goldwater advanced for a strong and successul ideological right in earlier decades.

11 comments:

The Griper said...

to me when a person speaks of core values it is the core values of what kind of government we want. the values stated in the article seems to be more in line of the policies that would, by the nature of the government we advocate for, come as a natural outcome.

as for recruiting, i have to admit that i've never liked the idea because if there is a need to recruit then there is something wrong with what is being offered now. people should be and will be drawn into a cause because it is a worthy one. also, recruitment often means bribery. we see that now in Congress where a person is recruited to vote in a certain way by giving them something in return.

maybe i'm being naive in my thinking and too cynical of the process but i guess that is why i'm a griper. lol

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks for visiting, Griper!

Anonymous said...

As Obama gives conservatives a "real" reason to complain about government spending...

As "real" national security takes the form of removal of the missle shield, bribing Hamas, dissing our friends and pandering to our enemies...

As courts redefine marriage, allow babies to be experimented on, and relegate gun ownership to post military militia...

Many conservatives are foretelling doom of America as we know it.

So tell me conservatives...

Is YOUR conservative principles worth the death of this nation?

Life has always been about choices. Especially in a free society. When you chose to join the Liberal counterpart in bashing Bush and all things Republican...when you gave the American voter only ONE side--and that was Bush and the GOP is bad and cannot be trusted...when you refuse to support enough "R"s to give the GOP the majority...when you refused to vote for the GOP CHOICE on their ticket...

You put YOUR principles above the survival of America.

I used to hear you claim to be a conservative first, a Republican a distant second or not at all.

Now, tell me...if being an American trumps being a conservative.

Tapline said...

dd. Good Post. Maybe I am not into this Conservative/liberal thing. I just know what I believe and follow my own values...I belive in life liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, Whether or not it is the same as we hear about in our constitution, I don't know,,,All I do know is that I know my way of life is slowing being taken away from me and mine. Little by little and it started years ago....about 45 years ago, I believe. Life was much simpler then and one could see,,,People were not speaking up for the treasonous attitutes being touted as speaking ones mind and no one seemed to mind because what was happening was for the greater good or for our safety. See where we are today. We cannot speak our mind, because when we do we are treading on someone elses freedom. Our individual freedom is being replaced by group think. There is something desperately wrong with this thinking and action that accompanies such....When my granddaughter came home from college where she is majoring in Music said to me..Grampa they have given me a list of books that shouldn't be read in school or could have repercussions, I blew my top....What are they teaching in Universities today.....It's group think....No critical analysis....I ramble.....stay well....

Righty64 said...

Donald, I always say this when you refer to yourself as a neoconservative that you really are a conservative. I hate the subtexting of it. We both share the same values and view of the United States. And our role in the world. What is worth fighting for. I do not write to denigrate neoconservatism. But, you hit it on the head about Brooks, Frum, Pearle. They are self-promoters. I think that you look at the world in a lot of the same way that Bill Kristol does. I know that I do. And, one more thing. I am NOT pessimestic about conservativsms future. To quote our mutual blogging friend, The Other McCain-IT WON'T WORK! And, when it does not work-President Obama's grand socialistic give-in agenda-the American people will turn to the GOP once again for adult leadership. This time, we need to keep reminding them to not get into Washington power. That was the downfall.

Greywolfe said...

I guess I'm not as well read as you are dd, however, I'd say that neither is the "average joe". For many, myself first and foremost, when I think of neoconcervatives, I tend to think of "W". He called himself a "compassionate concervative" and we have come to realize (hindsight being what it is) that he wasn't concervative on very many of the things we'd like him to be. Perhaps he was being misled by his staff on the border issues but I can't see it of a former Texas Governor. Perhaps he was mistaken in how to deal with the Dems in Congress, but I'd have loved to see a veto of some spending bill from time to time.

In point of fact, his only three truly conservative positions were on abortion, stem-cell research, and I only give him a grudging nod in his handling of the wars.

I don't blame W for the economy at all. That I lay squarely with Congress both current and past for their failures in the housing and banking industries.

As for The Gripers assertions on recruiting, there is something wrong with what is being offered. It's called mis-information. We have to get our message out to those that are mis-informed about what true Conservatives believe. And on what this country was founded on. We get back to those core principles and the nations woes will come around on their own.

Greywolfe said...

Ok. So I'll give him tax breaks too. But then he went and caved in on the "tax refunds" to people that payed no taxes. Wait, isn't that welfare? damn, he screwed the tax breaks too.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue of terminology or labels is not our problem. Our main problem the inability to attract moderate swing voters. Lets take abortion for example. Why can we not take the position of allowing abortions for rape and incest or to save the life of the mother? This position gets us closer to where we want to be? Reducing abortions and eventually ending them. Why not call for continued debate on Climate Change? Personally I think its an exaggerated issue but when thousands of scientists support the theory its pretty hard to call it a hoax without looking ignorant.Even if we do not believe that Climate change exists perhaps we can make statements that sound more reasonable such as " The possibilty of Global Warming is one we must debate and discuss".

shoprat said...

When the extreme left controls entertainment, most news, and most education, we have an uphill battle because we have difficulty getting out our beliefs and challenging and discrediting liberal ideas where the average American voter can see and hear the challenge. They never do but are buried beneath a barrage of liberal lies. This is what we have to defeat. We have talk radio and a few websites and they have an iron grip on all other information.

Old Rebel said...

Americaneocon wrote: "The primacy of America's outward orientation is here to stay, and folks who identify as paleoconservatives, who call for a "come home America" isolationism, are not only near-sighted to America's strategic interests, but unpatriotic as well."

True -- that is, when the word "patriotic" is redefined as blind obedience to the government, surrender of traditional rights, and meek submission to demographic re-engineering.

The Griper said...

greywolfe,

if it is misinformation that is the problem then conservatives better take a good look inside themselves. you, yourself, stated where the cornerstone of that misinformation is coming from by your gripes.

its not the beliefs that are in question but the putting into practice those beliefs. even liberals can cite the core beliefs of conservatism and they understand their meaning.

the big difference in today's liberalism and today's cobnservatism is that liberalism practices what they preach, and as you pointed out so clearly, conservatives do not.

conservatives haven't learned the most important lesson of politics yet, to compromise with a liberal is to give the liberal the win.