But the conservative coalition ought to naturally produce realists from its ranks, for their sake and its own, because realism’s cold-eyed pursuit of the national interest is the most logical and productive elite-level expression of the Jacksonian, don’t-tread-on-me nationalism that holds sway among a large swathe of the conservative base. Neoconservatism can and should speak for part of the American Right, but it can’t speak for the whole of it; it’s [sic] Wilsonian impulses will always be a bridge too far for many conservatives whose instincts run instead toward “to hell with them” hawkery. This “more rubble, less trouble” tendency within the Right’s coalition needs to be channeled in a constructive direction by the right-wing elite, or else it runs toward jingoism and folly of various sorts.
Reading Ross’ earlier post in light of his more recent comments, I am a bit puzzled. Proposing that a “coalition of the introverts” (i.e., an America First coalition on the right) would be unsuitable to govern, Ross nonetheless seemed to concede in his later post that the most logical, if perhaps not the most productive, expression of don’t-tread-on-me nationalism would have been Ron Paul-style “Jeffersonianism.” Leaving aside certain direct symbolic appeals to libertarian populist, don’t-tread-on-me sentiment (e.g., the frequent appearance of Gadsden flags at Ron Paul events and the flag’s popularity among Ron Paul supporters), it is not clear why realists/”Hamiltonians” offer the better elite expression of the “Jacksonian” nationalist view.
If Jacksonians tend to support wars when they are declared/launched far longer than any other group because of strong cultural habits and traditions of military service, but are themselves unconcerned and usually uninformed about international affairs, the typical elite complaint about them is that they are not zealous enough for this or that grand mission that Wilsonian and Hamiltonian elites have planned for them. This is what had Fukuyama (who must now be also be classed among the “Hamiltonians”?) agitated several years ago. To be blunt, jingoism and folly are the provinces of the Wilsonians and Hamiltonian elites who by and large pushed for or acquiesced in the Iraq war. These elites have not channeled Jacksonian nationalism in a constructive direction, but on the whole exploited it in a crisis and pushed the Jacksonians in rather destructive directions, and I do not see what will change in this dynamic in the future. “More rubble, less trouble” and “to hell with them” hawks are expressing the frustration of Jacksonians who have been conned or misled into foreign adventures on what were supposed to have been national security grounds that later gave way to woolly-minded nation-building projects. Had they not been incited by elites to support the adventure based on exaggerated threats abroad, they might not have been hawks in the first place. Before they said “to hell with them,” Jacksonians said, “Why bother?”
It is also taken for granted here that Jacksonian nationalists are not to have elites from their own ranks, because they are otherwise ruled unfit for government, and so they must be led, channeled, and directed by others. Even though the Wilsonians erred very badly, as Wilsonians will, and, as Ross said, “many of [Hamiltonianism’s] practitioners, starting with the buffoonish Chuck Hagel, did not exactly distinguish themselves during the debates over the Iraq War,” these groups are still going to be permitted a leadership role in formulating center-right foreign policy thinking? On what grounds? If realists/Hamiltonians failed to lead and failed to distinguish themselves during one of the most important foreign policy debates of the last 20 years, why should Jacksonians or anyone else want to be “channeled” anywhere by them in the future? If up and coming realists were chastened by Iraq, what exactly have they learned that would distinguish them from the older realists who failed?