The conservative responses to Jacob Heilbrunn’s Foreign Policy article, “The End of the Establishment,” have been almost uniformly negative. Heilbrunn slips up in a couple places, especially when he sets up a fairly simple opposition between “pragmatic” internationalists on one side and neoconservatives and unilateralist nationalists on the other. Many neoconservatives are often unilateralist and internationalist at the same time, and some very aggressive hawks are not necessarily nationalists, if we assume that nationalists are primarily concerned with the national interest. Nonetheless, the phenomenon he is describing is real. There is an older generation of Republican realists that is now largely at odds with younger Republican political leaders, policy analysts and activists. At least when it comes to ratifying START, the former seem to have most of expertise and the latter have most of the influence on the right.
Jamie Fly’s response is the most amusing, as he concludes with the following passages:
What Heilbrunn fails to grasp is that his desired foreign policy (and President Obama’s) is at odds with the views of the American public. Americans don’t accept that the United States is in decline. They like the idea that there is something exceptional about their country. They have no problem with cutting deals with countries like China and Russia, but they want their President to make sure that we get the best deal possible and only cede as much as necessary. They want their president to speak out in support of those fighting for democracy and human rights. And they don’t like to see their government neglect democratic allies while negotiating with repressive regimes.
Americans want a values-based foreign policy, not a cold, calculating one. This, not a neocon sponsored coup, is why there is a broad foreign policy consensus on the Right today.
This is amusing because Obama’s handling of foreign policy is consistently one of his strongest areas in polling. It simply isn’t true that Obama’s foreign policy is “at odds with the views of the public.” For that matter, there is no evidence that Obama accepts that the U.S. is in decline. There is ample evidence that Obama believes in American exceptionalism. The START agreement ceded very little in the service of American security. Obama has not “spoken out” in support of dissidents when doing so might jeopardize their cause, and for the millionth time the administration has not “neglected democratic allies.” Fly takes for granted that the public supports his objections to the Obama administration when they do not, and he then conjures up errors the administration has not committed to back up his original false claim. In other words, there is “broad foreign policy consensus on the Right today” because most Republicans and conservatives have simply been inventing claims about mistakes that Obama has not made, attributed views to him he does not hold, and imagined that most Americans reject administration policies that do not exist.