Justin Raimondo detects yet another death of neoconservatism and yet another resurgence of non-interventionism on the right. As usual, he takes isolated examples, misinterprets them and then grossly exaggerates their importance. It is great news that many Tea Party protesters support something like a non-interventionist foreign policy. As many of them were originally Ron Paul supporters, just as I was, it makes sense that quite a few of them do support this. It would be even better news if there were any reason to believe that most of the Republican Party and conservative movement shared their foreign policy views. The very thing that Raimondo cites as evidence of this, namely the criticism Tea Partiers are receiving from Frum’s neoconservatives, is proof that it is not so.
At the moment, Ron Paul is getting a hearing on fiscal and economic policy because it suits both party and movement to pretend that the GOP values fiscal responsibility and limited government. We know that the party does not value these things, but it is a start. It is on these issues that Tea Party protesters and the rest of the movement are finding common ground. That is fine as far as it goes, but movement conservatives are fixated on questions of spending in order to avoid taking any responsibility for the foreign policy they have endorsed for years. Like Pawlenty, who is now trying to appeal to Tea Party sentiments by suddenly adopting the positions they favor, these conservatives blame Republican collapse on excessive spending and corruption. They are reacting to what they believe was the lesson of the 2006 and 2008 elections. The only trouble is that they have learned the wrong lesson. As ever, the war in Iraq and the GOP’s other foreign policy mistakes are never mentioned, and just like Pawlenty they continue to believe that invading Iraq was the right thing to do.
What Raimondo seems unable to grasp is that Republicans and movement conservatives are encouraging and tolerating Tea Party protesters in spite of their foreign policy views, which they know they can safely ignore anyway. The attacks on their foreign policy views by Frum et al. are a desperate bid to make them seem unacceptable to party and movement leaders in order to derail Tea Party advocacy of libertarian and small-government conservative economic and domestic policies. Why do Frum et al. focus on the Tea Party protesters’ foreign policy views and their support for Ron Paul? They do this because they are reasonably sure that most Republicans and conservatives see these things as liabilities. It is not true that the only thing that matters to Frum et al. is foreign policy. Most of what Frum has been doing for the last several years and the purpose of his website have been to move the GOP and the movement to the left on most domestic policies.
On foreign policy, Frum and his colleagues are not at odds with the rest of the right, and they know it. It is on domestic policy where they are on the margins and have relatively little influence at the moment, and so they are trying to undermine their opponents in domestic policy debates by drawing attention to foreign policy views that the Tea Partiers hold and which most on the right seems not to hold. It is the equivalent of “centrist” Democrats c. 2003-04 using progressives’ foreign policy views against them, but the difference is that the “centrists” in the GOP have the majority of the party on their side when it comes to foreign policy. That is lamentable and disastrous, as the recent elections have shown, but it is the way things are at present. At the moment, neoconservative domestic policy arguments are out of favor, but there is scarce evidence that their foreign policy arguments are unpopular among Republicans and conservatives. When even some of the “antiwar” Republicans on Afghanistan vote for imposing sanctions on Iran and wish to launch a war against Iran, it would appear that neoconservatism is not nearly as politically weak as we would like it to be.