Kelley Vlahos looks for evidence of a broadened foreign policy and national security debate at CPAC this year, but doesn’t find very much:
Looking at the 2013 schedule, the prospects for any such debate are drearier than ever. A source who has led some attempts to broaden the national security discussion at CPAC tells Antiwar that it’s become even harder to get panels and speakers approved who are empathetic to the cause of a more restrained military policy [bold mine-DL] — it’s as though organizers are purging all remnants of those Paul years for fear of another scourge.
One would think that it shouldn’t be harder for arguments for restraint to receive a hearing now than it was in the past, but I assume this report is correct. Three electoral drubbings and a disastrous war haven’t made most movement conservatives more interested in foreign policy restraint than they were, and if anything the Hagel fight caused movement conservatives to become more hostile to the idea. I don’t believe it’s the case that there are now fewer conservatives and Republicans across the country interested in a foreign policy of restraint. On the contrary, I assume that there are many more than there used to be, and there is some evidence of that in opinion surveys. The problem is that movement conservatism evidently has no place for these people. What does seem to be happening is that movement conservative organizations and institutions are becoming more resistant to arguments for restraint at the moment that these arguments are starting to gain a larger following inside the Republican coalition. Movement conservatives are speaking to a shrinking audience that excludes a lot of conservatives and Republicans, but it is one that may embrace hard-line policies more intensely than ever.
Elsewhere in the column, I am quoted offering an explanation why hard-line policies continue to find so much favor at the conference and among movement conservatives more broadly. I said:
For many movement conservatives, the last decade was the only time in their lives that the party they supported controlled all branches of government, and I suspect that this causes many of them to perceive the 2000s as a much better period for the country and for their ideas than it was. That in turn encourages…uncritical acceptance of pro-war arguments that were so prevalent on the right in the 2000s and later, because these arguments have become ingrained as part of the conservative movement’s identity and its understanding of itself.
I don’t think I put this too strongly. As far as the conservative movement’s institutions and interest groups are concerned, foreign policy appears to be the one thing that that they don’t need to rethink or try to reform.