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Reform Conservatives and Foreign Policy

Ed Kilgore gives [1] some advice to reform conservatives:

Perhaps the most troubling thing to me about Room To Grow is that it avoided immigration, as well as foreign and defense policy. These are critical issues, obviously, and talking about them will expose cavernous divisions within the GOP. This is exactly what you should be doing.

Kilgore makes a fair point that these are issues that can’t be avoided by conservatives that are interested in significant policy reform, but there are a few reasons why reform conservatives don’t want to focus on them. The difficulty is not so much that the party is divided over these issues, though the intra-party divisions are real and important, but that the people identified with reform conservatism either don’t agree on what should be done or don’t think anything significant needs to be changed. It also happens to be the case that the people most closely identified with reform conservatism tend to specialize in domestic policy issues, which leaves little time or attention for foreign policy. At the risk of over-generalizing, reform conservatives may or may not regret their support for the Iraq war, but for almost all of them the experience of the Bush years has had no effect on their broader views on foreign policy and military spending. With one or two notable exceptions, it is fair to say that reform conservatives have no significant problems with the way that the last administration conducted foreign policy, and they have few substantive disagreements with neoconservatives. Put simply, most reform conservatives don’t care about foreign policy reform because they don’t think there is anything seriously wrong with Republican foreign policy.

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10 Comments To "Reform Conservatives and Foreign Policy"

#1 Comment By collin On June 25, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

This is very important issue missed as most of reformist conservatives writers are more conservative realist with a hint of neocon instincts in their blood. And one can view that the Bush administration was so focused on the Iraq War he missed the housing boom/bust reality. (I know he fought against Frannie but it was limited fight and Frannie was just one piece of housing bust.) And if conservatives want to prove they are helping American families arguing for more war will hurt their cause.

#2 Comment By Sawhill On June 25, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

Yeah. Insofar as it is anything at all, “reform conservatism” seems to be neoconservative temporizing or perhaps rebranding. I refer to discredited characters like Wehner. Not exactly what the doctor ordered …

#3 Comment By Dennis Brislen On June 25, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

More smoke and mirrors designed to keep the faithful in line while the Bolton’s, Abrams and Kagan’s stir up a new and better disguised PNAC plan.

Sadly, it just might work.

To date, Rand Paul, even with minor vacillations, is the only GOP national figure to make any substantial effort at discrediting these people.

He is going to need some help.

#4 Comment By CharleyCarp On June 25, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

Coming at it from another direction, all the intelligent domestic policy reform in the world isn’t going to get someone anywhere near real power, if, when asked a FP question, they respond with knee jerk neoconservatism. And we know (a) anyone running for office will get asked eventually and (b) if they haven’t thought things through, the answers will be knee jerk (e.g. Mitt Romney’s answers).

#5 Comment By Mario On June 25, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

It certainly doesn’t help that the new face of ‘reform conservatism’ is Marco “Bombs Away” Rubio…

I think the economic reforms many say are needed are overblown. Foreign policy and crony capitalism were the biggest blunders of the Bush administration, and as far as I know, many people advocating reform conservatism advocate both a robust foreign policy and “conservative crony capitalism” like expanded tax credits for conservative leaning groups.

#6 Comment By KFS On June 26, 2014 @ 10:37 am

If they’re so interested in domestic policy, what is their take on “welfare reform?” Did it happen? Theres been a food stamp & disability boom and lots of new hand out programs. Or did it just end “as we know it” – a cute, tricky thing?

#7 Comment By Uncle Billy On June 26, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

I think that most American Conservatives would like to see a strong national defense, but a less aggressive foreign policy, with regards to interventions, especially in the middle east. These are not contradictory views. We can maintain a strong armed forces, without constantly invading and occupying other countries.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, I think most people want to tone down the invasion and nation building nonsense that we have fallen into.

#8 Comment By M. Beaupage On June 26, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

“We can maintain a strong armed forces, without constantly invading and occupying other countries. “

… and we’d save a few trillion dollars. That’s what I call American Conservatism.

#9 Comment By Tim D. On June 26, 2014 @ 10:02 pm

The numerous problems of the Bush Administration stem from the fact that the Bush Administration was movement conservatism gone horribly right. Everything from tax cuts to Medicare Part D to inflating the mother of all financial bubbles, the policies of the Bush Administration revealed just how authoritative, antidemocratic, crazy movement conservatism was.

The most dangerous legacy of the Bush Administration, and the one issue that reform conservatism needs to acknowledge, is that Bush and his cronies don’t believe in reality. People such as Bruce Bartlett and Collin Powell made remarks on how just how incompetent policy-making in the Bush Administration was, on issues ranging from Iraq to civil rights to the ‘booming economy’.

Then again, the movement appears to be all bark and no bite, and refuses to acknowledge that the ‘conservative party’ reformers want already exists. Every knows it as the Democratic Party.

#10 Comment By Sean Scallon On June 27, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

Any “reform conservatism” without any kind of foreign policy component is a worthless and pointless exercise.

Kilgore makes a number of cogent points about the “reformers” are not really challenging anything about conservatism as a philosphy or ideology in the context to modern U.S. society and the current polity. Any Republican politican could get behind what they’re proposing and thus would change nothing, which means their ultimate aims would go unfulfilled.

I’m no policy wonk or philospher but it seems to me a “reform” conservativtism main goal is purge the ideological and dogmatism from conservative thinking persons (which means eliminating the “Right” and trying to create a society where such thinking can flourish. They can only do this if:

1). An economy is created which benefits small towns and rural areas and even city neighborhoods (little platroons).

2). Such communities in his economy support stable families.

3). Such families would sustain a viable culture of churches and civic organizations and locally support arts and sciences.

4). Such culture would keep said communties together as balance towards individualism and materialism which tears such communities apart.

To accomplish all these things requires massive changes with economic and foreign policy, not just creating another loop-hole in the tax code. Those changes will be opposed by those who self-interest benefits from the current arrangement. That’s when the proper fermet and debate takes place that characterized what was going on on the Left in the late 80s and early 90s. That’s how change takes place.

None of that is going on on the “Right” or conservative circles at this moment.