Conservatives Don’t Want to Reform Foreign Policy

Reform ConservativeThere is a laugh-out-loud funny article by Colin Dueck and Roger Zakheim at The Wall Street Journal this morning, Toward a Reform-Conservative Foreign Policy. These “reform conservatives on national-security issues” want to change the state of our foreign policy. And they want to do it by — Wait for it! — doing exactly what conservatives have always wanted to do. I have major problems with the reform conservatives generally — all they are willing to do is nibble around the edges because they cannot be seen as taking a big bite out of conservative ideology. But at least they do nibble. Dueck and Zakheim don’t even do that.

The argument in the article consists of two points. First, it complains about Obama’s foreign policy. This isn’t serious at all. It just recycles the same tired claims of the conservatives that Obama looks week (generally because he doesn’t act like an authoritarian, but really just because he isn’t a Republican). The second part of the argument is a vague disclaimer that they aren’t like Bush in 2003. And this leads up to their great “reform” conclusion: we need to spend more money on the military.

It is curious that conservatives constantly call for government to be more efficient — except when it comes to the military. Education can be infinitely more efficient. One teacher can manage a thousand students! But the military couldn’t possibly do more with less! One less bomber would destroy our military or at least send the message to the evildoers that it is time to strike! It’s sad but tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the priorities of conservatives. No wonder they hold authoritarians like Putin in such high regard.

Ed Kilgore summed up what they are pushing, The Long-Awaited Reformicon Foreign Policy Initiative: Throw Money at the Pentagon:

So it seems the big Reformicon foreign policy principle is that it is again time to throw money at the Pentagon as a symbolic gesture of national “strength.” This, of course, has big and baleful consequences for Reformicon domestic policy, which on occasion requires some new federal spending. But frankly, honest fiscal math has not been a conservative priority since about 1981.

But it is more than that. The military cuts that we have seen came from the Sequester. The Republicans allowed cuts to military spending and Democrats allowed cuts to social spending. What these guys are really saying is that now that the deal is made, they want to keep the half of it that they like and jettison the half they don’t like. They even mention in the article how important cutting the budget is, “It is indeed imperative to reduce the national debt, but defense spending has already taken more than its share of cuts since Obama took office…” So the idea of just getting rid of the Sequester is off the table. As usual with conservatives, they want everything and are not willing to give anything in return.

They also mention Rand Paul as the leader of the faction of the party that wants to reduce the military. This is critical to their argument. By not being Rand Paul on the left and Bush in 2003 on the right, they are in the “reasonable” center. But it isn’t true. Rand Paul has shown himself to be very slippery when it comes to the military. By the time he gets the presidential nomination, he will be as much a hawk as any of them. And they provide an apologia for Bush in 2003, by noting the special circumstances. But there is nothing that they are proposing that is any different from Bush in 2003, except that they wouldn’t go to war with Saddam Hussein because he’s dead.

But maybe I’m wrong about these guys. In a way, they are right smack in the middle of the reform conservative movement. No one in that movement wants to change anything. They just want to rebrand the Republican Party. And that’s what their article is: a bunch of gobbledygook designed to look like they are dealing with the constant failures of their ideology, without actually doing it. Welcome to the party boys, the money is fine!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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