As I say quite a lot around here, in many ways, I am a conservative. There are two kinds of conservatives in the world. Imagine you are trying to sleep and your next door neighbor is having a party. If you are the kind of conservative that has now taken over the Republican Party, you are waiting for the slightest sound so they can make angry phone calls, pound on the neighbor’s door, or call the cops. If you are my kind of conservative you just want to live and let live. And this is not just because I don’t like confrontations. In general, people should be allowed to live their lives unless doing so is really infringing on my doing the same. It is probably not hard to see how I managed to be a libertarian for so long.
Daniel Larison at The American Conservative — like most of the staff there when it comes to foreign policy — is my kind of conservative. He highlighted an interview that John Kasich had with Hugh Hewitt. In it, Kasich says a number of things that are wrong, and dangerous. And they all show that despite his reputation, Kasich is just your typical Republican. Well, just like with conservatives, there are two kinds of Republicans when it comes to foreign policy. There are those who want to go to war everywhere and there are those who just want to fund and supply arms to some faction everywhere in the world.
Larison refers to the first kind of Republicans as “expensive hawks” and the Kasich kind as “cheap hawks.” And I don’t think he means that just in the sense that expensive hawks cost the nation more money than the cheap hawks. There is definitely the sense — which I share — that the cheap hawks get their policy on the cheap. It is easier to make war everywhere if there aren’t dead American soldiers and grieving American families. This is a big problem with drone warfare. There isn’t a political price to pay for this foreign policy adventurism. So I would much rather deal with the expensive hawks, because at least they are being upfront about what they want to do.
One of Larison’s great insights about Kasich — and by extension, all the hawks — is that the policies that he’s for will not further the goals he claims to have. “Kasich wants to create the impression that he wants to maintain stability, but everything he recommends doing here is necessarily destabilizing.” As we knew well before the Iraq War, but should be crystal clear since, overthrowing dictators — while potentially good — is hugely destabilizing. To go back to my party analogy, sending weapons to insurgents is like thinking that you are going to make your neighbor’s party quieter by having a few cases of beer delivered.
Of course, other than being a whole lot smarter and less inclined to go everywhere, the Democratic Party is filled with cheap hawks as well. I have been happy that Obama has limited our engagements. But where he hasn’t — most especially in terms of drone warfare — he is cheap hawk all the way. And we are the worse for it. At least as the Iraq War dragged on, people started talking about it. Almost no one in the mainstream media talks about the drone strikes, except when something “notable” happens like an American getting killed. Drone strikes and funding rebels is a very cheap approach to war indeed.