The great economist F.A. Hayek once stated that conservatism is only as good as what it conserves. Traditional American Conservatism is based on Judeo-Christain morals and preserving old American values, as well as valuing constitutionalism and limited government. The Republican Party is the alleged party of conservatism, but most of its members have abandoned it and embraced neoconservatism.
Unlike traditional conservatism, it is unclear what exactly neoconservatives are trying to save. Neoconservatism peaked in the 1990s and 2000s, but it still lingers in today’s politics and is harming America. Moreover, the neoconservative philosophy has plagued most of the 20th century.
A History of Neoconservatism
Irving Kristol, the “Godfather of Neoconservatism,” described a neoconservative as a “liberal mugged by reality”. Other famous neoconservative philosophers include Leo Strauss and Bill Kristol. Neoconservatives were in harsh opposition to the Stalin regime and the spread of communism. The neoconservatives emerged during the Cold war as an ideology that endorsed democracy but still held some left-wing beliefs.
Because of this, many neoconservatives found a place in the Democratic party. LBJ and Truman fell under this category as having left domestic policy while being hawkish on foreign policy. Many people described them as “liberal hawks”. They split from the American left as many within it opposed intervention in Vietnam.
Neoconservatism started emerging even more in the Republican party after Reagan’s presidency. Reagan was a staunch anti-communist and the neoconservatives thought he was their man. Reagan was not what they had wanted, however, as their great victory came during the ’90s and 21st century.
The most notorious belief of the neoconservative is support for an extremely hawkish foreign policy. But why do they believe this? It often comes from the Wilsonian idea of spreading global democracy. Neoconservatives seek to invade and overthrow autocracies in order to establish a democratic government. Often, they seem to exaggerate foreign threats as an excuse to invade a nation.
Moreover, neoconservatives differ from traditional conservative beliefs on social and economic issues. Neoconservatives usually are more socially liberal than traditional conservatives. They tend to be more secular and do not see as much of an importance in religion as conservatives. As a result, they may be more supportive of abortion rights and open border policies.
On economics, though they sometimes may support elements of supply-side economics, they almost universally oppose free-market capitalism. In fact, many may support social welfare programs and other progressive economic ideas. Critics such as Pat Buchanan have stated that although the neoconservative GOP is Reaganite in tax policy, it is “Wilsonian in its foreign policy”, and “FDR in its trade policy”, and “LBJ all the way in its spending policy”.
Neoconservatism, a Threat to America
Neoconservatives have infiltrated both of America’s major political parties. George W. Bush, the most neoconservative president, started the longest war in our nation’s history: Afghanistan. Moreover, this same ideology led directly to the Iraq war. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and was no threat to the United States; yet, we still invaded them and overthrew Sadam Hussien, while looking for “weapons of mass destruction” (which we never found).
We have repeated this process of nation building plenty of times, and the results have been the same. The region became unstable as terrorist groups formed to fill the vacuum left after the government was overthrown. Has any of this benefitted America? Heavens no. The wars have claimed thousands of American lives and racked up the debt while sacrificing civil liberties.
But this does not matter to the neoconservative. Neoconservatives lean globalist; they do not seek to put America first, but rather spread global democracy.
Even as college liberals preached “peace and love”, Obama embraced a neoconservative foreign policy and dropped 26,000 bombs a year in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton was even more hawkish than Obama, supporting intervention in Libya. In the 2016 election, Trump criticized the Iraq war as a disaster. In response, the neoconservatives dropped support for their party’s candidate. Many were furious when Trump tried to use diplomacy with North Korea, claiming it made us look “weak”. One of the only times some Democrats praised Trump was when he bombed Syria.
John Bolton, a key advisor to the Bush administration, has been pushing Trump to war in Iran. The neoconservatives are trying to push us into war with Iran and Venezuela. There may be some hope for the future though; it appears that isolationist populism is on the rise and neoconservatism is dying. But neoconservatives still lurk in the political establishment and must be stopped. The endless wars they dream up will bleed the country dry.
The Republican Party must return to the “old right,” specifically embracing isolationism. The populist GOP movement is on the rise, and even though the movement is not perfect, it is a way to bring about a more peaceful foreign policy that puts America first. Unity between isolationist conservatives and some libertarians may make this takeover more successful.
Foreign policy, while not getting as much attention in the media, is one of the biggest issues facing the country. War destroys a nation’s economy, kills its people, and sacrifices liberty; we must prevent it at all costs. The Founding Fathers warned of the dangers of an interventionist foreign policy and entangling alliances. Specifically, James Madison spoke out against constant warfare, saying: “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare”
When the 2020 election comes, pay close attention to the foreign policy of the candidates. It could mean the difference between a free and prosperous country or a broken one.
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