Warriors Against the Wars


With Michael Steele, Ann Coulter, and other conservatives questioning Washington's military commitments, Jim Antle tackles the topic of hawks for peace:

Some of this is mere partisan opportunism, as when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele advised candidates at a Connecticut GOP fundraiser that they should disown Afghanistan—initially invaded under George W. Bush with near unanimous Republican support—as "a war of Obama's choosing." Translation: Let whatever goes wrong in Afghanistan be the Democrats' problem for a change….

Other mainstream conservatives are honestly starting to ask what we are accomplishing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is propping up Hamid Karzai or refereeing a political dispute between Nouri al-Maliki and Iyad Allawi really the great civilizational struggle between the West and radical Islam?

Antle puts this right-wing dissent in the context of Walter Russell Mead's model of America's rival foreign policy traditions:

There have long been three main foreign-policy tendencies on the American Right: old-style conservatives who agree with Randolph Bourne that war is the health of the state and therefore favor less military intervention abroad; neoconservatives who want to preserve the United States' global hegemony and engage in armed proselytizing for democracy; and defense-minded conservatives who believe the U.S. should strike forcefully at its enemies whenever it perceives itself, its interests, or its allies to be threatened.

Roughly speaking, these groups can be described as the Jeffersonians, the Wilsonians, and the Jacksonians. Among rank-and-file conservatives, the Jacksonians are by far the largest group. In the postwar era, the Jacksonians have tended to align with the Wilsonians. But there is no reason why that conjunction is inevitable.

With the exception of Ron Paul and some Ron Paul Republicans, the Jeffersonians have no major political figure to speak for them. Yet the popularity of the Wilsonians was always greatly exaggerated. The invasion of Iraq and the mass conservative acceptance of the Bush Doctrine were made possible by al-Qaeda's act of mass murder on 9/11.

Antle suggests that the alliance of Jacksonians and Wilsonians might give way to a Jefferson/Jackson coalition, the animating idea being that America "can use our military to repel attackers, but we do not possess the knowledge to transform our foes into liberal democrats." But he recognizes potential barriers to cooperation as well:

For starters, most of the Jeffersonians believe in some form of Just War theory. Jacksonians tend to reject any idea of limited war. In fact, one of their key objections to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the rules of engagement are too strict and civilian-friendly. Some in the paleoconservative universe would share that assessment; most would not.

The Jacksonians also have an expansive view of what takes to defeat radical Islam—and in some cases, they reject even the "radical" modifier. This means that while their eyes are opening to the futility of what the U.S. is currently doing in the Middle East, they remain ready to use military force against Iran and Syria and want to get tough with Saudi Arabia.

The whole article is worth reading, so I'll stop excerpting and just point you to the appropriate link.