The recent dust-up between Rand Paul and Rick Perry (among other Paul critics) makes for a good occasion to add another entry to my series on critiques of reform conservatism — this time, responding to the suggestion that our movement either doesn’t offer any foreign policy ideas, or else is shackled to the carcass of Bush-era neoconservatism. The former critique is, in a way, complimentary, a testament to our tendency’s newfound influence (“first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they demand that you supply a foreign policy agenda as well …”); the latter strikes me as mostly ill-founded but somewhat understandable. Here’s Andrew Sullivan making both at once:
Then there’s the absence of any foreign policy vision. The fixation on domestic policy is welcome – but the greatest disaster in Republican government in the last decade was the Iraq War, and, more broadly, the massive over-reach of big government in trying to re-make the world into a democratic wonderland. To some extent, Rand Paul and Mike Lee have shown an ability to tackle this question – and favor a serious continuation of Obama’s de-leveraging of the US abroad, along with a further dismantling of the Cheney infrastructure for the war on terror. But the reformicons have never issued a clear rejection of Cheneyism, and indeed seem, f0r the most part, like unreconstructed neocons abroad. I can’t see any of them demanding some concessions from Israel for a two-state solution, for example, or any policy toward Iran but war.
You can find similar recent thoughts from liberals like Ed Kilgore and from non-interventionist/paleocon writers like Scott McConnell and Daniel Larison — the one suspicious (“it is not especially reassuring to find Kristol and David Frum featured so prominently among [Yuval] Levin’s major boosters …”) and the other resigned (“with one or two exceptions, it is fair to say that reform conservatives have no significant problems with the way that the last administration conducted foreign policy …”).