Conservative foreign and national-security policies do not need remaking, rebranding or remessaging. They need not be escorted by prefixes or adjectives, nor do they need “moderating.”
Conservative foreign policy is unabashedly pro-American, unashamed of American exceptionalism, unwilling to bend its knee to international organizations, and unapologetic about the need for the fullest range of dominant military capabilities. Its diplomacy is neither unilateralist nor multilateralist, but chooses its strategies, tactics, means and methods based on a hard-headed assessment of U.S. national interests, not on theologies about process. Most especially, conservatives understand that allies are different from adversaries, and that each should be treated accordingly.
These sentiments bear repeating because the fundamental principles underlying conservative foreign and national-security policy have never been stronger, and the consequences of deviating from them have rarely been so clear. The Obama administration’s first few months already provide compelling evidence of the enormous costs of embracing the alternative worldview of the European and American left. Of course, that was equally true when the Bush administration all-too-frequently deviated from conservative precepts, especially in its failure-ridden second-term. In many ways, unfortunately, the Obama administration is a continuation of the second Bush term, only worse.
Former President George W. Bush’s mistakes resulted from sleep-walking away from conservative values, whereas President Obama openly repudiates them, both believing in and fully understanding what he is doing. Accordingly, conservatives need engage in no “agonizing reappraisals” of their fundamental views. They need to adjust to being in opposition, but that is the purest kind of opportunity, not a burden. Mr. Obama’s wearying and unpresidential refrain of blaming his predecessor is implicitly a trap, an effort to entice us to reflexively defend the Bush administration. Instead, we should forthrightly explain where Mr. Bush went wrong, when he did, repudiating his errors as cheerily as Mr. Obama does, and then, agreeably to conservative principles, just as cheerily critiquing Mr. Obama’s even more egregious mistakes.
Defending U.S. interests is neither arrogant nor disrespectful of others, but is instead the basic task of our presidents. Despite the 2008 election, neither the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, nor international terrorism, nor the challenges of geostrategic adversaries have in any way diminished.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the 2007 book “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.”