A country can remain constantly at war, or enjoy low taxes and civil liberties protections, but it can’t do both.
March 27, 2014
Once the Cold War ended it didn’t make much sense for neoconservatives and small-government conservatives to remain in a coalition. But breakups take time, and post-9/11 politics briefly created the illusion that Bill Kristol and George Will belong in the same political party. I am here to tell you that they do not, even if many people who identify as small-government conservatives still don’t realize it.
There are kind, intellectually honest neoconservatives who genuinely believe that their hawkish, imperial approach to foreign policy would bring about a better world. Their notion of the good is still incompatible with small-government conservatism and libertarianism. And the darkest strains in neoconservatism—the zealous defenses of torturing prisoners, for example—are incompatible with the professed beliefs of a lot of social and religious conservatives, too. How could the GOP possibly serve the agendas of all these factions?
If neoconservatives got their way, as they did during George W. Bush’s first term, the United States would spend more on its military and wage war in more countries. Neoconservatives still believe the Iraq War was a good idea. They’d have preferred to keep our troops in Afghanistan longer. They urged greater American involvement in Egypt and Libya. They wanted President Obama to intervene in Syria.
As they urge actions that would require spending tens of billions of additional dollars in the Middle East and North Africa, they also insist that NATO grant security guarantees to countries like Georgia, as if the sanctity of its borders is worth risking nuclear war. And having urged a geopolitical strategy that stretches America thin across much of the rest of the world, they criticize the Obama Administration for not doing enough to “pivot toward Asia” in the Pacific.
Many small-government conservatives may be morally comfortable with interventionism. What they must realize is that neoconservatism’s particular agenda would require dramatic tax increases, or significant borrowing, to carry out; that neoconservative strategists have shown an utter inability to produce competent analysis of how the interventions that they favor will unfold; and that the costs are often borne by the young Americans who are killed or maimed in lost wars.