In this, the third and final installment of Christie Watch’s look at so-called “reform conservatism,” we report on the question of the reformicons’ foreign policy ideas, or lack thereof. You can read Part I of the series here and Part II here.
It turns out, as Scott McConnell points out in The American Conservative, that left unmentioned in most of the pieces about the reformicons is the crucial question of foreign policy. Given that many of the main actors behind reform conservatism are neocons, what does that say about how foreign policy figures into what the reformicons stand for? Taking off from the Tanenhaus piece in The New York Times, McConnell writes:
Tanenhaus presents to a wide general interest audience the “preeminent conservative intellectual of the Obama era” and yet erases from consideration the Iraq war or any other foreign policy question. So while it is true that Levin has interesting ideas about what’s wrong with Obama’s health care plan, we are left in the dark about whether he has thoughts about war and peace or America’s role in the world. Perhaps we can infer the answer from Levin’s association with some of the most prominent propagandists for that two-trillion dollar war of aggression, which, more than any war in America’s history, was a war conceived and successfully lobbied by intellectuals based in magazines and think tanks. Does Levin favor, as does Bill Kristol, starting a new American war against Iran? Does he favor, as also does Kristol, an American war against both the Sunni extremists in Iraq and their Iranian enemies at the same time?… It is not especially reassuring to find Kristol and David Frum featured so prominently among Levin’s major boosters.
McConnell blames Tanenhaus for leaving national security and foreign policy out of the picture, but he ought to be blaming National Affairs itself. In its archives, twenty issues long, there is almost nothing—nothing!—about foreign policy. In its subject archive, which lists thirty categories of types of articles alphabetically (“Children, Family and Marriage; Civil Society; Corporations; Crime” and so on) there is only one heading for anything to do with the world outside America’s borders, called “National Security.” And, in that category are only ten articles, most of which don’t deal with foreign policy at all, instead focusing on immigration, prison reform, and policy toward veterans! So, for the editors of National Affairs, at least, foreign policy doesn’t exactly loom large—though McConnell is right to suspect that wherever there is neoconservative smoke, you’ll find foreign policy fire.