The past year has been a difficult one for the leaders of the neocon right. First, their campaign to torpedo President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran came to naught. Then their preferred candidate for the Republican nomination, freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio, ran a lazy and uninspiring campaign and was easily routed by Donald Trump. And now, with Trump about to be crowned king of the Republican castle in Cleveland, the neocons are experiencing something of an existential meltdown over the prospect of a future Trump administration.
Last week, a Politico piece surveyed the broken hearts among the neocon elite, in which they were described as being marooned on “The Lonely Island of Never Trump.” Just how lonely is that island, however, is open to question. If Politico is to be believed, nearly the entire GOP foreign-policy establishment is ready to bolt and join Team Hillary.
And some already have.
Prominent among this number is the neocon scholar Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, who took to the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times on May 6 to inform readers that “the Republican party is dead…. it has been killed by Donald Trump.” For Boot, Hillary Clinton would be “far preferable” to Trump, since, according to Boot, Trump champions a foreign policy of “isolationism and protectionism.” That fact that Trump has repeatedly denigrated the Iraq war, for which Boot was among the most prominent cheerleaders, surely helps fuel Boot’s disillusionment.
And there is much disillusionment among the neocon ranks. Another neocon scholar, Eliot Cohen of John Hopkins (SAIS), published a piece in The New York Times on May 17 in which he reminded readers that Trump’s “America First” foreign policy was also the slogan of the “notorious movement before World War II that included not only traditional isolationists but also Nazi sympathizers.” Like Boot, Cohen believes that “on foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is far better.”
For Cohen, who served as an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “Trumpism in foreign policy is dangerous because of its belligerent nationalism, self-absorption, disdain for allies and comfort with the authoritarian leaders of the day.” Yet this happens to be remarkably accurate précis of neoconservatism as practiced by the administration of George W. Bush, under which Cohen himself served. Belligerent nationalism? Check. Self-absorption? Check. Distain for allies? Check. Comfort with authoritarian leaders? Check!