Many of today’s Republicans thus came of age at a time when warmongering in the name of liberal values was considered conservative. Yet the values that underpin this worldview and shape our institutions are the opposite of everything conservatives claim to cherish: a cutthroat market ideology that places short-term shareholder gains and the whims of big finances above the requirements of the national community; a virulent cultural libertinage that dissolves family and traditional ties.
What conservatives call “woke capital” is just this sour combination of a market-centric economy and liberal cultural arrogance. Yet while conservatives support NATO expansion in Europe and warmongering elsewhere, they seem unaware of what this entails: the integration of an ever-expanding geographic space into the same socio-economic order as they find so oppressive at home.
From the post-Cold War “Washington Consensus” (the idea that privatization, deregulation, and free trade would lead to widespread prosperity) to wars of regime change after 9/11, the foreign policy of ” crusaders” has impoverished the common people: thoughtless NATO expansion fueled resentment in a wounded but still strong Russia, setting the stage for recurring crises; the economic “shock therapy” applied by followers of Milton Friedman empowered predatory oligarchs in post-Soviet countries; the breakup of Arab states in the name of “freedom” has created ungoverned spaces in vast swaths of the Middle East and North Africa, stoking terrorism and sending millions of migrants to Europe.
Like soldiers who have not realized that the old war is over, Republicans must grasp the current state of affairs: liberal imperialism must no longer be confused with a conservative cause. It is time to reorient the old conservative values of foreign policy.
The first pillar of such a foreign policy should be sound restraint, especially where the United States has no formal treaty obligations, and a general retrenchment of Western alliance ambitions. Senator Josh Hawley, a lawmaker sympathetic to the new right, showed a better way on Wednesday by calling on President Biden to rule out Ukraine’s admission to NATO. Mr. Hawley suggested that his decision would help Washington transfer resources to East Asia. But even there, Americans should be wary of senseless Chinese hawkism. Yes, the United States has real differences with Beijing. Industrial espionage must be punished. We must defend the treaty allies. And we must seek a more balanced trade relationship. But we also need to find areas of cooperation, exchange and shared interests, seeking to avoid any future wars and instead communicating in the mutual respect of a civilizational equal.
National industrial prowess and energy independence should be the second pillar. Without factories making all sorts of goods, we won’t be able to shift production to defense – or to PPE and vaccines – in the event of a real crisis. Moreover, as Michael Lind pointed out, the industrial and military blocs of the future – spheres of influence led by America, Europe, China and India – will only be as strong as their chains of power. regional supplies and their internal stability.
Many GOP leaders could not be happier if the impulses toward Republican realignment were limited to mere chauvinism. It, after all, sated the Republican base while maintaining a staunchly neoliberal economic policy. The party establishment would much rather talk about Ukraine than about declining working class life expectancy and the fentanyl crisis.