William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative organ, The Weekly Standard, recently bemoaned the performance of conservative candidates during the last Republican presidential debate. He claims to be saying out loud what he implies is a widespread but as of yet unarticulated feeling among conservatives, that the 2012 field of Republican contenders is lackluster at best and wholly unsuited to defeating Obama at the very worst. Quoting Kristol: “But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare. He could rise to the occasion as president. Or not…none of the candidates really seemed up to the moment, either politically or substantively. In the midst of a crisis, we’re getting politics as usual-and a somewhat subpar version of politics as usual at that.” Kristol went on to lament the fact that neither Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan or Chris Christie would “step up” and enter the fray a development that he feels may assure the reelection of Barack Obama. Moreover Kristol said that seventy percent of the Republican activists attending the September 22nd event in Orlando cast a vote of no confidence in the two front runners.
To what extent is Kristol correct on the current state of affairs within the G.O.P. and to what extent is this merely the griping of a man so thoroughly tied to the fading neoconservative wing of the Republican Party that he can take no other position. Is Kristol’s lamentation representative of others within the conservative ranks who just can’t abide candidates that won’t advocate an aggressive American foreign policy including military intervention? As you know it was the Neoconservatives who took the reality of American exceptionalism and married it to the idea that this country should use its military might to effect regime change around the world. It was the NeoCons within the first Bush administration who prodded the president to war with Iraq, a misadventure that is now widely regarded as one of this country’s most profound foreign policy mistakes. Are William Kristol and his fellow neoconservatives simply men out step with the times or are they really onto something with regard to the quality of the Republican presidential contenders for 2012 or could they be both at the same time?
For starters, the mood in the country has emphatically moved away from military involvement abroad. Polling results show that from mid to late 2010, majorities of respondents have favored withdrawal from the conflict in Afghanistan and have said that the U.S. should no longer be involved there. Likewise polling results show similar findings regarding the War in Iraq except that the opposition to American involvement goes back over a much longer period of time. The results are somewhat different for the situation in Libya which may be affected by the fact that there are no large troop deployments presently there on the ground and thus no nightly casualty count. Beyond the sentiment of public opinion there is the plain and painful fact that military operations abroad are now constrained by fiscal problems at home. It has become increasingly hard to justify large scale military operations overseas when we are faced with crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment here in the United States. A recent conference of U.S. mayors made the case that money spent in Southwest Asia would be better spent in American cities. In his critique of the Republican field, Kristol over emphasizes foreign military factors and underplays the economic problems presently in existence on the home front. He also ignored the fact that the newly changed landscape of American political economy is simply not a favorable environment within which Neoconservative ideas can be sustained. For America in 2011 the current age of expeditionary warfare is coming to a close and the Neoconservatives like William Kristol are being left on the sidelines.
Special Editorial: Yikes; http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/special-editorial-yikes_594095.html
A No Confidence Vote in Orlando; http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/no-confidence-vote-orlando_594181.html
PollingReport.com – Afghanistan; http://www.pollingreport.com/afghan.htm
PollingReport.com – Iraq; http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm
PollingReport.com – Libya; http://www.pollingreport.com/libya.htm