A couple not-insignificant obstacles remain between any meaningful alliance of the dissident and movement conservatives. Probably the most glaring is the hawk and owl divide – or if you prefer, the realist/neocon divide. You see, to me no true conservatism can embrace the sort of hawkish, militaristic policies that the neoconservatives lay claim to. These are liberal internationalist policies sprinkled heavily with right-wing machismo. Conservatives are supposed to be wary of “statism” yet nothing says statist like a security or police state built on the back of the global war on terror overseas contingency operation. Nothing promises Big Government like a Really Big Military. (Well, except for maybe Really Big Bailouts and Really Big Entitlements…)
And yet, for some reason, all across the movement – from politicians to bloggers – very few seem to put these simple concepts together. Strong defense has become such a catch-all term, it now defines everything from preemptive war to “harsh interrogation techniques.” Once upon a time, conservatives believed that strong defense actually meant, well, a strong defense. Which included a defense of civil liberties, even at the expense of our total, all-encompassing security. Defense means we work to protect our country, with an army and a navy and a responsive Commander in Chief – it does not mean we work to erect a security state that is so flawless that nothing remains worth protecting, where words like “liberty” and “freedom” have become less concepts and more keywords, less actualities and more distant histories.
For those that don't know the writer, E.D. Kain used to be editor and contributor to NeoConstant, a neocon news journal that went offline earlier this year. I don;t know the full details of his conversion process, but it gives me hope that "mainstream" conservatism can remember and someday reclaim its non-interventionist heritage.