Can Realism Be a Comprehensive Theory of American Foreign Policy?

The controversy over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense has reminded us how diverse opinion called “conservative” really is.  Certainly “traditional conservatives” and “neoconservatives” have both become rather overwrought.  And the president must be smiling while watching the predictable effects of pushing key buttons.  The “neocons,” so it’s said, can’t stomach having someone that indifferent to the future of Israel, Iran becoming nuclear, and the military might and resolution required for America to be a leading force for good in the world.  The traditional conservatives—which, in this case, include many libertarian followers of Ron and Rand Paul—are thrilled that American foreign policy will finally become properly defensive—the foreign policy of a republic, not an empire.  The savings in blood and treasure—for ourselves and others—will be huge.  Some neocons—or “national greatness” conservatives—charge that Obama is really all about starving defense to fund health care and other domestic initiatives.  He’s about to make us another European country.  The problem with that is that the European countries can dispense with defense spending only because they’ve been parasitic on ours. 

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