Hawkishness and neoconservatism are not the same thing 

Andrew McCarthy has a strong post over at National Review's Corner responding to the absurd attempt by neoconservatives to portray those who oppose intervention in Libya as isolationists.

"Like most conservatives opposed to our Libya intervention, I’ve been asked a lot lately how it feels to be aligned with a hard Leftist like Dennis Kucinich," McCarthy writes. "It feels better, I think, than I if I found myself on the same side as al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood."

The lazy tendency to portray neoconservatism and hawkishness on defense as synonymous has long been one of my pet peeves. It was hard to convince people of this distinction back when Iraq was the dominant foreign policy debate and most conservatives supported military intervention, but given this year's developments, it's getting ridiculous not to recognize that somebody can be both super hawkish on defense, and not on board with neoconservative foreign policy.

We saw this with the uprising in Egypt, where neoconservatives were cheering on the protestors, while other hawkish conservatives were concerned that the developments would strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood. When it comes to Libya, many hawkish conservatives have opposed intervention on the grounds that the rebels we are helping are infiltrated by Al Qaeda and its allies. Whether you agree with the merits of these positions is a separate argument. The point is that the rift with neoconservatives comes not from a new found isolationism, but from a difference in opinion about whether the U.S. is actively helping its enemies.

As McCarthy puts it:

There is not a place on this planet where I would oppose the use of American power to defend American lives. I’m confident that most conservatives and most Republicans feel the same way. We believe in maintaining American military dominance and using it in furtherance of vital American interests. We are not the Ron Paul legions. What we don’t support is pretending that our enemies are our friends. We don’t support using our military to conduct experiments in Islamic nation-building that are unlikely to succeed and will not, in any event, make us safer from jihadists — who are expert at using the freedoms available in truly democratic societies in order to conduct their war against America and the West.

Under the false dichotomy that neoconservatives are seeking to create, uberhawks like McCarthy and Frank Gaffney who oppose the Libya intervention and are skeptical about the Arab Spring, are somehow isolationist doves.

It's long past time to put to bed such silly classifications.

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Philip Klein

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