Magazine article The American Conservative

The Hawk-Dove Cycle

Magazine article The American Conservative

The Hawk-Dove Cycle

Article excerpt

One of the paradoxes of American politics is that winning sets the stage for losing. President Obama was reminded of this in November: two years after his own re-election, his party was so demoralized by his record-and Republicans were so energized in opposition to it-that the Democrats were swept out of power in the Senate, restoring full control of Congress to the GOP for the first time since 2006. And that year's midterm outcome, which cost Republicans control of both chambers, was itself a backlash against George W. Bush's re-election in 2004 and the policies voters that year had seemingly endorsed. (Not that voters had much choice on questions of war and peace: Democratic nominee John Kerry was hardly less hawkish than Bush.)

Conservative realists and libertarians, alas, have also experienced a paradox of political success. The failure of Bush's foreign policy breathed life not only into two noninterventionist Ron Paul presidential campaigns-in 2008 and 2012-but inspired and helped elect senators, congressmen, and local officials who seemed poised to pull the Republican Party, however slowly, in a realist, relatively antiwar direction. Just as the country as a whole opted for (what it thought would be) less war under Barack Obama, the opposition party began to rediscover the wariness of foreign entanglements that had characterized the 1990s GOP.

In fact, power within the Republican Party and movement conservatism still lay mostly in the hands of an establishment that favored an aggressive foreign policy. But the popular momentum-the fastest growing and most dynamic elements in the party-seemed to be on the side of less interventionism. If voices like The American Conservative's were little heeded on the right 10 years ago, by 2013 they were widely acknowledged as prophetic, even by many former backers of the Iraq War.

Success in politics is cyclical, however, and when things go wrong-whether in domestic policy or abroad-whoever seems to be in the saddle gets the blame. …

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