Daniel Larison has an excellent analysis of the “Jacksonian” pro-war right up at AmConMag.
It is true that “Jacksonians” on the right lose patience with nation-building, but they also have nationalist convictions that our interventions abroad are always benevolent and initially they are very keen to repeat the propaganda that we are fighting wars of liberation or wars against tyranny (or evil or some new form of fascism).
Jacksonians’ instinctive deference to the executive and their belief that criticizing a President in wartime is a kind of disloyalty force them to focus on nation-building and “political correctness” (i.e., refraining from bombing civilians) (as Rep. Chaffetz did) in order to criticize a President and his conduct of a war without suggesting that they lack in support for the military and military interventions in general.
What makes “Jacksonians” weary of nation-building is not the goal of establishing new political institutions in another country. It is instead the time that it takes to do this and the “ingratitude” of the alleged beneficiaries of our interventions that tend to turn them against prolonged deployments. The charge of “ingratitude,” of course, is inevitable if you believe that you have been doing another nation a favor by invading and wrecking their country.
“…movement conservatives have become accustomed over the last three decades to advocating for both a larger military and for a greater willingness to use force around the world. Skepticism of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions has tended to come from the belief that threats are ubiquitous and the military cannot be distracted by such irrelevancies, but this is absolutely not skepticism about deploying forces overseas and initiating force against a variety of other state and non-state actors. It is actually evidence of the depressing lack of skepticism Republicans have when it comes to entering into or starting wars.”
I am a long time veteran of the Internet wars between non-interventionist conservatives and interventionist “conservatives,” and Larison’s description of the “Jacksonians” is spot on. I recognize every detail he has written here in the stock “Jacksonians” who frequent pro-war “conservative” websites.
But, I have more hope that we can change the debate than he does do. The true Jacksonians are a dying breed of Kool-Aid drinking bitter-enders. They are the real true believers who will not allow reality to get in the way of their theory. But their ranks are shrinking, and they know it. Places that after 9/11 wanted everyone against the War tried for treason and sedition and didn’t even know an anti-war right existed now recognize anti-war conservatives as articulating a position whose encroachment they must frantically defend against. This is why they reacted so hysterically to Ron Paul and why they continue to react so hysterically to anti-war conservatives. If they didn’t think we were a threat and saw us as just mere eccentric nuisances, then they wouldn’t lose their heads so when confronted by principled non-interventionism.
Activists are jumping ship to our side all the time, but worse for them, Average Joe, whose vote they covet and who they claim to represent, doesn’t care a whit about Iran or resurging Russia or any of their other boogie men. And they are very skeptical about any long term projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Economic hard times will do that to a nation.
I can see these instinctive conservatives who care nothing about foreign policy adopting over time a policy of thoughtful, principled non-interventionism. The pro-war interventionist bitter-enders will never come over to our side, but they will become increasingly irrelevant, selling something the public isn’t buying and talking mostly to each other.