It is a review of four new books on conservatism in The National Interest.
It is not a bad retelling of some conservative movement history all conservatives would benefit from knowing. It includes a good takedown of the neocons as well. But the author, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, loses a lot of credibility when he mounts the PC grandstand and criticizes National Review for it’s early opposition to civil rights legislation. When NR opposed unconstitutional civil rights legislation it was evidence of their conservatism at the time, not an indictment of it. It takes some serious hindsight philosophical gymnastics to make support for Federal civil rights legislation the conservative position, and opposition to it something else. Wheatcroft could not possibly believe such face obvious nonsense. This is just plain PC pandering.
The National Interest, published by the Nixon Center, seems to represent foreign policy realism and the idea that conservatism is best understood as maintainence of the status quo, slow managed change, skepticism toward big ideas, with a healthy dose of elitism. The kind of people who would agree with Jeffrey Hart (scroll down) that Eisenhower was the embodiment of conservatism. As such, it is conservative in a broad sense but also anti-radical and anti-reactionary. The problem with this is that since we have drifted so far to the left, conservatism has to be radical and reactionary, focused on the restoration of what has been lost not the maintenance or conservation of what is. For example, note Wheatcroft’s approving observation that Eisenhower recognized the New Deal as a done deal, and his obviously disapproving counter observation that the original writers for NR did not. (I’m not even sure this is good history anyway. It could be argued that the originators of the modern conservative movement, while perhaps not happy about it, accepted the New Deal as well wanting to save their political capital for the fight against Communism.)
Once aligned with The National Interest,the neocons have since broken from it. (See the Wiki entry.) Given this background and context, the article makes a lot of sense. It is worth reading, as long as you keep where it is coming from in mind and can tolerate the icky PC pandering. (Funny something published by the Nixon Center bemoaning the “Southern Strategy.”)