A few, well, actually some 20 years ago, a distinguished academic (in the best sense of the word), Walter Russell Mead, formulated the four traditions of American foreign policies in his book Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World.
[T]he four main guiding philosophies that have influenced the formation of American foreign policy in history: the Hamiltonians, the Wilsonians, the Jeffersonians and the Jacksonians.
Of these, it is Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian-ism that is the most disparaged but the most potent. It’s what got Trump elected. This is a very light introduction, there are others, but I don’t want to get sidetracked from the felony that I am about to commit: I am going to copy-and-paste an entire post from Ace’s place by a Buck Throckmorton who manages to hit everything he addresses right outta the park.
What does “National Defense” mean? Ronald Reagan’s conservatism was famously a “three legged stool” composed of: 1) Economic Conservatism; 2) Social Conservatism; and 3) Strong National Defense.
For most of us who started voting Republican in the 20th Century, “strong national defense” generally meant patriotism, defense of our homeland (including border security), support for our troops, funding our military, upgrading our weapons systems, opposing hostile foreign powers and ideologies, and when the shooting started – supporting the war effort. Because the left so openly loathed our military, our support tended toward actually being pro-war, because the perceived alternative was the left’s anti-military, America-hating pacifism.
But as the old 20th Century political coalitions fracture, the definition of those three legs has become murky. A vocal part of our old coalition, the #NeverTrump/Conservative Inc faction, is seeking to simultaneously open our borders to all comers, disparage patriotism, outsource labor, and undermine America’s sovereign self-rule, all the while offering up our military as a global police force.
We now know that most of the gung-ho keyboard generals of Conservative Inc – the ones who have been advocating for all the wars of the past 30 years – see our military as simply a chess piece in their globalist game of nation building. The young men and women who die are statistics, and the ones who survive will face scrutiny as presumed war criminals for their actions in combat by those same chicken-hawks who sent them into war. America-first conservatives have by contrast been re-assessing our blanket support for overseas US military action. Why? Because we support the troops and we want them trained and able to fight battles on behalf of our own country.
Many of us struggled to rationalize support for the Kosovo war, which had nothing to do with our national security. We fought to save European Muslims from Serbian aggression on behalf of our European “allies” – the same allies who couldn’t even be bothered to pay their NATO dues. The 9/11 attacks got us re-focused toward being pro-war against those who waged war on us, but the 18-years of failed nation-building in Afghanistan, the futile nation-building war in Iraq, the deaths in Somalia, etc have changed our outlook. Our war-mongering keyboard generals want to nation-build the Mideast in the manner of Japan and Germany post-WWII, but they are too culturally sensitive to de-pathologize the Mideast in the manner that Japan was de-Shintoed and Germany was de-Nazified. Instead they insist on spilling American blood to nation-build these failed states, while at the same time praising the pathologies that makes them failed states.
My breaking point was when fighting-age male “refugees” came flooding west out of Syria, and the keyboard generals demanded that America’s young military men go racing in to Syria to fight the Syrian refugees’ battle. If their own young men won’t fight for their country, then I’ll never support support American troops fighting and dying on their behalf. Of course, Conservative Inc called me racist for not wanting those young male “refugees” settling in my country, and they called my America-first opposition to having our troops die in Syria bigoted nationalism.
Are people like me anti-war? No. We’re strongly in favor of unleashing our military’s holy wrath on those who kill our citizens and threaten our country. We can kill our enemies’ leadership, we can bomb their ports and airstrips out of existence, we can destroy their government and its leaders until they are dead or no longer in control. They are already quickly learning this from President Trump. And here’s the great part – if we “break it” we no longer “bought it.” Colin Powell famously stated that with Iraq, because we broke it we also bought it. No more. If we have to break it, we can leave the leadership dead and its means of war ruined. And then we can leave the mess behind. If another malicious force returns we can do it all over again.
So what does “national defense” mean to America-first conservatives? It means patriotically supporting a strong military that prioritizes protecting the USA and its citizens, defending our borders, defending our sovereignty, swiftly destroying our enemies when necessary, and focusing on strengthening just one nation – the United States of America.