Jacob Heilbrunn has a column in the New York Times arguing that the neo-conservatives who have found such influence in the Republican party over the last 35 years are now preparing to embrace Hillary Clinton in a bid to keep that influence if she wins the White House.
It’s not as outlandish as it may sound. Consider the historian Robert Kagan, the author of a recent, roundly praised article in The New Republic that amounted to a neo-neocon manifesto. He has not only avoided the vitriolic tone that has afflicted some of his intellectual brethren but also co-founded an influential bipartisan advisory group during Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department.
Mr. Kagan has also been careful to avoid landing at standard-issue neocon think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute; instead, he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, that citadel of liberalism headed by Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and is considered a strong candidate to become secretary of state in a new Democratic administration. (Mr. Talbott called the Kagan article “magisterial,” in what amounts to a public baptism into the liberal establishment.)
Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Kagan and others have insisted on maintaining the link between modern neoconservatism and its roots in muscular Cold War liberalism. Among other things, he has frequently praised Harry S. Truman’s secretary of state, Dean Acheson, drawing a line from him straight to the neocons’ favorite president: “It was not Eisenhower or Kennedy or Nixon but Reagan whose policies most resembled those of Acheson and Truman.”
Other neocons have followed Mr. Kagan’s careful centrism and respect for Mrs. Clinton. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in The New Republic this year that “it is clear that in administration councils she was a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues, whether supporting the Afghan surge or the intervention in Libya.”
And the thing is, these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.
It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton’s making room for the neocons in her administration. No one could charge her with being weak on national security with the likes of Robert Kagan on board.
Very easy to imagine. For all practical purposes, both Clintons have been neo-conservatives on foreign policy since entering the national political scene. And if Rand Paul, an isolationist with not much affinity for the state of Israel, wins the Republican nomination I think you’ll see the neo-conservative establishment flock to her as the better alternative. And from their perspective, they’d be right.
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