Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Condi! Condi Condi!

I heard the speeches this morning, but of course everyone has been talking about this for a couple of days. Now that it is official, the first point I want to make is that this will be a test of the Bush (i.e. hawkish, unilateralist and pro-western) Doctrine as a viable subset of conservative foreign policy . In moving Dr. Rice to State, while leaving Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in charge of Defense, Mr. Bush has consolidated America's official interface with the rest of the world into a single worldview. There is now no one to blame if that worldview fails to achieve the success it predicts for itself.

I happen to be glad of the challenge. I have argued with several of my conservative friends, who periodically threaten to leave the Republican party on the grounds that it is barely distinguishable from liberalism, that we have never really had a full test of conservative ideals. During the Reagan and Bush (41) administrations, we did not have control of Congress and when, in 1995, we gained control of Congress it was only after having lost the Presidency. Both branches were united under Republican leadership in 2000, but Bush had run on an essentially moderate post-Cold War platform and had not been perceived to have a mandate due to the closeness of the race against Gore. He accordingly set-up his domestic and foreign policies with an eye toward balance and conciliation that is appropriate to a peacetime presidency. That expectation was exploded on 9/11/01, but it arguably would not have been prudent to undertake any major reshuffling during the begining of the War on Terror. (I say "arbuably" because I am not fully convinced of the wisdom of this decision, but am willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt.)

One of the unfortunate results of this prudential decision to stick with the pre-9/11 cabinet was a divided mind on the the most controvesial of the three elements of the Bush Doctrine: unilateralism. My tentative thesis (which Wretchard of Belmont Club argues more forcefully) is that this division of purpose allowed the enemy a crucial window of opportunity to prepare for the "insurgency" we are now seein in Iraq.

All of this is speculative, of course. But with the removal of the last of these hindrances, it is not deniable that now there is no such further cover. We will see if America's conservative thinkers are willing to back their theories with assertive action, or are only capable of providing dissent to the liberal hegemony. Thatcher was up to the challenge, and I suspect Reagan was as well. Will President Bush be able to meet it?

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