Noah Millman

I talk about the need for a different "emotional dynamic" on the right with respect to foreign policy, where right now a kind of identity politics usurps everything, and the goal is not to articulate some vision of foreign policy but to prove that you're a "real American." But then I segue into talking about George Bush Sr. and the appeal (or lack of appeal) of "competence" in the management of foreign policy. And I think Ross's answer to that is right: "I'll manage well" is never a winning slogan, and wasn't the slogan even of Presidents who are admired in retrospect for managing well, such as Eisenhower.

But I think where I was really headed with this was somewhere else.

The danger in the existing emotional dynamic isn't so much that it is an emotional dynamic, that it's not a cold-blooded search for a good manager, but rather the conflation of patriotism and militarism. The gauntlet to run within the right is to prove that you're a real, patriotic American - fine. But apparently you prove this by asserting that no amount of military spending is ever enough, by making torture a virtue, by mocking the very idea of diplomacy, by dividing allies into two camps, vassals who must be punished if they don't obey our commands (Japan, the various countries of Europe) and holy causes for whom we must be willing to bear any burden, pay any price (Israel, Taiwan, Georgia) and, most alarmingly, by a kind of hero-worship of conquering generals. This is not the way it has to be, nor how it was within fairly recent living memory. America has a citizen army, and the right has a long tradition - one that encompasses leaders like Eisenhower who were hardly isolationist - of calling for caution in the commitment of our military precisely because it is an extension of the citizenry, not a mere tool of the government.

I don't actually expect revival of full-throated anti-interventionism on the American right, something like the pre-World War II America Firsters. I don't think even Daniel Larison expects that. But some kind of tendency to counter militarism is necessary, and right now, with Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney trying to outdo each other in their appeals to the militarist tendency on the right, I kind of despair of any counter-dynamic getting traction.

Read the rest here. I should add that I am slightly more optimistic about push back on this issue, due to an unexpected shift in rhetoric from Ann Coulter of all people. It's complicated, but I try to explain here.