"Conservatism embraces President Kennedy's exhortation to "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country," and adds: You serve your country by embracing a spacious and expanding sphere of life for which your country is not responsible.
Here is the core of a conservative appeal, without dwelling on "social issues" that should be, as much as possible, left to "moral federalism" -- debates within the states. On foreign policy, conservatism begins, and very nearly ends, by eschewing abroad the fatal conceit that has been liberalism's undoing domestically - hubris about controlling what cannot, and should not, be controlled.
Conservatism is realism, about human nature and government's competence," - George F. Will, today. Couldn't agree more. Conservatism's embrace of reality - and the empirical skepticism required to see it clearly - is at the core of my own account of conservative political philosophy.