We need fewer neoconservatives and more Jacksonians

The very notion that robust internationalists like Bachmann and Palin could be thrown in with ardent isolationists like Paul and Buchanan is appalling. But it is of a piece with the prevailing, false notion being argued by dominant voices in neoconservative circles that, “You’re either with us or you’re with the Buchanaites.”

In truth, the dominant foreign policy in the Republican Party, and to a degree, in American society as a whole is neither neoconservativism nor isolationism. For lack of a better name, it is what historian Walter Russell Mead has referred to as Jacksonianism, after Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the US. As Mead noted in a 1999 article in the National Interest entitled, “The Jacksonian Tradition,” the most popular and enduring US model for foreign policy is far more flexible than either the isolationist or the neoconservative model…

Throughout his presidency, Reagan never shied away from trumpeting American values. To the contrary, he did so regularly. However, unlike the neoconservatives, Reagan recognized that advancing those values themselves could not replace the entirety of US foreign policy. Indeed, he realized that the very notion that values trumped all represented a fundamental misunderstanding of US interests and the nature and limits of US power.