So what does it say about a smallish group of foreign-policy ideologues that they spend so much energy finding empty but promising vessels with which to contest elections and hopefully carry out a robustly interventionist defense policy?
Among other things, that they’re successful. It has proven a useful strategy to populate think tanks and magazines and capital-P Projects while contantly recruiting ambitious politicians into the fold in case they gain proximity to office. (You probably don’t remember this, but one of the great Kristol vessels last election cycle was another inexperienced governor, Tim Pawlenty.) Imagine a powerful group of libertarian ideologues who go hunting around for charismatic politicians to whom they say “Don’t worry about the ideology part, just win elections!” That this is impossible to conceive of says something about the nature of libertarianism, and of the ineptitude that libertarians usually bring to Washington power politics.
But I’d suggest two other, less flattering interpretations. Maybe they keep searching for moldable clay—or failing that, straight-to-cable true-believer attack dogs like John Bolton and Peter King—because these ideas aren’t particularly saleable 12 years after 9/11. If blank-check interventionism was producing its own camera-ready talent, its proponents wouldn’t have to spend so much time head-hunting.