A Humbled Neoconservatism’s Rebirth? Reading Eliot Cohen’s “The Big Stick”

Nations & States

In the aftermath of the U.S. quagmire in Iraq, many writers proclaimed neoconservatism’s rightful place in “the ash heap of history.” This intellectual movement played a major role in the second Bush administration’s foreign policy with calls for nation-building and democracy promotion, muscular, unilateral United States global leadership, and a ideological and physical struggle against fundamentalist forms of Islam comparable to earlier confrontations with fascism and communism. Its death seemed all but confirmed during the 2016 Republican primaries when Donald Trump vanquished rivals who argued for a more active U.S. role in the world. Such candidates and their intellectual allies at conservative journals and think-tanks looked on as former supporters of George W. Bush cheered Trump’s denunciations of the Iraq War. First Things columnist Peter Spiliakos explains, voters applauded Trump’s awareness of the invasion’s folly; meanwhile, interventionist Republicans “never gave the impression that they had learned anything that would…

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