Is there such a thing as a conservative foreign policy? There was during the Cold War, but now the answer appears to be "no." People who consider themselves conservative and are so considered by others hold widely different views on the general role of the United States in world affairs and on specific foreign policy issues. These differences are rooted in the two strands of conservative thought that exist in America, classic conservatism and doctrinal conservatism. Yet some key assumptions and values are common to most conservatives and much less common among liberals and other non-conservatives. These could be the basis for a robust nationalism that would unite most conservatives, distinguish conservative foreign policy sharply from its liberal alternatives, and have great appeal to the bulk of the American people.
Variations on a Theme
The modern world has had three major political ideologies. Liberalism--the ideology of individualism, free markets, the rule of law, limited government and the rights to life, liberty and property--is associated with John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill and other eighteenth and nineteenth-century European and American thinkers. Its primary social base is the middle class and bourgeoisie of commercial, industrial and industrializing societies. Socialism has included theories varying from social democratic reformism to softline Marxism to hardline, revolutionary Leninism and Maoism. These theories differ on the possibility of social change through democratic means, on the role of democracy in a socialist state, and on the extent of state control of the economy. They agree, nonetheless, on a substantial role for the state in economic affairs, economic equality, national ownership of core industries, and state promotion of the economic well-being of the social bases of socialism among the poor, the proletariat and the peasantry.