But President Bush did not have a grandiose foreign policy agenda prior to 9-11; the event itself shaped what was to become his driving vision. He is on a mission to eradicate terrorist threats against the United States. It has nothing to do with nation building and little to do with Israel. If it did, he wouldn't have shocked conservatives by proposing an independent Palestinian state. He wouldn't apply a different standard to Israel's defense against terrorism. Moreover, his identification of the Axis of Evil nations was not a result of any nation-building obsession, but his belief that certain rogue nations represent an imminent threat to the United States.
But the president's opponents are convinced that being a died-in-the-wool neocon, he is just warming up with Iraq and plans to hopscotch throughout the Middle East, then elsewhere, on his gleeful road to making the Middle East safe for Israel, and the rest of the world safe for democracy (translation: satellites of the American Empire).
It may surprise you to know that there are those of us out here (I'd call us mainstream conservatives) who are hawkish against terrorism and bullish on Israel, yet not interested in creating an American empire. Our guiding principle is protecting America's strategic national interests. If that means we sometimes have to attack other nations, even preemptively, so be it. We are far from being isolationists, but we are just as far from being imperialists.
If I'm correct that President Bush more closely resembles us mainstream conservatives here, then I think it's safe to say that he isn't looking to conquer other countries for sport -- or even to make them safe for democracy or Israel. He isn't even looking to take on the other two Axis of Evil countries: North Korea and Iran.
Rather, he's focused on going after anti-American terrorists and their supporters and enablers -- just as he's told us from the beginning. That could lead us into Iran, North Korea or even Saudi Arabia (though our curious relationship with Saudi Arabia is another matter altogether).
Bush's opponents -- at least the paleocons -- would have much less anxiety about him if they understood that he really isn't a neoconservative. He's a neo-antiterrorist.
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