This week the Washington Post gleefully reported that serious fault lines are developing among conservatives over President Bush's foreign policy. While I don't deny the president has been under strong criticism from the right and that significant disagreements exist among conservatives, the rifts are far from fatal.
The antiwar right has long since given up on Bush, but the Post is talking about attacks from so-called "neoconservatives," who, until recently, have been among Bush's staunchest supporters on the Iraq war.
Lately, however, they have criticized him for not being aggressive enough in Iraq and, more recently, toward Iran and North Korea. And they are upset by his guarded response to the attacks against Israel.
The Post, while delighted, seems perplexed by these divisions. It refers to this criticism of the administration "from its own side of the ideological spectrum" as "an odd irony for a president who has inflamed liberals and many allies around the world for what they see as an overly confrontational, go-it-alone approach."
It is not an "odd irony" at all. It's just that liberals have mischaracterized the president as an extreme, war-hungry imperialist, when, in fact, he is motivated not by any desire to expand America's global influence but a duty to safeguard our national interest.
Indeed, all of those who have glibly labeled President Bush a "neocon" or a puppet of the "neoconservative cabal," present company excluded, have egg on their faces. I've long said that President Bush didn't fit into that category. He attacked Iraq because he believed it to be a threat to our national interest, a menace to world peace and a habitual violator of its post-war treaties. He talked about the domino effect of a democratized Iraq as a collateral benefit of our deposing Saddam Hussein, but he never would have attacked it solely to spread democracy in the Middle East.
In fairness, neoconservatives would probably not be in favor of initiating wars against nations not perceived as posing any threat to America's interests either. But they do appear to favor a more aggressive approach toward countries they believe to be inevitable threats to the United States in the foreseeable future, like North Korea, Iran and perhaps Syria. And they tend to be more convinced of the inevitability of these threats. They also have less patience for diplomatic avenues, especially when these rogue states use "negotiations" to take us off guard while they proceed with further mischief.