In the wake of a post-2006 electoral defeat and a seemingly imminent full downfall from power in 2008, American conservatives and Republicans are scrambling for cover. The notable John Podhoretz of the National Review has already endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president on the fatalistic belief that no GOP contender will win the presidency, and on the cynical calculation that the New York Senator has the most moderate stances amongst her peers. Ironically, it is Barack Obama, the media darling of the left, who is poised to be the go-to-guy for many other aisle crossing conservatives.
Indeed, the fact that many former Bush conservatives have defected to the Obama camp is, if surprising, old news. Many say they are drawn to the Illinois Senator for his inspiring rhetoric, his refreshing commitment to bi-partisanship, and his distinct brand of "unity politics." What is new is a neoconservative and hawkish foreign policy elite that is beginning to identify with Obama. Robert Kagan of the Washington Post has written about Obama's Kennedy-esque appeal, commenting on a 2005 speech in Chicago: "It had a deliberate New Frontier feel, including some Kennedy-era references ("we were Berliners") and even the Cold War-era notion that the United States is the leader of the free world."
In a way, a desire to supposedly return America back to its elevated status of benign superpower fits with Obama's themes for a kind of globalist humanism, which is more neocon-friendly than the conventional realism of some of today's Democrats. And certainly, neoconservatives who supported Clinton's belated humanitarian initiatives in Kosovo and the Congo will empathize with Obama's hopes of more aggressively dealing with the genocide in Darfur and revamping our efforts in Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban. Remarks like the following also help: " we must build up… the capacity of the world's weakest states and provide them with what they need to reduce poverty, build healthy and educated communities, develop markets, . . . generate wealth . . . fight terrorism . . . halt the proliferation of deadly weapons…"
But there is a case to be made that Kagan and some of his colleagues are getting ahead of themselves. They may be conflating their admiration for Obama's style and perceived integrity with their own political ideals, seeing in Obama only what they want to see. This may be understandable at a time when the right longs for a mythologized Reagan and the left hails Obama as a Reagan of its own.
The Kennedy to whom Kagan compares Obama had some severe inconsistencies between his rhetoric and his actual foreign policy. Lest we forget the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy's America did not "bear any burden" for its friends. Like Kennedy, Obama seems ready to abandon some friends, first among them millions of Iraqis. Obama has conceded that if we leave Iraq with only a small contingent of anti-al Qaeda forces that there may very well be bloodshed of genocidal proportions. And yet, he plans to do exactly that. Some may point that he will redeploy those troops into Afghanistan and Darfur, but this should only trouble neoconservatives, who pride themselves on viewing security interests and humanitarian ideals as incontrovertibly linked. One wonders why it makes any sense at all to leave Iraq to both genocide and hostile military takeover from security threats such as al-Qaeda, Iran, and Hezbollah, in order to stop concentrate exclusively on the genocide in Darfur.