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Brose Before Neos

There are two theories about John McCain and foreign policy: one, advanced by John Judis, holds that McCain’s views on American power are protean and transactional; another, advanced by Matthew Yglesias, holds that McCain is the most consistent militarist in contemporary American politics. I tend to find the evidence is better explained by Yglesias’s argument. But now it looks as if McCain, as he copes with the end of his presidential ambitions, is undergoing one of the shifts in his thinking that Judis identified. He’s hired my pal Christian Brose, a former Condoleezza Rice speechwriter, as his new national-security adviser.

At the risk of delegitimizing Chris, the conservative movement would be a much more worthy opposition if his perspectives became more readily adopted. He’s authentically conservative but equally reality-based. He spends a great deal of time reflecting on the failures of the Bush administration, as his tenure editing Foreign Policy‘s Shadow Government blog shows, and on the classic contradictions of idealism and realism in policymaking. From my perspective, he’s coming to interesting places and I learn something when I read and argue with him, rather than feeling like I’m stuck in 2002-3 like the rest of the conservative movement.

What’s Chris’ appointment mean for McCain? I’m not sure, but it’s noteworthy that Chris isn’t a neocon. Neos probably will find things to laud and things to criticize in his thinking, but he’s not in any important sense one of them. Randy Scheuenenenenemannnnn has glommed onto Sarah Palin now. McCain is a spent vessel for neocon ambitions. But maybe McCain is going to return to statesmanship. His new national-security adviser is well-suited to it.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman