This morning’s New York Times as an essay by Ross Douthat comparing the foreign policy visions of two Republican rising stars, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Douthat uses their competing concerns about Libya – Rubio thinks we should be striking harder and Paul thinks we should not be involved at all – to highlight the struggle between the neo-conservative wing of the GOP with its libertarian competition.
During the George W. Bush years, there was virtually complete consensus within the ranks of the GOP. Bush used the fear and anger resulting from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to abandon his campaign call for a “humbler” foreign policy and to embrace the neo-conservative vision of an armed and active America, re-making the world in America’s image. I had almost written “making the world safe for democracy.” Indeed, there was something of Wilsonian idealism in the neo-conservative vision.