Does One Right Make a Realist? Conservatism, Neoconservatism, and Isolationism in the Foreign Policy Ideology of American Elites

Brian C. Rathbun
Content Type
Journal Article
Political Science Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Summer 2008
Academy of Political Science
American society, it is now frequently stated, is more politically polarized than at any time in recent memory, and a prominent front in the ideological battle between left and right is foreign policy. Most notable is, of course, the war in Iraq, but divisions between Republicans and Democrats over the proper definition of the national interest have been a feature of the post-Cold War era since its inception. Democrats and the left direct most of their ire at the neoconservatives who, they argue, have masterminded America's grand strategy since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. This partisan conflict, a genuine ideological difference, has somewhat distracted from divisions within the right. Neoconservatives have also faced significant criticism from other factions within the Republican Party. Condemnation from both traditional conservatives and isolationists has been as strident and vicious as that of the left. This raises the question of whether there is any common set of fundamentals that defines the right's foreign policy in the United States, and if not, why these subgroups are considered to be on the same side of the political spectrum.
Political Geography