The Republican Battle Between Neoconservatism and America First

News AnalysisVivek Ramaswamy has a favorite term for his enemies on foreign policy: "neocon," short for neoconservative.“I want to be careful to avoid making the mistakes from the neocon establishment of the past,” he told moderator Lester Holt during the third Republican presidential debate on Nov. 8 in Miami.“Corrupt politicians in both parties spent trillions, killed millions, made billions for themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan fighting wars that sent thousands of our sons and daughters, people my age, to die in wars,” the millennial businessman continued, rattling off criticisms of pre-Trump foreign policy.“Do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?” Mr. Ramaswamy asked. "Because we have two of them on this stage tonight,” taking a swing at Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley puts her hand up to Vivek Ramaswamy as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (C) listens during a Republican presidential primary debate in Miami, on Nov. 8, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Ms. Haley later hit back on social media: “I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.”As Ms. Haley pushes past 10 percent in the polls, she is drawing attention from influential donors amid the Israel–Hamas war and the ongoing Russia–Ukraine conflict. In Miami, she indicated she was willing to bomb Iran in response to proxy attacks against Israel and the United States.Alongside foreign policy assumptions from the George H.W. Bush administration, neoconservatism has helped set the tone for foreign policy views that still dominate the GOP establishment, according to both Col. Douglas MacGregor, a senior defense adviser under President Trump, and Steve Bannon, who served as the White House’s chief strategist early in the Trump presidency, and host of the “Bannon’s War Room” podcast.They spoke with The Epoch Times, along with several others, about the neoconservative streak in American politics and what it means for 2024. Rise of the NeoconsMore ArticlesThe word “neocon” conjures up some familiar faces from the last several decades of American politics.Aside from Mr. Cheney, there’s John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush and a national security adviser for President Trump. Mr. Bolton has since repudiated the 45th president.In the Senate, there’s the late John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the living Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). On the other side of the aisle, there’s former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and, from the Cold War era, the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.).But behind the names that get quoted in mass media, is a tight network of intellectuals.In 2004, Francis Fukuyama, a one-time fellow traveler of the movement, wrote about “the neoconservative moment” for The National Interest.Mr. Fukuyama, then a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), linked the thinking that guided defense policy in the Bush administration to highly exclusive Washington dinners held during the 1990s. Attendees ranged from columnist Charles Krauthammer to political scientist Samuel Huntington to the “godfather of neoconservatism,” Irving Kristol, and his son, future "Never Trumper" Bill Kristol. (L to R front) Pulitzer prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, American Enterprise Institute fellow Irving Kristol, (L to R rear): Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice, PBS host Charlie Rose, Time Managing Editor Walter Issacson, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, and CBS News anchor Dan Rather, in Washington on Feb. 1, 1998. (JIM COLBURN/AFP via Getty Images)The Kristol family tradition continues today in various influential institutions, including the Washington Free Beacon. Selected by the Republican National Committee (RNC) as a co-host of the upcoming fourth presidential debate in Alabama, the periodical was co-founded by Bill Kristol’s son-in-law.Like many other first-generation neoconservatives, Irving Kristol began as a follower of communist Leon Trotsky before falling out with the Left during the Cold War. In place of internationalist socialism, Mr. Kristol and his friends pursued a different kind of internationalism—one that relied on the powerful military during and, in Mr. Fukuyama’s reflections, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.“It was at one of those dinners that Charles Krauthammer first articulated the idea of American unipolarity,” Mr. Fukuyama wrote.The Soviet Union had fallen—though communist China remained standing—and the United States was the lone superpower. In the decade before 9/11, that mostly meant peace, at least for the American people.Joshua Muravchik, an influential neoconservative whose pedigree includes service with Mr. Jackson and work at Hopkins’ SAIS, told The Epoch Times that his movement emerged against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.While he and a few other liberals still supported the containment doctrine advanced by diplomat George Kennan during the Truman adminis

The Republican Battle Between Neoconservatism and America First

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News Analysis

Vivek Ramaswamy has a favorite term for his enemies on foreign policy: "neocon," short for neoconservative.

“I want to be careful to avoid making the mistakes from the neocon establishment of the past,” he told moderator Lester Holt during the third Republican presidential debate on Nov. 8 in Miami.

“Corrupt politicians in both parties spent trillions, killed millions, made billions for themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan fighting wars that sent thousands of our sons and daughters, people my age, to die in wars,” the millennial businessman continued, rattling off criticisms of pre-Trump foreign policy.

“Do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels?” Mr. Ramaswamy asked. "Because we have two of them on this stage tonight,” taking a swing at Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley puts her hand up to Vivek Ramaswamy as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (C) listens during a Republican presidential primary debate in Miami, on Nov. 8, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley puts her hand up to Vivek Ramaswamy as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (C) listens during a Republican presidential primary debate in Miami, on Nov. 8, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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Ms. Haley later hit back on social media: “I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.”

As Ms. Haley pushes past 10 percent in the polls, she is drawing attention from influential donors amid the Israel–Hamas war and the ongoing Russia–Ukraine conflict. In Miami, she indicated she was willing to bomb Iran in response to proxy attacks against Israel and the United States.

Alongside foreign policy assumptions from the George H.W. Bush administration, neoconservatism has helped set the tone for foreign policy views that still dominate the GOP establishment, according to both Col. Douglas MacGregor, a senior defense adviser under President Trump, and Steve Bannon, who served as the White House’s chief strategist early in the Trump presidency, and host of the “Bannon’s War Room” podcast.

They spoke with The Epoch Times, along with several others, about the neoconservative streak in American politics and what it means for 2024.

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Rise of the Neocons

The word “neocon” conjures up some familiar faces from the last several decades of American politics.

Aside from Mr. Cheney, there’s John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush and a national security adviser for President Trump. Mr. Bolton has since repudiated the 45th president.

In the Senate, there’s the late John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the living Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). On the other side of the aisle, there’s former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and, from the Cold War era, the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.).

But behind the names that get quoted in mass media, is a tight network of intellectuals.

In 2004, Francis Fukuyama, a one-time fellow traveler of the movement, wrote about “the neoconservative moment” for The National Interest.

Mr. Fukuyama, then a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), linked the thinking that guided defense policy in the Bush administration to highly exclusive Washington dinners held during the 1990s. Attendees ranged from columnist Charles Krauthammer to political scientist Samuel Huntington to the “godfather of neoconservatism,” Irving Kristol, and his son, future "Never Trumper" Bill Kristol.

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 (L to R front) Pulitzer prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, American Enterprise Institute fellow Irving Kristol, (L to R rear): Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice, PBS host Charlie Rose, Time Managing Editor Walter Issacson, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, and CBS News anchor Dan Rather, in Washington on Feb. 1, 1998. (JIM COLBURN/AFP via Getty Images)
(L to R front) Pulitzer prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, American Enterprise Institute fellow Irving Kristol, (L to R rear): Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice, PBS host Charlie Rose, Time Managing Editor Walter Issacson, former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, and CBS News anchor Dan Rather, in Washington on Feb. 1, 1998. (JIM COLBURN/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Kristol family tradition continues today in various influential institutions, including the Washington Free Beacon. Selected by the Republican National Committee (RNC) as a co-host of the upcoming fourth presidential debate in Alabama, the periodical was co-founded by Bill Kristol’s son-in-law.

Like many other first-generation neoconservatives, Irving Kristol began as a follower of communist Leon Trotsky before falling out with the Left during the Cold War. In place of internationalist socialism, Mr. Kristol and his friends pursued a different kind of internationalism—one that relied on the powerful military during and, in Mr. Fukuyama’s reflections, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It was at one of those dinners that Charles Krauthammer first articulated the idea of American unipolarity,” Mr. Fukuyama wrote.

The Soviet Union had fallen—though communist China remained standing—and the United States was the lone superpower. In the decade before 9/11, that mostly meant peace, at least for the American people.

Joshua Muravchik, an influential neoconservative whose pedigree includes service with Mr. Jackson and work at Hopkins’ SAIS, told The Epoch Times that his movement emerged against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

While he and a few other liberals still supported the containment doctrine advanced by diplomat George Kennan during the Truman administration, the unpopular conflict in Southeast Asia brought anti-communism into disrepute among American liberals.

The term “neoconservative” was, he said, “meant as an insult because we still regarded ourselves as liberals back in the '70s.”

Soon afterward—sooner than many thought possible—the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War was over.

“I think we neoconservatives were vindicated,” Mr. Muravchik said.

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 West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early Nov. 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall. (Gerard Malie/AFP via Getty Images)
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early Nov. 11, 1989, as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall. (Gerard Malie/AFP via Getty Images)

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“The people who had kind of advocated an aggressive international approach, which came to be called the Global War on Terror, were largely from the old group of neoconservatives,” he said.

But history didn’t quite stop between the two periods. In 1996, for example, neoconservative strategist Richard Perle, another “Scoop” Jackson veteran, wrote the “Clean Break” memo for Mr. Netanyahu, who was then about to become Israel’s prime minister. The front page of the report states it drew on a conversation with Douglas Feith, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., and David Wurmser, among others in the movement.

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 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (R) and King Hussein of Jordan review the honor guard upon Hussein's arrival for the Arab cooperation council meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 24, 1990. (MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (R) and King Hussein of Jordan review the honor guard upon Hussein's arrival for the Arab cooperation council meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 24, 1990. (MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Mr. Perle, who later advised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the Bush administration, argued that Israel should be “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria.”

“This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq,” it continued.

Alongside policies under the second Bush administration, the “Clean Break” memo has led critics of neoconservatism to link the movement to strong U.S. support for Israel, or even a blurring of the lines between the two countries’ respective interests.

Indeed, in “The Neoconservative Moment,” Mr. Fukuyama suggested that Mr. Krauthammer conflated the two countries’ strategic realities during a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

But very pro-Israel politicians don’t always enjoy the favor of neoconservatives. Notably, many neoconservatives have vocally opposed one of the most pro-Israel presidents in American history, Donald Trump. This placed them in an uneasy alliance with President Joe Biden, one of a small and dwindling number of living lawmakers from the Mr. Jackson era of the Senate.

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 U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Sept. 15, 2020. Netanyahu is in Washington to participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords. (Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Sept. 15, 2020. Netanyahu is in Washington to participate in the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords. (Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images)

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Saurabh Sharma, a man in his 20s who leads the American Moment networking organization for young conservatives, pointed out that the neoconservative commentator Max Boot had argued for Israel to send weapons to Ukraine.

According to Mr. Sharma, if Israel had done what Mr. Boot suggested “they would have been woefully unprepared when this conflict began.”

Mr. Muravchik, the influential neoconservative, noted the apparent discrepancy between President Trump’s support for Israel and neoconservatives’ views in a 2020 article for American Purpose.

In his interview with The Epoch Times, he elaborated on his objections to President Trump’s approach to foreign affairs.

“He’s been nothing but a suck-up to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He said he fell in love with [North Korean leader] Kim-Jong Un. He said he thought [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] was a great guy,” he told The Epoch Times.

President Trump’s allies might counter that his maneuvers on the world stage actually put America first by defusing tension while also showing strength. But to Mr. Muravchik and other neoconservatives, Trump’s statecraft looks less like crafty realism and more like appeasement of anti-democratic leaders.

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 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on June 30, 2019. (Handout/Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the South and North Korea, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on June 30, 2019. (Handout/Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)

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“A hallmark of neoconservatism was the idea, not just having military strength, but trying to make the world an easier place to deal with by making it more democratic,” Mr. Muravchik said.

“If we can encourage the world to become more democratic—if we can encourage more countries to turn away from dictatorship to democracy—it will make the world a more peaceful place and a more pro-American place,” he added.

He said “democracy” hasn’t spread as broadly this century as it did at the end of the 20th century.

“It’s stopped,” he said before correcting himself: “It’s stalled.”

Mr. Sharma suggested President Trump made enemies of the neocons early in his candidacy when he criticized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“[The neoconservatives] made egregious mistakes in the Global War on Terror, and they want to get away with it,” he said, adding that a reorientation of the GOP against wars in the Middle East “means they’re all out of a job.”

Some America First critics of neoconservatism suggest the movement is only part of the story. Understanding why President Trump’s “America First” message provoked such fury requires a broader perspective.

“Control of the [RNC] rests in the hands of the same people that took us into the Middle East—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, and so forth—under Bush Sr.,” said Col. MacGregor, referring to President George H.W. Bush.

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 Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) invites Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) to start the talks during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, on Aug. 17, 1999. (STF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) invites Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) to start the talks during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, on Aug. 17, 1999. (STF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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According to Mr. Bannon, President Trump’s apparent rejection of the global order that emerged after World War II—“the postwar, international, rules-based order”—united the establishment against him.

“You're in this situation where the postwar international rules-based order, which has been underwritten financially by American taxpayers and paid for by their sons’ and daughters’ sacrifice and blood, has done nothing but gut jobs and ship every high-value manufacturing job out of the United States into China and other places in the Eurasian landmass," Mr. Bannon said. "At the same time, our capital all financed it—our private equity capital, all the pension funds. ... That order is the order that America First is against.”

Both men rejected the isolationist label often applied to America Firsters.

Col. MacGregor outlined the limited circumstances in which force might be justified.

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 The grounds of a shuttered factory connected to the brass industry stands in what was once a vibrant manufacturing center in Waterbury, Conn., on Oct. 21, 2018. Waterbury, like many manufacturing cities in America, started to see a decline in manufacturing following World War II. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The grounds of a shuttered factory connected to the brass industry stands in what was once a vibrant manufacturing center in Waterbury, Conn., on Oct. 21, 2018. Waterbury, like many manufacturing cities in America, started to see a decline in manufacturing following World War II. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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“Unless we ourselves are attacked, or what we deem to be interests that are vitally strategic to us, we should not attack anyone,” Col. MacGregor said.

“It's not that we don't understand how the world is interconnected," Mr. Bannon said. "It's obviously interconnected. But the difference in Trump and the American First movement was, you will put America's interest first—and, particularly, we will not support an international order that allows the Chinese Communist Party to rise from basically a destitute, third world country into an economic superpower on the backs of the American taxpayer.”

Mr. Muravchik argued that Trump-style rhetoric against the Chinese regime is ultimately insincere.

“They’re not worried about China. When it comes time to face up to China, they’re not going to do that,” he said.

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The Next Generation

In Col. MacGregor’s view, the RNC hasn't shifted on foreign policy in decades.

“I don't think anything, anything has fundamentally changed with the institutional Republican Party," he said. "And the institutional Republican Party does not represent most of the American citizens who refer to themselves as traditional conservatives.”

Mr. Ramaswamy has targeted neoconservatism with more zeal than anyone gunning for the White House, President Trump possibly excepted.

Before the debate at which he unleashed his “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” line, he circulated a “No to Neocons” pledge.
Mr. Ramaswamy also called on RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel to resign, while on stage in Miami. According to reporting from Timcast, she then loudly insulted him from the audience, pledging that he wouldn’t get “a cent” from the RNC.

“It’s not her money. It’s the Republican voters’ money,” Ramaswamy senior adviser Tricia McLaughlin told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Ramaswamy has since filed a petition to oust Ms. McDaniel as RNC chair.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Muravchik, the neoconservative intellectual, is no fan of Mr. Ramaswamy.

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“He reminds me of something out of a horror movie,” he said, asserting that the young candidate is a “pure isolationist.”

“I don’t think he has any knowledge of these subjects,” he added, describing Mr. Ramaswamy’s rhetoric as “purely opportunistic.”

Ms. McLaughlin responded to Mr. Muravchik’s comments, saying,“So-called foreign policy experience has gotten us into a nightmarish or horror story scenario.” 

She rejected his “pure isolationist” label, pointing out that her candidate has committed to defending Taiwan “at least until 2028, [when] we return to a position of strategic ambiguity.”

Ms. McLaughlin stressed that strategic ambiguity under a President Ramaswamy would not mean some new definitive rejection of Taiwan.

“We [would be] returning to the current posture,” she said.

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 U.S.-made CM-11 tanks (in background) are fired in front of two 8-inch self-propelled artillery guns during a military drill in Pingtung County, Taiwan, on May 30, 2019. (SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S.-made CM-11 tanks (in background) are fired in front of two 8-inch self-propelled artillery guns during a military drill in Pingtung County, Taiwan, on May 30, 2019. (SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images)

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Mr. Sharma suggests that Mr. Ramaswamy’s ascent to prominence “is a good indication that the rising generation of conservative elected officials may have a very different view of [foreign policy] in coming years.”

In line with this, he lauded Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on military confirmations, describing it as part of a pattern of “Republicans open to asking tough questions about what exactly goes on at the Pentagon.”

Mr. Bannon is critical of Mr. Ramaswamy, but said, “You can’t really win a Republican primary or even really be competitive being a neocon.

"Impossible," he added.

Mr. Sharma’s organization, American Moment, could play a role in developing an America First network of staffers that stands somewhat (not totally) apart from existing cliques in the nation’s capital.

He told The Epoch Times that American Moment has “well over 1,000 people who we consider fully vetted members of our network,” 75 percent of whom he estimates are employed somewhere in Washington politics.

American Moment’s forays into politics also included last year’s emergency conference urging restraint in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “Up from Chaos: Conserving American Security.”

When asked whether American Moment members were permitted to espouse neoconservatism or similar views, Mr. Sharma said the network “[doesn’t] have any hard litmus tests on any issue.”

“I would say that the median foreign policy view in our network is probably one to two standard deviations more realistic than the median view of the typical Republican staffer in Washington,” he said.

Mr. Sharma is also now executive director of the Edmund Burke Foundation, an organization chaired by conservative thinker and former Netanyahu adviser Yoram Hazony.

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 (L to R) Helen Andrews, Micah Meadowcroft, Lee Smith, and Mollie Hemingway speak at the "Up from Chaos" event. (Courtesy of American Moment)
(L to R) Helen Andrews, Micah Meadowcroft, Lee Smith, and Mollie Hemingway speak at the "Up from Chaos" event. (Courtesy of American Moment)

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While American Moment and groups like it could exert influence if President Trump or a similar Republican gets elected next year, it’s hard to imagine Ms. Haley leaning on networks dominated by fairly consistent skeptics of U.S. intervention.

As Ms. Haley’s campaign has picked up speed, she has met with influential donors such as Miriam Adelson, the widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Ms. Haley also spoke with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon about the economy. Additionally, longtime DeSantis champion Ken Griffin is publicly evaluating the possibility of funding her campaign.

Both Mr. Bannon and Col. MacGregor said that Ms. Haley’s hawkishness on foreign policy is downstream of what big money wants.

“I call her neocon Nikki. She never saw a war she didn’t like,” Mr. Bannon said, arguing that the former U.N. ambassador is a “simpleton” who “has a tenuous grasp on a real understanding of the way the world works.”

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Col. MacGregor said Ms. Haley and other candidates who have made pitches to strike Iran at various debates “are all responding to donors, not to American citizens.”

“Purely American interests are not actually represented in Washington,” he said.

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Iran and the Unipolar Moment

In the conflict over the GOP’s foreign policy future, the Israel–Hamas war could leave America First advocates fighting more of an uphill battle.

Then again, the war ultimately may be too short to make much of a difference. As of late November, Israel and Hamas had negotiated a truce that could portend a longer peace.

Still, links between Hamas and Iran, along with attacks on U.S. bases and other assets in the region, have raised the prospect of a regional war involving the United States. To some neoconservatives, that might not be the worst outcome.

Mr. Muravchik is one of Washington’s most consistent advocates of bombing Iran. He called for it as early as 2006 in an op-ed for Foreign Policy.

In his interview with The Epoch Times, he said he hopes Israel will take out Iran’s nuclear weapon development facilities before adding, “I think it should be our job. We’re the world peacekeepers.”

“I’m not for starting an across-the-board war with Iran,” he said, arguing that the United States should eliminate nuclear facilities in the country with bunker buster bombs.

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 Israeli armor personnel carriers move in formation near the Israeli border with Lebanon, near Amiad, Israel, on Oct. 15, 2023. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
Israeli armor personnel carriers move in formation near the Israeli border with Lebanon, near Amiad, Israel, on Oct. 15, 2023. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

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Meanwhile, Mr. Sharma said, “The only people agitating for a war with Iran right now are American neoconservatives and not necessarily any major constituency in Israel, or anywhere else. And so, I think we'll end up in a good place on that.”

Like many other populist Republicans in Washington, he sounded more receptive to U.S. support for Israel as it wages war against Hamas than to continue support for Ukraine against Russia.

“It’s a fundamentally different calculation,” he said, describing Israel as a “good ally to the United States.”

Col. MacGregor said the United States should not engage in airstrikes “against anybody right now, particularly Iran.”

Advocates of war against Iran “make false assumptions about the duration and the consequences of launching wars,” he said.

“We would inevitably end up with a weakened Iran, which would dramatically strengthen Sunni Islamist forces in the region, particularly Turkey," he said. "It would result in a closure of the Strait of Hormuz, and it might well result in the closure of the Suez Canal, because the other Arab and Turkish forces would see this as an opportunity to inflict enormous damage on the United States and the West.”

The Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal are major arteries in the global flow of oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products.

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 Iranian army helicopters and Navy boats take part in maneuvers during a war games exercise in the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman on Oct. 29, 2000. (AFP via Getty Images)
Iranian army helicopters and Navy boats take part in maneuvers during a war games exercise in the Strait of Hormuz and the Sea of Oman on Oct. 29, 2000. (AFP via Getty Images)

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The retired colonel predicted that both Russia and China would stand by Iran, pointing out that the Middle Eastern country supplies much of the oil and liquified natural gas China needs.

“If you are looking for an opportunity to effectively destroy the United States and its economic strength, certainly for at least a decade or two, then by all means, that's the way to do it,” he said.

More than three decades after Mr. Krauthammer wrote about “the unipolar moment,” and despite the economic ascent of China and military renascence of Russia, Mr. Muravchik maintains that the unipolar moment lingers on.

“It would be over if Ramaswamy became president,” he said. “If Trump gets reelected, it could be over too.”

“We still have enormous sources of strength—economic, military, cultural, political—that really, nobody else can match,” said Mr. Muravchik, suggesting America could aim to “think intelligently and long-term about how to keep the world safe for ourselves and Israel and others.”

Surveying the state of America in 2023, Col. MacGregor comes to a very different conclusion. The unipolar moment, he said, “has long been over.”

“Look at the strategic oil reserves. Look at the American military. Just pick your sector. We simply used up everything, because we've taken our eye off the ball of production and development and modernization,” he said, comparing American infrastructure unfavorably to what exists in Japan, South Korea, and other countries that benefit from the United States’ security guarantee.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country’s infrastructure a grade of C- in 2021. That’s an increase, though not by much, from a D+ grade in 2017.
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 Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shake hands during their meeting in Beijing on Feb. 19, 2019. (HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi shake hands during their meeting in Beijing on Feb. 19, 2019. (HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

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Mr. Bannon argued that a neoconservative quest for American global hegemony is “one of the principal reasons—not the sole reason—one of the principal reasons that the United States is bankrupt today.

“And we’re bankrupt,” he stressed.

While Mr. Muravchik dreads what might happen if the Oval Office is occupied by President Trump, Mr. Ramaswamy, or even Mr. DeSantis (“He made that horrible statement about Ukraine being a border conflict”), he sounded less concerned about the prospect of continued rule by President Biden.

“I don’t think Biden has done so badly,” Mr. Muravchik said.

He noted that the incumbent president is relatively old and at the head of a party that is generally less receptive to defense spending than the GOP. To Mr. Muravchik, both factors count against him.

Additionally, while national-level Democrats have mostly backed Israel in its current struggle against Hamas, left-wing protests against Israel and dissent in the State Department leaves him wary about the party’s ability to manage its own coalition, which is far less sympathetic to Israel at the younger end.

“We are already seeing a serious bump in the road,” he said.

The neoconservative intellectual told The Epoch Times he’d prefer “a strong internationalist Republican” to President Biden.

He’s holding out hope for Ms. Haley.

The Haley campaign did not respond to The Epoch Times by press time.