Pat Buchanan argues that Colin Powell is the real conservative in Bush’s cabinet because, in the tradition of Eisenhower and Reagan, Powell is reluctant to send American troops to fight “foreign wars.”

The presence of Powell, a realist in the War Cabinet, is today the best guarantee the president will not launch the kind of utopian crusade that brought down all the other Great Powers. For while the neocons were doing graduate work at Harvard and Yale, Powell was doing his in Vietnam. That is the difference. The Powell Doctrine that came out of Vietnam—Don’t commit the army until you commit the nation!—is the quintessence of conservatism. Powell’s belief that war is a last resort, but that if we must fight, we go in with overwhelming force, win, and get out, is also faithful to U.S. traditions from Washington to Wilson.

Looking back, it was the conservatives who kept us out of the bloodletting in France until 1918, out of the League of Nations entanglements and commitments, out of World War II until Hitler turned on Stalin and the bloody partners tore each other to pieces long before the Americans arrived on the coast of France in 1944.

I’m sure it would not please Powell to have Buchanan rising to his defense. Furthermore, as has been the case for several years, I am perplexed by Buchanan’s definition of the term conservative. For one thing, while I find Eisenhower to be one of the more admirable figures in American history, he was almost famously non-ideological. And I’m not sure being latecomers to the two World Wars is a badge of honor.

(Hat tip: RealClear Politics)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.