Is a Neocon Purge Coming? Or a Last Laugh?
A glance at the exit polls showed that Obama won the foreign policy question pretty handily. Only five percent of respondents thought that foreign policy was the most critical issue in this campaign -- but of those five percent, voters went for Obama over Romney by 56% to 33%. Voters were also more likely to trust Barack Obama in an international crisis (57%-42%) than Mitt Romney (50%-46%).
This is the first exit poll in at least three decades where the Democrat has outperformed the Republican on foreign policy and national security. And I guarantee that whoever runs from the GOP side in 2016 will not have a ton of foreign policy experience. The GOP has managed to squander an advantage in perceived foreign policy competency that it had owned for decades.
When your response to every international threat small and large is to trot out Churchill and warn of a return to the 1930s, people tend to take you less and less seriously. But will this lead to an elite shakeout among GOP foreign policy hands? (Or, gasp, a fundamental reappraisal of at least some their views?)
I'm not so sure. As Drezner notes, five percent is small enough for Romney's advisers to argue quite plausibly that it wasn't their tired bromides ("peace through strength," "appeasement," etc.) that lost the race.
Moreover, what have the Neocons really lost? A close look at how Obama captured the "center" in the foreign policy debate shows that the supposed socialist peacenik (and his party) moved considerably to the right -- he did not drag the national consensus to the left. Drone strikes, kill lists, a war in Libya, a march toward war with Iran, the expansion of special forces operations throughout the world and a continued belief that spreading freedom to the world is a sacred American mission are all now considered the "mainstream" of U.S. foreign policy.
The neocons may have lost the political battle, but in the battle of ideas, things are (mostly) still going their way -- albeit not as fast as they might have otherwise gone had Romney won.
UPDATE: Realist Writer makes a fair point:
The fact that you associate this ideology as "right-wing" seems patently absurd then (as if somehow tearing up the traditions of other countries is a time-honored tradition that the US must always pursue every single time). And that this is only now "considered" mainstream? It was always mainstream, since the 1990s (Somaila and Kosovo), and possibly since the 1960s as well (when the neoconservatives were still a part of the Democratic Party and the US was fighting in Vietnam)...or even the 1950s (CIA interventions in Latin America and Iran).
This is true. Interventionism is more of a time-honored tradition than I let on above.