- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2007

Most Americans disapprove of the Iraq war and of exporting democracy by force, yet neoconservative proponents of those policies advise the leading Republican presidential hopefuls.

“There is an overwhelming presence of neoconservatives and absence of traditional conservatives that I don’t know what to make of,” said Richard V. Allen, former Reagan White House national security adviser.

Advisers to Sen. John McCain of Arizona include Robert Kagan, co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC), while former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s policy team includes Norman Podhoretz, a founder of the neoconservative movement, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gets advice from Dan Senor, who counseled L. Paul Bremer III, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator in Iraq.

Critics say neoconservatism casts American foreign policy as a new and benevolent form of imperialism, and conflicts with the traditional conservative, who prefers U.S. military power be reserved for defending against direct threats to America’s vital interests.

Defense analyst Tom Donnelly says that by surrounding themselves with such advisers, Republican candidates simply appeal to likely primary voters.

“The public in general opposes the war, but Republican primary voters are generally more supportive of the war,” says Mr. Donnelly, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Besides, he argues, “antiwar voters aren’t likely to vote for an antiwar Republican over an antiwar Democrat.”

Yet more than four years into the Iraq war, traditionalists say, even many Republican voters may be weary of the Bush administration’s interventionist policies.

“Because Republicans are supportive of the president and the war, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are supportive of a policy that embraces continuing the war and continuing nation-building,” said Philip Giraldi, the former CIA counterintelligence official who is the Francis Walsingham Fellow for the American Conservative Defense Alliance. “It’s a misreading of the Republican electorate.”

Famous as “America’s mayor” for rallying New Yorkers after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mr. Giuliani’s selection of foreign-policy advisers prompted the Forward, an influential Jewish publication, to run a story last month headlined: “Giuliani Stacks Campaign Staff With a Who’s Who Of Mideast Hawks.” Among those is Mr. Podhoretz, who in May wrote a Wall Street Journal column urging a U.S. attack on Iran as “the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel.”

Mr. McCain’s campaign is also well-stocked with hawks like Mr. Kagan, who once declared: “Military strength alone will not avail if we do not use it actively to maintain a world order which both supports and rests upon American hegemony.”

Among Mr. McCain’s many other foreign-policy advisers are former Clinton CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr., who predicted Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslims would flock to support the U.S. in the event of war, and Randy Scheunemann, who served on the board of PNAC and is a former adviser to Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott and to former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole’s 1996 Republican presidential campaign.

Mr. Scheunemann says the McCain team “reflects the contacts he has nurtured through his years of national security experience” and “reflect the broad spectrum of Republican foreign policy from realists like Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig to some of the most prominent neoconservatives like Woolsey, Kagan and [columnist] Max Boot.”

Mr. Romney’s foreign policy is still “evolving,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a Romney adviser. In addition to Mr. Senor, the Romney foreign-policy team includes J. Cofer Black, a former State Department counterterrorism coordinator who is vice chairman of the Blackwater USA private security firm.

“I would not describe it as neocon or anti-neocon,” said Mr. Weber, saying that Mr. Romney views “increases in the size of, and spending for, the military and the global war on terror as his No. 1 priority.”

Senior foreign-policy adviser for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign is Mark Esper, former executive vice president of the Aerospace Industries of America and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Bush administration. Mr. Thompson’s advisers also include former State Department official Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I’d say the national security advisers for the Republican presidential candidates are generally hawkish, internationalists rather than isolationists, and idealists, not realists,” said Fred Barnes, managing editor of the Weekly Standard. “This isn’t surprising. This is where the national security expertise and wisdom is among Republicans and conservatives.”

Others say hawkish advisers misunderstand the mood of Republicans voters.

“Even though primary voters may have been supportive of the war, they also recognize the real liability that the war has been for America and for the GOP,” said a former senior official in the Reagan White House who asked not to be identified for fear of being forced out of his current position. “Republican primary voters would want as advisers, to the next Republican president, people who understand the lessons of the Iraq war and nation-building debacles.”

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