Conservative Nationalism and U.S. Foreign Policy
Conservative Nationalism and U.S. Foreign Policy By Colin Dueck for American Greatness
Today’s great challenge is not to promote or transform any progressive world order but simply to defend existing democracies. The United States remains much stronger than some believe.
At its most exemplary, conservative nationalism is a democratically oriented and civic form of patriotism, a love of a particular place, maintaining that the world is best governed by independent nation-states and that only within the context of such states can a free citizenry experiment with constitutional forms of self-rule.
In foreign policy, conservative nationalists focus on preserving and promoting their own country’s interests, rights, values, security, traditions, and way of life, in the belief that it is entirely legitimate to do so. Within the United States, a kind of conservative American nationalism was the mainstream bipartisan political and foreign policy tradition for most of the country’s history. But America’s Founders also hoped that the nation’s example of popular self-government would eventually spread worldwide, and they saw no contradiction between holding out that hope, or even pressing it forward, and preserving U.S. national sovereignty.
As a matter of historical record, the original American colonies were founded by English Protestant settlers, and this specific cultural and religious heritage provided the context for U.S. founding principles. Over the years, some U.S. nationalists have defined their identity mainly in religious or ethnic terms. This has long encouraged tensions between an ethnic definition of the American nation and a civic one. Yet in their Declaration of Independence, the American revolutionaries stated that “all men are created equal,” justifying their rebellion in part by claiming certain universal natural rights. These claims were informed by beliefs well described as classically liberal.
In terms of its worldwide implications, the leaders of the American Revolution hoped that it would encourage the spread of republican forms of government and the creation of a new international system, characterized by peaceful commercial exchange, individual liberty, the rule of law, and human progress. They rejected the 18th-century European state system as corrupt, militaristic, warlike, and autocratic.