Henry Nau, professor of political science at George Washington University, wrote an article in The National Interest for Winter 2004, No enemies on the right: conservative foreign policy factions beyond Iraq.
Professor Nau’s concern was the conflicts between various “conservative” foreign policy positions; he worried that because of these conflicts the right came close to losing the 2004 presidential election. Calling upon an older rallying cry for right-wing unity, “No enemies on the right”, he tried to articulate a set of principles that could unify all the conflicting positions of right-wing foreign policy.
Here are Professor Nau’s principles for a “conservative foreign policy”:
“A conservative strategy for American foreign policy is based on four general principles. These principles encompass all conservatives--neoconservatives, conservative realists and nationalists--and reflect the different choices that conservatives and liberals make when they face tradeoffs in real world situations. In these situations, conservatives generally take the following positions: Individual and national liberty (freedom) count more than collective and universal equality; competition is a better engine of change and protector of liberty than institutional cooperation; military power takes precedence over economic, diplomatic or soft power because without military power, other forms of power are impotent; and legitimacy derives more from commitments to democracy than from universal participation in international institutions many of whose members are not democratic.”
Let’s take these “principles” one at a time:
1) “Individual and national liberty (freedom) count more than collective and universal equality.” This is the tired cliché of the right maintaining that they are the true defenders of “freedom”. This from the people who brought us the Patriot Act, NSA spying on Americans, etc. Their defense of “freedom” is almost purely rhetorical because whenever Big Brother needs to abridge freedom for “National Security” they are the first to sign on. (See my Dawn of the Pseudo-Conservatives, Part 2 for more.) Moreover, one of their favored gambits is to set up the strawman of “collective and universal equality” and then knock it down. Whenever they can use the term “collectivism” as a scare word and link it with a notion of “universal equality” (which no sane person advocates), they do so for rhetorical flourish. They show no concern about the “collectivism” of giant modern corporations (see my Pseudo-Conservative Contradictions) and they gladly support government “collectivism” for “national security”. Only ideologues on the right must still swell with pride when this tired rhetoric is trotted out. They utterly fail to recognize that efforts to increase equality of opportunity and equality before the law are simply attempts to ensure that those whose freedom is abridged because they have unequal access to basic resources are provided the basic necessities without which “freedom” is an empty slogan.
2) “Competition is a better engine of change and protector of liberty than institutional cooperation.” The tired cliches of the right: first “freedom” over “collectivism” and now “competition” vs. “cooperation”. Competition can indeed be a very useful method for achieving social goals but, as with freedom, the right is uneven in its support for competition; they love it in the abstract but frequently hate it when it involves their own interests. Just like John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Corporation smashed its competition claiming that all it amounted to was “chaos” in the markets that God had chosen John D. to smooth out (see Titan by Ron Chernow), right-wing supporters of competition are not consistent in application of the principle. When the State of California wanted to reward hybrid auto buyers to limit vehicle emissions Ford Motor said this would be a "special-interest measure ... intended for almost exclusive use by Toyota Prius drivers." However, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported: "Executives at GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler [previously] derided the hybrids as money-losers and lagged in producing their own models. Toyota pressed ahead [investing more than $1 billion in the 1990s], and its resulting hybrids... now  dominate the market, accounting for about 80 percent of U.S. hybrid sales." So our corporations love competition but when a competitor is encouraged because it produces something that serves a special public purpose, they scream. And please don't think the big American auto companies wouldn't accept government subsidies, they've asked for taxpayers dollars to research hydrogen-powered vehicles.
And though we have a North American “Free” Trade Agreement which supposedly fosters competition, it carefully avoids it when it comes to many agricultural products which would provide “undue” competition for American farmers; and yet, our NAFTA trading partners are agricultural societies, so this is precisely where they would benefit from competition. So the principle is really, competition when it's in our interests and protection elsewhere. Finally, cooperation certainly has a strong place as a social contributor as well and the opposition between competition and cooperation is mere rhetorical flourish.
3) “Military power takes precedence over economic, diplomatic or soft power because without military power, other forms of power are impotent.” This is either a cleverly worded platitude or a dangerous pseudo-condervative 'principle'. Of course, it helps to have military power to back up other sorts of endeavors but so-called conservatives reduce much of foreign policy to threats or actual use of military power; so when Nau argues it takes “precedence” he is wrong. Teddy Roosevelt said “speak softly and carry a big stick” not the reverse. Softer forms of negotiation and influence should virtually always take precedence over military power.
4) “Legitimacy derives more from commitments to democracy than from universal participation in international institutions many of whose members are not democratic.” This is the good guys vs. bad guys dichotomy of right-wing authoritarian thinking. There are many governments in the world whom we might wish to “improve” had we the opportunity. But it is the summit of arrogance for the U.S. to go about the world conferring “legitimacy” on some and denying it to others. What Nau is saying is that if the United States in its ultimate wisdom decides that so and so country satisfies our criteria of “democracy’ that is what should count and not their merely being members of the United Nations. But our commitment to “democracy” doesn’t include those democracies led by nationalistic governments that strongly oppose U.S. actions: the democratically elected Hamas government of the Palestinians, the Daniel Ortega government of Nicaragua, the Hugo Chavez government of Venezuela, the Evo Morales government of Bolivia—no somehow we find some rationalization for not supporting these governments. Their “democratic” procedures are somehow found faulty, unlike the unquestionably perfect nature of our own “democratic” procedures.