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A nation must think before it acts.
Conservative internationalism is an important focus for study because it is a good description of America’s de facto grand strategy over time. The United States’ deployment patterns, budgetary priorities, and diplomatic initiatives tend, over the long run and across administrations, to be conservative internationalist in effect and in practice. Sometimes this de facto conservative internationalist median is directly observable in the oscillation from one presidential administration to the next. It is also evident in how policymakers find themselves entrapped between budgetary and military realities on the one hand, and liberal rhetoric and public expectations on the other. American statesmen face competing pressures to make soaring commitments to liberal ideals yet govern with a hard-nosed pragmatism that prioritizes American interests. The resulting blend is, often, a rough approximation of conservative internationalism. That is why it is likely to endure as America’s preferred approach to the world long past the Trump administration. The mix of American idealism and American strength is too potent for policymakers to ignore.