The same group of wonks and journalists that argued us into the current war were agitating for a new cold war with China before Zacarias Moussaoui ever enrolled in flight school. They wanted to turn a single snafu over a surveillance plane into a casus frigid belli in the spring of 2001.Now they have their mission. The military budget is safe for the foreseeable future. And the ideological mission has crystalized: American world hegemony. It's suitably large to fully consume however much effort (read: taxes) our masters manage to mulct from us.
UPDATE - Gene Healy has this masterful demonic definition: "National Greatness Conservatism: n. The vicarious thrill certain right-wing pundits get from watching better men risk their lives."