Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Difference Between Bush And Conservatives

Ed Morrisey at "Captain's Quarters" on Buckley

Today's opinion piece by William F. Buckley, the father of American conservatism, highlights the difference between traditional conservatives and the Bush Administration's efforts in foreign policy, along with a host of other arenas. While the Left has railed about conservatives -- especially the dreaded neocons, a term that has an accusatory hint of "Zionist" to it -- they have missed the true historical parallels between the post-9/11 policy and that of an American president of almost a century earlier.


"One hesitates to get into an argument with the icon of conservative philosophy, but in this case, Buckley isn't reversing course; he's expounding an argument that conservatives (paleoconservatives, if you will) have always made in terms of foreign engagement. His argument appears sound on a superficial level because it only addresses the actions of the moment. The insurgents won an important but momentary victory when they successfully collapsed the shrine of Askariya, but what Buckley wants to do is to grant them the war by default.

Buckley also erects somewhat of a strawman in this passage, one that exposes the real intent of his essay:

It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others' throats.

And here we have the essential Buckley, revealed. The traditional conservative position reached its most potent expression in the policies of Brent Scowcroft, the last bastion of realpolitik in government. Conservatives for decades fought against foreign entanglements and the liberation of people from tyranny for its own sake, only espousing military intervention when clear and short-term American economic or strategic interests came under threat. Buckley and Scowcroft would never have suggested that the US depose Saddam Hussein, mostly because they would not have thought that the oppression and genocide of Iraqis was worth the expense and headache of liberation. That thought kept the US from pushing through to Baghdad in 1991, when Scowcroft had Bush 41's ear, and when Saddam could have easily been toppled.

Bush 43 is not a conservative in foreign policy, at least since 9/11 taught him that genocidal tyrannies in Southwest Asia could produce immediate and existential threats to the American homeland. He has been much closer to Woodrow Wilson than his father or even Ronald Reagan in his reaction to the world."

Read it all


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