CHANGE IS EVIL
a conservative libertarian (or is that libertarian conservative?),
I am suspicious if not downright opposed to any and all change, which seems, all too often,
a manifestation of pure evil. This is not so much a matter
of temperament (although I'll admit that some of this can
be explained by the aging process) as it is a matter of ideology.
After all, the Republic has been degenerating for nearly two
centuries, now, and there is no reason to expect the process
of decay to be reversed any time soon, if ever. So any change,
by definition, seems a loss. But the really big change, post-9/11 the real turning of a corner, so to speak is that any
real reversal of course has, for the foreseeable future, been
am haunted by the words of Garet Garrett, who, writing in
1950 or so, had a vision of an American Empire so clear that
to read his classic Rise
of Empire (1952) today is to be struck dumb by his
have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire.
If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single
stroke between day and night: the precise moment does not
matter. There was no painted sign to say: 'You now are entering
Imperium.' Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history
was saying: 'Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing
may be irreversible.' And now, not far ahead, is a sign that
reads: 'No U-turns.'"
A REPUBLIC TO AN EMPIRE
at the beginning of the Cold War, Garrett saw the drive to
Empire as fatally undermining the Founders' republican project.
Just as the New Deal and the world war had brought about a
"revolution within the form," and subverted the
idea of limited
constitutional government, so the Cold War would accelerate
and, finally, complete the transition from a republican to
an imperial form of unlimited governmental hegemony, both
at home and abroad.
was a pessimist, but his despair is shot through with silver
threads of a bright promise, the hope that "the positions
in the lost terrain could be regained," one by one, and
the old Republic restored. Garrett saw that the "mortal
enmity" between "constitutional, representative,
limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other
hand," had never been truly resolved, because "never
has the choice been put to a vote of the people."
INEVITABILITY OF EMPIRE
the decision of the elites to intervene on a global basis
has already been made and is, according to them, "irrevocable."
America, wrote Garrett:
been committed to the course of Empire by executive government,
one step at a time, with slogans, concealments, equivocations,
a propaganda of fear, and in every crisis an appeal for unity,
lest we present to the world the aspect of a divided nation, until at last it may be proclaimed
that events have made the decision and it is irrevocable."
sleek modernity of Garrett's prose is underscored by the realization
that those words could well have been written today, or tomorrow.
"United we stand," or so the slogan goes: all criticism,
however mild, is the work of "fifth columnists,"
and "you're either with us, or with the terrorists,"
as the President of the United States bluntly put it. The
signal act of destruction, which stunned us all on 9/11, is
what, they claim, makes our transition to Empire not only
irrevocable but, also, not even subject to debate.
MARCH OF HISTORY
the globalists are right, wrote Garrett, and America's advance
to Empire is inevitable, then "a piece of writing like
this would be an exercise in pessimistic vanity." But
for all his nostalgic keening for a golden past and the lyrical
sense of yearning that permeates his style, Garrett didn't
really believe he was on the wrong side of history. The policy
of perpetual war and permanent inflation, all financed by
the pyramid scheme economics of Keynesian socialism, would
cause a catastrophic crisis, and out of this crisis new leadership
would emerge. This was the belief, not often expressed, of
the Old Right critics of the New Deal and Roosevelt's drive
to war: even in the twilight of their movement, old America
Firsters like Garrett retained some slim hope that they would
says it is impossible?" Garrett asked. "The President
says it; the State Department says it; all globalists and
one-worlders are saying it." But the Old Right, of which
Garrett's was the most lyrical voice, was not yet ready to
surrender: We can retake all that "lost terrain,"
he wrote, and yet save the Republic. In the half-century since
Garrett penned his polemic and especially in the barely
four months since the attacks what has changed is that this possibility is
rapidly being foreclosed.
THAT SIGN UP AHEAD?
now, it seems, there is
a painted sign up ahead, clearly commanding us not to execute
a U-turn. And we can, indeed, now mark a single stroke between
day and night, clearly establishing the precise time when
"everything changed": a few minutes before nine
in the morning, on September 11, 2001. In one moment we were
a Republic, and in the next, an Empire, albeit one besieged.
THE FURNACE OF WAR
the heat of the firestorm, old ideological distinctions melted
down: in the furnace of war, Left and Right melded one into
the other, with conservatives embracing the anti-libertarian
instincts of their liberal counterparts, and liberals suddenly
enamored of war. What Daniel Bell prematurely called "the
end of ideology," in a famous
book of the same title, has come to pass.
END OF IDEOLOGY?
book argued that left and right had pretty much come to agree
on the inevitability of the Welfare-Warfare State, and the
supremacy of Big Government as a permanent feature of American
politics. However, The
End of Ideology was, unfortunately, published just
before the tumultuous 1960s and the Vietnam War got off the
ground, thus instantly invalidating its thesis that every
problem has been solved, in its essence, by the palliative
effects of social democracy, and that there's nothing really
to argue about but for the niggling details of how to administer
the welfare state.
END OF HISTORY?
Fukuyama took up the cry, again, in the 1990s, after the fall
of the Berlin Wall: in his famous essay, "The
End of History," he repeated Bell's thesis, dressed
up in Hegelian drag, and proclaimed the triumph of Empire
in the form of a coming "world homogenous state,"
i.e. the United States of the World headquartered,
naturally, in Washington, D.C. In this New Rome of the new
millennium, the Senators would quarrel over the niggling details
of how to administer a global Imperium. But there would be
no debate over whether this was possible or even desirable
since all fundamental political problems had already
been solved, and it was settled, once and for all, that some
form of social democracy is "the final form of human
END OF THE DEBATE
post-9/11, we have "the end of argument" over the
issue of war and peace, and, indeed, all questions of foreign
policy. An endless policy of war has been forced upon us,
or so it is claimed, and every foreign policy stance must
be justified by one and only one standard of value: how does
it advance the cause of our "war on terrorism?"
Both left and right have eagerly embraced this formula, and,
in accordance with the new "unity"-mongering that
has gripped the nation in the past few months, they have both
reached pretty much identical conclusions: military intervention
is good in and of itself, and Big Government is, at least
for the moment, necessary if not always desirable.
BIG HAPPY FAMILY
the right, one major herald of this new merger-mania
is Michael Barone, of US
News, who posits
that the "national greatness" and "leave us
alone" wings of the GOP have finally been reconciled
to happy harmony by this war. Pre-9/11, he says, these two
strands of the Republican coalition had worked in uneasy alliance,
coming out in open conflict during the GOP presidential primaries,
when a plethora of candidates each claimed the mantle of Reaganism,
and none were quite up to the task. Barone writes:
recently as the 2000 GOP presidential primaries, many Republicans
were still looking backward at their transformational leader
Ronald Reagan. Candidates Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes both claimed
their campaigns should be taken seriously because they best
represented Reagan's ideals. The religious right and the economic
right assessed candidates like George W. Bush and John McCain
on how well they fit what these groups considered the relevant
Reagan model. It was assumed that candidates who failed the
litmus tests Reagan met on tax cuts and abortion could
not be nominated."
but no more. According to Barone, Bush II has combined the
"national greatness" McCainism of the Weekly Standard with the "leave us alone" quasi-libertarianism
of conservatives, like Grover
Norquist, who are mainly concerned with economic issues
and, more generally, with protecting individuals from the intrusive
instincts of government bureaucrats and their armed enforcers.
But the great problem of the "leave us alone" crowd,
says Barone, is that their message "lacks inspiration."
He is probably right that a people who elected William Jefferson
Clinton to the presidency are not likely to be inspired by
the same purity of vision that led the Founders to lay down their lives for liberty. Yet he clearly
does not regard this as a disaster.
epitomizes the post-9/11 conservative movement in his willingness
to jettison the old conservative domestic agenda in the name
of a global crusade without limitations on either its ends
or its means. "Absent credible threats of government
intrusion," he writes, "the leave-us-alone coalition
can lose enthusiasm and cohesion."
may not have noticed that the government is now empowered
to read our email, track our internet surfing habits, and
listen in on our phone conversations without a proper warrant
or oversight, or that it can lock people up without charges
and without having to answer to anybody: but, then again,
conservatives of his "neo" ilk never had much enthusiasm
for liberty, which they always found somewhat boring. So it
is no wonder that Barone finds none of this a "credible
threat." He is, he confesses, more easily inspired by
"great national projects at home and abroad," and
looks to Theodore Roosevelt as the symbol of this kind of
rhetorical bluster. "The trouble is that, before September
11, no great national projects were apparent," avers
Barone, but all that's solved rather neatly now:
September 11, George W. Bush has exemplified both national
greatness and leave-us-alone conservatism. The war against
terrorism is his national greatness project, undertaken with
appropriate seriousness and steeliness. Yet he has refused
to back down from the previously passed tax cuts. During his
father's administration, spokesmen for various forces in the
Republican Party vied for public attention and political leverage.
Today's George Bush overshadows all of them."
OF THE GOP COALITION
to the arbiters of the new Republican dispensation in the realm of foreign policy, "national greatness," i.e.
Empire, is triumphant, while "leave us alone" still
rules the GOP's domestic agenda, at least when it comes to
economic issues. But this division of labor is already beginning
to break down, as, increasingly, the momentum is given to
the Democrats and their liberal Republican enablers to extend the power and reach of Big Government in the name
of the "national emergency."
COMING TAX HIKE
saw this with the federalization of airport security, and
the same is true of the tax-cut issue. After all, how are
we going to finance the "war on terrorism," rebuild
Afghanistan, invade Iraq, and "save" Social Security
in the face of an economic downturn that, like the "war
on terrorism," seems to have no end in sight? Politically,
the trend is going against the tax-cutting Republicans, who
may be unable to withstand the rising tide of red ink and
Democratic rhetoric without giving in to a tax hike
and many more in the future.
"big mo," as George W. Bush's dad put it, is also
going against those principled conservatives, including Phyllis
Schlafly and Norquist, who went on the record against the
ludicrously misnamed "USA PATRIOT Act," and lobbied
hard, albeit largely unsuccessfully, to rid the various "anti-terrorist"
measures of their more ominous clauses. The tide has turned
in favor of the more authoritarian "neo"-conservatives, not only Barone
and the Weekly Standard crowd but also such freelancers as gay-marriage advocate
and British expatriate Andrew Sullivan, who alternates between
denouncing war critics as "traitors" and pushing
for the expulsion of all Christian fundamentalists from the
Republican coalition on the grounds that they are brothers
in spirit to the Taliban.
an addendum to his theory of Republican realignment, Barone
sounds the death knell of the real conservative movement:
kind of Republicanism literally disappeared during the campaign:
the isolationist, protectionist, and nativist Republicanism
of pre-World War II conservatives, revived by author and former
Nixon and Reagan speechwriter Patrick Buchanan. This kind
of Republicanism could not claim the Reagan imprimatur: Reagan,
as a Democrat in the 1940s and as a Republican in the 1980s,
rejected isolationism, protectionism, and nativism. The destruction
of Buchanan as a force in the Republican party was, to a considerable
extent, the work of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh,
whose program appeals to much of what Buchanan must have regarded
as his core constituency, articulately and patiently attacked
Buchanan's stands on issues for months. Buchanan left the
Republican Party after his poor showing in the August 1999
Ames, Iowa, straw poll, leaving no significant successor."
frames the above paragraph as a parenthetical aside, but one
gets the feeling that this is the real point of his little
essay. Yet this cry of "Victory!" by the liberal
internationalist wing of the Republican party seems premature,
at best. For surely what Barone calls Buchanan's "nativism"
i.e. his opposition to increased levels of immigration
has been vastly empowered by the events of 9/11 and
their aftermath. The whole multicultural myth that George
W. Bush embraced so fulsomely during his campaign the
speaking in Spanish, the exhibitionistic political correctness
of the lineup at the GOP convention, the meetings with Vincente
Fox and a post-election Bush proposal that we rapidly increase
immigration levels along with some vague talk of a North America
without borders is fatally undermined by the circumstances
of this war.
THEY HATE BUCHANAN
brand of conservatism represented by Buchanan is totally unacceptable
to the "modern" Right because of its alleged "isolationism."
What Barone and his fellow neocons mean by this is Buchanan's
principled opposition to the whole gamut of post-Cold War
interventions, from the Gulf war against Iraq to the "police
action" in Haiti to Bosnia and Kosovo and now, perhaps,
to Iraq II. The fall of the Soviet empire and the growth of
a counterculture empowered by Big Government convinced a whole
section of the Right that the main danger to liberty is not
in Baghdad but right here at home.
bloviating Limbaugh, whose dumbed-down version of ostensible
"conservatism" is like a fun-house reflection of
the real thing, had much less to do with Buchanan's lack of
success at the polls than the perceived closeness of the election.
At any rate, Limbaugh and his neoconservative masters smeared
Buchanan mercilessly, without ever coming to grips with his
anti-interventionist arguments, so forcefully and elegantly
expressed in his book, A
Republic, Not an Empire.
few of the more hardcore rightists
even challenged the legitimacy of the American
state in a famous
symposium, published in First
Things magazine, dedicated to the proposition that the
federal colossus had to be overthrown. For this they were
by their neoconservative allies, who berated them for
"extremism" and dubbed them "theocrats"
for taking their idea of morality and the subordination of
the state to the demands of personal conscience to its logical
they might also be dismissed as "fundamentalists"
and quite possibly traitors: certainly, such conservatives
are, today, considered completely beyond the pale. It is not
for nothing that the Democrats are picking up on this theme
in linking the Republicans with the religious right and labeling
them the "American Taliban." The center of ideological
gravity has moved decisively to the left
of center, and what we are seeing is the overthrow of the
old Reaganite paradigm which held that government is
part of the problem, and not the solution. We are going back
to the old not Rooseveltian paradigm of "national greatness"
through government action: the only difference being that,
this time, it's Teddy, and not Franklin, whose legacy is being
think liberals fail to sense their opportunity, and they are
moving inexorably to claim it. In my next column, we'll see
how the development of big government conservatism has a parallel
in the rapid growth of warrior liberalism the brazenly
hypocritical creed of the Clintonian leftists, such as Salon
editor David Talbot, who details his conversion to the new
militarism in "The Making
of a Hawk." Read it and gag. And be sure to
log in Wednesday and see how I expose this peacenik-turned-"humanitarian"
warmonger for the craven sell-out that he is....
of $50 or more will get you a copy of Ronald Radosh's out-of-print
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Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism.
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