of Evil" Frum, a former speechwriter for George W.
Bush, turned his rhetorical guns on antiwar conservatives
and libertarians, this writer included, he ended his
peroration against "unpatriotic conservatives"
with the declaration that all good right-wingers must now
"turn their backs" on the heretics. But what has
happened is quite the opposite: mainstream conservatives are
asking who appointed Frum
the Commissar in charge of political correctness on the
right – and are coming to the defense of ideological diversity.
Keene, head of the American Conservative Union (ACU) and a
veteran activist, had earlier dissented with a
ringing defense of calumniated columnist Robert Novak
– smeared by Frum as an "anti-Semite" – and now
Donald Devine, his colleague at the ACU, has come out with
stinging memo challenging not only Frum but also neocon
orthodoxy on every point – including foreign policy.
sheer gall of Frum's interdict clearly has Devine's dander
up. Frum & friends have so alienated the rest of the Right
with their pretentious posturings as moral and ideological
guardians of the Faith, that they have achieved in the conservative
movement what the U.S. military has accomplished in Iraq:
provoked a general rebellion against the occupying forces.
calls for nothing less than "a general discussion on
the future on conservatism." He laments that the official
conservative movement has become an appendage of the Republican
Party, and is reduced to cheerleading for the White House.
are fighting each other on the front pages of their own magazines.
National Review writer David Frum made the argument public
with a banner denunciation of any conservative with reservations
about the invasion of Iraq. Those conservative intellectuals
and activists opposed or even those critical of it before
the fighting or even those who mentioned that protecting Israel's
interests could complicate matters were all labeled paleo-conservatives
and pushed off to the nutty fringe. The only good guys remaining
on the right were neo-conservatives. Frum named names, some
of who differed on principle, but most simply saw the facts
differently. He was so obsessed with his own righteousness
in anathematizing heretics he was heedless of how the split
would further weaken the forces of the right."
War Party has no loyalty, either partisan or ideological,
except to the worship of Ares
The entire program of the neoconservatives has been reduced
call for World
War IV, and the need to create – or, rather, recreate an
overseas empire on
which the sun never sets. "The forces of the right"?
To a neocon, there ain't no such thing: there is only the
War Party, and their opponents, whom neocon wildman David
Horowitz routinely describes as "fifth
notes that "even those who mentioned that protecting
Israel's interests could complicate matters" were "pushed
off to the nutty fringe." But that is what the neocon
polemic is all about.
the interests of the U.S. and Israel clash, those who take
the side of the former are, by definition, "anti-Semites"
– this is the neocon view of "patriotism." To point
out that this is Israeli patriotism, and not the American
variety, is to stand accused of ethnic and religious "bigotry,"
and this is the one unifying theme of Frum's polemic. All
the individuals mentioned are smeared as "anti-Semites."
With the neocons – from the three Bills (Kristol, Bennett,
and Safire) to the P.J. O'Rourke clones over at National
Review – it's always the same old song: there is
no other issue.
represents an organized grouping on the Right that will brook
no criticism of a foreign country that is even now challenging
their President on his
latest Middle East initiative.
critique of Pat
Novak, and others
on the right who opposed this war was that it did not
pass the test of serving uniquely American interests, but
only furthered Israeli ambitions in the region. In a sane
world, it is the neocons who would be consigned to the "nutty
fringe," rather than those who question their alien agenda.
refreshingly bold call for open debate on foreign policy as
opposed to smearing and back-turning is accompanied by a discussion
of the "invisibility" of mainstream conservatism
on this question. The neocons are getting all the publicity,
he complains, and have become "the public face of the
movement." Everybody now confuses mainstream conservatism
with National Review's proposal in favor of a "revival
of colonialism under U.S. auspices and the building of an
fondly recalls the good old days when National Review
was pushing Frank
S. Meyer's "fusionist" brand of conservatism.
But Meyer's ecumenical coalition, which consisted of traditionalists,
libertarians, and anti-Communists, always existed in an uneasy
alliance. Nor was Meyer all that ecumenical: when libertarians
began questioning the Vietnam war, they were promptly and
personally excommunicated by Meyer.
is more accurate to ascribe an air of relative tolerance for
doctrinal differences to the conservative-libertarian alliance
of the New Deal and postwar eras. This was the Old
Right of the America
First generation, where conservatives such as businessman
H. Regnery and General
Robert E. Wood, and libertarians such as Albert
Jay Nock and Frank
Chodorov, existed side-by-side in a peaceable kingdom.
to the neocon-dominated movement of today, however, the conservative
movement of the 1960s was a model of ecumenism. Devine notes
bitterly that even William
F Buckley, Jr., in criticizing his own magazine's endorsement
of British-style colonialism, was forced to resort to the
pages of Human Events (sorry, it's not online): National
Review apparently would not give even so distinguished
a dissenter a forum.
any case, the "fusionism" that tried to reconcile
traditionalists with libertarians, and simultaneously accommodate
the fervent anti-Communism of the ex-commies within its ranks
(such as Meyer, a former Communist Party theoretician), was
a product of the cold war. The sudden implosion of the Communist
empire relegated "fusionism" to irrelevance, sent
the neocons on a quest for new enemies to conquer, and opened
up the neo-paleo divide.
paleoconservative label, but on the defining issue of
foreign policy he seems to fit the bill, asking "Empire,
or National Interest?" To any authentic conservative
– or, indeed, any American worthy of the name – the answer
to that one is easy, and Devine is unequivocal:
empire is an important issue for conservatism. If the U.S.
government has the ability to bring peace and democracy to
the world, big government can obviously also run America's
economy and plan its social life and limited government becomes
irrelevant. … Government keeps growing and journalistic conservatism
is silent that this growth, especially fueled by dreams of
is precisely the critique of the paleoconservatives, grouped
around The American
Conservative and Chronicles
both of which Devine deems insufficiently devoted to
the cause of limited government. Yet an identical theme is
apparent in the
very title of Pat Buchanan's book, A
Republic, Not an Empire. It was in Chronicles magazine,
under editor Tom
Fleming, that the Old Right's opposition to what
Murray N. Rothbard called the "Welfare-Warfare State"
was first revived, and this same tradition of conservative
anti-imperialism is invoked by Antiwar.com on a daily basis.
These disparate tendencies – libertarians, American nationalists,
and cultural conservatives – are all asking the same question:
What good is it if we win an overseas empire, and lose our
old republic? The current crisis on the Right is due to the
lack of a good answer to this question, and Devine clearly
a movement that began uniquely united in opposition to communism,
it is strange that the conservative split would become most
profound on foreign policy. From its founding document, The
Sharon (Connecticut) Statement, conservatives had agreed that
all foreign policy had to be justified on the criterion was
it in "the just interests of the United States"?
Communism was the "greatest threat" to those interests,
so it had to be opposed. Iraq was not so simple for the question
was empirical, not principled was that war in the U.S. interest
or not? Was it necessary to eliminate weapons of mass destruction
and control terrorism or was Iraq not a threat unless the
U.S. invaded and stirred up Mideast terrorism?"
is not at all strange that the split on the Right is over
foreign policy, the key issue of the post-cold war era. What
united conservatives for so long – what allowed them to forget
about their devotion to the Constitution and the cause of
limited government – was the alleged necessity of fighting
a global war against a militant Communist movement that seemed
poised, at several points, to overtake and overwhelm the West.
That this was largely an illusion – and a self-created one
at that – is nothing new to libertarians, who opposed a policy
of global intervention and for that reason opted out of "fusionism"
sometime in the late 1960s. Ludwig
von Mises had confidently predicted the implosion of socialism
as early as 1920: it was doomed from the start, due to
its economic impossibility. As Rothbard and other libertarians
pointed out during the cold war, the main threat to liberty
was not in Moscow, but was situated in a capital city closer
Rothbard's confident prediction that Communism would soon
"fall victim to its own inner contradictions" came
true, the Sharon
Statement no longer represented a conservative consensus
on foreign policy. Furthermore, the disappearance of "the
greatest threat" meant that the "fusionists"
had been wrong about the alleged danger posed by "international
Communism" – they always called it that, just to make
it sound more grandiose and scary. But how could something
so overbearingly ominous and dangerous vanish almost overnight,
short of being knocked out of commission by a nuclear first
fusionists of yesteryear made a pact with the devil of Big
Government at the beginning of the cold war. Convinced of
the necessity of launching a global crusade against Communism,
including fighting a series of futile losing wars on the Asian
landmass, the Meyer-Buckley crowd were resigned to accepting
the necessity of Big Government "for the duration,"
as Buckley put it in a 1956 article for Commonweal,
"even with Truman at the reins of it all."
aside the question of how and why the Soviets imploded, the
indisputable death of communism once again re-opened conservative
eyes to the growth of government power as the main danger.
Now the Devil makes his reappearance, rising out of the smoke
and fire of 9/11, and proposes a pact similar to the one fusionists
signed on to in the 1950s: give up the conservative agenda
of limited government for the duration of the post-9/11 emergency,
i.e., indefinitely. Let John Ashcroft read your email. Let
greatness" supplant the stern republican modesty
of the Founders. Let the Republic give way to the Empire.
memo is the neo-fusionists' unequivocal no. This time,
faced with Lucifer's choice, it looks like many if not most
conservatives are saying: get
thee behind me, Satan!
that we have "won" the Iraq war, and are the proud
possessors of 25 million Iraqis, the question of what to do
next is isolating the neocons, who want to go on to Iran,
Syria, and even Saudi Arabia. Those fusionists who supported
the Iraq war, such as ACU director David Keene and Devine,
are ready to draw a line in the sand:
and many others calculated war was necessary but still opposed
empire building. Philosophically, either he was right that
building an American world empire was against conservative
principles or Bill Kristol, Max Boot and Paul Johnson
with some NR and The Wall Street Journal support
were correct that a new American colonialism was required
to bring peace and democracy to the world. Even President
Bush had said: 'America has no empire to extend or utopia
to establish' but neo-conservatives were still trying
to push him there anyway."
neocons are not only trying to push Bush down the road to
empire – with some success – but they are intent on dragging
the "official" conservative movement along with
them. Those who refuse their marching orders will be summarily
expelled, but not before being tried by Commissar Frum, or
Goldberg, and denounced as "unpatriotic." This
distinctly Soviet style of politics has – finally! – driven
the conservative mainstream (ably represented by the ACU)
to shed its invisibility and come out in open opposition.
Devine's has thrown down the gauntlet to the neocons, and
one wonders if they will have the courage to pick it up and
respond to the challenge with anything other than the usual
smears. Somehow, I doubt it.
dissent from the neocon party-liners is good news indeed.
Although he sees the development of an alternative as mid-way
between The Weekly
Standard and The American Conservative, it
is clear that on all the important issues – in style and spirit,
as well as substance – the neo-fusionists are much closer
to the latter. As both groups unite in their opposition to
the methods of the neocons in "policing" (as
Comrade Goldberg once put it) the conservative movement,
their common opposition to empire-building means that the
foreign policy debate on the right is about to heat up.
proposes an online fusionist magazine, and this is a welcome
development. The more venues there are challenging neo-imperialism
from the right, the merrier. I am all for a new fusionism,
albeit one that doesn't require unity around the high "principle"
of perpetual war in pursuit of empire.
note that Frum has popped up again denouncing paleoconservatives,
myself included, in the pages of National Review. The
occasion is a veritable symposium in which Frum answers the
letters of protest received by the magazine when they ran
his denunciation of "unpatriotic conservatives."
Gee, I wonder why they haven't put it online? Maybe they're
too embarrassed by the extent and voltage of the expressed
outrage from some prominent conservatives.
smear of Robert Novak provoked outraged reactions from Jack
Keene, and former Federal Trade Commission chairman Daniel
Oliver – as well as a
sharp response from Novak (ouch!). Keene, while
a supporter of the Iraq war, nonetheless rejects Frum's self-appointment
as the conscience of the conservative movement: "I am
as opposed as the most ardent 'paleo' to the idea of Uncle
Sam on a white charger roaming the world in a mindless quest
to right every wrong."
section also contains a very abbreviated version of
the letter I sent them: two short paragraphs out of six. In
his original smear, Frum accused me of writing that the Israelis
were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. All I am
allowed to say in response is:
belief is that Israeli agents were watching the 9/11 hijackers
in this country, knew about the plot, and somehow neglected
to tell us in time to prevent it."
expurgated portion of my brief letter goes on to protest that
I was merely citing news reports, from such sources as Fox
News and Die Zeit, to that effect. Another good reason
why they don't put all this online is because the lack of
a link to my original comments would underscore the essential
dishonesty of Frum's assertion that I am saying the Israelis
were "implicated" in 9/11. (They never provide any
but the barest possible links on NRO.). But why expose National
Review's readers to the facts? They might begin asking
inconvenient questions. Besides, paleo moles in the National
Review office are chortling over the number of outraged
letters they didn't print, or even acknowledge.
my favorite parts of this "Frum Forum," as the editors
of NR call it, are the hosannas from neocon party-liners.
"David Frum's article will serve the important purpose
of compelling conservatives to consider more carefully just
what their movement stands for and who is entitled to claim
membership in it," writes William
Rusher, onetime publisher of National Review. "David
Frum's essay is a welcome indictment of the unpatriotic tendencies
of paleoconservatism," avers Charles
R. Kelser, a professor at Claremont McKenna College. "NR
remains a beacon," says one Arnold
Steinberg, described by the editors he hails as "Political
Theoretician for Young Americans for Freedom." Pete
Dupont, failed presidential candidate and fake-"libertarian,"
accuses the "Buchananites" of "supporting Serbian
terrorism" and hails Frum's pack of lies as "educational."
"David Frum's piece is a bracing contribution to the
library of conservative polemic," announces the magisterial
Kimball, editor of The
New Criterion and the neocons' chief cultural commissar
(Department of High Culture).
their uniformly obsequious style, there is a distinctly Soviet
air to all these fervent testimonials to the wisdom of Commissar
Frum. It is altogether grotesque to see them printed in an
ostensibly conservative magazine. But what is even more bizarre
is Frum's response to such servility. He lashes out at Rusher,
who made the mistake of appending the mildest criticism to
the tail end of what was otherwise a paean to Frum's infinite
wisdom. Rusher wrote:
minor cavil: I think the adjective 'unpatriotic,' in the title
of Frum's article, was unfortunate. These people are not unpatriotic.
It is true, as Frum says, that 'They began by hating the neoconservatives.
They came to hate their party and this president.' But they
do not hate America. They are simply, desperately, wrong."
is mostly wrong about that. There is no consensus among paleos
– and, now, the fusionists – on the Republican party's role
as either the guarantor or the destroyer of liberty, nor is
there even any agreement on the question of whether this President
is freedom's friend or foe. Unanimity is achieved, however,
when it comes to hating the neoconservatives.
reason for this dislike is apparent in the tone as well as
the substance of Frum's rebuke of Rusher's gentle critique.
Rusher, says Frum, is being "too generous." The
dreaded paleos are traitors who are "excited" by
the "inevitable reverses" suffered by the U.S. in
its bid to turn Iraq into Arizona. On the other hand, America's
"ensuing victories and successes seem to sadden and frustrate
them." How dare that impertinent Buchanan ask "are
we willing to crush an Iraqi intifada to hold onto the country?"
does Frum think he's fooling? There are any number of Republicans
not only in Congress, but throughout the country, who are
no doubt asking the same question. They are wondering, too,
why not declare victory and go home?
at the end of his piece, recalls the beginning of the modern
there were only a few thousand committed activists and intellectuals
in the whole country. Liberal intellectuals proclaimed 'The
End of Ideology' because there was no conservative
alternative. The GOP was dominated by Nelson Rockefeller and
the Eastern liberal Republicans controlled the White House,
which threatened conservatives with expulsion if they even
have news for Mr. Devine: those liberal intellectuals who
proclaimed the "end of ideology" back in the 1950s
are, in good part, the
same neoconservative intellectuals who, today, hail "the
end of history" and the birth of an American
Empire. And the GOP still operates in the same manner, with
the neocons replacing the Rockefeller Republicans and "national
greatness" conservatism taking the place of liberal
republicanism as the ideological rationale for Big Government.
But Devine isn't ready to give up without a fight:
rose up then and moved the world right and we can do it again.
If we cannot rise to oppose empire, the movement deserves
to fail. All we need to do is get off our butts and speak
up for our principles."
rebellion against the neocons couldn't have come at a more
crucial time. Today, the question is posed pointblank: do
we want to fight for our old republic, or will we go the way
more conservatives have decided to fight has the neocons in
a panic. The American Right is on to their game. It is even
possible that, one day soon, the conservative movement will
be liberated from the Ba'athist-style conformity imposed by
its neocon overseers. In moving toward that day, our best
ally is the puffed-up Frum and his comrades, whose arrogance
and hectoring style have alienated the conservative mainstream.
Good work, guys. Please keep it up.
Please Support Antiwar.com
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
or Contribute Via our Secure
Credit Card Donation Form
Your contributions are