people are touchstones – your reaction to them is a defining
moment, a means of identifying who you are and what you believe.
My friend Pat Buchanan is one of those polarizing types (we
have that in common), and the reaction to his new magazine,
The American Conservative,
is certainly defining something important about what’s going
on politically at this particular moment.
covered the reaction from the neoconservative Right, which
was nothing less than fear
and loathing, as was to be expected. After all, those
guys, ex-Trotskyists and cold war liberals, are little more
than right-wing social democrats, whose embrace of old-style
small-government conservatism is highly conditional – but
whose genuine love of war was the real factor that propelled
them from Left to Right.
one would think – or hope, from my perspective – that the
debut of TAC would’ve been greeted by the Left with
something more than jeers. For if David Corn’s piece
in The Nation is indicative of the leftist response
to the rise of the anti-war Paleo-Right, then David Brooks’
much-quoted remark that "we’re all neoconservatives now"
applies to The Nation as well as National Review
and The Weekly Standard.
on an interview with Buchanan, the article opens with a dumb-ass
question oddly phrased: "Is Bill Kristol the Antichrist?"
An odd title for such a little man, but note, also, the provocative
juxtaposition of a Jewish name with the "Anti-Christ" imagery.
"He knows why he’s being asked this," avers Corn, who then
segues into his pat little theme: that TAC is a "sectarian"
magazine focused exclusively on the subject of neo-conservatism and its attendant
evils. But apparently Pat knew exactly what Corn meant
to imply, and deflected the intended smear with a blunt declaration
of war on neo-imperialism of the Right:
he is not the Antichrist. But there is no doubt the neocons
have come to define the conservative movement, which bothers
me. They do not represent traditional conservatism. Commentary,
National Review and The Weekly Standard are
nearly interchangeable in terms of foreign policy and empire.
It's all degenerating into outright imperialism. This is not
conservatism. The idea of our magazine is to recapture the
flag of the conservative movement."
the warmongers! Retire Norman Podhoretz, George Will, and
the rest of the empire-building, big-spending, chicken-hawkish
policy wonks, publicists, and laptop-bombardiering pundits
now howling for the slaughter to begin. Can it be that Corn
doesn’t think this is a great idea?
a world in which no one listens to Bill Bennett, and James
Taranto, instead of being a web-columnist for the world’s leading financial newspaper,
is instead the proprietor and sole writer for hate-arabs.com,
a website devoted to proving the racial inferiority and inherent
venality of all things Arabic. Imagine a world without Max Boot, and his complaints
of too few American casualties in Afghanistan – surely
that would be a better world, much better by any standard.
The Nation ought to get down on its hands and knees
and cry out "glory, glory hallelujah!" at the sight of the
Right rising out of the mists, coming over the hill to
reinforce the antiwar forces at this crucial moment.
of welcoming new allies on the war question with joyful cries
of "here comes the cavalry!", however, Corn clearly disdains
TAC, for many of the same reasons as the neocons. Indeed,
he even cites one of them, Ronald Radosh, and his facile remark
that one "might have been excused for wondering if they had
accidentally picked up The Nation." But of course The
Nation has yet to run anything against the war on Iraq
with the intellectual heft of Paul
W. Schroeder’s 10,000-word piece on the foreign policy
implications of "preemption" or half the outraged passion
it comes to my contribution to TAC’s inaugural issue,
Corn also takes the
same neoconnish tack as Radosh, describing me as "editorial
director of Antiwar.com and a gay conservative activist."
Is it asking too much of the editors of The Nation
to understand why being identified by one’s sexual activities
the year 2002, utterly irrelevant? I could understand
the appellation if, instead of writing this column, and two
with the history of political
ideas, I had authored a trilogy of novels detailing the
career of a beautiful-but-doomed twenty-something hunk, who
winds up getting AIDS and marrying a doctor. But that is not
at all the case. I’ve written about David Corn on a few occasions,
and have yet to identify him as "that heterosexual pinko hack"
or some-such sexually-charged label. I guess we are supposed
to be thrilled, shocked, even, at the juxtaposition
of a Buchanan-run magazine with a writer who may not fit the
stereotype of the rightist as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal
out of Theodor Adorno’s worst nightmare.
But of course stereotypes are what this whole Left-Right nonsense
is all about.
emphasizes the differences between the paleo-conservatives
and the left, stating, for one, that Buchanan (and his magazine)
agree with the neocons on the alleged need for increased military
spending. I don’t know Pat’s position on the military budget.
I do know that if the program outlined in his book, A
Republic, Not an Empire, were implemented – if we
withdrew from Europe, from Asia, forsook the temptations of
Empire, and concentrated on defending American soil a huge
cut in the military budget would be not only possible but
aim of the pro-war crowd – including the left-interventionists,
who want the UN, and not George W. Bush, to conquer the world
– is to split the antiwar movement in as many different ways
as possible. Left must be turned against right; and liberals
against Old Left Marxists, all in the service of – what? Or,
rather, of whom?
antiwar marchers descended on Washington the other day,
and different sectors of our bi-partisan War Party reacted
with various degrees of venom. Way out in right field, David
Horowitz howled "100,000 Communists
March on Washington!" Quack
quack! On the ostensible "left," we have Todd
Gitlin and Mr. Corn complaining not only about the far-left
politics emanating from the speakers platform that day, but
also about the principled non-interventionist stand taken
by the International Action Center/A.N.S.W.E.R.
group. In a piece for the L.A. Weekly, with the sinister
title of "Behind the Placards,"
Corn details the politically incorrect crimes of IAC spokesman
Now I have detailed
length, but it’s interesting how Corn picked out different
ones. A major crime, in Corn’s book aside from Clark’s
attachment to the
most relentlessly boring of all the Marxist-Leninist sects
is Clark’s insufficient enthusiasm for the authority
and majesty of the UN’s Balkan Tribunal and the farcical trial
of Slobodan Milosevic. Corn recites the long history Clark’s
ultra-leftism, but saves what he thinks of as the worst for
is no reason to send weapons inspectors to Iraq, he told CNN’s
Wolf Blitzer: ‘After 12 years of brutalization with sanctions
and bombing they’d like to be a country again. They’d like
to have sovereignty again. They’d like to be left alone.’"
that horrible Commie! How dare he introduce such a
radical, obviously Marxist-Leninist concept into the debate
over the war?! Leave them alone? Surely you jest.
makes much of the rather obscure fact that the Workers
World Party, which controls the International Action Center,
North Korea against what they call "capitalist encroachment."
Corn labels them "the we-love-North-Korea" set. But the Workers
Worlders don’t push their creed of "global
class struggle" as developed by Sam
Marcy at their events. Not a word about the "wisdom" of
Korea’s "Great Leader" was heard from the platform on October
26. I would no more challenge the reverence for Lenin exhibited
by the Marxists in the antiwar movement than I would challenge
the conception of the Virgin birth or the miracles of the
saints to a Catholic. After all, why begrudge someone their
religion? Unless, of course, they want to push it on me....
claims that the churches and the labor unions, which he claims
to want to recruit into the antiwar movement, won’t go near
it as presently constituted, but then the unions were never
all that antiwar to begin with – not that the lefties Corn
disdains haven’t tried to approach labor. Indeed, at antiwar
meetings dominated by the left, on campus and out in the community,
that is all we hear from the Commies – how we have
to do "labor outreach." So Corn and the Commies are on the
for the alleged inability of the IAC to recruit the churches
to the antiwar cause: I once attended a rally against the
Kosovo war, sponsored by the IAC, addressed by a Serbian Orthodox
agree with some of Corn’s specific criticisms of the WWP/IAC,
but one has to wonder: if both Ramsey Clark and Pat
Buchanan aren’t good enough for the antiwar movement, then
who is? Katrina
vanden Heuvel? Perhaps The Nation would care to
sponsor an antiwar march, and then Corn & Co. could come
up with a list of acceptable speakers.
suggest Christopher Hitchens. Their longtime columnist recently
when he decided that America had "bombed Afghanistan out of
the Stone Age." Hitchens now looks to Uncle Sam to "liberate"
his beloved Kurds. He disdained vanden Heuvel’s entreaties
to stay on, but might relish the opportunity to lecture his
former comrades on the "progressive" impact American bombs
would have on Iraqi society.
avers that TAC "echoes the left" in its arguments against
the war, but he doesn’t know the history of the antiwar movement
in this country: the biggest in our history was organized
by anti-FDR conservatives, not lefties. It was called the
movement, and, at its height, it mobilized millions. Corn
considers the defining issue of the day to be the supposedly
titanic conflict between isolationist conservatives (who put
aside their reservations during the cold war to fight the
Commies) and messianic, let's-remake-the-world-and-help-Israel
neocons. It's a self-consciously sectarian magazine spoiling
for a fight. The question is, Who, if anyone, is going to
show up for Buchanan's big battle?"
if the ostensibly antiwar liberals of the Corn-Gitlin "moderate"
mold are going to campaign for intrusive inspections and against
the idea of a sovereignty that won’t permit either American
or "international" intervention, then that leaves only the
conservative "isolationists" and the Ramsey Clarks of this
world standing alone against the War Party. In that case,
who is going to show up for the big battle is not only the
Buchanan Brigades, and many conservatives in general, but
also all those disappointed readers of The Nation who
are sick and tired of being fed a diet of Hitchens and Corn,
and hunger for some real red-meat antiwar philippics.
neoconization of the American left, like that of the right,
promises to be a grisly sight, and ought to be resisted. But
not if my good friend and fellow paleo Paul
Gottfried can help it. In an article posted on LewRockwell.com,
our sister site, Gottfried advises us to "Forget the Left,
Neocon or Otherwise." He sees Corn’s piece as "sending
the paleos an unmistakable warning." Stay out!
Left, which is a multicultural big-government force, is not
looking for allies on our side of the aisle. It is happy with
the current arrangements, in which Bill Bennett and Dinesh
D’Souza get to speak for the ‘Right’ while most of the political
class continues to speak for the leftwing social democrats.
Although there may be occasional intramural bickering, e.g.,
among the various Middle East factions or about how far to
push the feminist agenda or socialized medicine, leftists
are content to disagree among themselves – while consigning
our guys to the outer reaches of Hell."
is an admirably concise analysis of the way in which the social
democratic left gets to "debate" the social democratic "right,"
and together they cook up a "consensus" between them, otherwise
known as the Welfare-Warfare State.
But how should libertarians and paleoconservatives respond
to such a maneuver, which is clearly meant to isolate us and
consign us to the margins? According to Gottfried, we should
the issue of the war, and how to lead a principled and effective
opposition to it, presents the anti-imperialist Right with
the opportunity to break through the logjam of American politics.
The only thing that can save us from an Orwellian future of
perpetual war and the rapid erosion of our civil liberties
is an ideological realignment. Wars tend to re-arrange traditional
concepts of what constitutes "left" and "right," and the same
is happening this time around: in America, these are not immutable
categories, as in Europe, but fluid concepts that tend to
be reshaped in wartime.
to World War II, the Right was anti-imperialist in principle
and vehemently anti-war in practice: it was the Left that
called for the opening of a "second front" to save the Soviet
Union, and the right-wing America Firsters who said we ought
to let the two dictators destroy each other.
the coming of the cold war, the antiwar movement switched
ideological polarities, with the left generally opposing intervention
abroad and the right opting for a policy of "rollback" against
the Soviet Union.
the Kremlin was finally humbled – not by American force of
arms, as the Buckleyites dreamed, but by the immutable laws
of nature and economics – conservatives of Buchanan’s ilk
decided it was time for America to come home. The spirit of
America First was remembered, and revived. Post-9/11, the
America Firsters have stuck by their guns, challenging the
War Party on every front, from the logic of preemption to
the terrible hubris that motivates such a recklessly Jacobin
foreign policy. And what leftie won’t be delighted by the
wonderful cover of the current issue of The American Conservative,
which consists of a giant campaign button in red-white-and-blue
WAR / VOTE GOP"
illustrates an article, "Militarism and the
Midterm Elections," that readers of The Nation
could only dream about, and never get: a clear-eyed view of
the politics of this war that is neither a partisan Democratic
attack nor a weepy bout of liberal moralizing:
megalomaniacal obsession with cleaning the face of the Middle
East and its 280 million Arabs, whether they want it or not,
has intoxicated the DOD’s masters beyond reason. Vice President
Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
have swallowed it neat and uncut too. But that does not mean
Bush and Karl Rove do not have other more ‘practical’ considerations
high on their agenda.
the taunt that Republican critics threw – correctly – at President
Bill Clinton is also true of this Republican president who
seems inclined to subordinate foreign policy principles to
his domestic political needs."
it "right"? Is it "left"? And who cares? These categories
never had much meaning to begin with, and they have even less
today, as all ideologies and parties are put to the test by
the prospect of a new world war.
in his piece, makes reference to Murray
N. Rothbard and his followers, who entered into an alliance
with elements of the New Left during the Vietnam war era.
"Nothing much came of this enterprise," Gottfried avers, "except
for a few scholarly ventures most notably with the
pre-neocon Ronald Radosh, and as far as I know, this alliance-building
was subsequently abandoned by the Right, where it had been
taken more seriously than by the other side."
much came of this unless you count the transformation of the
libertarian movement itself from a subsidiary branch
of conservatism to an independent movement in its own right.
As a result of the break with the Right and the alliance with
the antiwar Left, libertarians were themselves transformed,
and began to look at the State in a different, more consistent
way. They began
to understand not only that Big Business is a major instrument
and beneficiary of the welfare state, but they also clearly
saw the centrality
of war to the growth and consolidation of state power. Rothbard’s
venture into the antiwar movement of the 1960s, which was
dominated by the Left, marked the advent of an organized libertarian
movement on a national scale: this was the period of its most
rapid growth, not only numerically but in terms of public
such setbacks, some rightists continue to hope that the Left
will stop slamming the door in their faces. If only lefties
and misnamed liberals would join hands with us, we would be
able to move forward and push the neocons out of their position
in the right-center of a leftward moving spectrum."
one is suggesting a "covergence" of the America First right
and the American left into a single political party. But on
the single issue of the war it is not only possible but vitally
necessary to unite all who can be united around opposition
to the unfolding disaster. It is literally a matter of life
and death. The moral gravity of such a task makes such considerations
as the future of the neocons, and the career possibilities
of "sucking up to powerful leftist literati," utterly beside
Corn it is the Leninists of the WWP, with Gottfried it is
the eminently suck-up-able and all-powerful "leftist literati"
so powerful, indeed, that we needn’t mention their
names. The lyrics sung by these two song-birds are quite different,
but the tune sounds exactly the same: a broadly-based, all-American,
non-partisan anti-stereoptypical peace movement is an impossible
dream, and we’d be better off not even thinking about it.
The War Party would no doubt agree.
what the neocons fear most of all: a union of left and right
anti-interventionists that would isolate the pro-war "mainstream"
liberals and their neocon second-cousins, hemming them in
on both sides, and eventually winning over the majority of
naturally "isolationist" Americans. Ignore the naysayers,
on the left and the right, who say it can’t or shouldn’t be
done. It has to be done – so let’s get to it.
the defection of Hitchens, the ambivalence of Corn, and the
growing chorus of Gephardt-Lieberman Democrats who support
the new imperialism, the neoconization of the Left is taking
place before our eyes. No wonder groups like the Workers World
Party and the other Marxist sects are finding a renewed demand
for their shopworn but radical-sounding phrase-mongering.
At least they present a consistent position.
is young people who will have to fight this war, and who will
probably be drafted after our great "victory," to police what
the military professionals have conquered, and it is they
who are protesting this war in growing numbers. On campuses
all across America, and internationally, a movement is rising
that has the potential to stop this war before it starts.
That’s what all the fuss is about: the War Party is deathly
afraid of this new development, and they are pulling out all
the stops to smear it, divide it, divert it.
question of the leadership of the antiwar movement is not
going to be decided by pundits, but by the course of events:
if and when it grows large enough to have a significant impact,
the movement against this war will have already grown far
beyond the leftist nut-balls that briefly assisted at its
birth. It will begin to take on a whole new character, one
that naturally reflects its deep American roots. That day,
I pray, is not far.
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