I can see from some of the comments on my first blog yesterday that blogging and nuance don’t mix well. As I said, I liked Buckley somewhat and I would never celebrate his death except to the extent that he, as a Catholic, would want me to. All I was saying is that some balance was needed in the assessment of him. If you don’t want to assess him, that’s fine. But when commentator after commentator comments on his civility without hedging the compliment, that’s where balance is required. Moreover, contrary to one of the commenters on my first blog, I was not making a judgment about his personality apart from his ideas. It was when he tried to defend war against the devastating criticism of Noam Chomsky that this unpleasant aspect of his personality came out.
Also, those who think one should not speak ill of the dead would certainly not have found agreement from–William F. Buckley. See what he wrote about Murray Rothbard after Murray died, for example.
And I know what follows next: some will say that what I really tried to do with my blog on WFB was to pay him back for his bad treatment of Murray. But if you knew Murray and some of the nasty things he wrote about me, you would not make that claim.
Sheldon Richman on the passing of William F. Buckley Jr.:
Looking over his rich biography, I can’t help but take away the impression that one of his goals in life was to make the pro-liberty, anti-state movement safe â€“ unthreatening to the establishment. â€¦
The primary consequence of his long career (which included a stint in the CIA) was to seduce budding radical libertarians into an insipid “hip” conservatism that functioned largely as a defender of big business and the intrusive national-security state.
To be fair, Buckley did speak some truth to power in his last years, though not when his dissent could have made a real difference.
From a CBS News interview with William F. Buckley:
Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.
“If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign,” Buckley says.
Asked if the Bush administration has been distracted by Iraq, Buckley says “I think it has been engulfed by Iraq, by which I mean no other subject interests anybody other than Iraq… The continued tumult in Iraq has overwhelmed what perspectives one might otherwise have entertained with respect to, well, other parts of the Middle East with respect to Iran in particular.”
Despite evidence that Iran is supplying weapons and expertise to Hezbollah in the conflict with Israel, Buckley rejects neo-conservatives who favor a more interventionist foreign policy, including a pre-emptive air strike against Iran and its nuclear facilities.
“If we find there is a warhead there that is poised, the range of it is tested, then we have no alternative. But pending that, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What would the Iranian population do?'” …
Asked what President Bush’s foreign policy legacy will be to his successor, Buckley says “There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush. I don’t believe his successor would re-enunciate the words he used in his second inaugural address because they were too ambitious. So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable.”