January 12, 2007

Rethinking Doesn't Mean Liking Your Bedfellows

Rod Dreher is a blogger, Dallas columnist, Orthodox convert, and author of the execrably titled Crunchy Cons, which appends that moniker an emerging cohort of "countercultural conservatives" who are into conservation and farmers' markets. In short, who see conservatism as something more than corporate welfare and carrying a big stick.

Dreher has an important post today, a summary of an NPR commentary aired yesterday.

Dreher, like me, supported the war. He has come to be a critic of the entire enterprise.
When Bush led us into the Iraq War, I thought the liberals who predicted doom -- and, crucially, the conservatives (like Buchanan) who did as well -- were either fools, cowards or unpatriotic. But now I see that I was the fool. In the NPR piece, I wrote about how I sat there watching Bush's speech and thought that when they get old enough to understand these things, I have got to teach my children never, ever to take the word of presidents or generals at face value. To question authority, because the government will send you off to kill and die for noble-sounding rot (e.g., crusading for democracy in the Middle East).

* * * *

The thing is, I am no less conservative now than I was at the outset of this war. I've had some e-mails from listeners accusing me of apostatizing to the left. That's only true if you think the sum of conservatism is to support the Bush government and its war. Which is nonsense -- and part of the foolish mindset that led me to think that conservatives who opposed this war from the beginning on principle were somehow doing so in bad faith.
There's more to this, it seems to me. If the justification for the war comes from a strategic vision that sees today's world in the light of 1938, and in practice has proven to be culturally blind and politically ineffective, that strategic vision must be rethought. It's not 1938, when the Allies sold Czechoslovakia to Hitler, or 1948, when the Cold War containment of the Soviet Union was born. It's 2006, and something different is happening. I've begun to discuss this strategic rethinking elsewhere.

In an update, Dreher agrees with Andrew Sullivan, who points out that the nature of the opposition to the war is off-putting, for it is often displays ". . . reflexive hostility to American power, partisan hatred of Bush, and blindness toward Saddam's atrocities." Dreher says:
I covered a massive antiwar march in NYC in 2002. It was a madhouse, like they'd opened the doors on all the asylums and told the loons to converge on Manhattan. In retrospect, that, to me, was the antiwar movement. Seeing those people and their blind fury was emotionally powerful: it made it far too easy to assume that anyone who opposed the war was someone like that, or a fellow traveler. That is, that there was no good case against it. That doesn't excuse people like me our error in judgment, but that was part of what created the mindset that wanted to believe and stand with Bush.
This hits home. I despised Kerry in 2004 (and still despise him, as a political leader), and the oikophobic, Europhilic mentality of most of the anti-war camp.

In spite of my distaste for its left-wing opponents, I can still believe that our leadership is incompetent and the war (at least as implemented) a major blunder. The question: where's the political home for people like me?

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