Today the United States has no shortage of magazines that would call their orientation, and be described by others as, “conservative.” Add the conservative dominance of talk radio, the popularity of several talented right of-center television commentators, the current Republican majority in the House, and the Bush presidency, and one could argue that conservative ideas have as much resonance as they have ever had.
And yet there is a great, often unarticulated discomfort in the ranks of many who considered themselves conservative during the past few decades. A friend of ours recently told of an encounter with one of his colleagues. “You’re a conservative,” the colleague said — “so you must agree with Paul Wolfowitz that we should attack Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and all those places.”
Well, no. Not all conservatives do agree that the United States should engage — for reasons that hardly touch America’s own vital interests — in an open-ended war against much of the Arab and Muslim world.
A variant of that conversation might be had about immigration — an issue around which genuine debate erupted for a brief time in mid 1990’s — only to be extinguished by the regnant factions of the conservative Establishment. “So you’re a conservative” that conversation would run. “You must believe that ‘there shall be open borders’ as the Wall Street Journal editorial page habitually puts it.
Well , again, no. We believe that America has gained and still does from new immigrants. But we also, after two decades of intense immigration, believe that the nation needs a slowdown to assimilate those already here.
We are told — by some of the more powerful voices on the Right — that these debates are over. Neoconservatism, that influential and in many ways admirable tendency that emerged during the 1970s and flowered during the 1980s, has triumphed. It is now the dominant, nay, the only American conservatism worth talking about.
And if you look at the array of conservative media outlets, that would almost seem to be the case. The major conservative magazines now compete over which can bray loudest for the widest war, the most ambitious expansion of an American military imperium. More discretely, they vie to articulate their relief that the shock of 9-11 has not, as yet, translated into a decisive political push for serious immigration reform.
We will be different.
Many voices will appear in the pages of The American Conservative — often in disagreement with one another. We are of course in considerable part Buchananite — well disposed to the web of ideas that drew millions of voters during three Buchanan presidential bids. But our magazine’s mission is broad: to reignite the conversation that conservatives ought to have engaged in since the end of the Cold War, but didn’t.
We will question the benefits and point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy; we will free the immigration debate from the prison to which it has been consigned. And we will discuss, frequently, America’s role in the world, turning a critical eye on those who want to cast aside every relevant American foreign policy tradition — from Robert Taft-style isolationism to prudent Dwight Eisenhower-style internationalism, in favor of go it alone militarism, where America threatens and bombs one nation after another, while the world looks on in increasing horror.
We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism — fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America’s long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.
Against it, we take our stand.