Jim Antle has a rather good post up at AmSpec’s blog taking a look at the conservative movement’s reaction to Bill Buckley’s increasingly antiwar late-life views. I wish, though, Jim had been explicit about whom he (that is, Jim) had in mind when he wrote, “Believers in [the older conservatism] have sometimes been guilty of indifference in the face of tyranny.” It’s true that Gerald Ford didn’t believe Eastern Europe was dominated by the Soviet Union, but that was long after his America First days. Which old conservatives have been indifferent to tyranny?
If old-right-style conservatives are not as breathless about the Green protests in Iran as neoconservatives and Andrew Sullivan are, it’s not out of any indifference to tyranny but from the knowledge that Iran is not analogous to Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe. Reagan could hearten the anti-Soviet dissidents of Poland and other Eastern bloc countries because Poles and East Germans and Czechs wanted to be Western. Iranians, by contrast, do not want to be Westerners, even if they do not want to be ruled by the likes of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei either. To acknowledge this is not to be indifferent to tyranny, it’s to realize that in the actual, complex world of nation states, expressing support for one side in a foreign country’s politics does not always redound to that sides benefit. Words can backfire. (Neocons commit in foreign policy the very error they condemn in the liberals’ domestic politics — that of overlooking unintended consequences.)