It is unfortunate that Mr. Hawkins has written this. It is unfortunate because it is an attack on his former colleagues, but even more because it is an embarrassing spectacle. Yes, Murray Rothbard opposed unjust wars and pernicious foreign policy, for which he was scurrilously attacked after death by Mr. Buckley. If anyone would like to take Buckley’s side in that disgraceful episode, he associates himself with very shabby behaviour unbecoming of a gentleman. People at Antiwar.com also oppose unjust wars and pernicious foreign policy, for which they are routinely scurrilously attacked. They all see interventionism as a principal source of the expansion of the state at home and the loss of liberty. I find it hard to believe that anyone at the gathering would say that patriotism has become a dirty word, except perhaps by way of saying that warmongers have helped make it seem so by misusing the word and conflating it with things that have nothing to do with patriotism.
Lord Salisbury was, of course, the last of an old breed of aristocratic servants of the state whose duty it was to preserve and pass on the institutions and empire entrusted to him as Prime Minister. It is to his credit that his direct involvement in the dreadful South African War was relatively limited, since it was much more the brainchild of Joseph Chamberlain–a Chamberlain neoconservatives could love–and to his discredit that he countenanced such a war of conquest. The British comparison is useful only to a point, since our home country is richer in resources and more populous than Britain has ever been (I do not mean this as a boast, but simply as a statement of the facts), and would continue to enjoy a fairly high degree of prosperity if we gave up on Iraq or indeed have up the entire rotten empire. If there are cancers in the conservative movement, they are not mainly to be found among the libertarians, vexing and mistaken though the latter may sometimes be. They tend instead to concentrate themselves around places like FrontPageMag.com, and it is a pity that reputable and serious people should lend their efforts any respectability. I’ll leave it at that.
As the John Randolph Club panel shows, not everyone associated with Chronicles and the Rockford Institute shares the view that we should withdraw from Iraq entirely and immediately, which is what you might expect from an assembly of intelligent, informed gentlemen who take such questions seriously. I appreciate the concerns of those who fear chaos in the region following a withdrawal, and I understand why some people are convinced that America still has vital interests there. These concerns seem to me to be exaggerated in the first place and largely incorrect in the second, but even if both are true withdrawal from Iraq does not mean withdrawal from the entire region, at least not at the present time.
It is quite regrettable that Mr. Hawkins would prefer taking the path of denouncing colleagues. It is a habit of mind that is quite common to ideologues, which I had assumed Mr. Hawkins was not. I will not say that Mr. Hawkins has ceased to be a conservative and a patriot, though he chooses to say it of his colleagues, because he disagrees over one area of policy. That is the exactly sort of thing that has so disgusted me about much of the modern conservative movement–the tendency, all too common, to declare someone persona non grata because of a policy difference. Set aside debates over who the “real” conservatives are for the moment–that is at least something that may be legitimately questioned and debated–but to impute personal disloyalty and lack of patriotism to people because they do not share a policy view seems to me to be a very dangerous habit. There might be cases where such a charge was warranted, but you would have to be very clear and certain of the evidence before you made it. Such attacks have been done before, and the policy being defended by such disgusting accusations was a bad, misguided policy, the very one that has brought us to our current pass. Let Mr. Hawkins reflect on that when he considers what and whom he is defending.
It is, however, shocking to read Mr. Hawkins say this:
Opposition to America’s rise at every stage has always been rooted in the Left, where dissent against one’s own society and its constructive values is a defining trait.
Were the Loyalists “rooted in the Left”? They were the original North American Tories, as our ancestors derisively called them, and they were the root of North American conservatism. Rather by definition, they opposed the “rise” of America. Were the Federalists “rooted in the Left” in some meaningful sense? They were, it is true, more centralist than their rivals, but they were also men of property and station, who retained some sense that virtue, status and hierarchy had a proper role in republican society. They were adamant opponents of the French Revolution and its heirs, and they were the chief opponents of Mr. Jefferson’s expansionist plans. Whatever was wrong with the Federalists, it was not a product of leftism. Things are more complicated in later periods, since early and mid-century expansionism was the cause of some Democrats, but the War was certainly a product of the progressive, liberal party of its time, the GOP. Early American imperialism arose under GOP tutelage forty years later. Then progressives in the Democratic Party (and now once again in the GOP) took the lead in projecting power in Europe and elsewhere and meddling around the world, and we have been paying for it ever since. If empire-building is something Mr. Hawkins would like to praise, he might at least give credit to its true authors and acknowledge who the opponents really were.
Since he has chosen to play the rather tired game of guilt-by-association, it is worth noting that Mr. Hawkins has also associated with the Constitution Party in the past, a group that I am confident Mr. Hawkins’ new associates at FrontPage despise just as much as they despise the gentlemen at Chronicles. If he has no problem joining hands with people who are his obvious natural enemies, who am I to tell him that he should not? Meanwhile, if I am forced to choose between Kirkpatrick Sale and David Horowitz, I think we all know which one I will choose and it will not be difficult. Hint: it isn’t Horowitz.
I have enjoyed Mr. Hawkins’ work in the past, such as this latest contribution about the U.S. military and Africa. It is a pity that his most recent effort does not match it and previous products in thoughtfulness or insight.
Via Scott Richert
The JRC debate can be heard here.
Update: Mr. Hawkins also wrote this other stunning claim:
It is the defection from the goal of American preeminence by some on the right since the Cold War that marks a change. Those who want to see other powers rise as America retreats, in order to create a “multipolar” world (the term was actually used by several people), are the ones who have defected from the right.
Supporting hegemony is the standard of what it takes to be “on the right”? This is nonsense, of course, and an embrace of the caricature of men of the right as militarists and empire-builders. It nonetheless does point to a deeper problem. For many conservatives, especially those who grew up during the Cold War, support for the growth of the security state and international hegemony has been a defining feature of what they think conservatism is. As Scott notes in the comments of his post:
Far from being “conservative,” the extreme nationalism of men such as Hawkins is actually a leftist phenomenonâ€“and has been ever since it emerged during the French Revolution.
This reflects a long-standing problem of post-war political conservatism in America. As Prof. Lukacs said in his important “The Problem of American Conservatism” (from Remembered Past, p. 582-583):
So were, unfortunately, most American conservatives, unaware of the crucial difference (George Orwell described it in one of his prime essays) between the ideological nationalist and the true patriot: the former is moved by the desire to extend the power of his nation, the latter is moved by the love of his country. They [the conservatives] were nationalist rather than patriotic: they put their nationalism above their religion, their nationalism was their religion. Thus American conservatives welcomed (at worst) or were indifferent (at best) to the dangers of excessive American commitments to all kinds of foreign governments or–what was more important–to the flooding of the United States by countless immigrants from the south who would provide cheap labor but whose increasing presence could only exacerbate deep national problems….The true patriot and the true conservative is suspicious of ideology, of any ideology: yet the American conservatives were, more than often, ideologues, disregarding John Adams’s pithy statement that ideology amounted to idiocy.
The tragic thing about nationalists is that many of them fall into nationalism because they believe that it is either the same as patriotism or they usually know no other way to express love of country except through bombast, boasting and contempt for other peoples. In their way, they have a strong attachment to the nation, but it is not the nation as it is or has been, but as one that they imagine or have been taught to imagine: a nation that always wins and dominates the scene. Thus proper love of country is transmuted into love of power, and defending power becomes the new standard of loyalty. At its worst, there is a nationalism where the nation is an idea or embodies a set of ideas, which ends up disembodying the nation and making it into nothing more than a concept. Nationalists are not consciously unpatriotic, though they do not understand patriotism correctly, but the things they support often work to the detriment of their country.