As someone who works in talk radio in the deep red state of South Carolina (we have the highest amount of military personnel per capita), I don’t completely agree with George Hawley about the futility of appealing to the better nature of the talk radio audience, or as he wrote disparagingly “many anti-war conservatives and libertarians expend a great number of keystrokes lamenting the American war machine’s innocent foreign victims.”
I’ve found that when discussing, for example, the estimated 500,000 children killed in Iraq in the 1990’s through bombings and sanctions (the U.N.’s number) or even the thousands upon thousands of civilians killed during Bush’s war, contrasting the death of foreign innocents with 911 does occasionally make some headway. In other words – if the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians in the U.S. on 911 warrants an eternal war against an eternal enemy – then how can we not expect Muslims to adopt the same stance, for the same reason, when their own civilian death toll is significantly higher?
But Hawley’s basic point – that anti-war conservatives would do well to adopt language that distinguishes them from the Left, is correct.
“The neocons spent the last decade smearing their opponents to the Right as delusional or cowardly ‘liberals’ – when they aren’t calling them anti-Semites, that is. They respond to non-interventionist arguments with inanities like, ‘freedom isn’t free,’ and then tell some heartwarming story about a soldier who lost his leg but still supports the war and hopes the American people are ‘tough enough to see it through.’ It is utterly disingenuous for the epicene dweebs who lead the neoconservative movement to sell themselves as authorities on old-fashioned American manliness. They get away with it because, when it comes to speaking Middle America’s language, the neocons are pretty much the only game in town. Although their message is utterly vacuous, the Limbaughs, Hannitys, and Levins know exactly how to frame their arguments in a way that appeals to the GOP base. It’s time for more doves on the Right to learn to do the same.”
“It’s time for doves on the Right to learn to do the same,” is exactly right. But in addition to employing Hawley’s “Who-Gives-a-Damn? Conservatism,” (foreign nations and their problems are none of our business) using anti-government, non-interventionist language that might appeal to mainstream conservatives is also useful.
I have been making the argument as of late, that the only difference between big government liberals and “the neocons” or “Bush Republicans” is not how much we should spend – but where we should spend it. In other words, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and the rest of the mainstream Republican pack are not serious fiscal conservatives because they all continue to defend three trillion dollars wasted in Iraq as money well spent. Forget if you were for the war or against it. Pro-Iraq War Republicans primary argument with Obama is not over massive spending. They all agree on massive spending and saddling future generations with massive debt. They just differ on whether the price tag should be attached to foreign or domestic priorities. During the election, a fiscally conservative listener – who had supported the Iraq War – told me he had switched his vote from John McCain to Chuck Baldwin precisely because of this issue.
Another useful argument is looking out for the interest of the troops by always questioning Washington, DC and their real foreign policy intentions. Our brave men and women who serve in uniform should not be put in harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary. We owe them that. Blind faith in one’s government when it comes to war is not only a disservice to the Founding Fathers’ vision of republican democracy, but a grave disservice to our troops, who deserve better. “Supporting the troops” necessarily means questioning one’s government, not trusting it without question.
While I don’t agree with all of Hawley’s points, he is on the right track. And any attempts to turn the minds of mainstream conservatives away from empire might work best by turning some of talk radio’s contradictory, anti-government language against them.