A friend brings to my attention a classic 1986 interview with the Arizona senator in which he lights into lobbyists in general — and the Israel lobby in particular:
Kolbe: Is the Israeli lobby too powerful?
Goldwater: God, yes, way too powerful.
Kolbe: Has that had some detrimental effects on what comes out of Congress?
Goldwater: Yes. See, we have no treaty with Israel, but we have pledged ourselves to go to war if she has to go to war. And there are some of the actions that some of the Israeli groups take that, at times, I’ve felt would hasten that day when we have to live up to our promise. I can understand the feeling, but I’m getting awfully tired of the great influence they have and there’s no question about it.
Keep reading — there’s a lot more of interest in Goldwater’s interview with John Kolbe.
Antiwar conservatives sometimes feel abashed about connecting their views today with those of Cold War conservatives like Goldwater. Both neoconservatives and all too many libertarians have treated Cold War conservatism as continuous with today’s bellicose Right. Yet in fact, a lot of the classic Cold Warriors had been against intervention in World War II before Pearl Harbor, they came to take a less confrontational line against the Soviets over time, and there is good reason to think they would ultimately have followed a trajectory similar to that of other prominent conservatives now over the age of 60 who have been outspokenly critical of the “global war on terror.” Note, for example, what Goldwater tells Kolbe about the state of the Evil Empire in 1986:
Kolbe: I was rereading parts of “The Conscience of a Conservative” (Goldwater’s first book, published in 1960) last night, and was reminded that you took a very dim view of even dealing with the Communists. Have you moderated at all since then in your view of the aims of Communism, and how we should deal with it?
Goldwater: I think you could say I’ve changed a little bit there. Let me try to explain it, because it might not be easy. I don’t believe Russia wants any war with the United States, and I’m sure the United States doesn’t want any war with Russia. Russia’s economy is in terrible shape.
Now what can happen from that? When you have a government controlled by a handful of people, the Politburo, and the economy of the country is not good, and young people are beginning to say, ”Why is it in the United States they can work less than a day and buy a pair of shoes, and I have to work two or three weeks?” They’re beginning to question why we can have two or three TV sets, and they can barely afford one.
Now, you let that unhappiness with the economy in a totalitarian state go far enough . . . If it’s not corrected, there’ll be a revolution. I think that’s a bigger factor in Gorbachev’s thinking than whether we have arms control or SDI or whatnot. Where have I changed? I think it would be worthwhile at some meeting of the president and Gorbachev, or whoever he might be, to explore the idea of maybe we can help. Once you help a people who are having a hard time, you do pretty good with it.
By the end of the Reagan era, old-guard conservatives like Goldwater were not rattling sabers at Moscow. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, burned hotter than ever, taking shots at Reagan for his velvet-glove diplomacy. Younger cons — including the second-generation neos — were also more warlike than their elders, perhaps for the same reason that young men in the years after a hot war are often militaristic: they may have felt they were losing the chance to earn the glories their fathers had earned. Long after someone like James Burnham had ceased to envision a “Third World War,” parlor strategists insisted the great Red juggernaut was as mighty as ever and rolling inexorably forward. Goldwater, by contrast, as the quote above shows, had a pretty clear idea of how the USSR would meet its demise, and how soon.