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Home/Rod Dreher/‘Unpatriotic Conservatives’ 2022

‘Unpatriotic Conservatives’ 2022

Pat Buchanan: denounced as unpatriotic in 2002 for opposing America's disastrous war on Iraq (Source)

[UPDATE: There was some kind of glitch in the previous post that kept most of the text from posting. I am closing out the other one and reposting here — I hope it works. — RD]

The other day, Pat Buchanan warned about the Realpolitik of Russia’s stance towards Ukraine:

Putin does not threaten any vital interest of the United States and does not want war with the United States. But, as a great power, Russia claims a right to secure, peaceful and friendly borders, free of military alliances designed to circumscribe, contain and control it.

And the protests Moscow is making are not without validity?

Now that the Soviet Empire is dead, the Soviet Union is dead. Communism is dormant, and the USSR has devolved into 15 nations; why did we move our Cold War alliance onto Moscow’s front porch?

Would we tolerate this?

For what is “NATO enlargement,” other than a lengthening series of U.S. war guarantees to fight Russia on behalf of nations farther and farther away from us, and of ever-diminishing importance to the United States?

On March 1, 1917, the story broke of a secret cable from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to his minister in Mexico City, to make an offer to the government.

If war erupted between Germany and the U.S., the Zimmermann Telegram read, and Mexico sided with Germany, a victorious Second Reich would support the return of “the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.”

Enraged at Germany’s offer to make Mexico its ally and to support the breakup of our country, the U.S., five weeks later, declared war on Germany.

Can we not understand the rising rage in Moscow as we convert all its former Warsaw Pact allies and ex-republics of the USSR into member states of a military alliance established to contain and control Russia?

Well. If you were paying attention in early 2003, on the verge of the Iraq War, you read this cover essay in National Review by David Frum, a Bush White House speechwriter, who advocated for the Iraq War by denouncing as “unpatriotic conservatives” Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak, and other prominent conservatives who warned against it. Excerpts:

From the very beginning of the War on Terror, there has been dissent, and as the war has proceeded to Iraq, the dissent has grown more radical and more vociferous. Perhaps that was to be expected. But here is what never could have been: Some of the leading figures in this antiwar movement call themselves “conservatives.”

These conservatives are relatively few in number, but their ambitions are large. They aspire to reinvent conservative ideology: to junk the 50-year-old conservative commitment to defend American interests and values throughout the world — the commitment that inspired the founding of this magazine — in favor of a fearful policy of ignoring threats and appeasing enemies.

More:

There is, however, a fringe attached to the conservative world that cannot overcome its despair and alienation. The resentments are too intense, the bitterness too unappeasable. Only the boldest of them as yet explicitly acknowledge their wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror. But they are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure in it if it should happen.

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.

War is a great clarifier. It forces people to take sides. The paleoconservatives have chosen — and the rest of us must choose too. In a time of danger, they have turned their backs on their country. Now we turn our backs on them.

I’m not a paleoconservative, and though I thought at the time that Frum went too far, I agreed back then with the thrust of his essay. But I was a fool — a fool traumatized by 9/11, and willing to believe whatever I was told to justify the vengeance I wanted on the Muslim world. Whatever the manifold faults of the paleocons back then, they were right about the One Big Thing: the war. If we had listened to them, America would be in a much better place now. We wouldn’t have hemorrhaged blood and treasure and authority in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. But people like me in 2003 were willing to believe the David Frums and spite the Pat Buchanans. Now look.

That war was indeed a great clarifier. Which accounts for tweets like this one from TAC cofounder Scott McConnell today. Scott was one of the paleos denounced by name by Frum back in 2003:

Ali supposedly said, in defense of his refusal to go fight in Vietnam, “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger.” He probably didn’t say it, but even so, the point is a good one. I invite white conservative people who would have blanched (heh) at Ali’s line in the past to watch Errol Morris’s great documentary The Fog Of War, about McNamara and Vietnam, and see what the American ruling class at the time — all “best and brightest” white guys — did to working class Americans of all colors in chasing their folly in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese communists were evil bastards. But the world is full of evil bastards, not all of whom can or should be fought by American soldiers. War is a great clarifier. As I type this, I’m thinking of the gentle kid from my summer baseball league in the 1970s, who grew up to be sent to Iraq with the Louisiana National Guard, and who came home traumatized and unable to set foot inside his family’s church, because he said God could never forgive him for what he did over there. To my knowledge, he has never told a soul what it was (I heard about it from his anguished wife.

This was George W. Bush’s war. This was David Frum’s war. This was, I am ashamed to say, my war too. It wasn’t Pat Buchanan or Scott McConnell’s war. I’m inclined to listen more to them today than to Frum.

We have massive battles here on the home front. I was in a taxi from the train station today when I got a text from a friend in a small Southern town, in a deep Red State. He said his 11-year-old son came home yesterday from their local public school, saying that all the girls in his class say they are either lesbians or bisexual. The boy doesn’t really know what that means. Probably the girls don’t either, and are just being provocative. Even many American conservatives are sitting back pretending this isn’t happening to our country. Maybe some of them are falling back on comforting Cold War certainties. The Russians are uniquely and wholly evil, and we must prepare to fight them. Meanwhile, our own country is being hollowed out from within.

Victor David Hanson wrote the other day:

Our elites like Trudeau and Newsom seem angry they are unfairly underappreciated by their clueless beneficiaries. The latter supposedly never appreciate the needed remedies for climate change, the thought cleansing required to eliminate systemic racism, and the mind reprogramming demanded for true diversity, equity, and inclusion thinking.

Instead, the losers cling to unwoke and incorrect notions that class, not race, remains the real postmodern divide, that printing money does not make us richer, that a nation without a border is an amorphous nothing, that affordable gasoline and diesel fuel (not wind and solar) for now keep the West alive, that a fetus is alive at conception, that biology largely determines gender, that assimilation and integration are the only cures for tribalism, and that the law reflects a natural innate morality, and should not be applied on the basis of perceived victims manipulated by it, or the supposed victimizers manipulating it.

That wound of an imperious but counterfeit elite has suppurated too long beneath a smooth scab. And abruptly, the truckers at least tore some of it off.

What is now following is amplification and clarification of the Western divide. We the public are at the global theater. And we are watching a tragicomedy. On stage, a petulant cast of clueless Justin Trudeaus and bumbling Joe Bidens simply cannot fathom why few anymore are listening to them. More and more North Americans are perplexed why anyone would wish to follow such unimpressive mental and physical figures along with all the toxic hypocrisies they embody and weaponize.

Along those lines, here’s an important thread:

He’s right about that. I think they will try electronically to suppress dissent, via a social credit system. It’s one of the reasons I wrote Live Not By Lies: to share advice from Christians and others who lived through Soviet-style totalitarianism, for how we can resist whatever our elites are preparing for us.

Here is the same thread, basically, in meme form:

 

Or, in a shorter form:

There’s a lot to be said about this. The people who need to hear it most are utterly incapable of listening. So I’m going to say it both to lay down a marker for the future (for when the talking heads puzzle over how things got to this disastrous point) and to encourage fellow conservatives who are thinking these thoughts, but are confused by them, because they’re new, and feel strange and even kind of dirty.

To repeat myself: I am opposed to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. I think Russia should leave Ukraine alone, but whatever happens, I am adamantly against following the US leadership into hawkish actions against the Russians. It’s not at all because I support Russia or in any way approve of what it’s doing. (I hope Russian families and Russian soldiers stop to think about what exorbitant cost is extracted from them so that Putin can restore Greater Russia.) It’s rather that I am sick to the point of puking of these people — the American elites — sh*tting all over so many of us, yet expecting us to send our sons (and daughters) to fight its damn wars. Especially when the goal is to extend American political and cultural hegemony over the world, to allow the Western-oriented elites in those countries to ruin the lives of the normal people in those places in the same way they have ruined ours.

Put another way, I adamantly oppose risking the lives of boys from Louisiana and Alabama to make the Donbass safe for genderqueers and migrants. If that makes me a reactionary troll, fine, I’ll own that. I love my country and would put my life on the line to fight for her against foreign invaders. But we are not the good guys I used to think we were. We can’t even protect schoolgirls in Louisiana and Alabama from this toxic ideology that is destroying their moral sense, but they expect us to gear up in case we are called to fight for Ukraine?

Biden has said American troops won’t be fighting for Ukraine. I don’t believe him. It’s not that I think he’s consciously lying, but rather it’s that things could go very bad, very quickly, with US troops in the region. And it’s that my trust in anything anybody in Washington says is about at the level of a synod of bishops.

Last night I gave a talk and conducted a seminar for college students in Debrecen, a small Hungarian city about 8o miles from the border with Ukraine. We talked about Live Not By Lies, which is out now in Hungarian, though none of them had read it. Most of the kids in that room were not religious. Some were conservative, others were liberal. They sat there slack-jawed as I told them some of the things that are actually happening in America. The news had not reached them. This is the first lecture of its kind I’ve given here, and I realize that the next time I do it, I’m going to have to give more background. These Hungarian kids, God bless them, had no idea that things had sunk so far in the US. Even the liberals!

One young man, Balint, came up to me after the talk and asked if it was really true that a friend of forty years had ended our friendship because even though I supported the second impeachment of Trump, I thought Trump had accomplished some good things in office — in other words, because I didn’t oppose Trump with sufficient purity. Yes, for sure, I told him. She brought the friendship to an end after four decades with a text message. He shook his head in disbelief.

“I have a good friend who is on the left. He’s really annoying about it, too. He’s always trying to start arguments,” Balint said. “I’m a conservative, but I would never leave him as a friend. We are friends! That is the most important thing.”

He added that he thinks most people of his generation, whatever their politics, think the same thing. Well, I told him, if that’s true, then you all have a precious thing, and you have to defend it. We have lost in in the US. I thought later about how puzzled the students looked when I told them that it is difficult, and in some places impossible, to have open discussions on campuses and in classrooms about ideas and issues, because of wokeness. Even if the professor permits it, students are now in the habit of self-censoring to avoid reproach by woke militants.

One young man said, during the discussion, “I think it is harder for this thing to come here because we had Communism. Our parents told us what that was like, when everybody had to watch all their words, and to be afraid of saying what they really thought.”

This is great news, I told him (and the group). Listen to your parents. Defend the right to speak freely, especially when it is the right of people who are your political opponents. We have lost that in my country. America is governed now, in both the public and private spheres, by people who think Justin Trudeau is a fine young defender of decency and democracy — but if Viktor Orban did to Hungarian dissidents what Trudeau is doing to Canadian ones, all of Washington would be calling for a color revolution. So who, actually, is our enemy?

Yesterday, before going to Debrecen, I gave a long interview to a French journalist who is in Budapest to find out why certain American conservatives are interested in Hungary now. In light of last night’s meeting with the students, I’m going to write her to add to my comments that Hungary today reminds this conservative of what we had in America thirty years ago, before wokeness took over all our institutions. It’s a place where normal people who believe in normal things that used to be normal in America — belief in God (even if, like most Hungarians, you don’t go to church), the traditional family, basic liberties, being proud of your country and its way of life — still exist in some recognizable form. It’s a country whose conservative leader and his governing party are willing to take risks to defend those things in law and policy, not just rhetorically. And so, when I see the liberal and neocon establishments trashing Hungary while at the same time presiding over the simultaneous demonization of normie conservative Americans, it’s easy to sympathize with Hungary. This is something normie conservatives in western Europe are learning too, by the way.

Anyway, Reaboi is right: the same people who are urging Americans to get onto war footing (cold or hot) against Russia are the ones who are waging culture war against their own fellow Americans. I’ve mentioned in this space before all the e-mails and texts I receive from people who are either in the military now (and planning to get out), or who are recently retired from the armed forces, telling me that it is no longer a place for tradition-minded people. One man I know told me that military service is a tradition on both sides of his family for four generations, but it ends with him: he has told his sons that he cannot support them serving in the US military as it now exists under this woke Pentagon regime. This just about kills him to say, but he has the personal experience to back it up.

How many other conservative, Jacksonian Americans are having the same conversations with their kids? I’ve had it with mine. America is not what we used to be. Defending our homeland is non-negotiable, but why should we put our lives on the line to fight for a regime that hates us and wants to suppress or even destroy the things we cherish? It makes no sense. The meme is correct: they think that we are what’s wrong with America, but they sure as hell want us to fight their stupid wars.

This is not a matter of “you’d better give us our way, or we won’t fight with you.” We live in a pluralistic country, with all kinds of different people. That’s just a fact, and conservatives need to accept it too, and work out a modus vivendi with those not like themselves. But the progressives — at least the ones in power within government and other institutions — have no interest in this. They only want subjugation.

You wonder why I spend so much time here pondering Sam Brinton? Because he is a condensed symbol of our decadent, depraved ruling class. As Carl Trueman writes:

What is interesting, of course, is that this is yet another sign of how the Biden presidency seems not simply mortgaged to the radical extremists of the left but positively committed to promoting their causes. And that raises interesting questions about the #NeverTrump evangelicals.

One of the interesting aspects of #NeverTrump evangelicals was the absolute refusal to allow for any legitimate reason to vote for Donald Trump. Joe Biden, they claimed, was going to restore some dignity to the office of president of the United States. Character counts. And so it does. But when two reprehensible candidates are the only options, character ceases to be a decisive issue, and Biden has more than proved that this was the case in the 2020 presidential election.

When it comes to restoring the office’s dignity, he has done no such thing. He has shown that he is quite capable of being rude and disrespectful of those with whom he disagrees. And now he has appointed Brinton to a government position. Analogies between this present age and the most decadent of Roman emperors are typically overblown and overwrought, but in this situation, they seem sadly appropriate. Perversion and exhibitionism of such a baroque type as that which Brinton represents surely indicates the mainstreaming of behavior previously regarded as a sign of deep mental illness. Now it walks the corridors of Biden’s administration.

There she is…Mx. America (Source)

As Yoram Hazony’s terrific forthcoming book, Conservatism: A Rediscovery, makes plain, you cannot have liberal democracy without the moral and cultural preconditions that make it feasible. America today is fast losing that. It’s not just the corruption of our elites, either, but they certainly aren’t helping. C.S. Lewis’s famous passage from The Abolition Of Man is apt:

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Along those lines, the ruling class despises non-woke normies, yet expects them to obey. How exactly does that work?

Look, I am aware that I’m writing this in a foreign country, so maybe I need to say that if an agent of another power approached me and invited me to betray my country, I would tell him to go to hell, and then go straight to the US Embassy to tell them about it. I’m still that much of a patriot, despite the fact that every day, the ruling class in America betrays Americans like me. Sooner or later — probably sooner — this is going to have major national security and foreign policy consequences for the United States, as more and more Jacksonian types wonder why the hell they should risk their lives fighting for a ruling class that hates them.

The promise of America used to be that you could be free to speak your mind and worship your god, and raise your family in a stable social order. If you worked hard, studied well, and played by the rules, you could get ahead in life, and your kids would have it better than you would. America never has achieved that fully for all of its people, but those were the ideals, and each generation moved closer to realizing them than the previous one.

That world is over now. We are now a country where the ruling class insists on judging people not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin, and calling that social justice. We are now a country where schools and other institutions try to colonize the minds of little children to alienate them from their bodies and their sexuality, and systematically deceive parents about it. We are a country where big business bigfoots state legislatures to crush local attempts to defend religious liberty. We are a country where the elites are destroying the universities that ought to be the carrier of our cultural traditions, just for the fun of seeing the formerly marginalized triumph within them.

We are a country in which women athletes are being dispossessed by pseudo-men, and are expected to acquiesce in their own dispossession as the cost of being progressive. We are now a country where the sweet old Baptist lady florist (Baronnelle Stutzman) who cannot in good conscience arrange flowers for a gay wedding has her business destroyed by vindictive gays and their allies in the judiciary. We are a country now where a prominent Catholic public intellectual (Ryan T. Anderson) has his book delisted by Amazon.com because he criticizes transgenderism, yet Amazon continues to sell Hitler’s Mein Kampf. We are a country in which everyone who dissents from woke ideology — even liberals! — have to measure every word they say, at the risk of having their careers destroyed by an accusation of bigotry. We are a country now where Hollywood and the media pump our kids’ heads full of propaganda for a bizarro world, and see no reason why half the country deserves any respect or consideration for its moral views. We are a country where, in some places, school districts allow biological males who identify as non-binary to spend the night in cabins, on school trips, with young girls:

This is the social order that Joe Biden and his allies want, and that Republicans have done little or nothing to prevent! But see, you, bigot, are the problem. Russia is the problem. Shut up and do as you’re told.

And on and on. You get the picture. They have turned the entire world upside down, and made enemies and outcasts of the most patriotic, decent, and God-fearing Americans — who they now expect to defend this order. Does Washington understand what it has done? Does New York? Does Los Angeles? Of course not.

But by God, one of these days, they will.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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