Fighting a Just War in Washington
State of the Union: The Heritage Foundation vows to fight the uniparty as Senator Josh Hawley lays out a foreign policy inspired by Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt.
It is March of 2003. President George W. Bush gives a televised address to the American people from the Oval Office, announcing that “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” By mid April, Saddam Hussein’s regime had crumbled, symbolized by the toppling of Hussein’s statue in Baghdad’s Firdos Square, much like the toppling of soviet statues during the collapse of the Soviet Union. On May 1, Bush stood on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and proclaimed the end of major military operations in Iraq in front of a banner that infamously read, “Mission Accomplished.”
The Heritage Foundation had just celebrated its 30th anniversary that February. The preeminent think tank of the American right became one of the most vocal supporters for Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The day before Hussein’s statue fell in Baghdad, Heritage published a piece of commentary, titled “Fighting a Just War in Iraq” by Joseph Loconte.
Critics said that war would devastate Iraq's infrastructure, making it impossible to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. They speculated that Iraqi residents would scorn American and British troops as invaders, not welcome them as liberators. They predicted a humanitarian crisis, with widespread shortages of food, water and medical care. And they warned that American forces would kill massive numbers of civilians, either intentionally or unintentionally…
Each of the anti-war predictions, however, has so far proven false. Indeed, it is difficult to recall any previous modern war being fought with such a sustained effort to protect civilians from combat and to minimize the harmful effects of war on their daily lives.
By the time the last American troops left Iraq in December 2011, civilian deaths caused by U.S. coalition forces and Iraqi state forces numbered over 17,000. In total, more than 120,000 civilians had died, the bulk from unknown actors. Food shortages throughout the U.S. occupation left many Iraqi children malnourished. Of course, there was also Abu Ghraib.
Nevertheless, Heritage stood by the war in Iraq. “The War in Iraq: Dubya's Duty,” “Why are we making war in Iraq? To keep the peace,” and “Left Continues to Mischaracterize the Iraq War and Ignore Our Enemies”—all pieces of commentary published by Heritage as the U.S. went on with the futile project of nation building in Iraq. The Heritage Foundation even published a FAQ page justifying the war in Iraq. One of the questions: We did not find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or any clear link to al-Qaeda. Knowing what we know now, should we have invaded Iraq?”
The answer, in part: “Yes. Saddam Hussein's regime was a major threat to American interests and the region as a whole.”
On Thursday, The Heritage Foundation turned 50 years old. To celebrate, The Heritage Foundation announced that Tucker Carlson would keynote Heritage’s 50th anniversary celebration gala. The think tank also hosted an event featuring Sen. Josh Hawley, who railed against the “uniparty’s” support for the Ukraine war.
How times have changed—and for the better! It’s worth noting that one keen writer for The American Conservative suggested that this might be the case with Dr. Kevin Roberts at the helm.
“It's become a bit of a bedtime story in the foreign policy community, which goes like this, that, ‘Winning the Cold War allows us to police the world for all time, no problem,’” Hawley told the audience at Heritage on Thursday. The significance shouldn’t be understated: On its 50th anniversary, The Heritage Foundation openly invited a repudiation of its old ways of thinking. That is what being a foreign policy realist requires.
“Curiously enough, this story of American empire, and that's really what it is, a story of liberal empire, is not particularly partisan,” Hawley continued. “It's told by neoconservatives on the right and liberal globalists on the left. Together, they make up what you might call the uniparty, the D.C. establishment that transcends all changing administrations.”
Those who dare question the uniparty’s authority, such as the Missouri senator, are met with accusations of betraying the rules-based international order. Nevermind that they never bother to actually define what the rules are—they mostly make them up as they go along. The point is that they know them, you don’t.
And Hawley took aim at the purveyors and gate keepers of the rules-based international order:
The rules-based international order isn't some kingdom of heaven, it's a form of liberal empire. It's founded on the assumption that if we abolish borders and allow capital to move freely, and empower the giant multinational corporations, that somehow America and the American people will be better off for that.
Shortly thereafter, a deranged middle-aged woman rose from the front row and attempted to disrupt the senator’s speech. “China is not our enemy, the climate crisis is,” the spinster said, stumbling frantically over her words. “We need to be serious about the climate crisis,” she shakily continued before she was yanked off the stage with a jolt.
The only constant in American politics, it seems, is the neurosis of liberal white women.
“It's interesting, this administration wants to use the climate crisis as a justification for its agenda in Ukraine and elsewhere. Maybe they ought to visit with that gal,” Hawley said, coolly returning to his remarks.
“We heard a lot about making the world safe for democracy, and how American blood and treasure could turn these nations into images of the West.” For the Middle East, it was American blood. For China, it was American treasure. Both, Hawley said, “failed spectacularly.”
Yet, “we're hearing the same siren song again. This time it's about Ukraine,” said Hawley. “If we only send a few more weapons, a few more billion, or maybe it's a few more hundred billion dollars, then we'll really have a stable rules-based international order. Maybe we should do some more nation building. Maybe we can even force regime change in Russia. All ideas that the uniparty is excited about, all ideas that are nonsense.”
The proper conservative response, Hawley said, should not be repeating the mistakes of the past. Rather, a revival of “a truly nationalist foreign policy, a foreign policy in the spirit of Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt,” is the cure to our present ills.
A nationalist foreign policy that puts America’s interests first would treat the threat of China as its foremost priority, Hawley suggested. While Hawley is more hawkish on the defense of Taiwan than this writer, treating China as America’s number one geopolitical adversary and combatting its influence, particularly in our own hemisphere, is a message nationalist conservatives can easily coalesce around.
Treating China with the seriousness it deserves would start with directing more defense dollars in deterrence on the nation’s Pacific front. It would conserve and expand U.S. stockpiles, not diminish them through endless rounds of Ukrainian military aid. It requires rethinking the NATO alliance, forcing European allies to step up as the United States steps back, both in terms of military personnel and equipment on the continent. It may not be everything that conservatives in the Buchanan mold imagine, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction, and it deescalates where there is the clearest threat of America entering another war.
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“The Uniparty is not going to like this message. In fact, they hate it. They'll probably call it who knows what, Russian propaganda or something like that,” Hawley told the Heritage crowd. Despite the uniparty’s lamentations, “it is clear-eyed realism in service of the American people” that “is at the heart of a nationalist foreign policy,” Hawley said as his speech came to a close.
After Hawley finished his remarks, Dr. Roberts thanked the Senator for his time, and said, “the Heritage Foundation will stand with you and any member of the Senate who wants to fight the Uniparty.”
Now that sounds like a just war to me.