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The Antiwar Conservatives Rise

Where are the opponents of endless war coming from? The Right side
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Great piece by Isaac Grafstein at The Free Press on the antiwar Right. He starts by recalling that as a member of the House back in the day, Ron DeSantis supported US involvement with Ukraine. No more:

Appearing on Fox News to attack President Biden for last week’s surprise stop in Kyiv, DeSantis said: “He’s very concerned about those borders halfway around the world. He’s not done anything to secure our own border here at home. We’ve had millions and millions of people pour in, tens of thousands of Americans dead because of fentanyl, and then, of course, we just suffered a national humiliation of having China fly a spy balloon clear across the continental United States.” 

It was a 180-degree turn for a politician hoping to become the next commander in chief. It was also a window into the paradigm shift that has engulfed the American right—turning the old assumptions on their head and reimagining the United States’ role in the world.

The shift has its roots in September 11, 2001.

That day, Rod Dreher was on the Brooklyn Bridge when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. 

“I was overwhelmed by rage,” Dreher, a conservative writer, told me. 

One month later, he eagerly backed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and, a year and a half after that, the invasion of Iraq.

By early 2005—by the time it became clear the U.S. wasn’t about to turn Hamid Karzai’s regime into a Jeffersonian republic and Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction—Dreher, now a senior editor at The American Conservative, was rethinking both wars. 

This led him to a broader skepticism about nation-building, a skepticism that eventually hardened into opposition to American militarism. “I realized that my own side was led by a bunch of fucking incompetents and ideologues who had taken our country down a path of destruction,” Dreher said. “And for what?”

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Oof. I really did use the f-word. But it was le mot juste.

Another excerpt:

“The thing that I immediately noticed when I got to Iraq was the futility of it,” said Dan Hollaway, who served in the army in Baghdad and now hosts the podcast Citizen from his home in Austin, Texas. “White faces from the West are not going to go into the Middle East and solve their problems for them. The only time that sort of thing has been effective is in Japan at the end of World War II, when we just dropped two fucking atomic bombs on those people.”

Yep. My brother-in-law, a blue-collar, Rush-Limbaugh listener, served in a construction unit of the Louisiana National Guard, in Baghdad. You know that scene in American Sniper when the soldiers are building a wall in Sadr City, and had to be afraid that snipers were going to blow their heads off when they raised up to put another concrete block up? That was my brother-in-law and his men. He came home with a medal on his chest for valor. When I asked him what he thought of the war, he said simply, "A waste."

I missed this, but damn:

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You go, Sen. Hawley!

Y'all know I'm sitting here in Budapest, agreeing with Viktor Orban and the Hungarian government that we need to be pushing hard -- very hard -- for peace. The Hungarians don't have any love for the Russians, and have consistently and correctly condemned the Russian aggression. But they also don't think the Ukrainians are God's gift to humanity (ask them about how Kyiv treated the ethnic Hungarians of far western Ukraine before the war), and they do not want Ukraine to drag all of Europe into a catastrophic war. As with so much else, American conservatives are now trying to catch up with the wisdom of PM Orban. I hope they catch up before it's too late.

Things must be changing, because now it's starting to be possible to express skepticism, even criticism, of the US open-ended commitment to Ukraine, without being called Putin's butt-boy. The NYT -- the Times! -- even ran an op-ed today by Thomas Meaney, warning that it's time for the US to get serious about what can and cannot be accomplished by Ukraine in this war. Excerpt:

The trouble is that Ukraine has only one surefire way of accomplishing this feat in the near term: direct NATO involvement in the war. Only the full, Desert Storm style of deployment of NATO and U.S. troops and weaponry could bring about a comprehensive Ukrainian victory in a short period of time. (Never mind that such a deployment would most likely shorten the odds of one of the grimmer prospects of the war: The more Russia loses, the more it is likely to resort to nuclear weapons.)

Absent NATO involvement, the Ukrainian Army can hold the line and regain ground, as it has done in Kharkiv and Kherson, but complete victory is very nearly impossible. If Russia can hardly advance a few hundred yards a day in Bakhmut at a cost of 50 to 70 men, since the Ukrainians are so well entrenched, would Ukrainians be able to advance any better against equally well-entrenched Russians in the whole area between Russia and the eastern side of the Dnipro delta, including the Azov Sea coastline and the isthmus leading to Crimea? What has been a meat grinder in one direction is likely to be a meat grinder in the other.

It is in nobody's interest -- not Russia's, not Ukraine's, not America's, and not Europe's -- for this conflict to continue. Only China, which benefits from a weakened Russia and a distracted America that has used up a lot of its weapons fighting Russia by proxy. Time to cede Crimea and the Donbas to Russia, Finlandize Ukraine and give it strong security guarantees without allowing it to join NATO, and start rebuilding.

I do not understand where the antiwar Left is on this. Do we even have one? Have they been bought off by the idea that America is fighting for Pride parades in Poltava, and Drag Queen Story Hours in Dnipropetrovsk?

(Readers: here's your regular reminder that this blog has only six weekdays left on its tenure here at TAC. Please subscribe -- a paid subscription -- to my daily Substack, Rod Dreher's Diary. It's only five dollars per month, or fifty dollars per year. I will try my best not to drop the f-bomb, though I might say "Primitive Root Wiener" from time to time.)

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Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
As in Afghanistan before, any skepticism of the war on the eastern Ukraine and its Russian ally is mostly driven by the desire to launch a bigger one somewhere else, with China. The Deep State is all in for continuous war, wedded as it is to the military industrial complex, and the State Department aligns with Woke war and the dreams of openly ruling the planet for LGBTQ.
schedule 12 months ago
Fran Macadam
Fran Macadam
It's regrettable to use a rude epithet as a pejorative insult, when it is a description of how God has chosen to bring life into His creation, and is also the sacred basis for making of a man and woman one flesh.
schedule 12 months ago
Bogdán Emil
Bogdán Emil
The comedian Jimmy Dore, who started on The Young Turks and then became a dissident angry leftist laying into his own side. Other rare bugs may be found.

Certain unpleasant personal experiences happening in my life bear witness to hard truths you point out about America in Live Not By Lies. The soft Stalinism aspect of whatever this thing is that modern liberalism has morphed into before our eyes is real enough. Something is in the air, and it's not a pleasant aroma. The whole edifice is twisting and I can't think of anything more natural than a reverse twist in response.

Trump's election in 2016 was the watershed event for me, for I feared it and was proven wrong. There was no reason to fear Trump. However, most liberals seemed to perceive the opposite and doubled down, not just increasingly justifying Antifa and BLM but actually threatening, extorting the whole country and our democratic process with unlawful violent action. I remember having to board up the shopping centers before November 202o because "the dictator" might get re-elected, so it was fairly easy to cast my first ever presidential vote for a Republican that year: Donald Trump. By then, he clearly had not destroyed the country. And yet, the extremist reaction and the fanaticism and lies about him only increased.

I've been voting since '96 and never cast a ballot for a Republican, until Trump's re-election. Only by then did it appear clear to me that something odd, smelly and wrong is happening around here.

Having escaped communism as a kid, I instinctively feel grateful and protective about America, hence, the last thing I want to say is that it's becoming like a dictatorship of the East, totalitarian and uniformist and casually oppressive, as opposed to a lively party of eclectic and interesting mutts who confidently argue with each other. However, we do need to get real. All parties end, and if this one is starting to wind down or if it's getting so unruly that police are required, then we ought to take some steps.

Progress is tied to the idea of eternal youth and the final defeat of death. This is fleshed out by Huxley and is mission impossible without soma. However, soma covers a lot of subjects, including old-fashioned religion as well as just straight self-hypnosis via a cult-like devotion to an idea, or actual drugs. Well, the youthful passions kindling warlike energies may be another form of collective soma, arguably. I have no other explanation for some of the phenomena I have seen manifest in my personal life.

I have been yelled at by liberals about the Russian threat and the Russian aggression and the Russian nationalism, which needs to be contained. They're trying to make realist arguments without seeing the circumstances realistically. But the real truth is that liberals are in power, and the ruling postmodern philosophy of liberalism has determined that power is all that matters. Hence, power is just being held and exercised, cynically as usual.
schedule 12 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    Agreed, but a close relationship with God is not soma. We have the Comforter, but the mission is to make us uncomfortable when we lose reality and slip into sin - which itself would leave us worse than discomfort. Hybrid war is all the rage, but our hybrid dystopia is 1984 AND Brave New World.
    schedule 12 months ago
      Bogdán Emil
      Bogdán Emil
      You are right about God not being soma. My main point was that earthly political power is a potent drug in itself. It is self-justifying and addictive.

      After a while, people will argue from just about any position, if secular power is their only northstar. It happened to Karl Rove, too, that sense of confusion about the end of flux, a dynamic playing field finally conquered.

      Triumphant conservatives mistakenly see it as the earthly victory of Good over Evil.

      Liberals see it as a subsuming of Evil into Good, hence pantheism, and the notion that we all go to Heaven in the end.
      schedule 12 months ago
MPC
MPC
At the start of the war, the left and the pro-war right were loudly declaring what a good deal it was to bleed Russia relatively on the cheap, by getting Ukraine to do the dying, we just provide the guns and cash.

That calculus seems to be incorrect now. Russia doesn't see Ukraine like we do Vietnam or Iraq. The Kremlin regime clearly believes that if it does not succeed in Ukraine, it's days are numbered, so it can't afford to only go half-heartedly. It's throwing everything it has. Because we've basically told them as much. That regime change is the objective - something it never was for the revolutionaries in countries across the globe that simply wanted to free their lands from our invasions. Instead it's the US and Europe which are committed to Ukraine, with rising costs as time wears on, and rhetorically committed to not just stopping Russia but pushing them out. Russia has the advantage against the West because it is more desperate, and more willing to bear the costs needed for victory. The West has very clear limits imposed by preoccupations elsewhere (China) and lukewarm domestic populations that eventually will hear that a renovation of their town's infrastructure had to be shut down to launder billions more to a rabidly corrupt government, like that of all governments we install in the countries we intervene in.

China I think is in the real driver's seat now. Russia fights and bleeds desperately, and ties the West down. It alone is forcing the entire, much depleted, Western MIC to focus on containing it. By helping Russia to stay in the fight, and providing them with key munitions (drones, through artillery, and infantry equipment are also 100% in China's ability to supply, and go straight to Russia's strengths) - China gets exactly what China would want. A conflict where the Western MIC is matched against the Russian MIC + Chinese partial support, which wears the Western MIC down. Then, when China wants to act, the Western MIC is too depleted to contain them. Already, Taiwan can't get the weapons it wants anytime soon. Howitzers, missile batteries and the like, they're all in Ukraine.

In this war the writing is really on the wall. The ENTIRE Western MIC, which once conquered the whole world, is struggling to keep up with even a much-decayed Russia. Russia + China + Iran, that is simply far too much. The West is outmatched - no industry, poor finances, old and decadent societies - and the revanchist powers know it. Middle players like Turkey, India, and Latin America are not going to go to bat to maintain Western hegemony, either. They'll play with the West only inasmuch as it benefits them to do so.
schedule 12 months ago
Zenos Alexandrovitch
Zenos Alexandrovitch
"Have they been bought off by the idea that America is fighting for Pride parades in Poltava, and Drag Queen Story Hours in Dnipropetrovsk?" Because that's literally what Western Leaders as far back as Obama and Cameron have spoken about as being the reason for distancing Russia from the West with sanctions.

Oh, what, you mean the exact idea that the AmCon Discord Diaspora gets her panties in a twist about because "it's offensive to her family." I guess she's just all about sodomites in Ukraine.
schedule 12 months ago
    Fran Macadam
    Fran Macadam
    Zelenskyy looked great in BDSM gear. Almost as good as Brinton stealing his show. He's playing us like he did that piano.
    schedule 12 months ago
William Chip
William Chip
Having been born 20 years before Mr. Dreher, my youthful and early adulthood thinking was perhaps more influenced than his by the horrors of WWI and WWII, each initiated by "land grabs" within Europe. Lest we not forget, the United Nations (UN) was created to prevent a recurrence of those horrible wars by providing international recognition of the national boundaries of its members (including original member Ukraine) and a united, global, military response to violations of those borders. The system has largely worked during the nearly 70 years since the UN's founding, with no recurrence of wars of conquest leading to a WWIII. Occasional attempts to violate that order, such as Iraq's seizure of Kuwait, were reversed by UN-sponsored counter-attacks. Of course, a weakness in that structure is the veto power of permanent Security Council members such as Russia, which has precluded a UN military venture to expel Russian troops from Ukraine. Nevertheless, if the US and its European allies were to step back from providing Ukraine with combat training and military supplies, what signal would that send to other nations itching to reclaim foreign lands that may once have been their own? (I also disagree with Mr. Dreher's comparison of our assistance to Ukraine with our failed efforts at "nation-building" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ukraine's democratically elected government's valiant, popular, and relatively successful resistance to an attack by a world power imply to me that their nation is already "built.") This is not to say that I oppose a compromise. I have proposed (in yet-unpublished articles) that the UN sponsor a cease-fire during which it would supervise a vote in Crimea and in each of the dozen or so districts in the Donbas region on whether they wish to be integrated into Russia. Donbas districts favoring Russia would be ceded to Russia to the extent they did nor surround a pro-Ukrainian district. Crimeans, who are ethnically Russian but may not wish to be governed by Putin, and whose population exceeds that of 17 other European countries, should be offered a third choice of national independence.
schedule 12 months ago
    Bogdán Emil
    Bogdán Emil
    Thank you for your wisdom, I appreciate this measured perspective, and indeed share it. I would just note that the terms of compromise you have outlined, however reasonable to the discerning eye, however likely to materialize as the final set of outcomes, are significantly closer to Putin's current moral position than Z's. Zelenskyy would feel betrayed by this compromise, while Putin would feel somewhat vindicated.

    The solution seems to be for everyone to lose some face, so everyone can also win something in a tenuous settlement. Zelenskyy has no idea how dearly bought his country's future independence and security will be. Putin has no idea if he can literally even survive this adventure. Russia will always survive, but it is likely to diminish for a while. Poland will rise, at the very least. Meanwhile, how will America lose something in all this?

    I dread to imagine the worst, but we also will not get everything we want in Ukraine, far from it, we will probably end up getting very little for all the money we spend. Meanwhile, we can also count on Russia linking up with China more significantly, no matter what else happens, from here on out.
    schedule 12 months ago