What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

The American Conservative

I used to visit the website of The American Conservative fairly regularly, 'cause Patrick Buchanan is always worth a read, and 'cause they used to publish Steve Sailer (than whom none greater) from time to time, and 'cause they used to be...well...recognizably conservative - albeit a bit quirky.

But my interest waned, over time, as they drifted in the same general direction as our erstwhile co-blogger Daniel Larison - whose personal blog, Eunomia, they continue to host.

Which is to say that their version of "conservatism" increasingly seemed to consist of very little besides a deep-seated hatred of "Neo-cons" and Israel - often expressed in rather unrestrained language.

I should add, here, that I'm no knee-jerk defender of the Jewish State, or of America's support for it. As a good libertarian, I oppose our ongoing subsidization of Israel, just as much, and for the same reasons, as I oppose our subsidization of Egypt and the Palestinians. Were it up to me, none of them would get a dime from Washington.

But the constant ragging on every defensive measure ever taken by Israel and the equally constant white-washing of Palestinian agression by the crew at TAC really, seriously wears me out. I mean, c'mon: it's perfectly possible to argue that the interests of America and Israel diverge, and that we ought to go our separate ways, without either the afore-said ragging or the afore-said white-washing.

I should know, 'cause that's exactly what I argue.

Anyway. In an idle moment, today, I cruised over to TAC...and what did I find?

Well, Larison hating, at his customary great length, on Neo-cons, kinda' sorta' sticking up for Putin, kinda' sorta' defending Obama's ludicrous "Peace Prize," etc.

Yawn. I knew that was coming. One rolls one's eyes and passes on.

But what really took me by surprise was this li'l nugget by a certain "Clark Stooksbury," which I quote in full:

"It looks like Rush Limbaugh won’t be part owner of the Saint Louis Rams. His failure reminds me of his short-lived career as a spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice in 1994. I remember seeing footage of dittoheads wading through angry feminist protesters to purchase orange juice by the case. Not surprisingly, the orange juice mandarins didn’t like the controversy and eventually dropped Limbaugh as a spokesman.

"The lesson for Limbaugh from the orange juice flap, his brief career as ESPN commentator and his apparently failed bid to become a part owner in the NFL; is that he should stay inside the bubble. In the rightwing bubble, nobody is bigger than Limbaugh, but on the outside he is a mere mortal. Media Matters has an extensive list of Limbaugh comments that they find objectionable. I wouldn’t want Media Matters to define the parameters of acceptable debate, but the worst of Limbaugh’s statements are offensive. I agree with Rod Dreher that Limbaugh was 'deliberately trying to whip up racial fear and loathing of the president' with his comment about 'Obama’s America.' But I assume he was indulging in innocuous sarcasm when he said that Like Obama, 'God does not have a birth certificate either.'

"I scarcely blame the NFL for not wanting to devote all of their public relations to defending and contextualizing the ravings of one of its part-owners on an almost daily basis. And that is what they would have to do if Limbaugh was involved.

"Glenn Reynolds absurdly claimed that 'this whole NFL thing is a Limbaugh-set trap for the press and Democratic pols, and it’s working . . . .' No, this 'NFL thing' was an attempt by a very wealthy man who loves pro football to become an owner and perhaps, one day, to slip a super bowl ring on one of his pudgy fingers. And its not working ."

* * * * *

I mean, wow!

No mention, at any point, of the fact that Rush Limbaugh was, quite obviously, libeled by several MSM outlets, which attributed to him various offensive statements that he never made. And no mention of the fact that they refuse to admit, let alone apologize, for their libel.

So this "Clark Stooksbury" apparently believes that it's no big deal to libel Rush Limbaugh - 'cause, after all, he's said other things that the likes of Rod Dreher find offensive.

From which we may conclude that this "Clark Stooksbury" has no better grasp of elementary ethics than he has of the subjunctive case.

Feh.

* * * * *

All of which leaves me reflecting that we need a corollary, or a codicil, or whatever, to Robert Conquest's Second Law of Politics:

"Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing."

I suggest the following:

"Nothing in the above should be taken to imply that explicitly right-wing organizations cannot also, sooner or later, become left-wing."

Comments (84)

I didn't know that about Dreher.

And anybody even kinda sorta defending Obama's peace prize is a joker, not a conservative. I suppose one could be both, though, so maybe I'll say a joker, not an _intellectual_ conservative.

Your law at the end reminds me of this post of mine:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/06/tis_respectability_doth_make_c.html

I proposed there the following depressing "law":

Every political party that at time t is conservative and not loony will eventually either cease to be conservative or become loony at some time t+.

I should add that the "or" there is not exclusive. One could cease to be conservative and become loony at t+.

While there is something conservative about some of what they say, they have confusedly concluded that the conservative opposite of the muscular liberalism of the neocons is a kind of wide-eyed pacifism. This is ridiculous. They are MIA on the major culture war issues of the day, and they have redefined conservatism so that the concerns for national identity expressed by such wide ranging figures as Ronald Reagan and Michael Savage are relegated to the background.

My refusal to play ball with this sophomoric pacifism that goes so far as to conclude we can't be aggressive in fighting al Qaeda is why I ultimately parted ways with Takimag.

Lydia - great minds think alike, they say. You & Robert Conquest!

Mr. Roach - "sophomoric pacifism" pretty much sums up all too much of what passes for "conservatism" at both TAC and Taki's.

But at least Taki's, unlike TAC, hasn't yet climbed on board the PC bandwagon when it comes to racial issues: they are currently headlining a (thoroughly sensible & fact-based) piece by Jared Taylor, of all people!

Justin Raimondo must be in a frightful state about that.

All well said, Steve.

Some people abandon serious conservatism because the pressure from the surrounding liberal culture is too much for them to bear, and they ache to find common ground with "mainstream" writers, academics, or politicians. Others abandon it out of a sectarian, Simon Pure self-righteousness that finds sell-outs to some mythical True Conservatism lurking behind every corner.

These folks seem to have done both things at once. I guess that's some kind of accomplishment...

BTW, I didn't know Sailer wasn't writing for TAC any more. What happened?

Roach says,

They are MIA on the major culture war issues of the day

and that's worth a comment: I have had dear friends in my time who were paleocons, even ardent ones. But they were ardent social cons as well, and that was how I knew they were conservatives; that was why we were warriors together. There's a different flavor of paleoconservatism around too that is, indeed, MIA on those culture war issues. If someone wants to have (IMO) incredibly wrong-headed foreign policy views, views pretty much indistinguishable from those of the left, and still be a conservative in some recognizable sense, he _could_ be passionate about the social conservative issues in American politics. This would work especially well if he were _just as_ vocal and passionate about the domestic so-con issues as about foreign policy and hatred of neo-cons. But that seems to be becoming rare. A case in point here of someone going the wrong direction is Fleming. In a piece that I credit Maximos for drawing our attention to and criticizing, Fleming threw his pro-life credentials, such as they were, out the window, apparently just for the sheer joy of sneering at pro-lifers for being more mainstream than he is.

Larison is sort of like the rich man's Mickey Kaus. I think he really is a conservative, just like I really think Kaus is a liberal, but the issues he's most vocal on are ones where he is positioned identically to the left, just as the issues Kaus is most vocal on (immigration, unions) are ones that join him to the right.

But that seems to be becoming rare.

Indeed it is. But it mystifies me that conservatives, of all people, who ostensibly believe in the enduring power of the ancestral, communal, and a-rational elements of human nature, should forget that man is essentially tribal; and what we have in the case of Fleming and other paleocons is an essentially tribal phenomenon. To them, few things are more repulsive than self-professed Christian conservatives at once opposing the slaughter of innocents that is abortion and droning on at length about the awesomeness of aggressive war, torture, and the "merits" of executive supremacy in American politics; they do not wish to be associated in any sense with people advocating such things, for they regard them as contemptible and evil, and, as this is an essentially tribal phenomenon, this visceral recoil leads them to look askance at other causes of the Christian right, if not at the level of principles, at least as regards the manner of advocacy. When someone once 'others' himself philosophically, the tribal mentality pushes us to regard him as the Other tout court, someone who comes to be opposed for who he is, which then leads to the construction of rationales for the othering, themselves seldom wholly coherent.

I'm certain that we've all had roughly analogous experiences. I'd certainly feel discomfited if a friend bloviated about the glories of neoliberalism, the wondrousness of gay marriage, or some such thing, and refused to heed either gentle objections or entreaties to discuss something less fraught. Though I find the politicization of friendship baleful, and regard friendship and political activism as distinctive goods, a friend who refuses to moderate the expression of opinions when those opinions occasion tension - who can never hold his tongue - but always goes for the rhetorical jugular might be on his way out, as it were. Fundamentally, it is a question of respect.

This sort of tribal othering has long been a staple of intra-conservative relations; few in the mainstream right cared about the paleocons' defense of marriage, or refinement in cultural tastes, when they were excommunicated, as an "anti-American" rabble, on account of disagreements over a stupid Mesopotamian quagmire, dishonestly sold and incompetently managed and suffused with utopian colors. Instead, the mainstream right "turned their backs on" the paleocons. Paleocons are returning the 'favour'.

Of course, many of these political divisions are nothing if not irrational, there being no deep logic underlying the left-right dichotomy in mainstream political discourse. Most conservatives adhere to a foreign policy vision several generations of regression towards the mean away from a Cold War stance that was defensible in 1956, coasting on sheer intellectual inertia from that time, and from the upheavals of the Vietnam War era, when opposition to the American imperium became identified in the conservative mind with filthy, uncouth hippies. But there exists no necessary structural affinity between cultural degradation and opposition to an interventionist foreign policy; conversely, there is no necessary relationship between social conservatism and bellicosity on the international stage. These are matters of contingent American cultural history, and nothing more, and they are policed, particularly on the right, in order to distinguish the tribal in-group from the out-group.

Analogous explanations could be elaborated as regards, say, fighting al-Qaeda: most of those terribly concerned about this are also terribly concerned to defend other things that paleocons tend to oppose, such as the Bush foreign policy legacy, or the present Af-Pak policy. If you've already concluded that the Bush foreign policy constitutes a ludicrous response to the threat of terrorism, you're more likely to conclude that the threat was exaggerated to begin with; an overreaction is an overreaction to something less consequential then we've made it out to be. Of course, there are people who have intellectual reasons for holding, simultaneously, that the Bush policies have been calamitous and that al-Qaeda is a threat, that abortion is gravely wicked and that Bushist claims for executive power are constitutionally mistaken and gravely perilous; on the evidence, and given the levels of passion that attend these issues, this simply is not the norm. The norm is tribal: those who have been 'othered' tend to hold most of what the 'otherer' believes in contempt.

I suspect that part of what is going on here is that a part of the TAC crowd is coming less from a conservative or even paleoconservative perspective per se than from a Rothbardian or "paleo-libertarian" perspective. And it's not that these people have "socially liberal" moral views -- most of them have the opposite of that -- but rather that their Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism has got them so foaming-at-the-mouth filled with hatred at a quasi-Marxist abstraction called "The State" that they will make common cause with anyone against it, and will refuse to associate themselves with anything that seems to acknowledge its authority. Hence a reluctance to get too excited about abortion, "same-sex marriage," etc. Outlaw abortion? Outlaw "same-sex marriage"? Why that would just give more power to Our Enemy, The Staaaaaaaaate! (Cue thunder, lightning, and ominous Karl Rove silhouette)

McCarthy would be one of the few libertarian leaning writers. Many of the writers there are quite unsympathetic to libertarians. This site however does however seem to have more libertarian sympathies.

I would imagine paleos and their sympathizers would be more "excited" about abortion and gay marriage if those attempting to incite them actually cared about the family, rather than using them as a Trojan horse for their rest of their agenda.

I suspect that part of what is going on here is that a part of the TAC crowd is coming less from a conservative or even paleoconservative perspective per se than from a Rothbardian or "paleo-libertarian" perspective.

This is undoubtedly a component of the matter, inasmuch as editor Daniel McCarthy freely draws upon Rothbardian concepts in his own writing, though he also has leanings towards a "Hobbesian libertarianism", in which democracy is limited in order to secure the "rights" of the capitalist class, and it is not entirely clear that these things are consistent. If anarcho-capitalism turned out to be something more than decision-making by the people with the most money and the most guns, it's doubtful that it would have the character of a Hobbesian "keeping the lid of power on the roiling masses" state system.

While some of my past criticism of Thomas Fleming might lead one to believe that he is deploying the Rothbardian memes, this simply is not the case. While Fleming is opposed to, say, any sort of political regulation of the constituents of marriage, this is not because he regards it as a matter of "rights" threatened by the big, bad Staaaaaaaate, but because he actually believes that the traditional family will be best preserved if it remains untouched, even hypothetically, by law. Needless to say, I find the arguments philosophically and historically unconvincing, but this is not a libertarian argument, but a 'beleaguered traditionalist' one that happens to map over the libertarian argument to some degree, rhetorically speaking.

I would imagine paleos and their sympathizers would be more "excited" about abortion and gay marriage if those attempting to incite them actually cared about the family, rather than using them as a Trojan horse for their rest of their agenda.

To the extent that Chronicles and TAC soft-pedal social conservatism, this is, in a nutshell, the reason: most mainstream conservative advocacy along these lines is intended to rile the base, so that they'll turn out en masse for GOP candidates, who subsequently prioritize the interests of the Wall Street class, or the militant nationalists in foreign policy. Daniel Larison observes, concerning the inverse popularity figures for Huckabee among evangelical social conservatives and movement operatives, respectively:


Even if it seems irrational, movement activists who are not primarily interested in social issues distrust Huckabee intensely, and they will work to block him and deny him funding just as they did last time. The anti-Huckabee sentiment among movement activists is a useful reminder that all the Republican culture war defenses of Palin during the general election were aimed at mobilizing all the people whose candidate, Huckabee, they had just spent the previous 18 months mocking and ridiculing with all of the same language used against Palin. For turnout purposes, the GOP still finds Huckabee’s people useful, but its leaders and activists will not tolerate Huckabee taking the lead in the party as the nominee.

Movement and party mandarins are not desirous that one of those grubby, uncultivated social conservatives, least of all one who has been critical of Wall Street excesses on a handful of occasions (though Huckabee is fully on board with the GOP foreign policy establishment), become the party's standard-bearer; they are perfectly content, however, to mobilize the base to vote for someone like Huckabee, provided that person will be a figurehead, void of policymaking authority. Paleocons have come to distrust most political advocacy on behalf of the social issues, precisely because it has the quality of the old bait-and-switch: vote for restrictions on abortion or opposition to gay marriage, get war, bad trade policies, and more economically-destructive coddling of Wall Street.

if those attempting to incite them actually cared about the family, rather than using them as a Trojan horse for their rest of their agenda.

But, see, I get tired of hearing this. Because I know who is "attempting to incite them." I've just been pounding the pavement with the grassroots for months on end fighting the homosexual agenda in my own home town, and I know _for a fact_ that we would be oh-so-happy if someone would come and help us make phone calls, distribute yard signs, and write letters to the editor on this subject and would not care tuppence about such a person's opinions on the Iraq war or whatever. Frankly, I am inclined to think that the above is something of a canard. There isn't some monolithic "They" who is out there "not caring about the family" and merely attempting to "incite" the base over a set of phony issues. There are real people who really care about those issues. Some, even many, also disagree with paleocons about other issues. But the people in the trenches--the pro-lifers, the pro-family groups, and so forth, fighting on the ground--will welcome allies where they can get them. And they will welcome allies on the Internet as well. I speak loudly for myself, and I am one of the most political people I know, and have some of the least sympathy of anyone I know for paleo positions on a whole host of foreign and, er, historical matters (WWII). But I say that I would _love_ to hear frequent, repeated, loud support from anyone in the paleo camp for conservative positions on so-con issues, denunciation and watch-dogging of what the liberals are currently up to on those issues, and, yes, rallying the base to fight where the fighting is hottest. And I will regard such people as allies on those issues to the extent that they show themselves so. We need all the allies we can get.

I voted against gay marriage when it came around to this state. A lot of folks did. I'm thinking blacks in particular. That doesn't mean I have to like your candidates. And as Freddie has so well written over at Ordinary Gentlemen, they are your candidates.

That wasn’t me, he insists, and it wasn’t Ross! That, after all, is all you ever hear from conservatives these days. It wasn’t I who sent our soldiers into Iraq, it wasn’t I who left children to drown in New Orleans, it wasn’t I who ordered federal prosecutors fired for failing to politicize prosecution, it wasn’t I who sat idly by as the financial sector plunged itself off of an abyss…. The only consistent definition of conservative I now feel confident in is that a conservative is someone who is not responsible for anything that the Bush administration or Republican congress has done. No, no one is responsible for the Bush administration and its many crimes. No one is responsible for the congressmen who cheered their way along. No one is responsible for the systematic failure of the Republican party machine, which placed such a pathetic, unqualified and ignorant man in the greatest seat of power the word has ever known. No, don’t blame any actual conservatives for conservatism massive failings. Such a thing wouldn’t be fair. The fact that we now have outrage and scandal over Nobel peace prizes and NEA conference calls, when in the recent future we had hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and children shivering chest-deep in putrid water– hey, that’s a facet of the fact that no one is responsible for the GOP. No one is responsible for conservatism, and Freddie, stop being unfair.

This is the true consequence of conservatism’s never-ending series of rendings and divisions: because every conservative these days fancies himself a sect of sanity in a failed ideology; because so many conservatives have taken to patting themselves on the back for their distance from the rabid rump of the conservative base, and doing nothing else but that; because American conservatism has become an army of Andrew Sullivans, parties and cliques of people who proudly declare themselves to be of no party or clique, a never-ending stream of self-styled iconoclasts who take the rich pleasures of being individuals and take none of the hard-fought, difficult and tiring dignity of being responsible for something; because of this, conservatism is lost. The problem is not that conservatives fall too quickly in line. The problem is that conservatism is a line of people insisting that they aren’t a part of the line and as such are not responsible for the actions of the line. Everyone laments the Republican party’s various failures, electoral or otherwise; no one is responsible for the Republican party. Everyone delights in the rank, unfocused and violent anger of the Tea Parties; no one will claim them as their own. What you have, ladies and gentlemen, is an ideology in a decaying orbit, an ideology that prides itself on insisting on personal responsibility as so many, thanks to their well-polished, phony individualisms, refuse to take any responsibility for the whole. Conservatism is drowning because so many say (as Conor Friedersdorf insists when I criticize him) “Hey, it’s the OTHER conservatives who do THAT.”

Yeah, there would have to be a couple alterations to hit the libertarian pro-lifers like Lydia, but not many.

The problem with certain paleoconservatives, so-called, particularly at TAC, is that they are so alienated from America and the American people that they do not want us to be successful, prosperous, strong, and in control of our collective destiny. Instead, like some OT prophets, they want us to be destroyed or rendered small for our transgressions as an expression of justice.

I was attracted to paleoconservatism around 1992 because of the small government, nationalist campaign of Pat Buchanan against George H. W. Bush. Buchanan emphasized national independence, limited government, preserving our historical identity, a more restrained foreign policy, cultural and race realism, and an economic approach that emphasized preserving our strategic position and the good of the country as a whole, including our working class. His thinking was devoid of the shallow idealistic formulae of conventional conservatives and libertartarians, and it remains so. I still believe in all of this.

Now, out of frustration with the Iraq War, too many on the far right are losing their marbles, disdaining the coalition-building that they must participate in to achieve anything practical along with disdaining the other requirements of realism in matters political, such as some respect for the necessity of a measured pace.

Any viable political program needs a constituency bigger than the subscription list to an obscure publication. Authentic, neo-nationalist paleoconservatism has this potential. The occasionally unpatriotic gang at TAC don't have this potential.

In my opinion it is nothing more or other than childish to ignore the major social issues of our time, to refuse to talk about them, and to rant about other things instead, where one looks just like a leftist, and then to excuse oneself on the grounds that "The mainstream conservatives were mean to us. And they started it." Anyone is welcome to read all my posts on this blog and to see how many of them focus on social conservative issues--euthanasia, abortion, organ transplant, conservative education, etc. Lots. I'd have to look to see how many of them discuss the homosexual agenda, but I'm pretty sure there are some of those as well, and I certainly mention it enough in comments. Anyone who is a social con could or should be able to agree with them and even work along those lines himself without so much as uttering the words "Iraq war" or "Israel" or anything else of the kind. There are numerous blogs and organizations devoted to life issues and family issues, sometimes very focused on these issues. It is increasingly the bitter paleos of one sort or another who seem literally incapable of getting enthusiastic or passionate about or even spontaneously _talking_ about the culture wars without trying to drag in some other issue where they disagree with their more commonplace conservative brethren. This is not manning the barricades, and it is bound to result, I believe, in an eventual waning of actual dedication on these issues. If you never talk about them, if other stuff is what gets your blood pressure up, then this eventually affects the bent of your mind.

For so many years Limbaugh has spent his time on the radio mis-labeling others. Finally he had his judgment day.

AmConMag sometimes adopts a catty contrarianism dedicated more to pointing out Republican hypocrisy than to countering the now-dominant liberalism. Their bloggers’ response to Limbaugh’s NFL blacklisting was particularly insipid and tone-deaf.
Even if the conservative establishment is cynically exploiting fears of leftists, it’s in part because AmCon’s dissident conservatism is unwilling or unable to provide a better way of countering PC.

I also think AmCon’s focus on foreign policy subtly encourages them to downplay issues of dispute in the interests of building an anti-interventionist coalition.

Yet Pat Buchanan reliably takes most pro-GOP positions, leaving his less famous colleagues free to advance alternative views.
I remain a fan of the magazine and I’m in my second year of subscription.

Right now Larison’s championing the social conservative stalwart Huckabee against the GOP establishment, whose most recent vice-president has endorsed same-sex “marriage” and whose former solicitor general is now trying to overturn California’s Prop 8. If somebody influential is going AWOL on social issues, it’s not him.

Mr. Roach is right about the politically unviable nature of AmConMag. Barring its periodic enthusiasms for longshot candidates (Schiff, Paul, Bob Conley) or Democratic shapeshifters (Sen. Webb), it is almost anti-political.

But I get my political news elsewhere. I read it for stories by Kelley Vlahos about Iraqi refugees, mainly Christians, being forced to turn to prostitution. And her story about how the Army’s waste burning causes illnesses among Iraq vets is particularly concerning to me, since a cousin did that in Gulf War #1 and a friend has done that work in his last posting to Iraq.

Peter Hitchens’ travel writings about South Africa’s Zuma or about his visit to North Korea are alone worth a subscription.

How unique is Giraldi’s intelligence writing about the follies of the CIA and the political machinations of domestic and foreign government operatives? His recent cover story on Sibel Edmonds is fantastic, I don’t know why Spengler was so hostile to it except to poison the well.

Michael Brendan Dougherty’s portrait of an atheist convention still makes me laugh just thinking about it, while he also provided insight into the resource-draining, morale-sapping Ave Maria University.

And Dougherty also did a nice piece on how Mormons might fit into the SocioCon coalition a few months back.

“I would _love_ to hear frequent, repeated, loud support from anyone in the paleo camp for conservative positions on so-con issues, denunciation and watch-dogging of what the liberals are currently up to on those issues, and, yes, rallying the base to fight where the fighting is hottest.”

Again, this is Pat Buchanan’s niche. This is also done well enough elsewhere (*cough* Catholic News Agency *cough*).

SoCons might in fact already be split among too many denominations, organizations, magazines and blogs to be effective. (Last spring CatholicCulture.org did a good examination of the pro-life movement, recommending more consolidation.)

As a rule, paleos hate Washington, don’t know how to fight bureaucratic wars and can’t organize political campaigns. Some are still complaining about Mel Bradford and Abraham Lincoln. What would they add? Lydia’s right to worry about those who seem eager to demoralize the organized resistance to liberalism, but I don’t think they’re worth very much criticism.

The problem with certain paleoconservatives, so-called, particularly at TAC, is that they are so alienated from America and the American people that they do not want us to be successful, prosperous, strong, and in control of our collective destiny. Instead, like some OT prophets, they want us to be destroyed or rendered small for our transgressions as an expression of justice.

Roach, the paleos you describe sound like they are typical of our ruling elites, who hold the Middle Class in utter contempt. They aren't in the saddle, though; they are a failed alternative elite, the bitter end.

Prof. Ed - as far as Steve Sailer publishing at TAC is concerned, I know nothing. I just haven't seen him there, lately. And, given that his online corpus is positively *crammed* with quotes that leave anything by Rush Libaugh far behind in the dust when it comes to "racial insensitivity"...

Bobcat - Life is way too short to read every word that issues from Larison's keyboard, but I find it hard to avoid the impression that what he really wants is:

(1)

A greatly weakened U.S.A., preferably broken up into regional entities, none of them with any foreign "sphere of influence."

(2)

A greatly strengthened Russia, restored to, more or less, the same foreign "sphere of influence" that it enjoyed under Brezhnev.

(3)

Israel gone.

Maximos, when you speak of people "droning on at length about the awesomeness of aggressive war, torture, and the 'merits' of executive supremacy," it might help if you gave an example or two of just exactly what you're talking about.

Are you talking about Ed Feser's carefully reasoned defense of the Iraq War, based on Just War theory, published some years ago at Right Reason?

Or are you just venting about some dolt or other that you heard on Fox News?

Or what?

The hour is late, at least for me, and though I'd really rather be watching my Phillies pummel the Dodgers, but should be hieing off to bed, I cannot let Steve's most recent comment pass.

Daniel Larison hasn't the slightest desire to witness the disappearance of Israel, despite what some have been led to believe as a result of his opposition to the Lebanon and Gaza wars, as witness:



If J Street is overwhelmingly liberal, this is a result of how ideologically committed most Americans have become to dead-end, counterproductive and harmful policies that work against the long-term interests of Israel. These policies also work against U.S. interests in the region and the world to the extent that our government is tied to the enabling of the policies. I don’t think these policies are the source of most of our troubles in the Near East, and I don’t think those troubles would end even if these policies were changed for the better, but the perception and reality that our government tacitly permits them are aggravating factors that make things harder for the U.S. around the region than they need to be.

There is one reliable thing about the label “anti-Israel” when it is used to refer to other Americans in debate: the people being so described are almost guaranteed to believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, a right to exist and, more often than not, a right to constitute itself as an officially Jewish state. In other words, they accept all of the basic assumptions that every “pro-Israel” person accepts. For what it’s worth, I don’t really disagree with any of those propositions, either, but that won’t keep me from being labeled “anti-Israel.” What makes J Street “anti-Israel” in Klein’s view is that they believe that the Israeli government cannot simply do whatever it pleases to its neighbors and to the people under its occupation benevolent protection, and they might even suggest that continuing to violate every agreement Israel has ever made on settlements is not necessarily ideal. If one is ideologically driven to define support for Israel in such a self-defeating way, anything outside those exceedingly narrow boundaries has to be counted as “anti-Israel.”


Frankly, it would appear that such a position can only be regarded as expressive of a desire for the destruction of Israel if one presupposes that Israel can only survive by perpetrating injustice, and that it should, therefore, perpetrate any necessary injustices.

Larison has also offered a brief comment on the recent EU report concerning the Russia-Georgia war of 2008:


Of course the EU report disproves that Russian claims of “genocide,” which were clearly hyperbole and propaganda from the begnning. The idea that NATO began bombing Serbia because it was committing “genocide” in Kosovo was likewise laughable, but to this day Westerners continue to take this claim seriously. The report acknowledges that Russia had the right to protect its “peacekeepers,” but said that the Russian response was excessive. This is true, which adds to the responsibility of the Georgian government for the stupid decision to launch an attack that would precipitate a Russian response that it must have known would not be minimal and proportional. That doesn’t absolve Russia of responsibility for its excesses, but it makes the responsibility of the escalating party all the greater. It is also true that the separation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia violates international law, just as the partition of Serbia violated international law. As far as I can tell, virtually no one who objected to the partition of Georgia paid any attention to international law when Kosovo was illegally detached from Serbia. Indeed, many of the same people endorsed the latter move and claimed that it was a “one-time” exception that would not create a precedent. The trouble is that precedents were created whether or not Western governments wanted to acknowledge them or not. Official Russian propaganda claimed outrageous and false things, and I suspect one of the reason why Moscow framed its propaganda the way that it did was to mimic and thereby mock false Western claims over Kosovo. Then again, perhaps mockery was not the intent. Perhaps Moscow believed that the West would be more willing to accept military action if it were wrapped into the sanctimonious cant of humanitarian intervention.

I'm at a loss as to how one might conjure out of commentary such as this a neo-Brezhnevite doctrine of Russian influence; if anything, it is a realist analysis of the consequences of Western policy, undergirded by a question that ought to resonate with libertarians, among others: What legitimate concern is it of Americans who rules in Tbilisi, or Kiev? Even if, as Larison states forthrightly, Russia's actions ended up violating any sense of proportionality, as well as international law, as this pertains to national borders, it scarcely follows that it is the obligation of America to do anything by way of response.

As for the notion of American national dissolution, perhaps I've missed something, for I've not divined anything of the sort; even were it an accurate representation of Larison's views, it wouldn't be half as pernicious - given Larison's views on cultural particularity - as the view, implicit in some neoconservative writing, and explicit in the writings of some enthusiasts for immigration, globalization, and multiculturalism, that America is, or should be, no more than a geographic node in an undifferentiated global system.

Maximos, when you speak of people...

No, I was referring to the pop-conservative apologias for these things that one can hear on talk radio, and in the recited talking points that often pass for conversation among some conservatives. You know, things like simplistic invocations of ticking time-bomb scenarios, Cheneyite declarations that "torture worked", the declarations that opponents of, say, the Patriot Act desired that Americans die, and utterly unnuanced appeals to "WMD" as justification for the Iraq war. Such things are so abundant in some conservative circles, at least when the triggers for them are in the headlines, that it would be pointless to archive them all; we've all heard them and read them at various points in time, and it would be as silly to demand documentation on this matter as to demand it pursuant to a claim that many evangelicals disbelieve in evolution. We all know this.

As regards the Iraq war, that there exists a possible or plausible just-war case does not entail that the war, as it actually unfolded, was just; but these things have been discussed as nauseum, and even I have grown weary of them.

Re: Steve Sailer, he is still TAC's regular movie reviewer. I don't think he's done a non-movie review piece for them in months though, and with TAC going to a monthly printing schedule there will be fewer openings.

Steve, where exactly does Larison unmask himself as a liberal, or at least "not recognizably conservative"? I'm not a real fan of TAC, preferring the Chronicles brand of crankiness to TAC's, but you seem to be implying that only liberals or non-conservatives (whatever that might mean) can be strongly anti-Neocon.

Actually though, a lot of us have a problem with Neoconservatism because we see it as a faux-conservatism, a sub-species of liberalism with a conservative veneer. It is exactly because it is "not conservative enough" that we have issues with it.

Larison's emphasis has changed. He used to write about a wider range of subjects, but now restricts himself, or is restricted, to topical political subjects and dizzyingly self-referential inter-blog disputes. It seems to restrict the latitude he would have for expressing his more troglodytic tendencies, which still come through in the odd post defending James II. On the other hand, maybe he's just gone soft -- err, grown. There does seem to be a lot of defending of leftwingers over at TAC, and the comments sections are dominated by liberals.

Kevin J. Jones raises the interesting question--what could paleocons add by being more active social cons? My response is that you can say that about anyone. You can say that about some local soccer mom who would claim to be pro-life if asked but won't do anything about it, hardly ever talks about it, etc. You could say it about a family that attends a socially conservative church but refuses to have a yard sign in front of their house to oppose a homosexual rights ordinance. "What could they add?" Well, yeah. I mean, I'm a pessimist. I tend to think the culture wars are not going well. I'm not going to pretend that a few more blog posts here or there are going to turn the tide. But there is no more reason to be defeatist and despairing about rousing the supposedly so-con paleocons that still remain than about rousing anybody. And here, too, we can say--They would gain their own souls. I know that must sound a little strange, but I do worry about people who start off passionately pro-life and three to five years later are only passionately anti-Bush and anti-neocon. When Bush isn't even President anymore. I mean, where is such a person headed? Isn't that sort of sad? Shouldn't we want to issue a warning?

On the other hand, Badger: "Freddie" is one of the biggest, brayingest jack-asses on the internet. The passage you quote, with approval, barely rises to the level of stupidity.

I do worry about people who start off passionately pro-life and three to five years later are only passionately anti-Bush and anti-neocon. When Bush isn't even President anymore. I mean, where is such a person headed? Isn't that sort of sad? Shouldn't we want to issue a warning?

Yes, it is sad, but Bush and the "neocons" may have helped discredit the pro-life cause for a generation. I tend to blame the Obama presidency on the Bush administration.

However, the election was almost a year ago and I think I'll move on from that repetitive blame game. It's a target-rich environment now.

Yes, it is sad, but Bush and the "neocons" may have helped discredit the pro-life cause for a generation.

Since when has any leader on this earth been able to discredit the voice of the Almighty? Was it not he who said, "Thou shalt not kill?"

If people have to wait to get their moral/ethical marching papers from temporal leaders, then that act, in itself, is an implicit denial of the sovereignty of God. Temporal leaders may lead (and must), but they truly lead along a path they do not make. At best, they are the man at the head of the line. If they should fall or take a different path, the line moving along the truth will keep marching on.

One reason that some pro-life people become side-tracked is because they have not found God as the maker of the path. They have a poor relationship with God, I suspect and in this situation, any cause can become what is it for them: a substitute for some other passion, be it the need for personal approval or worldly recognition or some other need which is missing love, in disguise. These causes are self-projection. Being pro-life demands a degree of denial of self which these people have not yet developed.

The Chicken

If people have to wait to get their moral/ethical marching papers from temporal leaders, then that act, in itself, is an implicit denial of the sovereignty of God.

I do not mean, of course, that leaders cannot give marching papers, but in all things it is God's voice and God's will that must be behind it all. Sometimes, leaders are given to speak for God, but only for God, not in place of God. To the extent that they define the moral issues on their own accord, without seeking to understand God's right order, then they take on what is not rightfully theirs. This is the denial of God's sovereignty that I meant, above. To the extent that a leader has a right to speak for God, they must speak for God. When they merely speak for themselves, whatever they are leading, begins to lose its life.

The Chicken

Maximos: Larison is, of course, prepared to pay *pro forma* lip-service to the Jewish state's "right to exist." He is, after, all, an ambitious young man, and no fool.

But do you seriously believe that he gives the proverbial tinker's damn about "the long-term interests of Israel?"

I don't (believe that).

Not that I care all that much, myself, about those "long-term interests" - but still: let's have no pretenses, here.

As for Russia's legitimate sphere of influence: when last I checked, Larison was loud in his opposition to the placement of NATO ABM's in Poland & the Czech Republic - regardless of whether or not Poland &/or the Czech Republic wanted them. I find this loud opposition very hard to explain, unless he regards Poland & the Czech Republic as lying within the legitimate "sphere of influence" of Putin's Russia.

Finally: I'll take your word for it that Larison does not favor the break-up of the U.S. into regional entities, without "spheres of influence."

Too bad, since that's the one case where I thought I might actually agree with him!

But do you seriously believe that he gives the proverbial tinker's damn about "the long-term interests of Israel?"

I accord him the same deference in these matters that I demand for myself, namely, that his public pronouncements, and not any psychologizing attempts to read between the lines, be regarded as authoritative. As regards the long-term interests of Israel, I will say of them what I would say about the putative interests of any nation, if it be argued that realizing them depends upon injustice: so much the worse for those interests. So much the worse for any people, if not in this life, then in the next, if their earthly felicity depends upon doing evil. If it does not, more power to them.

As for Russia's legitimate sphere of influence...

Well, the publics of Poland and the Czech Republic don't want them, so why favour the opinions of leadership castes at odds with their own peoples? And since when did it fall to the United States to pronounce upon the spheres of influence of other powers? Would we tolerate China forcing us to disavow the Monroe Doctrine?

The passage you quote, with approval, barely rises to the level of stupidity.

Combined with your understanding of Larison without reading him, I'm thinking the value of your opinion isn't very high.

Combined with your understanding of Larison without reading him

What baloney. Steve Burton has read tons and tons of Larison's writing. He was something of a fan of his for a while and finally got weary of his narrow round of topics. That's obvious in this post, and I know it to be true independently.

I think you read too much into that, Badger.

"Brayingest jack-ass on the internet." You have a way with words, monsieur.

I remember Freddie once saying that, re. healthcare, that he didn't really care about the economics of paying for it and was only concerned that it be universally provided. That's about the point I gave up on him.

The TAC blog has actually responded to the concern that they only ever attack republicans. Basically, what they said was that the current republican establishment is so bad and useless that vocally opposing the democrats is empty, as there is no palatable alternative to replace them with. This is also the case at Chronicles, but they do occasionally portray liberals negatively, 'negatively' meaning 'obviously wrong and hopelessly foolish' in this context. One can hardly disagree with this interpretation. The Bush administration was pitiful and achieved almost nothing of value. And after 8 years of this, rather than change direction a little they gave us McCain. Who could help being a little disillusioned after that?

Larison is a little different. He's actually pretty politically neutral, even though he's a straight conservative intellectually. He rarely posts on domestic issues, Sotomayer being the last time I remember him doing so. He's often critical of Obama, usually for continuing the foreign policy themes of the last few administrations (even back during the election, his opinion of Obama was that he was just another politician and pretty unremarkable). He has no faith in democracy, to put it mildly. Although I usually skim his posts...his analyses are exhaustive, to say the least...he's a worthwhile voice and it'd be nice if more people listened to him.

Matt Weber - thanks for your comment.

"the current republican establishment is so bad and useless..."

So far, so good. Totally agreed.

"...that vocally opposing the democrats is empty, as there is no palatable alternative to replace them with."

Sorry - total *non sequitur*.

"Larison is...a straight conservative intellectually."

Really? On what particular issues is Larison a "straight conservative?" And how many hundreds of web-pages must one wade through to find him expressing "straight conservative" positions on anything at all?

I'm genuinely curious, and would welcome any links that you or anybody else could provide to correct my mis-impression.

"He rarely posts on domestic issues, Sotomayer being the last time I remember him doing so."

Indeed. And , as I recall, he sided with the barely literate "wise Latina" woman against her conservative critics.

"He's often critical of Obama, usually for continuing the foreign policy themes of the last few administrations..."

Yup. When it comes to foreign policy, he often thinks that Obama is too far to the right.

"He has no faith in democracy, to put it mildly."

Again, yup. Which is precisely where I think he starts to get interesting. And precisely where he starts to fall silent.

I'd like to hear all about his preferred alternative to the liberal democracy that he so obviously despises. But he just never seems to go there. So I'm forced to draw my own conclusions, based on stuff like his obvious soft-spot for Putin's Russia.

Again, I'm genuinely curious, and would welcome any links that you or anybody else could provide to correct my mis-impression.

Cyrus - you're too kind. But I think the word "biggest" was essential to building the rhythm of the phrase.

;^)

Badger: I was reading *Eunomia*, irregularly, even before Tacitus (as I will always think of him) invited me on board *Enchiridion Militis*, the immediate fore-runner to WWWW.

When EM first started up, I spent a lot of time reading up on Larison's stuff, 'cause I wanted to know just exactly who-all I was co-blogging with. And then, when we became WWWW, I went through the same exercise all over again.

I hardly need tell you that reading up on Larison's stuff is an extremely time-consuming exercise - and that, at a certain point...returns diminish.

To this day, I have no clear idea of his conception of a well-ordered society.

But I can sure as heck provide you with a long list of people he really hates!

Maximos: I think it's pretty obvious, things being as they are, that the long-term *survival* of Israel, as a Jewish state, depends on actions that you & Daniel, among many others, would consider unjust.

You write:

"So much the worse for any people, if not in this life, then in the next, if their earthly felicity depends upon doing evil."

Well, indeed. Except that I would replace the words "earthly felicity" with the word "survival."

So much the worse for them.

On what particular issues is Larison a "straight conservative?

Whatever, in this day and age, is the connotation of the phrase, "straight conservative", such that anyone could positively exclude Larison from the category of "straight conservatives"? Conservatism is more riven now than it has been at any time in my political life by factions and competing interests, most of which gainsay the bona fides of their intramural adversaries, which they attempt to force into the moulds of the left. Paleocons, to the neocons, are unpatriotic leftists, on account of their rejection of foreign adventurism; neocons, to the paleos, are liberals in the Emperor's New Clothes, on account of their valorization of neoliberalism in economics, their foreign policy of 'creative destruction', and their indifference, often breaking out into overt hostility, to traditional cultural patterns. And so forth and so on, ad nauseum. Perhaps the claim is that straight conservatism is something like the current party line at NRO - but in that case, the arguments of Paul Gottfried should be decisive: the so-called mainstream right has moved relentlessly and inexorably towards the left, more or less from its inception - and what good is that?

And , as I recall, he sided with the barely literate "wise Latina" woman against her conservative critics.

Well, not exactly. Larison's burden was that it is hypocritical and absurd for conservatives, who either are, or should be, defending particular identities, to damn others for doing the same:


Horror of horrors, she was expressing pride in her particular identity, much as many conservatives claim they wish they could do more freely with respect to theirs without being called racist or racialist or some other derisive label. What is their solution? To call Sotomayor by a name that they usually regard as a bludgeon unfairly used against them all the time. Not only will this gambit fail in the immediate confirmation battle, but it will ensure that the limits of expression become even more constricting and stifling.

Moreover, he made the argument - the frankly reactionary argument - that the more substantial parts of the infamous Sotomayor speech were largely ignored:


The most significant part of her speech from eight years ago has scarcely been discussed at all, which is her acknowledgment that neutrality and objectivity do not exist. One should strive to minimize the role of bias, but it is ineradicable. More than that, it sometimes serves a valuable social function–surely, students of Burke can understand this. The people who actually find this shocking or dangerous reveal themselves as believers in pleasant fictions left over from the 18th and 19th centuries. Those who understand that everyone is from somewhere specific, that everyone is part of a particular tradition, heir to a certain background and shaped by the places where he has lived and the experiences in those places, and that universal Man does not exist anywhere in the world, are not troubled by this. For us, it is a simple restatement of the obvious. The idea that where we come from matters deeply and defines who we are is hardly one that conservatives should find outrageous.

There was, in point of fact, something amusing in witnessing conservatives attempt to conjure the ghost of MLK, in opposition to Sotomayor.

When it comes to foreign policy, he often thinks that Obama is too far to the right.

Total petitio principii. By what incontrovertible standard is American foreign policy, with its ceaseless meddling and colossal expense, to be regarded as conservative?

And precisely where he starts to fall silent.

Larison seems to be moving towards specialization in foreign-policy commentary; and while I'd like him to write on a diversity of subjects, well, who knows what his reasons are?

So I'm forced to draw my own conclusions, based on stuff like his obvious soft-spot for Putin's Russia.

Come now. Where is the concrete evidence for that allegation? all I've seen in his Russia blogging is a series of realist/non-interventionist critiques of American policy. The statements, "American policy towards Russia has been foolish and counterproductive, and possible morally malign in a few cases", and "the Putin regime is awesome!" are not equivalent.

To this day, I have no clear idea of his conception of a well-ordered society.

Nor do I. Then again, I myself do not have a fully-articulated vision of a well-ordered society, and most of these of which I am cognizant, on right and left alike, strike me as horrifying, absurd, utopian, obscene, oppressive, or ugly, or some combination of all these adjectives, and others besides. In any event, those who have absorbed Burke and Oakeshott are reticent about such things. I do find the following excerpt Larison posted to his old blog three years ago, from an historical work on Bolingbroke, suggestive and evocative:


Bolingbroke saw the ideal political world as a “genuine” polity, a commonwealth where politics was part of a functional order carried on by the natural leaders of society. In such an order government sprang from the patriarchal roots of the landed family, and public service was as much the duty and responsibility of heads of families and localities as was their care and control of the core family. In the “genuine” polity, “the image of a free people” writes Bolingbroke, “is that of a patriarchal family, where the head and all the members are united by one common interest.” Government was not yet an artificial function whereby men came together and rationally conceived laws. A “genuine” order needed few laws, because the dealings of men were prescribed by time-honored codes of duty and honor. In such a system, a much less clear-cut distinction between public and private relations existed because men in society were held together by the natural bonds of family, geography, and interest rather than by an artificial act which has brought together isolated individuals. The order and links in God’s social structure had existed long before man, and thus, in Bolingbroke’s “genuine” polity, man’s entrance into society placed him among natural affiliations and natural relations to others, whether as governor or as governed, as relative or as neighbor. The passing of this “genuine” order was described in a poem by one of the later nostalgic Tory poets, Oliver Goldsmith, author of the first full-length biography of Lord Bolingbroke and of The Deserted Village, the classic eighteenth-century literary rejection of the new order. In The Traveller (1764), Goldsmith described the demise of a “genuine” political system.

As nature’s ties decay
As duty, love, and honour fail to sway,
Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law,
Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe. ~Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke & His Circle

Obviously, I cannot divine what significance any of this holds for Larison, though he is obviously sympathetic to Bolingbroke's vision, and hostile towards his opponents, the Whigs, and towards those in modern politics who resemble in some way the Whigs of yore. As there are no factions in contemporary life, excepting perhaps the most reactionary of writers over at Front Porch Republic, who breathe the air of duty, love, and honour as organizing principles of society, this leaves me, at least, with a conservatism of loss - irremediable, remorseless, irrecoverable loss - and the sense that much of modernity in politics will have to exhaust itself before any sort of deep conservatism is truly possible.

I think it's pretty obvious, things being as they are, that the long-term *survival* of Israel, as a Jewish state, depends on actions that you & Daniel, among many others, would consider unjust.

Well, here's the thing - if the survival of Israel depends upon any one, or combination of: the full annexation of the occupied territories, the reduction of the Palestinians to a lower caste of helots, or ethnic cleansing - then Israel is doomed. Thumbs down for the long-run, as Nixon is reputed to have signaled in some meeting. If the territories are fully annexed, and the Palestinians reduced to a controlled, apartheid population, it will be impossible to control them save by means of an extremity of violence, overt and otherwise; they will revolt, and Israel will be confronted with the dilemma: relinquish the whip, or kill many, many people. I cannot imagine either transpiring, for Israel will neither renounce its Jewish identity nor treat the Palestinians as the Chinese treat Tibetans and Uighurs, except perhaps more brutally still, not in full view of the world. And "population transfer" is not going to happen. Ever. So, if Israel's survival depends upon any one, or combination, of these injustices - on my understanding - then Israel will not survive. Period.

Whatever, in this day and age, is the connotation of the phrase, "straight conservative", such that anyone could positively exclude Larison from the category of "straight conservatives"? Conservatism is more riven now than it has been at any time in my political life by factions and competing interests, most of which gainsay the bona fides of their intramural adversaries, which they attempt to force into the moulds of the left.

Maximos, Steve left the commentator free to *pick his own issue*. Pick one. Any one. Anything. I mean, surely you aren't saying that the word "conservative" is so hard to define in a way that we can agree on, *even as a set of disparate positions on a variety of perhaps unrelated issues*, that such a question simply can't be answered. Or are you? I mean, in that case, it can't be answered for anyone. Not for you or for me or for anyone. But that's silly. I can tell you how people know I'm a conservative, and so can you. And guess what: I can do it without even _getting into_ foreign policy. I think it's interesting that you immediately reached for your illustration of the indefinability of conservatism (because we can't agree) to foreign policy. Well, okay, as I keep saying, what about domestic issues? I wouldn't know, because I read Larison only for a fairly short while and stopped long ago. But got any links to any posts about the evil of abortion? Gay "marriage"? The homosexual agenda generally? Euthanasia? Assisted suicide? Embryonic stem-cell research? Legalized prostitution? Affirmative action? I mean, I'm getting desperate here. Help me out. You can't think of a _single_ domestic issue that people can agree, "Okay, if so-and-so takes that position on that issue, he's a conservative, at least on that issue"? Not one? Or at least, not one for which you can identify Larison's position on it as conservative with a link to a post?

Look, I stopped reading Larison long ago because I got too upset doing so. To me, this isn't really about Larison. I'm more concerned about you. I know for sure that _you_ are a conservative, because I know your very strong and admirable opinions on most or all of the issues I've just listed above. But I don't like to hear you seem to imply that there is no such thing as any sort of common understanding of conservatism and that therefore such a question ("Is so-and-so a conservative on any issue?") can't be answered. That's importantly false.

And, yes, that stuff about pooh-poohing objectivity in jurisprudence is very disturbing. We all know it's what's being taught in law school--objective knowledge is impossible, we just need to push our agenda. (And, oh, yeah, I _really_ see Sotomayor as trying to "minimize bias.") It's a bad thing that this sort of stuff is being taught in law school, and it's a bad thing that Sotomayor avows it. Therefore, it's also a bad thing for a blogger to avow it. It's especially bad for such a view to be touted as "conservative" because ostensibly contrary to the bad Enlightenment. If the only alternative to David Hume and the philosophes is the politics of pure power in legal theory, we're all doomed.

Lydia, my remarks about the indefinability of conservatism are made with reference to political conservatism, to the coalition that has grown up over the years and attached itself to the Republican party, mostly for ill, and carries the expectation that those who espouse conservative social convictions will happily acquiesce in the rest of it - and, when they don't, denounces them as unconservative. And let's not deny that this is precisely what the movement does, on foreign policy, economics, and a number of other controverted questions. This demand for a high degree of uniformity, and the failure of many factions to meet it, lead to mutual recriminations, and considerable opacity as to what conservatism does and does not entail in terms of political activism.

In any event, one would have to engage in heroic labours of eisegesis to read Larison on George Tiller, only to conclude that he is ambivalent about abortion; the entire discussion presupposes the moral enormity of Tiller's ghoulish "profession".

As regards objectivity in the interpretation of the law, skepticism about it does not entail the critical legal studies view that the law is nothing more than an artifact of power; there is also a sort of common-law view, according to which the inevitable process of legal development, the accretion of precedent and tradition, proceeds in part through the prudential judgment of jurists.

**"American policy towards Russia has been foolish and counterproductive, and possible morally malign in a few cases", and "the Putin regime is awesome!" are not equivalent.**

Many "paleo" foreign policy writers, including Larison and the redoubtable Srdja Trifkovic, have indicated that Russia has an old, deep-seated fear of being surrounded, and that it has nothing to do with Communism, as this fear antedates it. Yet by clamoring for the expansion of NATO we push the issue, expecting Russia simply to give up this apprehension. We don't like it when foreign powers expand influence into our "territory," why should we expect Russia to do so? As Maximos wrote above, would we scrap the Monroe Doctrine just because China wanted us to? Taking this stance is not to be a Russophile, but simply to recognize a reality.

"my remarks about the indefinability of conservatism are made with reference to political conservatism, to the coalition that has grown up over the years and attached itself to the Republican party, mostly for ill, and carries the expectation that those who espouse conservative social convictions will happily acquiesce in the rest of it - and, when they don't, denounces them as unconservative"

Exactly. Hence Huckabee's not really a conservative, Andrew Bacevich is not really a conservative, Rod Dreher's not really a conservative, etc., etc.

Then I don't know why you made the remarks, Maximos, because Steve was asking a real question of real people right here and assuming that we among ourselves can discuss conservatism on a variety of issues while knowing what we mean. He isn't trying to run for President. At least, not last time I looked. And especially not as a Republican. :-)

Rob G and Maximos, Steve wasn't asking for some sort of bitter, paleo remarks about how talk-show hosts talk about Mike Huckabee! (For crying out loud.) He was asking whether a particular person ever nowadays publishes anything that is identifiably conservative on any issue. To my mind, it's disturbing and all-too-typical that the response to this should be some sort of weird, defensive, attempted redirection of the whole discussion to the evils of the treatment meted out to other people or candidates whom y'all happen to like on some other set of issues (presumably issues like environmentalism). If you can do that here, you can do that about anybody. And I certainly wouldn't appreciate it if you were doing it about a political candidate where the question, "Is he conservative? Can you point to anything he has said or written that is conservative?" actually takes on practical urgency. Please try to fight this habit of changing the subject.

I agree that the Tiller piece by Larison sounds like the responses we pro-lifers were making to the question, "Why was it wrong to kill Tiller even though he was a murderer?" Though Larison didn't actually spell the question out just like that, I do agree that the brief post appears to assume as a background the pro-life position. And Larison's remarks are a sensible answer to that implicit question, which obviously had been the subject of an on-going discussion on the blog previously among others. I also cannot resist pointing out that considering the enormous pushes from the pro-death side nowadays, if this is the only piece you can find from a person--a person who writes a lot about political subjects--that indicates (indirectly) that he is pro-life, my own opinion is that the many issues need to be a tad more burning.

Then I don't know why you made the remarks, Maximos

I made the remarks because, in the intramural conservative wrangling which has overcome the movement, it is no longer sufficient to hold conservative opinions on, say, abortion, or marriage; if one does not also accept, with the submission of faith, American foreign policy, or political economy, one's credentials are cast under suspicion. It is pointless to discuss conservative data points in the abstract, because the political application of those data points has become itself the marker of orthodoxy. The strange little blog jihad against Larison embodies both of the confusions, because it both begs the question of what constitutes conservatism on foreign policy (notably by presupposing that the political conservative position is normative), for example, and damns him for not publishing matter pertinent to what political conservatives are dunning on about nowadays. I really cannot fathom this, beyond remarks I have already offered. Is it really so invidious for individuals to specialize in certain forms of commentary, where they might feel themselves possessed of more expertise or competence?

But got any links to any posts about...gay "marriage"?

http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2008/12/08/the-worst-kind/

Note well, please: I wouldn't mind it in the least were Larison to write upon a greater diversity of subjects; but as someone who has been reading Eunomia almost since its inception, I have no doubts about where Larison stands on social issues, and simply believe that he has chosen to specialized in an underserved niche of commentary.

Is it really so invidious for individuals to specialize in certain forms of commentary, where they might feel themselves possessed of more expertise or competence?

No, but if the areas in which one chooses to specialize are all those in which one's opinions are indistinguishable from those opinions that are commonly and generally thought of as left-wing, then eventually people lose track of one's opinions that are generally and commonly recognized as conservative. People wonder if those opinions are no longer important to the writer or if he has ceased to hold them. Or readers who only started reading the writer within the past year don't even know about those opinions. It would therefore be entirely understandable and excusable if one were not designated as a conservative in common parlance. This could happen if a writer, say, were pro-life, pro-marriage, etc., in the privacy of his own mind but had written about nothing publicly for two years but the evils of American foreign policy and, say, the threat of global warming and the importance of animal rights.

This all seems pretty obvious and not like any kind of "strange little blog jihad." I don't see that Steve has said anything that isn't plain common sense in the main post or the comments.

Very good, Step2, and thank you!

Steve, I should say that Step2 (ironically, not one of our conservative commentators) has met your challenge in the relevant fashion by pointing to a clear, straightforward, and unequivocal (not to mention decent-length) Larison post taking a definitely conservative position on an issue.

By the way, Maximos, getting back to the matter of legal objectivity: We could have an interesting conversation and wd. no doubt disagree about the relationship between common and statutory law and the relation of both to the U.S. Constitution. But since you seem willing to denounce critical legal theory, I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count as to where the Wise Latina is coming from on nakedly agenda-driven jurisprudence. I think conservatives need like they need a hole in the head the kind of "pre-modern" approach that deliberately forgoes an opportunity to criticize post-modernism and the Sotomayors of the world and instead takes that opportunity to form an anti-objectivity coalition with them.

No, but if the areas in which one chooses to specialize are all those in which one's opinions are indistinguishable from those opinions that are commonly and generally thought of as left-wing, then eventually people lose track of one's opinions that are generally and commonly recognized as conservative.

Perception is not, uh, veridical in these matters, inasmuch as the political valences of foreign policy opinions do not necessarily correspond to the natures of those opinions; political philosophies, as these bear upon foreign affairs, are refracted and distorted by the exigencies of politics, the inertia of historical forces, and so forth. That's what the debate concerns. To be perfectly bludgeon-like about it, I'd be concerned for my own conservative bona fides if I ever found myself on the same page as PNAC (now FPI), and yet the hysterics of that crowd are accepted, prima facie, as though they were conservative.

I'll give you three guesses

Heh. I know very well the perspective Sotomayor is coming from. I'm dubious that Larison is calling for some sort of coalition, or even implying one; it seems, rather, that he is critiquing a line of criticism he finds flawed, and perhaps subversive of conservative ends.

In any event, I think that the sort of common-law approach I've alluded to is just the natural law of how jurisprudence unfolds in historical time. When cases are brought before the courts, and some of the particulars seem to be at variance with the literal construals of the relevant statutes, while being analogous in other respects, courts often expand precedents, soften or stretch statutes - reasoning, implicitly or otherwise, by analogy or similitude - in order to reckon with the altered circumstances. There is, generally speaking, no anxious running back to the legislature to request new laws, because the old ones don't cover 10% of some new set of circumstances. And this application of prudential judgment will always been influenced by subjective factors. What follows, I believe, is that instead of fretting overmuch about procedure, conservatives should craft better arguments concerning ends; don't inveigh against Sotomayor's "taking the side of the dispossessed" schtick (if that's what it was), for example, because it violates some hypothetical (classical) liberal legal neutrality, but argue about the goodness or badness of the explicit policy ends.

Maximos and Lydia,

I don't want to run away on the tangent of the best conservative way to think about the law, but it seems to me that what Maximos is arguing for is very similar to arguments made by Judge Posner, who basically makes the case (in which one of his many books I'm not sure) that what judges do is make the law and since there is no way to avoid this reality we should focus on the "goodness or badness" of the outcomes of the law and not worry so much about objectivity. I think Posner is a very smart guy but this kind of talk still worries me in that it seems to open up the door to too many judges ruling against a powerful white man just because he is not a poor, black woman. Sometimes poor black women break the law and I want them punished just as fairly as the rich white guy.

Jeff, I have the same sort of concerns, truly. But I cannot get around the sheer reality of what judges do.

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in this subject read Scalia's essay _A Matter of Interpretation_. (It's in the form of a book, but actually it's a symposium; his original essay followed by commentary by several others followed by his responses to the commentary.) One of the most interesting points he makes is that *judges themselves* (in other words, even those known as liberal judges) tend to treat statutory law differently from common law--for example, legislative history is relevant to the former but not to the latter. So one of his main points is that the Constitution of the U.S. is statutory law in type and to be treated as such rather than as merely a sort of vague, suggestive jumping-off point for pure common law activities on the part of judges. Very useful discussion on the whole topic.

Maximos - many thanks for your very thoughtful & thought-provoking reply.

Very briefly:

(1) Please note that "straight conservative" was Matt Weber's phrase, not mine. Hence my use of it in my response to him. I agree that the meaning of the word "conservative" in the USA today is very much up for grabs.

(2) I, like Larison, reject "foreign adventurism." While I thought that both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein richly deserved everything they got, I think that our ongoing attempts to build functioning democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq are foolish, hopeless, misbegotten (not to mention *liberal*) projects. Yet my neo-con friends have no problem treating me with respect - and none of them question my patriotism. Maybe that's because I don't spit venom at them at every opportunity.

(3) Paul Gottfried is definitely one of the good guys, and, so far as I'm able to judge, a solid scholar. I might wish that he could get over the many professional slights that he's suffered - but I know where he's coming from. So I don't blame him.

(4) In the abstract, I might agree that people should feel free to express pride in their particular [racial] identities (though I'd have to think about that one for a while). But let's get real: expressions of *white* pride are about as *verboten* as *verboten* gets. A regime in which, say, Jared Taylor gets treated with the same respect that Sonia Sotomayor receives is quite simply not on the table. So what's the second best option? I'd say: a regime in which Sonia Sotomayor gets treated with the same *lack* of respect as Jared Taylor. What I find utterly intolerable is the actually existing regime, in which "white nationalists" get cast into outer darkness while non-white racial partisans cruise to easy confirmation on the Supreme Court.

(5) I wish that I could find the constant invocation by Republicans of a single line by MLK, taken out of context, the least bit amusing.

(6) If I'd thought that Larison thought that "the Putin regime is awesome!" then I would have said so.

(7) The quotation on Bolingbroke is, indeed, "suggestive and evocative." One longs to hear more.

Rob G: in my younger days, Soviet apologists routinely excused their trampling all over Eastern Europe, the Baltics, the Balkans, etc., on the grounds of their "old, deep-seated fear of being surrounded."

It was a stupid joke then, and it's a stupid joke now.

There are excellent reasons for us to butt out of Eastern European affairs. But, to say it again: let's have no pretenses about the current regime in Russia.

Step2 - thanks for the link.

Larison is, indeed, pretty strongly opposed to gay marriage. He even gets into arguments about it with Andrew Sullivan!

Credit where credit is due.

But, to say it again: let's have no pretenses about the current regime in Russia.

I have no pretenses, believe me. My wife is Russian-Georgian, so I'll paraphrase her on the Putin regime: isn't it amazing that the drunkard Yeltsin could pluck this man from his relatively ordinary FSB life, where he would enjoy a Russian middle-class life, and, after two terms of office, he's worth billions? And what's with the crackdown on journalists? Even though we can't really prove anything, and Russian government is notoriously opaque and divided, doesn't it look really shady? And what's with the war crimes in Georgia? All they really had to do was defend Ossetia. What's the rest of this nonsense? But the culture has been cleaned up markedly since the 90s (which is true), and they're cracking down on gambling. And since we can't change the rest of it, at least there's better music, and movies. (When you can't change anything, well, you've got to look for the upsides wherever you may find them.)

No, we have no illusions. But neither do we have any illusions that a kleptocratic petro-state, it's government shared among several mafiyas, with collapsing demography, is any sort of threat. People who argue that it is have ulterior motivations.

Soviet apologists routinely excused...

It's not simply an excuse, but a matter of geography: Russia is wide open, without any buffers, like those that insulate the US, if it has hostile regimes nearby. This is actually a staple in geostrategic analyses of Eurasia. And let's be honest: the US, in the Ukraine and Georgia, is hostile.

Maximos - it seems that you are married to a very sensible woman.

As for Russia's geography, "without any buffers, like those that insulate the US" - well: in that respect, would she rather be Poland? or Germany? or even France?

"And let's be honest: the US, in the Ukraine and Georgia, is hostile."

Yeah, funny how we're allowed to mistrust Russia, but their mistrust of us is seen as irrational. Can you imagine if China somehow got some sort of politico-military foothold in Cuba and Mexico? You'd never finish scraping all the excrement off the fan blades.

And please, no huffing and puffing about 'moral equivalence.' The Cold War is over and Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, despite what Fox News and the Weekly Standard tell us. To continue to express the same level of fear and hostility towards Russia is, in effect, to pooh-pooh the evil that was Soviet communism. We need not be Russophiles, but neither should we be Russophobes.

Yeah, funny how we're allowed to mistrust Russia, but their mistrust of us is seen as irrational.

Funny, that. Hilarious, in fact. No further comment, since when I encounter moral equivalence, I have a terrible tendency to huff and puff.

A few brief observations regarding the above comments:

Many of Dreher's views are just idiosyncratic to be generous - as someone recently said in an email: his views are a "strange marriage between Kirk and political correctness."

Regarding paleos and Israel, I think that a few paleolibertarians are so Israel obsessed that they cannot see the forest through the trees. That said, I don't know any paleoconservatives of this sort. All would say we shouldn't give money to Israel (nor to Egypt, etc.), but I never sense any deep-seated hatred. If someone held a gun to my head and said choose Israel or Palestine, I'd probably choose Israel. But by the same token, I'd always choose the West over Israel, as should any patriot of the West. And regarding Muslims, I'm much more concerned about Muslim influxes into Europe than I am about the Middle East. I care more who controls the neighborhoods around London or Paris than who controls the West Bank.

Regarding the pro-life movement, I know that the seemingly Jacobin elements of this movement - such as denouncing abortion as "racist" or a violation of universal human rights - turned me away from it.

Regarding terrorism, it's an immigration - not a foreign policy - issue -- something that Chronicles got right from the very beginning, and something realized by the European right. You don't need the Wilsonian transformation of the Middle East to stop terrorism. Just deport potential terrorists. It's that simple.

Regarding Putin, it's not so much that people are defending him, but that chicken hawks are trying to relive the Cold War when Putin could be a reliable anti-Muslim friend. He's more right-wing than most Republicans, and he's doing what he was elected to do: protect Russia. Here's my take on Putin:

http://www.takimag.com/site/article/who_is_vladimir_putin/

That said, I don't know any paleoconservatives of this sort. All would say we shouldn't give money to Israel (nor to Egypt, etc.), but I never sense any deep-seated hatred.

I've come across some deep-seated hatred and a lot more deep-seated dislike of Israel at Takimag, Chronicles, and The American Conservative. Plus a lot of writing that's less deep-seated and more just mischievous neocon-baiting (Taki) or Jew-baiting (Buchanan).

What's annoying about paleo writing on the subject isn't their anti-Israel stance, it's their proud and willful ignorance about that part of the world. (I remember Taki fulminating against some atrocity-of-the-day committed by the Israeli Likud government, when the Likud had been in the opposition for over a year.) For some of the more prominent paleo writers, taking sides against Israel seems just an emotional stance or a fashion statement, like college kids wearing keffiyehs. Paleos can say whatever they feel like because they know their words have no influence. The neocon-liberal establishment is pro-Israel, so these anti-establishment guys are anti-Israel. Of course I'm only talking about some of the prominent paleos here; others are quite fair-minded on Israel.

I like reading intelligent, informed anti-Israel commentary. There's some excellent analysis out there by people who are very anti-Israel (e.g., Michael Neumann). But you won't find any insightful commentary on Israel, pro or con, in the paleo sources, with the exception of Paul Gottfried. For a lot of paleos, Israel is just a character in their psychodrama. They write about the Israel in their heads, not the Israel in the Middle East.

"No further comment, since when I encounter moral equivalence, I have a terrible tendency to huff and puff."

A little honey and lemon will take care of that.

"chicken hawks are trying to relive the Cold War when Putin could be a reliable anti-Muslim friend"

Right. Listening to some of these folks you'd think that Russia was a bigger threat to us than the Jihadists are.

Regarding the pro-life movement, I know that the seemingly Jacobin elements of this movement - such as denouncing abortion as "racist" or a violation of universal human rights - turned me away from it.

That's the kind of thing I have trouble having much patience with. See the comments from The Masked Chicken above. We're talking about murdering infants. We're talking about dissecting newly-conceived embryonic human beings for science. We're talking about dehydrating people to death over a period of two weeks. We're talking about incredible atrocities, and people think they can talk about all of this as a "movement" and then casually say, "Oh, the people in that movement turned me off, because they said such-and-such, used such-and-such rhetoric, or because they were mean to my fellow paleos, or because they [fill in the blank]," and we're all supposed to go, "Oh, I get it. That's okay. It's the fault of the mainstream conservatives, or the pro-lifers then. Have a nice day."

Not me.

Lydia,

Don't get me wrong. I'm opposed to abortion. But the rhetoric of the movement does not bother you?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The "human rights" thing is not as big a deal to me as it is to some people, because I think it can be readily translated into the idea of a "universal human wrong." The analogy to slavery is weak and sometimes overstressed but not totally pointless. Quotations from MLK and analogies to the Civil Rights movement _do_ bother me, and I have seen them from pro-lifers. They make me wince. But nobody says _I_ have to adopt that rhetoric _myself_ in order to do, say, get-out-the-vote calling for a candidate I actually do support, in order to write blog posts, in order to educate my kids and anyone else with whom I have influence to be passionate about these issues and to be au courant on the latest pushes from the death-mongers and to resist them to the utmost, and so on and so forth.

I don't believe in compromise on matters of principle, but I think it's possible to get so hung up on the rhetoric one's allies choose to use that one misses the forest for the trees. Example: In a local ordinance battle right now in my town, fighting against a new homosexual rights ordinance, the people running the campaign on my own side of the issue have chosen to try to "steal" the rhetoric of "discrimination" and argue that the new ordinance is "discriminatory" against those who oppose the homosexual agenda. Now, actually, I can see how that argument could be made, but I think it's a rhetorical mistake to try to do this. It's not what I would have chosen to do, and insofar as I have had influence with the local campaign, I have tried to get that rhetorical angle downplayed. But I haven't just thrown up my hands and not cooperated because I cringe at this attempt to seize on the notion of anti-discrimination and use it for our own side. I'm making get-out-the-vote calls. I have pounded the pavements. I have a Vote NO sign in front of my house (two, actually, as I'm on a corner lot), I am distributing Vote NO signs. I'm very involved in the campaign. The issues and consequences are too important and serious for me to get all hung up on the (in a sense) "liberal" rhetoric my own side is choosing to use and refuse to help.

To my mind, this is true in spades of the life issues.

Hi, Matthew - thanks for the link to your interesting piece on Putin. He *does* have his good points (though I'm not sure I'd include Orthodox moral instruction in the public schools among them).

But do you think that it's any of Russia's legitimate business if the governments of Poland &/or the Czech Republic choose to install American ABM systems? And what do you make of Putin's seeming encouragement of Iran's developing nuclear capability?

Otherwise, I totally agree with your comments. Especially this: "I'm much more concerned about Muslim influxes into Europe than I am about the Middle East. I care more who controls the neighborhoods around London or Paris than who controls the West Bank."

Ditto.

Obviously, Russia is going to take some interest in the activities of countries in its former sphere of influence. It's like our interest in Cuba. Think how unhinged we became when Russia intervened in Cuban politics. Frankly, I don't even know why we should care what takes place in many of these areas around Russia. What interest is it to us whether some ethnic Russians in Ossetia would rather side with their Russian cousins than with Georgians? More power to them.

You have to admit it was sadly hilarious when Obama hinted that the real reason he wanted to protect Poland was not from Russia, but from a potential nuclear attack from Iran. Yea, if Iran develops nukes, I'm sure Poland will be on the top of its list.

You seem to have gotten a reply from Larison, at least indirectly.

Many of us here at TAC and elsewhere have ended up as “dissident” conservatives often enough because of intense disagreements with mainstream conservatives over foreign policy. Iraq did not so much create ruptures between conservatives as it clarified why those ruptures already existed. Instead of subsiding as Iraq has (temporarily) moved to the periphery of our national debates, these ruptures are perhaps greater than ever. Aside from a general agreement that containing the USSR was desirable and common defense was a legitimate function of government, a great many people in the conservative movement don’t really share that many assumptions about the use of force, international relations and national security. Anyone following these things with any regularity knows this, but it might be useful to be reminded of it again.

Unlike almost every other area of policy under Bush, foreign policy remains one where most mainstream conservatives do not claim that Bush was insufficiently conservative. Despite reasonable arguments that Bush was not a conservative in any important respect, mainstream conservatives have shown no desire to distance themselves from him when he was at his most revolutionary and destructive. This is important to keep in mind, because it tells us that mainstream conservatives did not simply “go along” with Bush’s disastrous foreign policy primarily for reasons of tribal or partisan “team” loyalty. They embraced it and believe to this day that it was essentially correct, even if it was perhaps poorly managed here and there.

Foreign policy is not the only source of intense disagreement, but it tends to be a prominent point of contention because it is of particular importance to many of the dissident conservatives, because it is one area of disagreement where fundamental differences are not tolerated on the right, and because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives. As such, foreign policy has an outsized role in defining dissident conservative arguments, and this is probably most true for my own commentary, which has the perverse effect of letting mainstream conservatives classify us as crypto-leftists whenever it suits them because they have already defined any non-hawkish, non-nationalist, non-hegemonist position as left-wing and therefore absolutely unacceptable. The point here is not to rehearse all the reasons why hawkish, nationalist and hegemonist views are antithetical to a conservative disposition and damaging to all of the things conservatives claim to want to preserve, true as these claims are, but to recognize that there is no persuading such people when many of the fundamental assumptions they hold are diametrically opposed to ours and utterly wrong. There no longer seems any value in making the effort to persuade them.

Well, that's not much of a reply, IMO. It's just more or less, "We care more about foreign policy because that's what really gets us steamed against conservatives." In fact, he even seems to regard it it as a _benefit_ that this is a place of overlap with leftists: "and because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives." We _noticed_ that.

It doesn't really answer, to my mind, the question whether if one wishes to be known as a conservative in any respect, one should say some more about places where one's arguments are of interest to one's fellow conservatives! It also does not address the question of whether foreign policy questions are of such burning interest as to _warrant_ in some objective fashion this near-exclusive focus from those who ostensibly take conservative positions on domestic issues. In fact, there's a kind of irony here: Anti-interventionists repeatedly (and to some extent legitimately) ask, "What business is it of ours if_____"--fill in the blank with something happening far away from us. But here are these anti-interventionists positively _obsessed_ with what's happening far away and scarcely ever talking about the domestic culture wars, much less fighting them heartily and frequently. Doesn't that seem a little inconsistent? If it isn't any of our business who controls the West Bank, it might be some of our business who controls American health care, the American economy, the education establishment in our own country, who gives our money to Planned Parenthood, marriage policy in the U.S., and so on and so forth.

In fact, he even seems to regard it it as a _benefit_ that this is a place of overlap with leftists: "and because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives." We _noticed_ that.

To be perfectly blunt about it, who cares whether dissident conservatives overlap with some lefties on foreign policy? Of what significance is this to the truth or falsity of any given dissident conservative foreign-policy analysis? None. It only concerns those who, for whatever reason, are desirous that political conservatism be preserved. Analogously, does it matter that some libertarian critiques of the financial system and the bailouts overlap with, say, Simon Johnson's critiques, Johnson being a progressive? Who cares? What matters is whether the critiques are valid, not the political semiotics.

But here are these anti-interventionists positively _obsessed_ with what's happening far away and scarcely ever talking about the domestic culture wars....

Positively obsessed with imbecilic and occasionally wicked things that their own government is doing overseas, which obviously concerns their own country.

whether if one wishes to be known

Known is the key word here, for being known as a conservative and being a conservative are not the same thing. If much of actually-existing, political conservatism is a sick parody of conservatism, then catering to it, becoming known as a member of the team, entails becoming part of that sick parody. Many dissident conservatives hold perfectly conservative positions on social issues, though we've tended to focus on those (ie., David Frum, some of the guys from the League of Ordinary Gentlemen) who do not; but many dissident conservatives have lost interest in playing to an audience on areas of agreement, if that agreement carries the expectation that they'll acquiesce in other matters altogether. That is what political conservatism too often demands; most social conservatives, as evidenced by their near-lockstep support for the Bush administration, embraced the total package of 'conservative' policy items (this is one reason, perhaps the major reason, why social conservatism is in disrepute), and expected that agreement in part should lead to agreement on the whole. In political conservatism, one was not permitted to be a social conservative who happened to oppose the war, or torture; such persons were not invited to collaborate on common interests, but had their movement credentials revoked. The maximalism of political conservatives has been their downfall here, driving away many learned folks who were, and could have remained, allies on many discrete issues.

It also does not address the question of whether foreign policy questions are of such burning interest as to _warrant_ in some objective fashion this near-exclusive focus from those who ostensibly take conservative positions on domestic issues.

Does bad foreign policy become less bad, a matter of indifference, or perhaps even good, merely because abortion is worse, morally speaking?

**It's just more or less, "We care more about foreign policy because that's what really gets us steamed against conservatives."**

Not at all. He said "Foreign policy...tends to be a prominent point of contention

A) because it is of particular importance to many of the dissident conservatives,
B) because it is one area of disagreement where fundamental differences are not tolerated on the right, and
C) because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives."

In other words, it's not a matter of "caring more" about foreign policy; it is that foreign policy disagreements necessarily come to the fore due to those three "becauses." This is what he means by "As such, foreign policy has an outsized role in defining dissident conservative arguments...which has the perverse effect of letting mainstream conservatives classify us as crypto-leftists whenever it suits them because they have already defined any non-hawkish, non-nationalist, non-hegemonist position as left-wing and therefore absolutely unacceptable."

**In fact, he even seems to regard it it as a _benefit_ that this is a place of overlap with leftists: "and because it is the only time when dissident conservative arguments seem to interest non-conservatives." We _noticed_ that.**

It should be readily apparent that just because a given idea overlaps with a leftist one, that does not make that idea automatically leftist. Left and Right non-interventionism may look similar, for instance, but the underlying thought and ideas for the belief can be quite different.

"here are these anti-interventionists positively _obsessed_ with what's happening far away and scarcely ever talking about the domestic culture wars, much less fighting them heartily and frequently"

Pick up any recent issue of Chronicles or Modern Age (the two "paleo" journals I subscribe to) and you will quickly be disavowed of this notion.

Also, most paleos or trad-cons are not apt to keep foreign policy issues and domestic issues in separate hermetically sealed containers, seeing that in the current liberal managerial state the two often have profound effects on each other. Why, then, is it problematic that certain writers concentrate more on one aspect or the other?

Also, most paleos or trad-cons are not apt to keep foreign policy issues and domestic issues in separate hermetically sealed containers, seeing that in the current liberal managerial state the two often have profound effects on each other.

Alas, most mainstream conservatives have become accustomed to keeping these two realms artificially separated, whence the utterly incoherent belief that domestic spending is invidious Big Government, while spending lurid sums in pursuit of hegemony is not only not Big Government, but positively virtuous. Rubbish.

many dissident conservatives have lost interest in playing to an audience on areas of agreement, if that agreement carries the expectation that they'll acquiesce in other matters altogether.

So they'd rather just talk to one another about how bad American foreign policy is? Or maybe talk to the leftists about that and make common cause with them?

Look, I _liked_ that piece by Larison on homosexual "marriage." It didn't hurt him to write it. It wouldn't hurt a lot of paleos and trad-cons to start reading Wesley J. Smith, even though he calls himself a liberal (and in some ways positively is), and keeping up on the onward march of the culture of death. Maybe picking up on some of those stories and relaying them to a different audience. After all, this stuff is going to affect some of us on a daily and urgent basis, even more than the Iraq war is.

It's coming to be my opinion that the level of importance some issue has for a given person can be measured by where he makes his coalitions. If a person's principle coalitions, the ones into which he puts his time and energy, ignore disagreement on issue Y to make common cause on issue X, it isn't so unreasonable to infer that X is more important to him than Y. Of course, some people make different coalitions for different purposes, with sort of overlapping Venn-diagram pictures of their different coalitions. But that takes a lot of time, especially if one really is equally passionate about the different issues in the different areas.

I make no secret of the fact that I am more passionate about domestic social and life issues than I am about foreign policy issues, despite the fact that at least on some foreign policy issues I have very strong opinions. And I also make no secret of the fact that I think this set of priorities makes sense, and that someone who has it _radically_ reversed may not have a good sense of perspective on the big picture.

And I also make no secret of the fact that I think this set of priorities makes sense, and that someone who has it _radically_ reversed may not have a good sense of perspective on the big picture.

Excepting political actions on the local level, on which I'd imagine we have no disagreements, are you arguing that dissident conservatives should cooperate with Republican social conservatives, even helping to elect their candidates on the national level, even if this entails accepting really dreadful foreign policy? If John McCain hadn't been squishy on social conservative priorities, should I have held my nose and voted for more wars as part of the package?

If this is merely a matter of what any individual finds most interesting, and where he may have an area of expertise, than I don't really see the point; it makes little sense to reproach someone for not being someone else. I believe that euthanasia is a big deal, morally speaking; but it's simply not an area of any especial expertise, and so I leave it to others to write on it.

First, I just thought of something else to add: If a writer _doesn't care_ about whether he is known as a conservative, if he _doesn't care_ that all the issues on which he most often and most passionately writes are those on which he happens to agree with leftists, then he should _expect_ that other conservatives will find it hard to identify him as one of themselves, and he _shouldn't care_ about that either. How is there any ground for complaint in that case? It's bound to happen in that case that at some point other conservatives say, "I just can scarcely tell that this guy is a conservative at all." And if they happen to say that in a blog entry, what's to complain about? They don't have to be witch hunters. That's the _natural outcome_ of _not caring_ about being known as a conservative and _saying most_ about areas where one is indistinguishable from leftists. If that's what floats someone's boat, if he just happens to think that his ideas are most true and most worth writing about where they converge with those of the left, then things are going to fall out in a certain way as far as how he is perceived by conservatives, and the conservatives who perceive them that way aren't to be blamed.

Good question about McCain. If (per impossible, really) he had been very strong and very clear and trustworthy on domestic policies across the board, I'm sure that I would have voted for him. I can't think of anything that would have made that not the case, unless maybe he had some bizarre other ideas like being a 9/11 truther or something crazy like that. You're not obligated to agree with me on this. I have pretty high standards for who I vote for, and I'm liable to sympathize with anybody who refuses to vote for someone if I agree with the non-voter on the issue that moves him to abstain.

But there are other ways of coalition building than supporting a presidential candidate. There is, for example, talking and lobbying and urging others to lobby concerning what a hostile administration is doing. In fact, precisely because the Republicans _lost_ the presidency, we have more opportunities right now for coalition-building among different types of conservatives than we would have had if they had won. You, Maximos, seem to have a soft spot for what I would call socialized medicine. But you are apparently bothered by the abortion coverage issue. Therefore we could join together in strongly opposing Obamacare. That's just a case in point. I am no more _antecedantly_ qualified than you are to do the Googling and put up a post (as I did here) on whether Obamacare covers abortion. I have, no doubt, more time and better health, but the additional information I have on the subject is just a result of my motivation to keep up on it.

If a writer _doesn't care_ about whether he is known as a conservative...

The entire issue of 'whether a writer is known as a conservative' is a red herring, and this is why I've so little patience for it. It presupposes that common opinion, which categorizes a welter of things by their political valences in the American system, effects this operation accurately. Of course, writers who take positions of opposition to abortion, gay "marriage", and euthanasia are regarded as conservative, and with a few exceptions, this is accurate; but there has long been an internal debate within conservatism as regards foreign policy, and so it flat makes no sense to identify a writer who takes the dissident side of that dispute as dubiously conservative, merely because the un/anti-intellectual public think that codpiece nationalism is conservative. We shouldn't naturalize the historical.

You, Maximos, seem to have a soft spot for what I would call socialized medicine.

For the record, I rather liked Mike Liccione's post on the subject.

As regards McCain and conservative voting, well, without any desire to occasion offense, it seems to me inconsistent to combine the affirmation of life in domestic policy with warmongering and unnecessary killing in foreign policy; this, to my mind, discredits social conservatism, and it is why I personally refuse to strike that compromise.

By the way, it has just occurred to me that Lawrence Auster is a good and instructive example of a trad-con writer whose conservatism is never in question despite his dislike of expansionist foreign policy and the Bush administration. And also despite his, to my mind somewhat unfortunate, apparent disinclination to write much about life issues. But of course anyone who reads him could give a list as long as your arm of issues that make him undeniably, unquestionably, indubitably conservative, including for example his recent strong opposition to Obamacare, partly on constitutional grounds. I think that Auster has a sense of where the left is attacking, and he has recently even had some good words to say about Rush Limbaugh, though everyone knows that he doesn't exactly _like_ Limbaugh and has criticized him himself in the past.

Very well said, as usual, Lydia.

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