With no pretense to so balanced, searching and profound an essay as which my illustrious colleague Maximos has produced here, nor nearly so elegant an appreciation as my friend Bill Luse has produced here; with only a thought toward fruitful conversation by provocation, I want to ask a second question.
What else is American Conservatism?
I propose that, setting aside the careful work of philosophical investigation as done brilliantly by Maximos elsewhere, Conservatism as a historical fact in social reality is very often that shock of defiance and outrage, inchoate and ill-articulated, at some grievous insult or injury, when the insult or injury has been delivered to political-social order.
So a further question is obvious: is the defiance and outrage justified; or, another way, is the insult or injury real?
The Left has been a very fierce critic of America — her history, her statecraft, her instincts, the aesthetics of her people and cities, in a word her political-social order going a long way back. It is much more recently that the sort of globetrotting financier and center-right libertarian, who doesn’t give a flip about the actual communities of America and could as well live in London or Geneva or Hong Kong, has appeared upon the scene. But even that anti-Americanism is a thing of ennui and despair; more insidious than bluntly destructive. The Left’s deep and unrelenting castigation of America and all her works is much older. Conservatives have always had abundant complaints and critiques, but only very rarely have they fully repudiated America in a manner reminiscent of the Leftists who, for instance, befriended and mentored certain prominent politicians.
To give the question another twist: Is the defiance of a political faction which has included prominently within it agitators who actually took up arms in treachery against America justified? Was the plot to massacre US noncommissioned officers and their dates to a dance at Fort Dix a real insult? (Its injury, thank God, was confined to its conspirators.)
If it was not then Conservatism is wrong to be in reaction against it. But if it was a real insult and attempt at injury then it is wrong not to join Conservatism in that reaction. The third option is back to ennui and usury. Such are the puzzles of politics and statesmanship in the world of men.