Locke on The American Conservative

For anyone who has not yet seen the new magazine edited by Patrick Buchanan and Scott McConnell, The American Conservative, Robert Locke has penned a useful article at Front Page Magazine with selected quotes from TAC that give a good idea of its intellectual content, followed by Mr. Locke’s comments. Here is a selection from Mr. Locke’s selection and commentary, along with one or two additional comments by me.

“How can any intelligent person be expected to believe that a country of 15 million people, mostly impoverished desert dwellers, poses a threat to world peace?” (p.9)

Because it has weapons of mass destruction. As kids say, like duh. This theme of Iraq’s fundamental weakness as a nation, upon which paleocons stake a significant part of their case against the war, is so obviously irrelevant that one wonders how they can believe anyone will be convinced by it. It’s like asking how any intelligent person can believe that a tiny bug like an anopheles mosquito can kill you.

“Most of us ‘neo-isolationists,’ a disparate, contentious lot, are really not ‘neo’ anything. We are old church and old right, anti-imperialist and anti-interventionist, disbelievers in Pax Americana.”( p. 7)

This seems to confess the isolationist charge, but what’s scarier is that he’s not just against empire, but explicitly against our greatest international achievement: the Pax Americana.

[LA note: So, incredible as it sounds, Buchanan and McConnell don’t even support the post-World War II stability brought by U.S. dominance. By implication, they would they have opposed the creation of NATO and America’s 40-year-long successful effort to contain Soviet Communism.]

“But I believe that we Britons have for too long cleaved to the United States of America and ought now, with good grace, cleave instead to the United States of Europe.” ( p.9)

Leaving aside the issue of why a magazine that pretends to American nationalism should be arguing the national interest of a foreign country, here they are positively endorsing the notion that our best ally should abandon us.

“So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism—fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy.” (p.3)

This is quite true, and captures fairly nicely the neoconservative creed. But we’ll be stuck with that creed forever if the alternative is the isolationism and protectionism that Mr. Buchanan, and presumably his magazine, stand for.

“We believe that America has gained and still does from new immigrants. But, after two decades of intense immigration, we also believe that the nation needs a slowdown to assimilate those already here.” (Buchanan & co-editor Taki, p.3)

Be that at it may, every vibrant country such as the United States needs immigration, but it needs to be controlled.” (Taki, p.31)

This kind of mealy-mouthed, apologetic, back-pedaling, softball, meaningless criticism could have appeared in The New Republic. What’s the point of the notorious abrasiveness of the serious Right if it can’t do better than this?

I have the feeling that Mr. Buchanan and his friends have deliberately soft-pedaled this issue because of their existing reputation as Huns. This is precisely the problem with these people: because they push so hard on things that do not matter, they have to pull back on things that do. This is precisely the way not to engage in politics.

[LA note: This backpedaling, as disappointing as it is, does not surprise me. For one thing, Buchanan has always bobbed and weaved on immigration. Second, I had an e-mail exchange with Scott McConnell in early 2002 in which it became quite clear that, while he was determined and passionate in his hostility to the neoconservatives and to America’s support for Israel (as indicated by his many columns on that subject at antiwar.com), he was quite soft on immigration and the preservation of Euro-America. Indeed, he said that non-European immigration was not a problem, “Unless one finds the sheer sight of people of other colors sharing one’s streets and stores and schools unbearable or unpleasant—which I don’t.” As I said to McConnell, this seemed to be a reversal from what he had written in a symposium in Commentary in 1995, that he thought America’s European character was basic to America, and was deeply concerned that it was threatened. Now he was espousing typical “anti-racist” views that could easily be used to undercut any serious attempt to reduce non-European immigration. I wrote: “It’s clear you have pretty thoroughly backed away from any defense of the European-American majority culture as such. You do not just reject American Renaissance-type racialism—I think it’s clear that you will reject any principled stand in favor of maintaining a European-American majority. Your position comes down to slowing the immigration.” Now it seems the same set of attitudes marks The American Conservative, notwithstanding what one assumes are the hopes and expectations of most of its subscribers.]
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 16, 2002 07:15 AM | Send


Although I agree with Mr Auster’s sentiments regarding Scott McConnell’s tepid stance on non-white immigration, we depart on foreign policy.

We don’t need to invade Iraq based on the unproven assumption that Hussein wants to use terrorists to detonate a nuclear device in a major US city.

Posted by: John T Flynn on October 16, 2002 2:34 PM

My own take on Locke’s coverage of TAC’s first issue is that he has quoted selectively (his prerogative) and rather misleadingly (which is unfortunate). I am not privy to TAC’s editorial decisions, but clearly with the immediacy of the debate over the wisdom of a U.S. invasion of Iraq they are focusing on that. In future issues, I believe TAC will defend the European-American majority culture as such. There will probably also be more coverage of specific immigration issues.

The magazine is a valuable addition; while Mr. Auster probably doesn’t agree with it, Paul Schroeder’s article in the second issue marshalling the moral arguments against U.S. intervention in Iraq is the best I have yet seen. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on October 16, 2002 5:55 PM

Suggestion for the next VFR poll: “Should there be a rapprochement between Larry Auster and Pat Buchanan, based on the saying, ‘Good men can differ on some things’ “?

Their rupture wasn’t because of Buchanan’s opposition to attacking Iraq. As Auster pointed out in that FPM article some months ago, it was because in too many of his writings, Buchanan didn’t accord moral legitimacy to Israel’s “Sharon right,” legitimacy he should have accorded given that the latter were the Israeli counterpart of the side Buchanan favored in the U.S. — the side fighting for ethno-cultural self-preservation and strengthening.

Auster said in that critique that he didn’t fault Buchanan for disagreeing with Sharon-type Israeli policies if he perceived them as not being in the U.S.’s interest. He faulted him, rather, for not even admitting those policies might spring from a point of view that was as LEGITIMATE FOR ISRAEL as its American version (for which Buchanan had always fought) was for the U.S.

Auster’s was a fair criticism of Buchanan and a correct one.

Buchanan should see that, and acknowledge that Auster had a point. The two should reconcile.

One can both oppose the widening of this war beyond Afghanistan (I do) AND see Auster’s other point — the point over which he ruptured with Buchanan — very clearly (I do).

Posted by: Unadorned on October 16, 2002 7:55 PM

The news has now given the anti-war right a valid criticism: Why Iraq? North Korea has now admitted its own WMD program, and South Korean papers are reporting that they’ve already exploded an underground nuke. To top it off, the regime of Kim Jong Il tested a missile in 1999 that can strike Alaska, possibly the Western US. This would appear to be a far more urgent national security priority (along with uncotrolled borders) than Iraq’s WMD program - at least from what those of us in the great unwashed are privy to.

Posted by: Carl on October 18, 2002 7:42 AM

Ah, but Carl, North Korea doesn’t threaten most of the world’s oil supplies.

Posted by: John on October 18, 2002 9:07 AM

I found Locke’s characterization of paleos as (sometimes) espousing “dangerous” and “palpably false ideas” in arguments of no merit intriguing — and I wanted to read on in hopes of understanding.

I read his piece with baited breathe anticipating the moment when he would identify those dangerous and false paleo ideas and provide a point by point refutation with ample wit and wisdom. Needless to say, Mr. Locke hardly delivers on his initial claims. What you do (which he forewarns) find are selected quotations out of context with his comments on why he doesn’t agree with them. He has every right to disagree with them, but simply because he sees things differently hardly means that the other perspective proffers dangerous and false ideas. He, so cavalierly, dismisses a reasonable assertion (I paraphrase) that questions Iraq’s standing as a serious nation-state and its capability to use WMD on the US directly. For Mr. Locke, since Iraq has WMDs that’s enough to justify US pre-emptive aggression. All of the sudden potentiality trumps actuality.

I’ll take the wit and wisdom of George F. Keenan as respects this issue and most other. In an interview with columnist Albert Eisele of “The Hill,” the 98-year-old Kennan stated: there should be a “very, very basic consideration” involved in dealing with Iraq, “[W]henever you have a possibility of going in two ways, either for … peaceful methods or for military methods, in the present age there is a strong prejudice for the peaceful ones. War seldom ever leads to good results.”

“War has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it. Today, if we went into Iraq, like the president would like us to do, you know where you begin. You never know where you are going to end,” warned Kennan.

Moreover, War is fundamentally the least conservative of all human enterprises. By definition — War — destroys and devastates: it leads to revolution and tyranny…

Here’s…Why not war?

Why Not War?
October 3, 2002

by Joe Sobran

Your eyes tend to open and your mind to come awake when you run across your name in print, even in NATIONAL REVIEW. So it was when I read there that I have been “marginalized,” along with Patrick Buchanan and Samuel Francis, because of our false predictions of disaster in the 1991 Gulf War. Conservative opponents of that war,
writes Ramesh Ponnuru, have been discredited by American victory. So we shouldn’t be listened to now.

Trouble is, Ponnuru doesn’t quote our erroneous
predictions, except a brief estimate of “tens of
thousands of U.S. dead” by Buchanan. None of us predicted a U.S. defeat. That wasn’t the point. We thought the war was wrong in principle and, in addition, contrary to American interests. We think the same about the imminent war on Iraq.

Ponnuru does quote erroneous prophecies by Chris
Matthews, Senator Barbara Boxer, Robert Novak, and Senator Paul Wellstone, none of whom have been “marginalized” — or, more accurately, blacklisted. I daresay Buchanan and Francis would agree with me that the conservatives who complain about media bias against them have turned out to be remarkably intolerant of dissent within their own ranks.

The conservative movement, as it exists today,
could have taught the old Communists a thing or two about purges. When “neoconservatism” comes, principled conservatism goes. The sad history of NATIONAL REVIEW bears this out.

The so-called conservatives have become evangelists for war. And war is the least conservative of all human enterprises. By definition, it destroys and devastates.
It also tends to bring revolution and tyranny. And indeed the hawks today want not only military victory, but the overthrow of Arab governments! This fusion of militarism with social engineering would astonish, and appall, thoughtful conservatives of another era.

Even some of the dire predictions of 1991 might
have come true if the first President Bush had followed the hawks’ advice to take the war all the way to Baghdad. “Regime change” then (this evasive phrase hadn’t yet been coined) might well have sent a few thousand Americans home in body bags. But that President Bush had the good
sense to stick to his limited war aim: driving Iraq out of Kuwait. He settled for an easy victory, with few American casualties. I still think that war was wrong, but it could have been far worse.

One of the chief conservative virtues is prudence. That’s not much in evidence today. It’s hard to imagine such conservative icons as Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, James Madison, or Robert Taft, to name a few, eagerly endorsing war after war, in the manner of those who now claim to be their political heirs.

Fear of defeat isn’t the only reason to avoid war, except as a last resort. The chief reason — is it necessary to explain this? — is humanity. Modern warfare means untold suffering, death, mutilation, loss, grief. If you have to inflict all this on largely innocent people, it should be with some sense of regret. That too is conspicuously absent in the hawks these days. They regard war as a thrill (best enjoyed, of course, from afar).

Nobody knows exactly what will happen in any war,
but it’s wise to expect the worst. In 1991 I was afraid that many Americans would die, though I didn’t predict large numbers. But I also feared other things. And here I was, alas, only too correct.

I feared that America would become hated around the world, especially in the Muslim world. I feared the rise of anti-American terrorism (and though 9/11 shocked me, it surprised me not at all). I feared that American arrogance would incur the contempt of civilized men. I feared that war would become an American habit. And I
feared that this habit would only aggravate and
accelerate the corruption of American government, making a return to constitutional rule more remote than ever.

The negative consequences of war aren’t always
immediate and palpable, especially after a seeming victory. Some are slow, subtle, and hard to discern. They may take years to appear, and even then their causes may not be obvious.

Most people will probably never suspect them. How
many Americans, even today, realize the grave distorting effects the Civil War and two world wars have had on the Republic the Founders established? To hear the hawks tell it, all these tragedies offer us nothing but happy endings and glib lessons.

Posted by: MJK on October 18, 2002 11:49 AM

The quoted article ends with the statement: “To hear the hawks tell it, all these tragedies offer us nothing but happy endings and glib lessons.”

I agree that some of the advocates of war on Iraq, or even of a wider war, speak as though such a war will be won effortlessly and without costs. That is not the way I have spoken of it at VFR. I have repeatedly said that I think bad consequences will come from taking military action against Iraq, but that the consequences of not taking action will be worse.

The same is true of past wars. Some very regrettable consequences came from our involvement in World War II, among them the Soviet domination of Eastern and Central Europe, and the ascendancy of liberalism in the West. But the consequences of our not fighting Hitler would have been infinitely worse. Unfortunately many paleocons, just like liberals, have lost the tragic sense of life, and so have lost the ability to make such prudential judgments.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on October 18, 2002 1:12 PM
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