Exchange with a friend on the anti-war right

A friend sent me an article by the vociferous anti-war critic William Lind about the situation in Iraq, and the following exchange ensued:

LA to correspondent:

Sorry for harping on this same point again, but I started reading this Lind article you sent me, and it may be that Lind has worthwhile points, but they are completely undermined by his manifest anti-Americanism, by which I mean his manifest desire to make the U.S. look bad, even against the facts.

For example, he writes:

The pretense that we came to “liberate” the Iraqi people and not as conquerors is no longer credible. Faced with a popular uprising, we effectively declared war on the people of Iraq. The overall American commander, Gen. John Abizaid, “gave a stark warning for the Iraqi fighters, from the minority Sunni as well as the majority Shiite populations,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

” ‘First, we are going to win,’ Abizaid said, seated at a table in a marbled palace hall. … ‘Secondly, everyone needs to understand that there is no more powerful force assembled on Earth than this military force in this country .…’ ”

That is the language of conquest, not liberation, and it destroys the legitimacy of America’s presence in Iraq, both locally and around the world.

Now what Lind is saying here is pure horsefeathers. We are in the act of trying to transfer power to a constitutional Iraqi authority. We are not seeking to dominate that country, but to help it create a true government of its own. That is not possible if armed thugs intent on destroying the constitutinonal transition are engaged in armed insurrection. That armed insurrection must be put down if there is to be any chance of Iraqi self-government. Thus Lind’s gratuitous comment that Abizaid’s remark “destroys the legitimacy of America’s presence in Iraq” is a contemptible piece of anti-Americanism. It would be like saying that if the National Guard came in to quell an urban race riot, that destroyed the legitimacy of America’s claim to democracy and rule of law.

And so it continues, as it has for the last two years. Critical, responsible discussion of the war is vitally needed. But the people on the anti-war right, through their own passionate anti-Americanism, exclude themselves from any such discussion.


Correspondent to LA:

I must disagree with you. Your constant use of neocon tactics, such as describing anyone as anti-American or an America-hater because they disagree with the agenda of remaking the Middle East simply doesn’t fly. I expect that from Safire, Krauthammer, Podhoretz, Kaplan, Prager, Medved, et al. I expect more from you.

You’re not responding to the points. You’re trying to obscure them.

Lind has been far more on-target throughout this whole affair than you and the neo-cons with whom you’ve allied yourself on this issue.

Iraq was not an imminent threat, no WMDs have been found, we have not been welcomed with open arms, AND, we are not trying to give the Iraqi people their country back. You must admit this. We are planning to control the country into the forseeable future. The US plans to keep a permanent garrison in Iraq. That means the self-government you speak of is really a puppet regime. Let us call things as they are.

A case could be made for staying out of this mess.

A case can be made for geostrategic reasons, namely control of a dwindling supply of fossil fuel, to take over the country and beat the hell of anyone who defies us. It is a brutul case, but an honest one.

No case can be made for having American soldiers die for lies. That is truly contemptible.

With best wishes,

LA to correspondent:

You misrepresent what I said, and you are are being entirely typical of the anti-war people in the way you do so. I did not say that Lind is an anti-American or an America-hater simply because he disagrees with the agenda of remaking the Middle East. That is a parody of what I said. I said that Lind’s specific remark was anti-American, and I gave the reason why it is anti-American, namely that it showed a “manifest desire to make the U.S. look bad, even against the facts.”

The fact that you anti-war people can’t grasp the distinction I just made, is the reason why you have been worse than useless in the war debate. If you had made your arguments in a rational, responsible way, instead of taking cheap shots at America’s “legitimacy” and denying the sincerity of its motives, as Lind did here, then more people might have listened to you.

Your conflating me with the neocons is an another typical error of the anti-war people. I have been saying since at least the fall of ‘02 that the Bush/neocon project to set up a democratic Iraqi regime and democratize the Moslem world was utopian and delusional. (See my article “National Defense or Global Empire?”) But it is Bush’s sincere project. It’s what he wants to achieve. And as soon as such an Iraqi government came into existence, and could stand on its own, Bush would be all the happier for that and withdraw our troops.

But people like Lind and you want simultaneously to call Bush a treasonous vicious liar, and be taken seriously in mainstream debate on the war. You can’t have it both ways.

I’ve been saying the same kind of thing over and over to you anti-war people for the last two years, but it’s fallen on deaf ears.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 15, 2004 05:56 PM | Send

That piece was unfortuante because Lind and the whole Fourth Generation Warfare perspective is very apropos of what the paleoconservatives have been saying for years regarding the importance of culture and pre and trans national identities like the tribe, religion, race, etc.

Posted by: roach on April 15, 2004 6:39 PM

It’s not clear what Mr. Roach’s point is.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 15, 2004 6:56 PM

I guess I’m saying that Lind has had some useful and interesting things to say regarding this war and Fourth Generation warfare generally, but that I agree with you that that particular piece was over the top and not well supported by the evidence.

Posted by: roach on April 15, 2004 7:39 PM

I do not believe that Mr. Auster has aligned himself with “neo-cons” on ANY issue. In fact, Mr. Auster has been most viciferously ANTI-neo-con in his many wonderful threads on many months.

Posted by: David Levin on April 15, 2004 8:50 PM

I’ve agreed with the neoconservatives on two particular issues since 9/11: the need to overthrow a certain hostile rogue regime that was developing weapons of mass destruction; and in describing the statements of certain figures on the anti-war right as anti-American and anti-Israel.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 15, 2004 9:07 PM

The piece by Lind is another sign that 90% of all public debate today is conducted in the leftist style. There are two dominant factors in the leftist style:

1) Dwell on motives of your opponents, try to intimidate them, try to silence them, etc., but don’t rationally engage their arguments.

2) Your side is right, the other side is not merely wrong but evil, so whatever slanting of the facts you must do is OK, for the ends justify the means.

With a few changes in references, Lind’s piece could have been published in the leftist magazine Ramparts in 1968 about the Vietnam War.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 15, 2004 9:30 PM

Truthfully, I have had some prolems with Lind ever since he wrote an article condemning television (which, as I understood it, would also condemn the writing of fiction),

even though I have defended him somewhat more than I should have recently on the issue of Haiti on a previous VFR thread.

As for Mr. Lind’s recent column, I would say that the excerpt you print here is anti-American in tone more than in message. I do agree with Lind’s point that the recent putting down of the al-Sadr rebellion (which many believe that we precipitated by shutting down the paper, which I think was a tactical mistake, however morally justifiable the act was) and the siege of Fallujah puts us in the position of conquerors rather than liberators. The problem, however, is not that we shouldn’t have done something against Al-Sadr as much as it is that we should have been more weary of portraying ourselves as liberators in the first place. I don’t think that you can think of the invasion of an independent foreign country (by independent I mean that it is not ruled by a foreign power, as France was when we invaded it in WWII) and the overthrow of its government in terms of “liberation” if you want to have the mindset necessary to actually maintain control of the country.

“Now what Lind is saying here is pure horsefeathers. We are in the act of trying to transfer power to a constitutional Iraqi authority. We are not seeking to dominate that country, but to help it create a true government of its own.”

In Lind’s defense, I would point out that this is dependent on the extent to which one believes that we want ot set up a truly independent Iraqi government.
I’m not certain that we aren’t, but I do not think that it is very farfetched to think that the real goal is to transfer power to an Iraqi lackey, which is what Lind may be assuming.
If, as many people do, Lind views our current policy as projection of power rather than messianic democratism (and for that matter, many see projection of power rather than messianic democratism as the neocon goal, as well), as many do, then the criticisms of the policy will tend to focus more on the administration as deceptive and/or repressive rather than as sincere but deluded.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 16, 2004 2:23 AM

To summarize my previous post, I think that Mr. Lind has some legitimate concerns, but that he phrased them in an unnecessarily hostile way.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 16, 2004 2:28 AM

Mr. Jose is trying to be balanced, but ends up being too charitable to Lind. Our country is currently involved in a mighty effort to help the Iraqis write a transitional constitution (already completed), to buiild up local councils from which candidates would come for the National Assembly, to create a genuine, popularly based government in Iraq, while also helping them build up their infrastructure. It’s a huge, idealistic effort. I’ve very doubtful of the ultimately viability of these efforts. But to doubt the sincerity of the attempt (and not just to doubt it, but to call our government liars, frauds, conquerors disguised as liberators) flies in the face of reality. And that’s why I called it anti-American. What is anti-Americanism? It is simply bigotry as expressed against America. What is bigotry? Bigotry is the desire always to find the worst things to say about the hated object, and is indifferent to evidence to the contrary. Thus the things Lind says about our effort in Iraq are not just “unnecessarily hostile,” as Mr. Jose would have it; they are an expression of convicted bigotry against the American government.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 16, 2004 2:47 AM

Clark Coleman has brought up a point that has been troubling me for some time: the extent to which paleocon and paleolibertarian opponents of the war have become so hysterical that they employ leftist styles of argument, and, even, warmed over anti-Vietnam propaganda slightly updated for Iraq. Paul Craig Roberts’ writings,and many pieces on Rockwell’s website, are cases in point. Even Buchanan sometimes sounds like that. My impression is that, even more curiously, some of these same people are, even now, diehard supporters of the Second Indochina War! As far as I know, Buchanan has never admitted that that war was a blunder. Another interesting point is the extent to which left liberals and leftists have picked up some old rightwing isolationist tropes, notably the argument that Roosevelt plotted the Pearl Harbor disaster. I have seen this more and more on leftist websites over the last year or so. A few months back, the most loud mouthed liberal on the morning TV show, “The View” repeated this idea. A most interesting, and alarming, exchange of bad ideas….

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 16, 2004 3:24 PM

I think the problem with Mr. Lind is that, like many anti-warriors, he is arguing against the ideas of pro-war ideologues rather than against the actual administration policy. A lot of the rhetorical battle between the anti- and pro-war sides has actually consisted of columnists and think-tank wonks battling with each other’s views rather than dealing with the actual policies of our leaders.
One result of this is the conspiratorial idea of the anti-warriors that our policy is being controlled from behind the scenes by a shadowy cabal. Another is the conviction of many pro-warriors that an anti-American elite at the State Department is somehow preventing the long-awaited worldwide democratic revolution.

Ideologically, I think that the neoconservative segment of the pro-warriors can be broken down into the idealistic messianic democratists, and the ruthless power-projectors. The former are genuinely interested in worldwide democratic revolution for its own sake, and include Paul Wolfowitz, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Ledeen, and Rush Limbaugh. The latter use the rhetoric of democracy as a way to project offensive American power. They include Richard Perle, Jed Babbin, and James Woolsey.
Many in the latter group of neoconservatives, I think, were more interested in installing puppets (particularly Ahmed Chalabi and the INC) in as the leader of Iraq than in figuring out a way to get a genuinely Iraqi-backed government off the ground. (Not that Michael Ledeen and others in the first camp didn’t like Chalabi, but they never seemed as committed to him).

Lind overestimates their influence, I think, and so assumes that this is the Bush policy.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 16, 2004 6:03 PM

Very interesting comment by Mr. Jose. Is this a high-quality weblog, or what?

I’ve often remarked that the anti-war right has acted as though the specific policy preferences of, say, Norman Podhoretz were identical with the president’s own policy. But this was a fantasy. Podhoretz, like others, was seeking to get his own preferences accepted, and, like everyone in this game, getting some things he liked, but not getting others, not by a long shot. I believe the anti-warriors wrongheadly conflated the neocons and the president out of sheer anti-neocon bigotry. That way they could construct a picture in which Podhoretz et al. weren’t just people who were seeking, as everyone does, to advance their own views; they were the sinister force secretly running America.

I’m not denying the neocons’ actual influence. But it was overstated by the anti-warriors.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 16, 2004 6:16 PM

Michael Jose’s general point, and his division of the neocons into two different groups, seems to be on target. However, Ledeen, in my estimate, belongs to the “realist” school, and is a rather unpleasant customer.

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 16, 2004 6:46 PM

Mr. Levine, I don’t think it’s right to make a personal attack on someone as an “unpleasant customer” without making it clear what one is talking about. Ledeen’s advocacy of “democratic revolution” is well known and is obviously objectionable to traditionalists. But what about him makes him an “unpleasant customer”?

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 16, 2004 6:51 PM

Some of Ledeen’s writings, notably “Debacle,” have distort historical facts to suit the policies he favors. He has also spread malicious rumors about some paleocons.

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 17, 2004 11:58 AM

This is unacceptably vague.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 17, 2004 2:39 PM

Although for some reason I have always found Michael Ledeen to be a particularly annoying neoconservative (I think it’s his closing line “faster, please”), I cannot in good conscience look at him as a cynical man with an ulterior motive the way I look at Richard Perle. However, one or two things he has written might get him labeled an “unpleasant customer.”

On the first point: Ledeen is so idealistic that he actually suggested that if we had started earlier, that we could have overthrown Saddam without a war by trying to set up democratic governments in the no-fly zones. (I can’t find the article immediately, probably because National Review has a screwed-up archive that doesn’t go before 2003).
Granted, this involved the INC, but it was a far cry from Woolsey and Perle’s determination to militarily force them into power.

Of course, Ledeen has written some things that I find rather ignorant. For example, in this piece:
he suggests that France and Germany not only were against the war in Irtaq because they feared the expansion of US power (which is a reasonable interpretation of their actions), but that they actually encouraged terrorist groups to attack the US as a way of weakening us.
Moreover, he ignores the fact that the majority of the French and the German people opposed the war, and implies that the countries’ governments are ignoring the will of their people by not helping us more (read the last full paragraph of the piece). This is especially ironic when you consider the fact that the public opposed the war in Iraq in most of the countries whose governments supported us.

I’m not certain if Ledeen was being deceitful or just ignorant, but that column was one heck of a misfire (most likely, he was angry and didn’t bother to think about whether everything he said made sense).

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 17, 2004 4:26 PM

Mr. Lind, who I respect greatly, has fallen off the cliff here.
Aside from the anti-American anti-Imperialist tone reminicent of the anti-War lectures at Columbia these days, he simply ignores many of the facts on the ground. Lind is correct in noting that many anti-Sadr Iraqis do not like America. The fact is that they do not trust us after Gulf War I. The Shi’ites rose up with our blessing and were then slaughtered. They were brutalized for the next decade, while American jets flew overhead. Those Iraqis who do trust our intentions, do not neccesarily trust our resolve. For all they know, we will start pulling out on February 1 2005, if not July 1, 2004.
On the other hand, Lind completely ignores foreign elements in Iraq. Sadr is a proxy for the Iranians. His Mehdi Army has Iranian advisors, if not soldiers. Hezbollah units who earned their stirpes fighting the israelis are pouring into Iraq.

This is not Vietnam. However, their are some lessons to be learned from that conflict. We must cut off Iranian aid. This means troops on the borders, if not aiding the opposition in Iran.
We should threaten to blockade both Iran and Syria if they continue their virtual invasion. Perhaps then, the locals will overthrow the despots.

Posted by: RonL on April 19, 2004 3:25 AM

In reply to RonL, “troops on the borders” and “blockade both Syria and Iran” sounds like a prescription for the reinstatement of the draft. Bush better wait until about mid-November to announce that one.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 19, 2004 3:37 AM

Questions for RonL (and for anyone else who wants to talk about it):

(1) Do you think that the majority of Iraqis want a democracy?
(2) Do you think that part of the reason we abandoned the Shiites earlier was because we didn’t want them taking over Iraq, and that perhaps the Shiites and the US still have conflicting interests (i.e. the problem is more than just a lack of trust).
(3) Do you really think that if the people of Iran and Syria overthrew their governments, that the Iraqi resistance would significantly decrease? (My theory has always been that the Iraqis were a lot less friendly than most pro-war pundits claimed they were, and once that fact became apparent, they had to shift the blame for the resistance to “foreign fighters” so they could keep insisting that the Iraqis love us.)

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 19, 2004 11:59 AM

To Mr. Jose’s questions, I would answer no, yes, no. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on April 19, 2004 12:54 PM

Lind has not fallen off of any cliffs, although our short-sighted civilian defense apparat and careerist generals in Washington and the Middle East may be about to. Lind is an eccentric of sorts, but someone who sees things as they are and draws intelligent conclusions. That, no doubt, is why he is so unwelcome in establishment Washington. I almost always agree with Mr. Coleman, but his comparing Lind’s observations to something that might have appeared in Ramparts, ca. 1968, is ridiculous. Likewise, Mr. Auster’s characterizing Lind’s writing as somehow anti-American is demeaning - to Mr. Auster. Anti-neocon - anti-Bush - sure; anti-American, no.

As someone who knows Lind slightly, I find aspersions of his patriotism ludicrous and insulting. Lind is less than thrilled by today’s America because he remembers a better one - rather like many a VFR contributor. Lind’s interest in defense matters derives from a genuine interest in strategy and the tactics needed to make strategy succeed, and from a soft spot for the armed forces (especially the Marine Corps, God bless him). Lind wants the Americans to win - but he wants us to pick the right fights for America and know what it takes to win them. I agree.

I first met Lind in the summer of 1981, when I was a green 2nd Lt. and acting commanding officer of a Marine rifle company (Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5), 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California). 3/5 was then preparing for a unit rotation to the Western Pacific. 3/5’s CO was Lt. Col. LC Hayes, a hardened Vietnam veteran who had met and come to admire Lind while at the National Warfare College in 1980. At Hayes’ invitation, Lind visited 3/5. His concern at the time was maneuver warfare, of which he thought the WWII German Army and the Israel Defense Forces (through the Yom Kippur War) were masters, and at which he feared the U.S. Army (and Marine Corps) were deficient. Those officers who paid attention learned a lot from him, and I believe he was right.

Space does not permit a discussion here of maneuver warfare. Suffice to say that Gen. Alfred Gray, probably the most dynamic Commandant of the Marine Corps in recent times, thought that there was a lot to Lind’s (and by extension the late Col. John Boyd, USAF’s) ideas and implemented many of them. I think the successes of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions in Kuwait in 1991 and the 1st Marine Division in the Spring 2003 invasion of Iraq validate the Marine Corps’ embrace of maneuver war concepts. The manner in which we are currently bogged down in Iraq - and Afghanistan - validates Lind’s Forth Generation Warfare concerns. For those really interested, Lind’s Maneuver Warfare Handbook is available from Amazon (

Lind’s current focus is on what he calls Fourth Generation Warfare. Lind thinks the Defense Department and the U.S. armed forces do not understand what we are up against in a post-Soviet world. Again, I agree. A good example of Lind’s thinking, and of how he looks deeper into problems than most in the Pentagon and the defense think tanks, is the column he posted after the one that provoked Mr. Auster’s exchange: In fact the whole Defense and the National Interest site is well worth looking at: HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on April 22, 2004 10:32 PM

I stand by what I said about Lind. Lind does not write in the mannner of a man who cares about his country, criticizes it where it is going wrong, and wants to see it do better; he writes as an angry bitter man who looks for every opportunity to paint his country, his government, in the most negative, contemptuous colors. The comparison to leftists is appropriate. If Lind and other anti-war paleos don’t want to be called anti-American, if they want people to be more open to their substantive ideas, they should think about changing their tone. Mr. Sutherland is indefeasibly blind to this problem himself, and so he naturally thinks that people like me are being terribly unfair to Lind.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 23, 2004 12:07 AM

Contempt for one’s government, or for much of what it does, is not the same as contempt for one’s country. Surely Mr. Auster and most VFR regulars appreciate the difference, as we bash the federal government’s insane policies regularly in the hope of having some slight effect toward changing them for the better.

In the same way, contempt for destructive trends in one’s society is not the same as wholesale contempt for that society. Granted, one could fall into such pessimism and disdain that one would write the whole country and society off. If so, one would hardly bother to look for ways to restore or improve them. Lind works for improvement, and restoration of a real martial spirit, in the areas he knows well. He may handicap himself a bit by speaking with a bluntness that generally doesn’t bother Marines, who pride themselves on being hard-edged, but might bother others - point taken. Most of Lind’s writing is for a fairly discrete audience. If Lind were as angry and bitter as Mr. Auster presumes (he gave no sign of being so when I last saw him, about six months ago), he would have given up long ago.

As I said above, in an area very important to our country, her defense, Lind has been very constructive - despite long odds of his having any effect. The battlefield results I cite above, which owe a great deal to the Marine Corps’ acceptance of maneuver warfare concepts under General Gray, are proof enough that Lind has made a valuable contribution to the United States. If the armed forces truly learn some of what he is trying to teach about fourth-generation warfare, he will have made another. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on April 23, 2004 9:03 AM

“He may handicap himself a bit by speaking with a bluntness that generally doesn’t bother Marines, who pride themselves on being hard-edged, but might bother others - point taken.”

I have been around these discussions for a while, and I don’t think my tender sensibilities are too offended by bluntness. I do not accuse Lind of being anti-American, but I do accuse him of using the leftist style of political discourse, in which one distorts the truth as long as the distortion serves whatever greater goal one has in mind; and, speculation about the motives of one’s opponents plays a key role in debate. Lind exhibits both of these leftist habits. (As I pointed out, this style is infecting the entire political spectrum.)

To be specific: In Lind’s article, he claims that there was only a “pretense” of liberating Iraq, while our actions are proving us to be “conquerors” and not liberators. The use of the word “pretense” implies that he knows the true motives of those he criticizes, and those motives have been hidden. This is leftist style discourse. It is perfectly plausible that the administration thinks that they will build democracy in Iraq by reconstruction, starting local councils, getting a draft constitution written, etc. Many of us are doubtful about the prospects for success. I stated that I don’t think neocons, or Bush, understand our own heritage deeply enough to know how hard it is to duplicate elsewhere. But I don’t claim that they are merely “pretending” to establish democracy in Iraq. How would I know that? How would Lind know that?

As a matter of historical fact, the anti-war Left, in 1991, claimed that we were only interested in making Kuwait an oil-pumping colony of the U.S. We liberated them and then left them to run their own country. Yet the anti-war Left and Right today make similar claims about Iraq. It seems much more reasonable to assume that the administration thinks it can rebuild Iraq, democratize it, then leave; we can all disagree with the feasibility of their plan without questioning motives.

Lind goes on to say that we shut down al-Sadr’s newspaper because it was “printing lies”. The lie is Mr. Lind’s. We shut down the newspaper, wisely or not, because it was openly advocating the killing of coalition troops, not because it was “printing lies”. If Mr. Sutherland wants to defend Lind’s lying on this point as mere “bluntness”, fine. It is exactly the kind of distortion of the truth carried out by the anti-war Left, both today and in the Vietnam era, hence my comparison to Ramparts and its ilk.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 23, 2004 9:58 AM

I can’t fathom why people don’t just take George W. Bush at his word. If ever there was someone who just tells you what he thinks it is Bush. That doesn’t mean that what he thinks is right, or rational, or morally coherent, or politically prudent, or anything else; but it is what he really thinks.

That is part of what makes writers like Lind into such a blatant self-parody. The straightforwardness and candor that many Europeans see in Bush and detest is something the antiwar Right cannot even admit exists.

There was a skit on television many, many years ago parodying Ronald Reagan. It showed him acting in his affectionate, “I don’t remember” almost bumbling manner in front of the cameras; but as soon as the doors shut he turned into a ruthlessly efficient tyrant with a grasp of every single detail of every single fact, engaged in frenetic micromanagement and a web of complex covert activities.

The antiwar Right wants to see Bush that way: as a nefarious and devious figure behind closed doors.

I am afraid it is even worse than you think, gentlemen. When it comes to Bush, what you see is exactly what you get.

At least that is my read of him.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2004 10:18 AM

Mr. Coleman: “We liberated them [the Kuwaiti’s] and then left them to run their own country.”

This is where I get hung up. Did we leave? Didn’t some armed US personnel stay behind, on US controlled bases? And if so, doesn’t it make you wonder who is really in charge?

Posted by: Chris Collins on April 23, 2004 11:11 AM

My analysis of President Bush differs in one respect from Matt’s. I agree that there is no more intelligent private Bush than the public Bush one sees in press appearances. However, to quote myself (sorry), while the private Bush is no smarter than the public one, Bush is sly. I’m not convinced that what he says is always what he means, or all that he means. As a Middle Eastern example, he may believe most of what he says about the Arabs’ hunger for Western-style democracy. Still, I do not believe that the interests of the Texas oil-patch crowd, of whom the Bush family and many of their retainers are prominent members, are absent from his Middle Eastern policy making. GW Bush has never been averse to making a profit - or to having someone make one for him. Similarly, his reckless favoritism re Mexico and Mexicans dovetails nicely with the interests and views of much of the Texas oligarchy, with whom he and his family are very closely linked, and - he thinks - with his family’s political fortunes. I doubt he thinks all those Mexicans can be “Americanized,” and I doubt he cares.

American control of oil supplies and all that flows from that control - including profit for those poised to benefit from it - are vital, if not always explicit, factors in our aggressive Middle Eastern policy. A curious thing, and here I part ways with some paleo critics of Bush, is that I believe the common cause Bush and the oil-patch crowd are making with largely Jewish neocons is purely tactical. Bush is no dispensationalist; he doesn’t much care what happens to Israel one way or the other, beyond the effect of Israel’s fate on Bushrovican electoral prospects. The fact that he cares for other reasons about American hegemony in the Middle East makes him useful to Israel’s neocon American advocates. Their strident and sometimes eloquent interventionist rhetoric makes them useful to him. If the Iraq adventure fails, the NY/DC neocons will dump Bush. If a pro-Israeli tilt in U.S. foreign policy hurts Bush he will (at least try to) dump them.

In all, I don’t believe Bush is transparent. He may not be nefarious (although in his role as Vicente Fox’s man in Washington I believe he is) but he’s not too dumb to be devious. A belief that Bush is not entirely honest, that the devoted Christian/heartland Texan persona is a front for a man moved - as most are - by a variety of interests, some personal and pecuniary, may contribute the vitriol of such as Lind. I know Bush often has that effect on me. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on April 23, 2004 12:01 PM

In reply to Chris Collins: (1) We stayed behind in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and even in nearby Qatar, because the threat of Saddam had not disappeared. The Saudis in particular suffered political dissent within their own country because of it, but they calculated that it was far better to avoid trouble with Saddam than to have us leave. You will notice that we began pulling troops out of Saudi Arabia shortly after Baghdad fell. The same concerns were shared by the governments of Kuwait and Qatar. You might be able to understand the concern of the Kuwaiti government, with Saddam still in power.

(2) We have troops in South Korea and Germany, among other places, yet no one questions who is running those countries. Do you have any evidence that we are running Kuwait or Qatar?

(3) The Philippines had a referendum on asking the U.S. to leave many years ago, and we respected their wishes and left behind some very valuable military bases. We transferred the Panama Canal Zone back to Panama, amidst great dissent at home. We transferred control of Okinawa back to Japan. We granted independence to the Philippines after winning it in a war, and engaged in a nation-building effort there for decades in order to be able to do so. We granted independence to Cuba, another prize from the same war. We have considered granting independence to Puerto Rico, but they are not sure they want it. We conquered numerous Pacific Islands in World War II, and restored their independence after the war ended.

Perhaps someone could show me which country in the history of the earth has a similar record of relinquishing, without a fight, lands it has conquered, rather than building them into an empire?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 23, 2004 12:05 PM

In reply to Mr. Coleman:

So we didn’t leave, in the sense that all Americans departed, but we left in the sense that we no longer controlled their countries. Ok.

But wouldn’t the bases constitute influence?

Posted by: Chris Collins on April 23, 2004 1:07 PM

Mr. Sutherland wrote:

“Mr. Auster’s characterizing Lind’s writing as somehow anti-American is demeaning - to Mr. Auster.”

Mr. Sutherland has been posting at VFR almost from its start two years ago. During those two years, I have repeatedly described certain figures on the anti-war right (as well as on the left) as “anti-American,” including the editors of The American Conservative, certain contributors to The American Conservative, Lew Rockwell, and so on. Whether one agrees with me or not, my reasons for using that term in relation to these people have been reasoned and principled. I have never just thrown around labels. When I call someone “anti-American” (or any other strong term of that nature), I define what I mean, and I give examples. I have done this over and over. But now Mr. Sutherland suddenly discovers that this long-held and oft-repeated view of mine is “demeaning.” If he regards the position of the host of this site, where he has been an active participant in our collegial discussions for two years, as “demeaning,” then the question arises why he wants to post here at all. I hope Mr. Sutherland will consider retracting his remark.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 23, 2004 1:31 PM

“But wouldn’t the bases constitute influence?” Bases where? England? Germany? South Korea? Or just in the Middle East?

What I am asking is for an end to the double standard in talking about these places. We kept bases in Europe because of the Soviet threat. The decline of that threat has led to a reduction in forces posted in Europe, and debate over closing them completely. However, it is also the case that forces posted in Germany and Italy can reach the Middle East faster than forces stationed in the USA. That was a secondary benefit, and one that has not disappearred with the old Soviet Union.

Likewise, we kept forces posted in the Middle East because Saddam was still a threat. And, they were closer to any potential troubles in the area, Saddam-related or otherwise, as a secondary benefit.

Is there anything sinister or even objectionable in any of this? I don’t see any point to the discussion. If you want to say something specific about America’s role in the Mideast, say it and provide justification for it.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 23, 2004 2:10 PM

I don’t agree with Mr. Sutherland that Bush sees himself as advancing his personal interests, and the interests of his Mexican clan, over the interests of the nation. I think that to the extent Bush does things that prioritize oil interests or Mexican interests he himself thinks he is advancing the propositional America to which he is dedicated. Mr. Sutherland’s pop-psychoanalysis of Bush would leave Bush with an internal conflict that he resolves by subordinating his duty as President to his clan interests. In my own pop-psychoanalysis of Bush there is no such internal dissonance; in fact I think avoiding that internal dissonance is primary.

And in fact I think this difference in presumption is part of what Mr. Coleman referred to as leftist rhetoric: an attack on the motivations and honesty of an interlocutor (in this case Bush) rather than (or perhaps only in addition to, but it has the same discrediting effect) on the substance of his positions.

Leftists do not want to believe that their opposition is in earnest. They want to believe that their opposition is a bunch of exploitive bigoted ignorant liars. We conservatives *ought* to oppose our enemies because we think our enemies are *wrong*; objectively wrong in substance, proceeding from a faulty world view, perhaps incoherent in motive, or whatever. And they are wrong — fatally, objectively so. We don’t have to postulate that they are lying about what they say they believe - in large part because they are *not* lying about what they say they believe.

For a leftist world-view, though, at bottom there isn’t an objective right and wrong that can be appealed to in politics (in private perhaps, but not in politics); there is only a nominalist conflict of wills. As a result the leftist becomes the liar he says that his adversary is, falsely imputing all kinds of nefarious motives and conspiratorial subterfuge on him.

This leftist rhetoric is the end result of a nominalist political world view, and ought to be expected of liberals. It is a natural consequence of the view that politics just resolves conflict between equally valid opinions: if opinions are equally valid then the only way to trump your opponent is to claim that he doesn’t really have a genuine political opinion. He must be a sick liar, an untermensch oppressor, asserting his “opinions” dishonestly in an attempt to exploit.

But in a bizarre twist, portions of the Right have now become domninated by this sort of rhetoric. What that says to me is that the Right has now fully surrendered to the Left: the long defeat has been fought, and we have not lost on the field of battle with our sword still in hand, cross upon our bosom, having struggled all the way to the death. No. We have just thrown in the towel and adopted the fundamental world view of our enemy. The rhetoric of the antiwar Right (and of neoconfederate and paleo movements in general) represent the rainbow flag of surrender.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2004 2:16 PM

That’s a most interesting analysis by Matt. In the more recent writings of Paul Craig Roberts - especially on the subject of the Iraq war - one notices much of the same language and accusations of dishonesty that are typically present in leftist anti-war screeds, even to the point of repeating the leftist accusation that US policies have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children since the end of Gulf War I.

Is this really a case of Paleos adapting a leftist worldview, or an example of the constant erosion of intellectual standards resulting in the adaptation of leftist methodology in political debate? With liberals and leftists in control of the institutions of western society, perhaps certain Paleos feel a need to carry on the debate in the prevailing lingua franca - not realizing that they are in fact surrendering so much in the process.

Posted by: Carl on April 23, 2004 5:38 PM

I seem not to have made myself clear in a number of instances, for which I apologize.

To Matt:
I don’t think President Bush sees himself as advancing his personal interests, and those of his family, over the interests of the nation. He probably doesn’t see them as in conflict. He declines to mention those personal and family interests, which is disingenuous but hardly surprising. It can be a little hard to take as clean and sober Governor Bush was so carefully presented to us all as the morally upright candidate of faith and family after the debauched (which indeed he was) President Clinton. I agree with Matt that President Bush gives us plenty to criticize if we stick just to his actions, so perhaps our analysis of his thinking is a waste of time.

To Mr. Auster:
In VFR postings you have characterized a number of people (or their words, actions…) as anti-American. Often I agree with you, and I don’t dispute your right, as a patriotic American, to say that when you think it fits. I know you don’t make the charge casually. Demeaning was the wrong word to use, and I was thinking only of your application of the appellation to Lind. If it appeared that I was saying that you demean yourself by calling anyone anti-American, that certainly was not my meaning. I agree with you completely when you say that of Senator Kerry, for one example. While I disagree when you say it of Patrick Buchanan, for another, I understand your reasons for saying it of him. I believe you are very wrong about Lind, who has served America very well. That is all. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on April 23, 2004 5:42 PM

Mr. Coleman:

There is something objectionable to our worldwide collection of bases. It is undeniable that the bases influence the rulers and the people, for good or ill. And we usually don’t leave after a few years. Correct or not, the bases are perceived as symbols of conquest by the many in the ME. Being perceived thusly, they provide motivation rationale for attack. At the same time, as Auster noted in his 2002 article, the bases are rightly or wrongly perceived as costly imperial overstretch by many in the US. So I’m just wondering, how many bases and how many years would constitute undue influence or a counterproductive waste or something else?

Meanwhile we can’t fix the border/immigration situation. To the extent we don’t control immigration, we let slip an opportunity to mitigate the amount of force we need to use in the ME.

Thus liberate-and-leave needs to be qualified. The anti-war left and right recognize the phrase for what it is: an unknown ideal. When other conservatives fail to acknowledge that criticism, a chance for conversion is squandered.

Posted by: Chris Collins on April 23, 2004 5:50 PM

Matt’s comment contains several brilliant observations, among which is:

” … if opinions are equally valid then the only way to trump your opponent is to claim that he doesn’t really have a genuine political opinion.”

This is illuminating. It explains why liberals, who believe in the equality of all opinions, must banish and silence all opinions they don’t like. This is because the belief in the equal validity of all opinons destroys the basis for determining which opinions are more true or less true than other opinions; thus it destroys rationality itself. Rational discussion cannot be allowed, because that would lead to the conclusion that opinions are not all equal.

But what remaining grounds of distinction does this leave as between good opinions and bad opinions? The only remaining ground of distinction it leaves is to say that bad opinions are not genuine opinions, but mere fronts for greed, selfishness, hatred, contempt, haughtiness (a favorite term of abuse of Sen. Kerry’s, which he habitually uses against the U.S. government and Republicans), bigotry, white supremacy, etc. etc. Political correctness is thus the liberal’s substitute for the rationality that he has banished in the name of equality.

All human beings, insofar as they are human beings who want to live, need to make distinctions between good and bad, true and untrue. But liberalism banishes the language of goodness and truth. The ultimate irony is that the very people who believe in the equal goodness of all mankind end up saying that the great majority of mankind, or rather the great majority of their own countrymen, are evil. Ten years ago a New York Times editorial said that the “farthest far right” supported sending Haitian refugees back to Haiti. But, as I said in a letter to the Times which they declined to publish (I guess it wasn’t a “genuine” opinion), since polls reported that 67 percent of Americans supported sending the Haitians back, that meant that, according to the Times, two thirds of the American people were on the “farthest far right.”

Thus, pursuing a sentiment of love for all mankind, the liberal ends up hating all mankind.

By the way, Matt’s phrase, “a nominalist conflict of wills,” is beautifully expressed.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 23, 2004 6:16 PM

“Thus, about ten years ago the New York Times said that the “farthest far right” supported sending Haitian refugees back to Haiti. “

Yep. I do.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 23, 2004 6:28 PM

“Thus liberate-and-leave needs to be qualified. The anti-war left and right recognize the phrase for what it is: an unknown ideal.”

Yes, it is an unknown ideal, except for all the examples I gave, which have been ignored by all those who engage in the kind of anti-war rhetoric we are talking about here. Cuba, Philippines, Okinawa, numerous Pacific Islands, etc.

I asked for examples of other powers in recent history doing the same and have received no response. But, let us not be impeded by facts.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 23, 2004 6:44 PM

Re Matt’s comment about the antiwar right seeing Bush as a devious nefarious figure behind closed doors: Some of them may see him this way, but many, probably most, seem to see the man as a puppet of the neocons, and don’t seem to take Bush himself very seriously. Paul Craig Roberts, for example, often makes noises of this sort. My own reading of Bush is close to that of Howard Sutherland.

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 23, 2004 7:02 PM

I think Matt’s point about “liberate-and-leave” being unrealistic is well-taken.
Mr. Coleman uses the Philippines, Okinawa, and Cuba as an example of “liberate-and-leave.”
“We granted independence to the Philippines after winning it in a war, and engaged in a nation-building effort there for decades in order to be able to do so.”
Which means, precisely, that we did not “liberate-and-leave,” but rather stayed on for nearly fifty years.
We occupied Okinawa for more than 25 years.
As for Cuba, we maintained a right to intervene in its internal affairs for 35 years.
Whether these countries wanted us to stay or not, the point is that in each of these cases, “liberation” usually involves a long-term presence or at least commitment to the country.

“We granted independence to the Philippines after winning it in a war, and engaged in a nation-building effort there for decades in order to be able to do so.”

This seems to be a roundabout way of saying that we occupied the country for several decades.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 23, 2004 7:19 PM

I think the concenr that Mr. Lind has is whether the US will allow any government to take power in Iraq that does not see eye-to-eye with the US on foreign policy.

Bush can certainly be sincere about wanting to hand Iraq over to the Iraqis based on a Pollyannaish belief that they want what we want, and still wind up betraying his ideal of “liberating and democratizing Iraq” by making certain that an Iraqi government tows our line.

All that is necessary is for interest groups to convince him that their desires are really the Iraqi’s desires.

Remember, the transitional government coming into power in July will have no legislative authority. It is not unreasonable to think that the administration has enough cognitive dissonance to conquer a poeple while talking of liberation.

I’ll re-read the article to be sure, but I wonder if Mr. Lind was looking at the government as deliberately consciously lying as much as he was saying that it believed something that was a lie, that is, it lied to itself.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 23, 2004 7:33 PM

Michael Jose’s post of 7:19 PM seems to be ignorant of the entire context of our discussion. We are discussing whether the anti-war Right is adopting the style, and even repeating some of the same statements, as the anti-war Left. In that context, I pointed out that the history of warfare has been that the conquering nation turns the conquered nation into a colony or province and keeps it until it loses that land by force. On the contrary, the USA has won wars and given back the territory in a relatively short time, measured by historical parallels and not by “internet time”.

The USA started democratizing the Philippines almost immediately after seizing it. Democratization takes a very long time; hence my doubts about its feasibility in Iraq. The citizens of the USA do not have the patience for a 40-year project, as in the Philippines, and there is the added difference that the Filipinos were happy to rid themselves of an overseas colonial master, namely Spain. I think that I know enough about the history there to not need the results of your latest web search.

If you would care to read and understand the context of the discussion, you will see that my point stands uncontradicted, as much time as has been wasted beating around the periphery of it. The USA does not have a history of trying to build an overseas empire, and in fact has an unusual history of making friends with the defeated, helping them rebuild their country, training them for democratic independence, etc. THEREFORE, when anti-war blabbermouths start bleating about how we are trying to take over the world, or the Middle East, or just Iraq, as part of our lust for conquest or empire, then they are speaking in contradiction of known historical patterns. Why they wish to twist the facts in order to cast a negative light on their own country can best be answered by them.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on April 23, 2004 7:51 PM

I suppose I should point out that saying that Bush is a puppet of the nefarious neocons creates the same rhetorical dynamic as saying that Bush himself is nefarious. This is also typical of leftism: the opposition must be either an evil lying oppressor bent on exploitation, or the dupe of evil lying oppressors bent on exploitation, or in some other way disqualified from having an actual opinion. It isn’t possible for the opposition to be just objectively wrong, because in liberal politics there is no objective right and wrong; just a competing assertion of wills that all have to be treated equally.

So Bush is sly and disingenuous, but he’s also a dupe. That allows us to ignore his actual world-view, the driver of his actual opinions and actions.

I understand why leftists approach political conflict that way: because to a leftist there can’t be any such thing as actual political conflict. That would imply the necessity of an objective judgement that some opinions are wrong and others are right, independent of what anyone happens to assert, so the whole equality project goes out the window.

What I don’t understand is why so many on the right have, to all appearances at least, succombed to that way of thinking.

Also, just as a point of protocol, Mr. Jose attributed the “liberate and leave” comment to me, but it was actually posted by Mr. Collins.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2004 9:00 PM

Matt is on a tear today, with one great insight after another. As to his last question, “What I don’t understand is why so many on the right have, to all appearances at least, succumbed to that [leftist] way of thinking,” let me try an answer.

The paleo conservatives and Buchananites felt their country had been taken away from them and that they had come under the rule of an alien force whom they could not successfully oppose. This experience, or feeling, turned them psychologically into bitter “victims” who saw the world divided between untermenschen oppressors (the neocons) and ubermenschen oppressed (themselves). For the ubermenschenen oppressed, all rules are off, anything is allowed, because they have no power. Since they have no power, they’re not responsible, so they can say anything. Expressing resentment and hatred for the untermenschen oppressors becomes the core of their political being.

The upshot is that the paleos, while not literally becoming leftists, took on the typical pneumopathology of leftists.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 23, 2004 9:52 PM

Liberals believe in objective right and wrong and do not believe competing wills must be treated equally. The liberal believes, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.” This is an objective truth to the liberal. Failure to believe this truth is wrong to a liberal, who might class disagreement as hate speech.

Liberals do not believe competing wills must be treated equally. Propose men are more or less unequal morally, physically, or intellectually, and the liberal will dispute you as though the liberal’s view was, well, self-evident.

Posted by: P Murgos on April 23, 2004 11:18 PM

I agree with Mr. Murgos that liberals forcefully reject as unacceptable in any debate any view which denies core liberal beliefs. In other words, they are intolerant of “intolerance”. However, if all men are equal (the same), then it follows that all men’s opinions are of the same value and all men’s wills should be of the same force. What is the reaction of liberals if “free and equal” men reject liberalism? Do they accept the non-liberal views of those they proclaim are their equals? Obviously they do not. Rather than implicitly deny the equality of man by saying that some man’s opinion is wrong — that it is is inferior, liberals often defend liberalism by employing a variety of _ad hominem_ arguements against their opponents. They might say, for example, that their oppontent is a dupe, is a “homophobe”, is stupid, greedy, racist , or superstitious (that is to say, he is a Christian who takes the Faith seriously).

Posted by: Joshua on April 24, 2004 1:40 AM

Would someone—any of you—explain to me just “who” you are collectively or singularly referring to as “the paleos”? Isn’t that a term from the prehistoric era describes the periods of the coming of certain fishes/invertebrates (as in “Paleozoic”)? Am I to understand that these political “paleos” are thus “spineless”, fish-like creatures we trad. conservatives should be wary of? I believe I am correct in assuming the “neocons” are the NR boys, Tucker Carlson and the father-and-son team, the Kristols, among others.

Incidentally, I hope my previous posts—wherein I stated that I want us out of Iraq before “another Vietnam” occurs—did NOT make me appear to be one of those spineless “paleos” or “anti-war Rightists” referred to generously in this thread. I was in favor of the invasion and am not “anti-war”. I have actually mentioned in other posts how I wanted “…Fallujah and if necessary, Najef ‘carpet bombed’ after giving the population 24 hours to get out”. That is hardly the m.o. of an anti-war individual. Instead, maybe that makes me…a Neanderthal!

Posted by: David Levin on April 24, 2004 4:57 AM

Since my above post, I have become somwhat “enlightened”, so please forgive the above post about “what is a paleoconservative”.

I found Rachel Alexander’s May 2, 2003 column titled “The New Conservative Divide: Paleocons versus Neocons” at very informative. So, Pat Buchanan and others on the anti-Israel/anti-War Right are whom some at VFR are alluding to with the term “paleos”. I assume the “neocons” are the Bill Kristols and Michael Ledeens and Tucker Carlsons.

What and whom Ms. Alexander’s column leaves out are, I gather, most of us at VFR who are neither “paleos” NOR “neocons”! So, are trad. conservatives the THIRD conservative sector, completely separate from the other two?

Please enlighten me.

Posted by: David Levin on April 24, 2004 5:55 AM

Paleoconservative can be used in a narrower or a wider sense. In the wider sense it means traditional conservative. This includes a belief in the transcendent and an adherence to the traditional culture of Western civilization as a means through which transcendence is communicated to us, and a belief in local government and the original federalist structure of the United States. Patrick Buchanan is not a paleocon since he’s never been associated with any critique of big government. His background was more Cold War, anti-Communist Catholic. Also, I’m not aware that his editor, Scott McConnell, has ever been a supporter of the paleocon vision of decentralized government. That’s why, when I refer to the anti-war right, I often speak, not just of “paleocons,” but of “paleocons and Buchananites.”

In the narrower sense, at least to me, paleoconservative means those who share the views of Chronicles magazine. I called myself a paleoconservative for a while but then I began to realize that paleocons were not just for the original federalist structure of America, they were pro-Confederates who denied the legitimacy of post Civil War America. I also split with them over their opposition to the Gulf War, over their reactive opposition to virtually any U.S. military action abroad, over their hostility to Israel, and over what I see as their politics of resentment and hatred, a hatred that at times now seems to include America itself; I and others at this site have repeatedly remarked that the palecons seem to hate Israel and the neocons more than they love America. As a further example of what I mean, look up my article at VFR in which I comment on Thomas Fleming’s response to the 9/11 attack. Having some similarities (but also differences on economics) with the paleocons are the paleo-libertarians at, who are followers of Murray Rothbard who denies the legitimacy of the U.S. Constitution, even in its original form; and the neo-Confederates, modern re-incarnations of the fire-breathers who led the South into secession and catastrophe.

There is no group formally known as “traditionalist conservatives.” But that is the way I describe the view I’ve been trying to develop at VFR. To me the phrase means what I said above, plus the idea of not sharing the particular paleocon obsessions.

Also, with the increasing polarization and dumbing down of politics, these terms have gotten increasingly fuzzy. Now there is a tendency in which anyone who supports the war on Iraq is called a “neocon,” and anyone on the right who opposes the war is called a “paleocon.”

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 24, 2004 9:05 AM

Mr. Murgos wrote:
“Liberals believe in objective right and wrong and do not believe competing wills must be treated equally.”

Well, yes: ‘there are no moral rules, and here are the metamoral rules you must follow, which happen to be liberal.’

And if you don’t follow the liberal metamoral rules, which sit above all human activity and provide a disinterested platform from which to adjudicate it, that must be because you are subhuman: you are the oppressor-untermensch.

Liberalism is one of those things it is far easier to understand if you ignore objective consistency and just take people at their word about what they believe.

Posted by: Matt on April 24, 2004 9:48 AM

This is, by the way, the reason that the Nazi and the Liberal are in the same ideological category: both believe in equality among human beings (ubermenschen), and both believe that those who stand in the way of that project are less than human (untermenschen).

Posted by: Matt on April 24, 2004 9:53 AM

To David Levin,

Mr. Auster gave a very fine thumbnail definition of terms above. I would like to add that the so-called “neoconservatives” aren’t really conservatives at all, but most accurately described as right-liberals. They subscribe to the basic tenets of liberalism, but are more likely to employ the “unprincipled exception” to liberal dogma. Thus, while liberals like Kerry desire a general surrender to the Jihadis, for example, the neocons realize that this is suicidal and instead advocate the fanciful creation of a liberal state in the Islamic mideast.

This is rooted in the idea that America is simply a “proposition nation” whose democratic traditions and institutions can be transplanted at will into any culture in the world and take root. The whole proposition nation theory based on the liberal dogma that all people and cultures are equal and therefore interchangeable. There has been quite a bit of commentary here on VFR about these issues, especially from Matt - who coined the terms “unprincipled exception” and “hegelian mambo”, which I recommend you look at in the VFR archives.

Posted by: Carl on April 24, 2004 2:26 PM

Thanks for the attributions from Carl; I should point out though that “unprincipled exception” is originally Mr. Auster’s term, although we regular commenters (including Carl) have certainly helped to flesh out the implications.

Posted by: Matt on April 24, 2004 3:50 PM

I believe I did coin “unprincipled exception,” though the idea came out of a conversation with Jim Kalb. Mr. Kalb had pointed out how, in order to be an American, one is forced to be irrational, because the explicit, legitimizing principles of the system do not allow for many of the basic realities of life and politics, and therefore political men as well as ordinary citizens must frequently do things that cannot be justified or articulated in terms of our only common, public language. As an example of this idea, the skillful exercise of power is fundamental to the workings of government, yet liberalism, which defines the polity solely in terms of rights and consent, provides no guidance or justification for the wise use of political power. For me these insights opened up a window into the practical workings of liberalism. I saw how liberal society can only continue surviving and functioning by means of principles which, from the point of view of liberalism, are not principles at all. These are the “unprincipled” exceptions, meaning, not that they are unprincipled in themselves, but that they are unprincipled from the point of view of the prevailing liberalism.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 24, 2004 4:41 PM

I would like to write in support of Howard Sutherland’s last comment on William S. Lind. I regularly watched Lind when he hosted Modern War and The Next Revolution on Paul Weyrich’s former NET TV channel. Did anyone else see these programs?

During this time I exchanged a couple of letters with Mr. Lind. He is something of an eccentric, but he has put himself on the line on the immigration issue. On his Next Revolution TV show, his criticism of multiculturalism was practically identical to Mr. Auster’s. Lind showed how unlimited immigration makes multiculturalists stronger politically.

His Modern War TV show was dedicated to how the US military could improve itself, as Mr. Sutherland indicated in a previous post. By the way, Mr. Lind is a great admirer of the Israeli military. One of his major themes is that US politicians don’t know military history and thus make avoidable mistakes.

Posted by: David on April 24, 2004 6:18 PM

Response to Coleman, points of protocol, compliments:

I would endorse Mr. Jose’s posts of 7:19 and 7:33. Also, I’m “Chris” from a few days back and never responded to your economic point regarding the oil market. [April 7, 2004 12:46 PM] “[We do not control anyone’s oil in the Middle East.] The response: our military power influences the market. Iraq might have sold exclusively to China or India or Europe or others. The others might have then re-sell to us, but I imagine they would charge a fee for the service. Thus ideas such as “the going rate” or “fair price” are just that, ideas, not guaranteed. Similarly, and again, the anti-war right and left know this and are naturally tempted to paranoia and reactiveness when it is not acknowledged.

Thank you all for the comments and my compliments on the site.

Posted by: Chris Collins on April 24, 2004 9:45 PM

In general, conservatives and libertarians with the prefix “paleo-” favor decentralization, are against foreign interventionism, and favor a more traditional society. Both tend to be against unrestricted immigration, because the paleocon sees it as destroying our society, and the paleolibertarian sees immigration in a system where there is a lot of public infrastructure as an invasion of the property rights of taxpayers.
Paleoconservatives tend to be more protectionist, and more likely to want government intervention against abortion and to promote traditional family and sexual mores, e.g. against gay marriage.
Paleolibertarians tend to be more in favor of free trade (but against using organizations to achieve it), and wish to rely entirely on society to enforce tradition (e.g. they don’t want anti-abortion laws and don’t want the state involved in marriage at all).

In the case of the paleolibertarians, the term paleo- is applied to distinguish them from libertarians who dislike traditional morality (e.g. Virginia Postrel) or who see nothing wrong with enforcing smaller government from a centralized government (e.g. a paleolibertarian would be against the federal government restricting a state government’s ability to pass gun control laws, most other libertarians would approve) - which is part of the reason why paleolibertarians tend to be more antiwar than many other libertarians.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 24, 2004 10:27 PM

Mr. Auster left me a marvelous reply to my question about “paleoconservatives”. I have read it twice to try to understand it, and I will read it a third time, now.

Before I do, I want to also thank Carl for his likewise informative comments on how “neocons are actually right-liberals” and on the concept of “the proposition nation”, which fortunately I have seen described before by him in other posts here at VFR but never completely understood. I had never heard of that term. I also want to thank Michael Jose for his equally informative comparison of “paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians”.

After reading some of these others’ comments on paleoconservatives, I am almost certain they are describing Pat Buchanan. However, I will defer to Mr. Auster’s explanation of the differences between “the paleos and the Buchananites”. At this point, with two failed runs at the presidency, his star fading and his views of Israel well known, I consider Buchanan to be almost “unimportant” to the Conservative movement at this point in time.

I can see now why there really IS a difference between traditionalist conservatives and paleoconservatives, even if those differences may be blurred on certain issues. I had no idea that “neo-Confederates” were still a part of the Conservative movement. I have a conservative friend who swears by, so perhaps he is really a paleolibertarian. He plays the stock market hard and heavy. I am also familiar with Chilton Williamson of Chronicles and had a 2-year chat with him before he remarried and somewhat “disappeared” from the scene. I consider him to be a wonderful writer. I miss his columns at, but if he is a neo-Confederate or pro-Confederate, I would be very disappointed.

I look forward to finding Mr. Auster’s reply to Thomas Fleming’s response to 9/11.

Posted by: David Levin on April 25, 2004 6:37 AM

Mr. Levin, here is Mr. Auster’s criticism of Mr. Fleming’s commentary on the Semptember 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Posted by: Joshua on April 25, 2004 9:10 AM

For Mr. Levin on the meaning of “right-liberal,” I thought that I had somewhere laid out a systematic definition of this term, but I’m unable to find it. But here are a few blog entries and comments where I discuss it. The pair of terms, right-liberal and left-liberal, were developed by Mark Richardson from Australia, who sometimes posts at VFR. Previously I had argued that what we call conservatism should really be called “conservative liberalism.” But Mr. Richardson’s term right-liberalism was much better.

See my first comment in this thread:

See my comment of January 29, 2004 at 4:08 p.m. at this thread:

This entry argues that we whould see our society’s problems as stemming as our own liberalism rather than from some alien leftism or “cultural Marxism”:

In this article Mark Richardson lays out a key distinction between left liberalism and right liberalism, that left liberals believe in mass immigration plus multiculturalism, and right liberals believe in mass immigration plus assimilation. By this criterion, Reagan, and most neocons up to the turn of the present century, were right liberals, while GW Bush, and some neocons today (see Jonathan Kay’s book review in the February 2004 Commentary saying that assimilation is not so important after all, that the old assimilation was harsh and bigoted, and assimilation has been happily redefined in a more inclusive manner) are increasingly manifesting themselves as left liberals.

Here’s another article by Mr. Richardson on the differences between left liberalism, right liberalism, and conservatism:

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 25, 2004 10:51 AM

It seems to me that Mr. Auster uses an unduly narrow definition of “paleoconservative,” by allowing it to be captured by the Chronicles of Culture types, though he seems to allude to a wider meaning identical to his own self-designation of traditionalist conservative. I know a fair number of people who describe themselves, and would describe Mr. Auster, as pro-Iraq war, relatively “interventionist” paleoconservatives. It also seems to me, that, despite his quirks (to put it no more strongly), Buchanan does fit into the paleocon category, and perhaps more so than the extremely erratic editor of Chronicles of Culture. Perhaps too much should not be made of arguments like this, but I think it is dangerous and debilitating, over the long run, to allow definitions to be captured by one’s enemies or by extremists of one’s own side.

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 25, 2004 4:28 PM

In relation to the earlier part of the discussion about William Lind, I concede that Mr. Coleman’s characterization of Lind’s rhetoric as “leftist” in style is more moderate and less provocative than my characterization of it as “anti-American.” I nevertheless hold to my position that it is, indeed, anti-American. However it is characterized it is a turn-off to anyone who doesn’t share Lind’s particular anger, and so it remains—along with Lind’s addiction to opaque techno-jargon and his overweening bitterness at the fact that his brilliance has not been more broadly recognized by a hopelessly stupid establishment (a characteristic he seems to have in common with Richard Clarke)—a major obstacle to the dissemination of his substantive ideas.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 25, 2004 7:07 PM

Mr. Levine writes that I use “an unduly narrow definition of ‘paleoconservative,’ by allowing it to be captured by the Chronicles of Culture types …”

I think this is getting things backwards, since it was the “Chronicles types,” as Mr. Levine calls them, who coined or at least established the term paleoconservatism. This, by the way, seems to be a rare instance in which the accepted name of a faction did not originate as a derogatory term used by the factions’s critics (as was the case, for example, with “Puritan” and “neoconservative”), but as a term deliberately chosen by the leaders of that faction.

However, to qualify further what I said, it is also true that the leading paleoconservatives (in the narrow sense of the term) frequently used the term in its broader sense. For example, they would refer to many of the generic conservatives of the 1950s as “paleoconservatives,” distinguishing those conservatives from the neoconservatives who came later.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 25, 2004 7:41 PM

I thank Joshua very much for that link to Thomas Fleming’s piece. I have not visited Chronicles for some time. I noticed Fleming’s column there, so it looks like I’ll be checking out Chronicles for awhile.

I have yet to check out the many links Mr. Auster so kindly provided in his April 25 10:51 am post, but I will eagerly do so now. I thank Alan Levine for his April 25 4:28 pm post. I agree with him about Pat Buchanan.

Quite by chance, I found my old friend Chilton Williamson, Jr.’s January 2001 column on “What Is Paleoconservatism?” at the bottom of the new Chronicles Extra section. Unfortunately, Williamson doesn’t get into “dichotomizing” Pat Buchanan from other conservatives and tends to get into (and stays with) cutting down liberals and liberalism without staying on point. I wonder what he would write today about “paleos”.

Posted by: David Levin on April 25, 2004 10:51 PM

I was under the impression that the neoconservatives themselves took on the label neoconservative during the cold war, when anyone who tok a strong stance against communism was in general seen as a “good guy” and that it didn’t become a derogatory term until the end of the cold war when the split between the traditionalist, paleo, and neo factions began.

Posted by: Michael Jose on April 25, 2004 11:05 PM

My understanding was that liberals took to calling Podhoretz, Kristol et al. “neo-conservatives” as a term of criticism, and then the name was gradually adopted by the neoconservatives themselves.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 26, 2004 12:03 AM

I too, used to exchange regular emails with Chilton Williamson Jr. He looks at things in a realistic way, including Buchanan. He is not a man who curries favor with the establishment. See his book, The Immigration Mystique.

Posted by: David on April 26, 2004 3:23 AM

Podhoretz, at least, was a radical in the late 60s; when he turned back to moderate liberalism in the early 70s, he was criticized for neo-conservatism by his leftist comrades. In his 1979 book Breaking Ranks, he suggests that neo-liberal would perhaps have been a better term. I think we can all agree with that.

Posted by: Agricola on April 26, 2004 8:04 AM

Mr. Auster and I will have to agree to disagree on the usage of paleoconservative. I seem to recall it coming into use early in the 90s as more and more traditional conservatives were offended by or attacked by the neocons, though it may well have been associated particularly with the Chronicles crowd. As for the origins of the term “neoconservatism”— I believe it was devised by Peter Steinfels, a 70s liberal critic of Podhoretz, Kristol and company. I would agree that “neoliberal” might be a better term for them/

Posted by: Alan Levine on April 26, 2004 2:48 PM

I’m not dogmatic on the point. As I already said, the word has both a narrower and a wider meaning, and I use it in both senses. But most of the time when I say paleoconservative I’m thinking of people who are somewhere within the ideological and temperamental orbit of Chronicles.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on April 26, 2004 2:56 PM
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