I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lacking the Stomach for Empire

The title of this post comes from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt who, as George Will points out in this excellent op-ed column, is considered a "real national-greatness guy" by the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. The term "national-greatness conservatism" is being co opted as a modern version of "heroic conservatism" in the continually changing landscape of conservative politics. This is something which Will points out as not really being in keeping with traditional conservative values. (I believe it's called "paleoconservatism" this week.)
Gerson's "heroic conservatism" is, however, a variant of what has been called "national greatness conservatism." The very name suggests that America will be great if it undertakes this or that great exertion abroad. This grates on conservatives who think America is great, not least because it rarely and usually reluctantly conscripts people into vast collective undertakings.

Most Republican presidential candidates express admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. A real national-greatness guy ("I have been hoping and working ardently to bring about our interference in Cuba"), he lamented that America lacked "the stomach for empire."

Time was when I didn't mind being called a conservative, at least in the mold embraced by the peculiar breed of Republicans we grow in New York. The fact that I currently identify myself as a "moderate" does not derive from a change in my personal political philosophy, but from the fact that the accepted definition of conservatism kept shifting further and further away until I could no longer even see the goalposts.

In the current era, "isolationist" has pretty much become a dirty word. I don't care - I'm still an isolationist. Foreign adventurism doesn't suit my tastes when we have a plethora of unresolved issues back here at home. The world is a complicated and often unpleasant place. Man, by his very nature, always as an "id" component to his personality which can lead to nasty actions. Such people, lamentably, will sometimes rise to positions of power, particularly in the more chaotic parts of the world. While I firmly believe we should lend our voice and support to those who want peaceful, stable, democratic countries, it is also not our responsibility to drain our country and squander our most treasured resources to make it happen for those who can not effect it themselves.

Another pertinent thought from Will's column - this one about the legacy of Ronald Reagan:

"He resorted to military force far less often than many of those who came before him or who have since occupied the Oval Office. . . . After the [1983] assault on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, it was questioning the wisdom of U.S. involvement that led Reagan to withdraw our troops rather than dig in. He found no good strategic reason to give our regional enemies inviting U.S. targets. Can one imagine one of today's neoconservative absolutists backing away from any fight anywhere?"

It's refreshing to see someone in George Will's position echo something I've been saying from the beginning. Particularly as this applies to the "war on terror" today, it has become clear that if you want to fight terrorists, you can do so anywhere you choose to send troops. This is not a cornerstone of any sort of "conservatism" I know of. The common chant is to say that "we're fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here." Bull-hockey, I say. If they really want to fight us that badly, let them try it over here. The deck will be stacked in our favor, assuming they can even make it over the ocean in force.

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