Thursday, March 27, 2008

Buckley and the betrayal of conservatism
I know I’ve blogged on this before but this LRC article is a good summary. He seemed as if the US government and the establishment left created a character to try and appeal to young fogeys.
William F. Buckley was born into a republic that was fast becoming an empire. President Wilson arrived in Le Havre at the end of WWI. He came neither as a tourist nor a businessman... that is, not as an honest traveler. Instead, he came to sort out the Old World’s problems and brought 17 Points to help do it. The cynical, worldly Europeans laughed at him. Even God needed only 10 commandments, they said. Wilson was so humiliated he had a stroke and never recovered.

To their credit, the American people were slow to put on the imperial purple. The conservatives among them wanted to retain the old form of government, with its limited aims and limited means. Conservatism was a more innocent creed back then... The idea of trying to remake another country, half way around the world, into an American-style democracy, would not have been scorned; it would have been unimaginable. Back then, of course, there was no homeland. The idea would have made no sense. Americans’ interests stopped at the Rio Grande and the 49th parallel. The foreigners would have to take care of themselves. Even home-grown 100% Americans were expected to look out for their own kith and kin. “Balance the budget, protect the borders, and otherwise leave people alone” was the extent of conservative ambitions.

After the
[second world] war, there was no going back. America was the leading world power. “Isolationism” became a kind of insult. A few of the old conservatives — such as Frank Chodorov, Robert Taft and Warren Buffett’s father, a US Congressman — kept wearing their old starched collars. But the fashion had clearly changed. They could vote against government spending programs...and they opposed further military adventures abroad... but they couldn’t win national elections and they couldn’t participate in the great fun of having an empire — getting to boss people around all over the world. There was no glory in being a conservative. No power. No money. No style.

Then, with the Cold War, even the old die-hards went shopping for new clothes. In their minds, it was a contest between good and evil... freedom and communism... black and white.

Indeed, the Cold War played roughly the same role as the War on Terror would half a century later — it perverted the old conservative values.

The urbane, witty, charming and cosmopolitan William F. Buckley:
“We have to accept Big Government for the duration — for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged... except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”
And thus was the fabric laid out...cut and sewn... for America’s new conservative outfits. Now, they could fight totalitarians by being totalitarians.

Buckley’s contribution to American political life was that he helped bring conservatives to the levers of imperial power — but at the cost of rejecting everything important they ever believed. Henceforth, conservatives — notably George W. Bush — would be America’s most activist presidents, adding trillions to Americans financial burdens, extending domestic programs, and projecting U.S. military power to places Americans had not even known existed. And henceforth, “conservatives” would distinguish themselves from “liberals” principally on cultural issues — such as whether gay couples could marry, when to pull the plug on a coma victim, and whether it was proper for a Southern state to use elements of the old confederate banner in its state flag.

The liberals and conservatives... all Keynesians at home... and Kennedys overseas... willing to impose any burden on their neighbors... and force the next generation to pay any price... in order to enjoy bread at home and military circuses abroad.

There was even some doubt about the real source of Buckley’s money and support for his money-losing magazine. Rumors said it came directly from the military industrial complex itself — maybe via the CIA... where Buckley had been an agent.

He came not to praise traditional conservatism but to bury it.

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