Sobran's -- The Real News of the 

Why Not War?

October 3, 2002

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.

[Breaker quote: To conserve, or to destroy?]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.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive | Back Issues of SOBRANS 
 WebLinks | Scheduled Appearances | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas | Notes from the Webmaster
  Contact Us | Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Copyright © 2002 by The Vere Company