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 Glorious War! 

August 31, 2006 
 for Glorious WarMost observers are predicting a rout of the Republicans in this fall’s elections. Some think the Democrats can even recapture both houses of Congress.

 for Glorious WarI hope so. Oh, how I hope so. May the Today's column is "Glorious War!" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Republicans perish forever. May vultures gobble their entrails. May their name be blotted out. In short, may they lose their shirts in November.

 for Glorious WarYes, I’m disillusioned with the GOP. It was bad enough when I thought they were unprincipled. Now, however, it’s worse, because they do have a principle after all: war.

 for Glorious WarTwo Bush administrations have proved that. War on Panama, war on Iraq, war on “terror,” war on Afghanistan, war on Iraq again, and war on Iran, comin’ up. And of course the recent Israeli war on Lebanon was waged with George W. Bush’s complicity. Am I leaving anything out? Oh yes, his father’s war on “drugs”; but let’s not even count that one.

 for Glorious WarNext to the violence of war, I hate the philosophical fallout. This Bush administration has managed to pervert the meaning of conservatism: in most Americans’ minds, for the next generation, the word will mean, above all, militarism.

 for Glorious WarNot that this is wholly new. Goldwater conservatives supported the Vietnam war, originally a liberal project, even complaining that it wasn’t being waged with enough force. They began sneering at “peaceniks,” then equating peace with liberalism (and war with patriotism) and automatically favoring huge military budgets. Lyndon Johnson’s war soon became “Nixon’s war,” and the anti-war George McGovern redefined the Democratic Party.

 for Glorious WarBy the Reagan years the old lines were redrawn. Quite a change from the days when Democrats wanted war on fascism and Republicans were accused of “isolationism” for preferring peace. Does anyone remember Robert Taft?

 for Glorious WarBy identifying the conservative cause with war, the Republicans have given liberalism the finest gift they could possibly have bestowed on it. The popularity of war is intense but brief. Americans will support quick and victorious wars, but after a few months the thrill tends to wear off.

 for Glorious WarAs late as 1976 grouchy Bob Dole, a bitter World War II vet, could still take a swat at “Democrat wars,” but the phrase sounded quaint. The amnesiac American public thought it was a contradiction in terms. When had the Democrats ever wanted war?

[Breaker quote for Glorious War!: Will the Republicans Ever Learn?] for Glorious WarToday’s blowhard conservatives have no reservations about it. They suspect, and openly accuse, the “liberal media” of sympathy for the enemy so freely that you wonder why they don’t just call them the “Islamic media.” For these right-wingers, the Iraq war — not the Constitution, government spending, or abortion — is the defining issue dividing liberals and conservatives.

 for Glorious WarThey even pardon liberal Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as well as the liberal Democrat Joe Lieberman) for supporting abortion and homosexual rights, as long as they support the war. That is, they count a liberal as a conservative, provided only that he’s for this war.

 for Glorious WarBeing the most devastating of human activities, war would seem to be at the opposite pole from conserving anything. It’s a grotesque accident of history that it should have acquired even a verbal association with the philosophy of conservatism.

 for Glorious WarJust what is that philosophy? Is it a philosophy at all, or just a natural disposition to reject radical change? These questions have been debated for centuries, and I can only suggest an answer.

 for Glorious WarBriefly, conservatism is a more or less articulate sense of normality, whereas liberalism has been described (by G.K. Chesterton) as “the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal.” Conservatism can tolerate many abnormal things that can’t be eliminated from human society, but it doesn’t call them “rights” or confuse them with normal things. And, after all, few things are more abnormal than war.

 for Glorious WarSo today’s alleged conservatives (and especially the misnamed “neoconservatives”) are aberrations. They delight in destruction; they are full of enthusiasm for violent and radical action; they lack the ironic and skeptical attitude of real conservatives, the prudent sense that precipitate acts bring “unintended consequences.”

 for Glorious WarThe presidency of George W. Bush has been one long object lesson in unintended consequences. It’s amusing to recall that his father was kidded for using the phrase wouldn’t be prudent, an expression the son could profitably adopt.

 for Glorious WarUntil the Republicans learn that peace is normal, they will deserve defeat and infamy.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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