It seems we have our first glimmering of a controversy on this journal. The republishing on an article by Pat Buchanan, coming fast on the heels of George Carey’s strong, reasoned critique of American foreign policy has spawned combox charges of “neopacifism” and, of course “isolationism.” There is much worth discussing and arguing about, here. I’ve made my own modest contribution to the debate over the nature (rather than the unquestioned necessity, or rather FACT) of patriotism at Patriotism of a Conservative.
But right now I want to raise a question for possible discussion. George Carey writes, correctly I think, of the gulf between most Americans and our elites in regard to foreign policy, pointing out that no majority would support, on honest terms, our current course. He also points to Nisbet’s analysis—one would have thought standard conservative wisdom—that war breeds centralization, which destroys liberty. But our elites don’t recognize this any longer, do they? They, after all, believe they can “fix” whatever ails America and the world from Washington. As to the people themselves, it has been very long since we had a real, vibrant federalism in this country, and even longer since we let go of our separation of powers into distinct executive, legislative, and judicial branches—all with their own limits, buttressed by a constitutional morality.
Given this, I wonder whether we have lost the ability to see the real costs of war and empire. I do not believe that a people that looks to the central government for protection from all forms of harm and want will be able to see the dangers of expansionism. So am I right in thinking that the latest blows to our liberties (not to mention those of people in the Middle East) comes, not from strength, but from the weakness of Americans. Is it not “our” fault, and not just the elites? Did we not bring this on ourselves by turning over so much of our lives to the state? Is it surprising, now, that the people would be deluded into thinking that the “professional army” will simply do its service job, like any other bureaucratic agency, with no impact on our liberties? In sum, isn’t George Carey giving the people too much credit, and not enough blame? (Sorry, George.)
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