Some time ago
The American Spectatorís Jeffrey Lord claimed Ron Paulís
foreign policy of nonintervention was "liberal," and that
conservatives are supposed to be hawkish on foreign policy. Now
to some extent, no one really cares about these labels, and who
qualifies as what. But it is obviously false to say that supporters
of nonintervention must be left-liberals. I showed this in my YouTube
response, which dismantled Lordís entire position:
I figured that
would be it. There is no wiggle room left for Lord after that. As
Gary North put it, "The lesson here is simple: donít get Woods
on your case if you are saying really stupid things about American
Yet he came
back for more. With a busy schedule both personally and professionally,
I have only now had the time to respond, which Iím doing in a series
of bullet points.
1) I pointed
out in the video that the anti-imperialist movement in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was dominated by the conservatives,
as historian William Leuchtenberg has noted. I likewise pointed
out that we may count on one hand the number of Progressives who
opposed U.S. entry into World War I. I further noted that the recent
interventions Lord supports were likewise supported by Hillary Clinton,
Howard Stern, the New York Times, and the Washington Post
(among others I mentioned). Before Lord goes attacking other people
for their tactical alliances, he might make note of the beam in
his own eye.
Lord does not
acknowledge any of this. I wouldnít, either, were I in his shoes.
2) Lord is
obsessed with Ronald Reagan, and again condemns Ron Paul for opposing
Reaganís expansion of government power. The weird cult of personality
around the deceased former president reveals that Reagan has become
the Rightís Obama: a man whose every action is to be treated as
ipso facto brilliant, perhaps even divinely inspired. Critics are
mere heretics whose arguments need not actually be refuted; the
mere fact that they have disagreed with the Great Leader is enough
to condemn them forever.
How dare you
say Ronald Reagan wasnít free-market enough! He supported the free
market to the precisely correct extent, says the Supreme Neocon
That Lord is
more interested in someoneís loyalty to a man than he is
in loyalty to the principles that the man was supposed to represent,
is the classic expression of a cult of personality.
3) In pointing
out that Felix Morley, one of the founding editors of the weekly
conservative newspaper Human Events, was himself a noninterventionist,
it was obviously not my intention to argue that Human Events
favors nonintervention abroad as an editorial position. I myself
have been published and interviewed numerous times in Human Events,
so Iím quite familiar with its editorial line. The point is that
Lord describes nonintervention as a "liberal" (as in left-liberal,
not classical liberal) position. As long as I can find some indisputably
non-liberal supporters of nonintervention, I win. No one in his
right mind would consider Morley a left-liberal. But Morley is simply
4) Hereís Exhibit
B: Lordís own superior at The American Spectator, senior
editor Angelo Codevilla. Speaking on the Mike Church Show about
the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus to which Lord and Levin
subscribe, Codevilla said:
This is a
radical departure from the way that Americaís status in the world
was built in the first place. It was built by a founding generation
and the statesmen of the nineteenth century who adhered to the
traditional view that the governors of any country are the stewards
of the interests of that country only, and they are not entitled
in any way to interfere in the affairs of other countriesÖ.
in the early part of the twentieth century, people like Woodrow
Wilson began supposing that we had the right and duty to be the
worldís keepers, and they have proceeded to mess things up around
the world ever since.
What I try
to do in this book [A
Studentís Guide to International Relations] is to explainÖthat
the world really is filled with people who are really different,
who really do think differently, and that they work in an international
system which gives them full rein, full capacity to be what it
is they want, and that makes it impossible for foreigners to conduct
words, imperialism has always been something of a losing proposition,
especially in the modern international system, and our ruling
classís attempt to nation-build the world in their own image is
doomed to failure and to creating one disaster after anotherÖ.
have, according to our Founding Fathers, every right to be as
benighted, backward, and nasty to one another as they want. The
Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal, all
nations have the right to be who they areÖ. The Declaration of
Independence claimed no special rights for the American people.
It claimed for the American people the rights that the American
people recognized in the rest of mankindÖ.
like the rest of mankind, have an inalienable right to self-determination.
Now thatís not simply a theoretical statement. Itís also a practical
one. Because it is utterly impossible for one people to transfer
its own ethos, its own notion of good and evil, its own way of
doing things, to another. The Afghans, the Arabs, are who they
are; they have grown up in a particular culture. It is what they
know, what they love. As John Quincy Adams would have put it,
who has appointed us as judges over them?
shot off a one-liner against the chickenhawk phenomenon; when Church
asked him about neocon Bill Kristol, Codevilla replied: "And
by the way, I served in the armed forcesÖ. Billy didnít at all."
Universityís Claes Ryn, who is more conservative than Lord and his
entire circle of friends put together, has explained the difference
between conservatism as classically understood on the one hand,
and the militant Jacobin universalism to which Lord and the neoconservatives
subscribe on the other. It should hardly be necessary to point out
that the "global leadership" propaganda and the endless
"democracy" project GOP candidates urge us to embrace
is completely foreign to the finite goals and expectations of a
conservative. A sample from Rynís speech to the Philadelphia Society:
manifests itself variously, the conservative is no narrow-minded
nationalist. He is a cosmopolitan. This does not mean that he
is a free floater, at home everywhere and nowhere. That describes
the Jacobin ideologue. The conservative is a patriot, deeply rooted
in the best of his own heritage. It is because he is so attached
to what is most admirable in his own culture that he can understand
and appreciate corresponding achievements in other cultures. He
is able to find in different places variations on a common human
theme. The culturally distinctive contributions of other peoples
deepen and enrich his awareness of goodness, truth and beauty.
is not interested in diversity, only in imposing his blueprint.
What history happens to have thrown up is just an obstacle to
what ought to be. Only what is "simply right" deserves respect.
Itís all so obvious.
see in Jacobin principles a hair-raising obliviousness of lifeís
complexity. To implement such principles may devastate a society.
A society may be wholly unsuited or unprepared for changes demanded
of it. So what, say Americaís neo-Jacobins. We need moral clarity.
What was there before does not matter. "Democracy" must take its
place. One model fits all. To ensure a democratic world, America
must establish armed and uncontested world supremacy.
to power is here bursting at the seams. What argument could be
better for placing enormous power in the hands of the neo-Jacobins
than a grandiose scheme for remaking the world. At lunch yesterday
we got to hear [from Max Boot] the pure, undiluted neo-Jacobin
warn of the Enemy with a capital "E." The Enemy is the embodiment
of evil, a force with which no compromise is possible. For the
American neo-Jacobins the Enemy is Terrorism with a capital "T."
Though the only superpower, America must be in a permanent state
of emergency, be armed to the teeth and relentlessly pursue the
assumption about conservatives is nothing less than weird: that
they are hawks, always looking for prey and always bullying. Conservatives
are in reality normally doves, looking for ways to settle conflicts
peacefully. They view war differently from neo-Jacobin desk-warriors.
The suffering and destruction of war are frightful realities involving
actual human beings. War is the very last resort.
harbor no illusions about the international arena. Bad people
behave badly. So conservatives want to be prepared to handle threats
to their own society and civilization or to international peace.
But their normal way of interacting with other peoples is to try
to defuse conflict and to pursue a common human ground. This is
the cosmopolitan way.
affairs, American conservatives have always feared unlimited power,
partly because of their belief in original sin. Fallen creatures
must be restrained by law. Government must be limited and decentralized,
hence the separation of powers and federalism. The sprit of constitutionalism
forms the core of the American political tradition. Unchecked
power is an invitation to tyranny. The framers even wanted the
U.S. Congress, which was to be the preeminent body of the national
government, to have divided powers. Needless to say they disdained
see no need for restraints on virtuous power. Today American neo-Jacobins
are promoting presidential ascendancy and great leeway for the
executive. Old restraints and liberties must yield to the needs
of the virtuous national security state.
Ryn has just
described the difference between Jeffrey Lord and a conservative.
No one who listens to neoconservative talk radio has ever heard
these distinctions before, which is why Lord can get away with pretending
all his opponents are left-liberals.
7) Lordís discussion
of the Cold War reads like something from 1974. Itís as if the Soviet
archives were never opened. As Sir Michael Howard (rather a credentialed
historian) has noted, no serious historian any longer makes
claims about Stalinís intentions abroad Ė claims I myself once believed,
before the archives were opened and the evidence forced me to change
my mind Ė that Lord repeats as if out of a Richard Nixon campaign
we are told, breathlessly, about the communist threat to Greece
in the late 1940s. In fact, Stalin specifically instructed Yugoslavia
Ė which is where the aid to Greece was coming from, not from the
Soviet Union Ė not to aid the Greek communists, who were not allowed
to join the Cominform and whose Provisional Government was not recognized
by the Soviet Union or indeed any other communist government. Senator
Taft didnít see any US interest involved in Greece in any case.
As for Turkey,
long before the Bolshevik Revolution the Russians had sought control
of the straits. There was no military threat to Turkey at all, as
George Kennan, the man who famously called for "containment"
of the Soviets in his Long Telegram and his 1947 Foreign Affairs
article, tried in vain to point out. In Lordís party-line world,
we are evidently not even allowed to agree with George Kennan.
the Cold War, Soviet capabilities were consistently, almost ludicrously,
inflated. It is hard to believe that so-called conservatives could
in effect have shared the rosy view of Soviet productive capacity
put forth by the likes of John Kenneth Galbraith and Paul Samuelson,
but share them they did. It is as if they didnít actually believe
the free-market rhetoric they otherwise used. They expected a gigantic,
socialistic basket case to conquer the world. What it wound up doing
was accumulating basket cases in Africa and elsewhere that in no
way helped and surely intensified its own economic backwardness.
But Lord, never
one to question the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus Ė we heretics,
on the other hand, dissent from every bipartisan consensus Ė takes
Truman, a middle-of-the-road Democrat, to be a model statesman.
Question Truman and his grandiose statements and strategy? What
are you, some kind of commie?
I realize that
in questioning the Cold War consensus I am violating one of the
long list of unforgivable sins in the official conservative movement.
The Cold War, like Ronald Reagan, is one of those topics on which
mainstream conservatism will admit no dissent. There is the Official
Version of Events, and there are the heretics who question it.
The Cold War
apparatus gave birth to a military-industrial complex that is evidently
impossible to rein in, and which is constantly in search of further
justifications for ever-greater levels of spending. (Thereís no
fat to trim from the $1.2
trillion annual defense budget!) This is the one government
program conservatives may never question. This one is run by omniscient
angels who donít need to be audited. This one has no entrenched
interests of its own that it might pursue at the expense of the
common good. Thatís true only of the farm lobby and the education
bureaucracies. This is the Department of Defense, citizen. Trust
them. USA! USA!
Kirk, one of the most important conservative thinkers of the twentieth
century, was critical of libertarians. I assumed everyone knew that.
But just as interesting is that Kirk was no neocon like Lord and
Levin, as I showed
More to the
point: although Lord doesnít mention it, by the 1990s Kirk was praising
libertarians for having "an understanding of foreign policy
that the elder Taft represented."
Ė the iconic Kirk praised libertarians for their foreign-policy
conclusion can we draw, then, except that Lord must now expel Kirk
from the conservative canon? We can hope Lordís sense of the ridiculous
is developed enough to stop him.