Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum made the grand crusade against Islamic fascism the central focus of his unsuccessful 2006 re-election effort.
On numerous occasions the preening Keystone State solon — who couldn’t glance at a mirror without seeing Churchill’s bulldog demeanor glowering back at him — insisted that it was the destiny of this generation to fight an apocalyptic war against radical Islam. Unlike his more equivocal comrades in the Republican branch of the War Party, Santorum made it clear that his preferred exit strategy for Iraq would be to invade (or at least bomb) Iran.
After long acquaintance with, and scrutiny of, Mr. Santorum, Pennsylvania’s voters decided he was more Church Lady than Churchill,* and gave him a chance to pursue new opportunities in the private sector. So Santorum delivered a suitably melodramatic farewell address and retreated into a comfortable sinecure as a Washington lobbyist.
Despair not for Rick Santorum during that bleak season when he, like Churchill before him, toils in the exile into which he was cast by an ungrateful electorate. He has never abandoned the hope that the American public will come to embrace the wisdom of a generational war. It’s just that Santorum has now invested that hope in the murderous intentions of the Islamic fanatics he has warned about. To put the matter bluntly, Santorum is obviously hoping, and perhaps even praying, for Americans to die at the hands of Jihadists.
How else are rational people supposed to understand the following remarks offered by Santorum during a July 7 interview on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio program:
[C]onfronting Iran in the Middle East as an absolute linchpin for our success in that region…. And while it may not be a popular thing to talk about right now, and I know public sentiment is against it [namely, the war in Iraq and expanding the conflict to Iran] … between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK. But I think the American public’s going to have a very different view….
As others have pointed out, Santorum is not the only prominent Republican figure to predict that wayward Americans, having allowed themselves to doubt the divine insight of the Dear Leader, will soon be smitten by the chastening hand of history.
Just weeks ago, Arkansas Republican chairman Dennis Milligan, who describes himself as 150 percent behind Bush and his Iraq war, said in an on-the-record interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.
Both of those abhorrent comments are riffs on a familiar Rovian theme: Vote Republican and support the Dear Leader, or die. Speaking of Rove: In the current issue of American Spectator conservative actor and economist Ben Stein, a long-time war supporter who now considers the Iraq venture to be an unmitigated disaster, describes a recent dinner at Rove’s house with GOP adviser Aram Bakshian. Both Rove and Bakshian were very upbeat about the GOP and the war, which to minds as cynical as my own suggests that something Santorum would consider usefully unfortunate may soon transpire.
People like Santorum and Milligan (and Dana Rohrabacher, the stupidest consequential public figure not named Bush or Hannity) ache for disaster. They pant after it with vulgar, undisguised lust. They are tremulous with unconsummated desire for validation in the form of dead Americans and ruined cities.
Revolting and vile as this is, it is not unique. In fact, these repellent people are firmly and squarely in the interventionist tradition of American politics, in which cheerfully anticipating the death of Americans has a long and venerable history.
Writing in Foreign Affairs a dozen years ago (excerpt), the late Establishment historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote that it is to Joseph Stalin that Americans owe the 40-year suppression of the isolationist impulse.
Stalin’s regime slaughtered scores of millions, helped precipitate the Second World War, and (thanks to the connivance of Washington) acquired thermonuclear weapons capable of incinerating much of the world — but at least he wasn’t an isolationist. Stalin and his successors were immeasurably useful allies for the American Power Elite against their common enemy — Americans and others who wanted to cultivate their own gardens and live in freedom and peace.
In 1947, Senator Arthur Vandenberg described Washington’s foreign policy at the beginning of the Cold War as that of scaring hell out of the American people. In the same year, Senator Robert Taft, who yielded to nobody in his detestation for Communism and other forms of collectivism, described himself as being more than a bit tired of having the Russian menace invoked as a reason for doing any — and everything that might or might not be desirable or necessary on its own merits.
By 1950, American public sentiment was fiercely anti-Communist and just as passionately opposed to the interventionist foreign policy consensus. It was at that moment of crisis, recalled former Secretary of State Dean Acheson in 1954, that the Korean war came along and saved us.
Saving the plans of Acheson and his comrades cost the lives of more than 50,000 Americans in a war that has never formally been brought to an end.
Interventionists have always known that Americans aren’t naturally inclined to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, unless the monsters in question kill a suitably large number of Americans. That’s why FDR, Dean Acheson, and people of that ilk offered a prayer of gratitude for Josef Stalin six decades ago, and why the likes of Rick Santorum are praying for Jihadists to strike today.
*I do not want to leave the impression that Churchill himself was an entirely commendable figure.