Somewhat breathlessly, the New York Times has discovered, as a headline this week informed us, that “Lack of Resolution In Iraq Finds Conservatives Divided.” [by David D. Kilpatrick, April 19, 2004].
Translated into American, that means many conservatives are less than enchanted with the quick and easy cakewalk to peace and democracy in Iraq on which the Bush administration has embarked the country and some may be suffering a few stomach cramps over what to do about it—namely, whether to support President Bush’s re-election.
It’s great the Times finally noticed that not all conservatives are marching in lockstep with the White House, but the news it finally found fit to print is just a little stale.
The truth is that many conservatives have long opposed the war and the whole globalist-imperialist thinking behind it—myself, as well as Pat Buchanan, Chronicles and The American Conservative magazines, columnists Paul Craig Roberts and Charley Reese and libertarians like Justin Raimondo and Doug Bandow, to name a few. The Timesmentions Mr. Buchanan, by far the most eminent of them, but never notices the others at all.
Long ago, when war with Iraq was merely a glitter in the beady little eyes of Paul Wolfowitz and his neoconservative mobsters, the anti-war conservatives raised questions and doubts about the whole project—the “weapons of mass destruction,” Iraq’s supposed ties to 9/11, Al Qaeda and terrorism in general, and whether Saddam Hussein, nasty as he was, was really much of a threat to us or anybody else outside his own borders.
Today, the answers are in—and the anti-war right was correct on virtually every one.
But not only does the Times miss the boat on who the conservative critics of the war were; it also misses it on who they are now. In a rather bizarre sentence, it offers as an example—National Review.
The Times article notes that a recent editorial in the Manhattan mag “adopted a newly skeptical tone toward the neoconservatives and toward the occupation.” Well, sort of.
The editorial, “An End to Illusion,” [May 3] commendably criticizes what it calls the “Wilsonian mistake” that lies at the heart of the current boondoggle in Iraq—”an underestimation in general of the difficulty of implanting democracy in alien soil, and an overestimation in particular of the sophistication of what is fundamentally still a tribal society. And one devastated by decades of tyranny.”
But it pulls back from the real implications of that criticism and insists that “Iraq was not a Wilsonian—or a ‘neoconservative’—war. It was broadly supported by the Right as a war of national interest.”
Yes, but as the current Wilsonian obsession suggests, the Right—and National Review in particular—was wrong.
Since the administration and the Right were generally in (shall we say) error over the reality of the threat Iraq posed, the only justification for the war they now have is Wilsonianism—that the war was justified as a means of liberating Iraq and creating the democracy and human rights that Saddam denied—and “Wilsonianism” is precisely what the administration and its spokesmen and apologists have spouted for the last several months.
The “war of national interest” that the pro-war right supported turned out to be a fraud—and some of us knew it was a fraud all along.
“Some of us” distinctly did not include National Review, which a year ago published a long and nasty article denouncing conservatives who opposed the war as “unpatriotic” (like me, Mr. Buchanan, Chronicles, and the rest of the anti-war right), even as it wrapped itself in Wilsonian sonorities to justify the war.
Now, with the American public starting to wonder whatever happened to the cakewalk, with more and more insiders testifying how the neoconservatives started instigating the war even before the 9/11 attacks, and with a bloody and bottomless pit yawning before us in the chaos we have created in Iraq, the patriotic conservatives at National Review are pleased to lecture us about the dangers of the “Wilsonian mistake.”
Wilsonians are still amongst us, of course. The Times also quotes Bill Kristol, editor of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, who shows not even a trace of second thoughts about Iraq . “If we[neoconservatives] have to make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives, that is fine with me,” he chirps.
It won’t surprise real conservatives like those who opposed the war before it started that phony-cons like Bill Kristol are ready to sign on with liberals.
Maybe, once the boys at NR have figured out what’s wrong with the “Wilsonian mistake” they swallowed themselves and explained it all to us lesser lights, they’ll start seeing through the other illusions and blunders their neoconservative pals have been peddling them for years.