Foreign Policy

Warriors Against the Wars

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With Michael Steele, Ann Coulter, and other conservatives questioning Washington's military commitments, Jim Antle tackles the topic of hawks for peace:

Some of this is mere partisan opportunism, as when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele advised candidates at a Connecticut GOP fundraiser that they should disown Afghanistan—initially invaded under George W. Bush with near unanimous Republican support—as "a war of Obama's choosing." Translation: Let whatever goes wrong in Afghanistan be the Democrats' problem for a change….

Other mainstream conservatives are honestly starting to ask what we are accomplishing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is propping up Hamid Karzai or refereeing a political dispute between Nouri al-Maliki and Iyad Allawi really the great civilizational struggle between the West and radical Islam?

Antle puts this right-wing dissent in the context of Walter Russell Mead's model of America's rival foreign policy traditions:

The Jeffersonian tradition

There have long been three main foreign-policy tendencies on the American Right: old-style conservatives who agree with Randolph Bourne that war is the health of the state and therefore favor less military intervention abroad; neoconservatives who want to preserve the United States' global hegemony and engage in armed proselytizing for democracy; and defense-minded conservatives who believe the U.S. should strike forcefully at its enemies whenever it perceives itself, its interests, or its allies to be threatened.

Roughly speaking, these groups can be described as the Jeffersonians, the Wilsonians, and the Jacksonians. Among rank-and-file conservatives, the Jacksonians are by far the largest group. In the postwar era, the Jacksonians have tended to align with the Wilsonians. But there is no reason why that conjunction is inevitable.

With the exception of Ron Paul and some Ron Paul Republicans, the Jeffersonians have no major political figure to speak for them. Yet the popularity of the Wilsonians was always greatly exaggerated. The invasion of Iraq and the mass conservative acceptance of the Bush Doctrine were made possible by al-Qaeda's act of mass murder on 9/11.

Antle suggests that the alliance of Jacksonians and Wilsonians might give way to a Jefferson/Jackson coalition, the animating idea being that America "can use our military to repel attackers, but we do not possess the knowledge to transform our foes into liberal democrats." But he recognizes potential barriers to cooperation as well:

For starters, most of the Jeffersonians believe in some form of Just War theory. Jacksonians tend to reject any idea of limited war. In fact, one of their key objections to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the rules of engagement are too strict and civilian-friendly. Some in the paleoconservative universe would share that assessment; most would not.

The Jacksonians also have an expansive view of what takes to defeat radical Islam—and in some cases, they reject even the "radical" modifier. This means that while their eyes are opening to the futility of what the U.S. is currently doing in the Middle East, they remain ready to use military force against Iran and Syria and want to get tough with Saudi Arabia.

The whole article is worth reading, so I'll stop excerpting and just point you to the appropriate link.

NEXT: Lady O's Lavish Vacation Sacrifice

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  1. The REAL “Bush Derangement Syndrome”:

    1) Not holding GWB responsible for eight years of fiscal and foreign-policy disasters;

    2) Not holding GWB’s eight years of fiscal and foreign-policy disasters responsible for any current problems;

    3) Blaming all current problems on Obama’s year-and-a-half in office;

    4) Defaming all critics of GWB as apologists for Obama.

    1. +/- 1

    2. Well then I guess that would make Obama Derangement Syndrome:

      1) Not holding Obama accountable for a single damn thing – including all of the very explicit promises and statements he made during the campaign that he now has completely reneged on;

      2) Not recognizing that Congress, not the President, holds the purse strings, and that the Dems controlled Congress for the last years of Bush’s presidency;

      3) Blaming all current problems on Bush

      4) Defaming all critics of Obama as racists

    3. I’m not saying ALL critics of GWB are Obama apologists. Only 90-95% of them. Janeane Garafolo herself admitted a couple years ago that it wasn’t “cool” to protest Clinton’s actions in Kosovo and Sudan. And he was a fat white Southerner, not an athletic black city dweller! So I don’t expect them to get up in arms until some Republican is elected.

    4. Well, Bush sucked ass. Obama sucks even worse. Congress has gotten so bad that it has like a 10% approval rating.

      1. Precisely, PL: a pox on them all.

        1. But thanks, Barry, for your TROLLICIOUS way of kicking off the comments! Can I get a hi-colonic with that?

  2. Threadjack…Social Security is in the red RIGHT FUCKING NOW. So much for 2016.

    For the first time since the 1980s, Social Security will pay out more money in benefits this year than it collects in payroll taxes, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.

    I do not understand the failure of the populace to grasp what a big fucking deal this is.

    1. I know right?

    2. Fucking Ponzi schemes. How do they work?

    3. I do not understand the failure of the populace to grasp what a big fucking deal this is.

      Easily explained. We woke up in our own beds again this morning, so just don’t fucking care.

    4. Hey, man, no problem. They just need to get a few Benjamins out of the Social Security Trust Fund and she’ll be right as rain. 🙂

    5. This threadjack needs its own article. Hopefully someone at reason will get right on that.

  3. I was expecting some actual warriors in the article.

    1. Like Guy Gardner? or maybe the Ultimate Warrior?

  4. As has been the problem before, the important thing remains convincing jacksonians that perpetual war given its costs and limited effectiveness ( or more accurately, counterproductive effects) is not only not in our national interests but explicitly against them.

    As for the just war theory, I’ve always been of the understanding that that had more to do with the causus belli than the manner in which the war is prosecuted, though in either case the jeffersonians would find the jacksonians a troublesome lot.

    1. As for the just war theory, I’ve always been of the understanding that that had more to do with the causus belli than the manner in which the war is prosecuted

      It’s both.

      1. You have to go to war for the right reasons and prosecute the war in the right fashion. It’s the theory behind the Geneva and Hague Conventions. There’s a smidge of old-world upper crust aristocracy to the concept.

        I mean, just because we’re going to war is no reason to be uncivilized about it.

        1. Just War Theory holds that America must sacrifice its interests for others. Hence the failure in Afghanistan, where our soldiers are hampered by ridiculous ROEs. Objectivists know that JWT must be replaced by the model of American Self-Defense.

  5. It’s it simpler to acknowledge that war support ebb and flows with political leadership according to political party.

    When a republican becomes commander in chief, their support will return as it was.

  6. Other mainstream conservatives are honestly starting to ask what we are accomplishing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    If only this were true.

    1. I’m afraid that when conservatives criticise the war, what I hear is them complaining that we’re not caning the wogs sufficiently vigorously.

    2. I dunno, I’m starting to see it here and there among the conservatives I know. Some of it is undoubtedly reflexively anti-Obama, but I also see more questioning of our goals in Iraq and Afghanistan now that it’s becoming clear our economy is headed over the cliff.

  7. Yet there are Jeffersonian arguments that might persuade the most hardheaded Jacksonians. […] A viable containment strategy cannot be sustained through prolonged occupations of Muslim lands.

    A Jacksonian, though fundamentally sympathetic with almost any argument against prolonged occupation, would rightly doubt the Jeffersonian-ness (and so the motives) of a self-proclaimed Jeffersonian who lays a “Muslim lands” on him. That’s not the language?or even in the language?of the Jacksonian’s side.
    It’s the Weigel problem. A true outsider, one with a strong opposing affiliation, can’t copy the language of any group he deep-down hates.
    How ’bout don’t lie? That’s not on the list.

    1. ?, I realize that speculations about writers’ secret motives are your schtick, but you really might want to ground your claims in something more substantial than this. Antle started as a movement conservative and drifted in a more paleo direction after 9/11. He works alongside a number of Jacksonians at The American Spectator. I rather doubt that he hates them, and it would require more evidence than this minor word choice to demonstrate that he does.

  8. I consider myself pretty Jeffersonian and I consider our soldiers having to read rights and be shot at first to be ludicrous. However, I think they shouldn’t be put into the position of ‘policemen’ to begin with, and if they are in one it should be a highly temporary process following an actual war declared by Congress (not following an expired at any rate UN resolution) Such a circumstance would be as in West Germany after World War II.

    P.S. We no longer need to be in West Germany except PERHAPS in skelatal strength to maintain a base, and I find even that to be arguable.

  9. George Jefferson embodied the best of both Washington and Jefferson!

    1. We’re movin’ on up to the Middle East Side!

  10. For starters, most of the Jeffersonians believe in some form of Just War theory.

    Nobody can believe in “some form” of a theory (like believing in “some form” of gravitational theory) – either you find the entire theory convincing, or you do not.

    I do not believe in Just War. I believe in defending myself and my property, but Just War is simply too vague a term. Would that entail a limited action to drive the invader out, or Total Murder, like Churchill, Roosevelt and Truman practiced?

    1. Nobody can believe in “some form” of a theory (like believing in “some form” of gravitational theory) – either you find the entire theory convincing, or you do not.

      Just like accepting the teachings of Jesus. You either accept them or you don’t, which is why there is only one type of Christian church.

      1. Re: Hugh Akston,

        Just like accepting the teachings of Jesus. You either accept them or you don’t, which is why there is only one type of Christian church.

        The teachings of Jesus were theories??? First time I’ve heard that.

        If you want to make good analogies, I recommend you say to yourself as mantra: Apples with apples, oranges with oranges . . . Apples with apples, oranges with oranges . . .

        Do this like 1000 times before pretending to argue. If you are still not sure, say the mantra another 1000 times until the H&R has moved on to other matters.

        Don’t waste my time.

        1. They are theories on the nature of the universe, society, and the best conduct of life, yes. They include premises, arguments, and conclusions, even if they are implicit.

          Like the Just War theory, they support a number of interpretations and applications. That was the point I was making.

        2. Also, the feigned (imperative) ignorance and the “quiet, kid, grownups are talking” dismiss was an apt combination of the worst tendencies of regular poster who think they own H&R. Way to remind me why I don’t come around here as often as I used to.

        3. The teachings of Jesus were theories??? First time I’ve heard that.

          You obviously don’t hang out with many non-Christians then, do you?

  11. When I first glanced at that picture, I thought of Charles Bronson.

    1. I thought of Mel Brooks.

      1. I thought of cocaine.

    2. I thought of Bob Barr

  12. My main opposition to war is the financial cost and the fact that they are not real wars anymore (you know, the kind where one or both sides lose so much that they decide it’s not worth it). Now wars are a perpetual state of bog, they’ve become their own government institution.

  13. What we’re looking at here is a cultural clash. OTOH, Americans are basically pretty Clausewitzian in that they see wars as being fought between nations for a definitive political purpose, and thus they should be fought by armies to a conclusion.

    The Middle Eastern approach to war is very different. They have never been big fans of the decisive battle, or even the notion of war between nations doesn’t necessarily resonate. Their historical roots for war run more to raids between (ethnic) peoples.

    And that’s what’s playing out in Afghanistan and to a lesser extent in Iraq (and around Israel). The various Muslim forces are engaged in classic “raiding” behavior – Western-style armies and decision on the battlefield are simply not in their vocabulary, so to speak.

    NATO/America (and the Israelis) are operating from a different paradigm. So you get this godawful mess. The Muslims simply aren’t fighting a Clausewitzian war of decision, but we are, or at least want to.

    1. Clausewitzian

      Now there’s something I had to look up. Isn’t the concept of a Clausewitzian war romantic and severely outdated? I don’t think many or maybe any 20th century wars were truly like this. It’s kinda a 19th century thing, but I do suppose it is how I learned the history of USA warfare.

      That is we (USA) are the good guys and we fight the bad guys until they surrender because freedom is right and awesome.

      1. On War still reads pretty well in 2010.

        Clausewitzian generally just means war by a state to accomplish a political end.

        But in the Mideast, states in the Westphalian sense don’t have the strong identity they have in the West (e.g., Kurds are Kurdish first, Muslims second, and Turkish/Iranian/Iraqi a very distant third) so their wars tend to be different than those Clausewitz discussed, because Clausewitz generally assumes a state, whereas the states carved out of the old Ottoman Empire didn’t even have clear boundaries as late as the early 1900s.

  14. Warriors Against the Wars

    But are the Baseball Furies for or against them?

  15. Rome was ringed by barbarians, and 2,000 years later, it still is.

  16. armed proselytizing for democracy;

    That should be armed proselytizing for liberty. Democracy is merely one facet of the republican system of government which is itself desirable only because it’s the only form of gov’t with any track record of preserving liberty to speak of.

    At least until we get our Seasteading on, that is.

  17. Is that the preacher from Firefly?

  18. What i do not understand is why new governance is always worse than old governance. They always blame people before them for the situation. asigurari obligatorii

  19. Thanks for bringing up this article. It’s definitely an interesting read since was is such a controversial topic to talk about.

  20. As I remember, a few time ago Steele accused Obama he demonized Iraq and said the battle really should take place in Afghanistan. Who knows when the war will end in that poor country… RCA ieftin

  21. As I remember, Steele also accused Obama he demonized Iraq and said the battle really should take place in Afghanistan. Who knows when this war will end in that poor country… So many victims…

  22. As I remember, Steele also accused Obama he demonized Iraq and said the battle really should take place in Afghanistan. Who knows when this war will end in that poor country… So many victims…

  23. Is that the preacher from Firefly?

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