Skip to comments.Peace-Loving Conservatives (Book Review)
Posted on 08/16/2008 11:05:43 AM PDT by Publius804
by Jeffrey Tucker
Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism By Bill Kauffman, Metropolitan Books, $25, 304 pages
In my hometown, the peace rallies are always sponsored by the Unitarians. Actually, it is they who are the participants too. This is not a highly heterogeneous group. In fact, you know them already: highly educated, ideologically driven according to conventional left-wing moorings, attracted to fashionable causes like global warming and the mortal threat posed by plastic grocery bags, and hyper-tolerant of all points of view except those with which they disagree.
(Excerpt) Read more at insidecatholic.com ...
Great example of how misguided conservatives can be on war.
Believing that limited government is good for them, the nativism of the America first movement understood that it was just too bad if Hitler wanted to impose his particular view of statism on the entire world. America First conservatives would have fought Hitler if he had landed on American shores after that global triumph. But until that day, America firsters were prepared to sit the global war out.
In so doing, they were willing to be passive participants in the Holocaust— aware of the inherent tragedies of radical statism but being careful to do nothing about it.
That quandary infects us today. We will not use statist solutions [the american war machine] to stop radical statism [Afghan Talibanism, Liberian Taylorism, Sudanese Bashirsm or Iraqi Saddamism]. We must sit and wait— and perhaps read a few more tomes from Pat Buchannan.
Its rather sad. Hopefully, we have Left that past behind.
And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind?
Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity.
She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights.
She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own.
She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.
She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right.
Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.
But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.
She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.
She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.
The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....
She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....
[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.
When John Quincy Adams served as U. S. Secretary of State, he delivered this speech to the U.S. House of Representatives on July 4, 1821, in celebration of American Independence Day. I think his words speak for themselves, and bear out what America has become.
The America Firsters to blame for the Holocaust? Nonsense. That is a monstrous libel. If you want to blame anyone (other than Hitler, of course) for the Holocaust (which didn't begin until late 1941) blame FDR. FDR failed to use his influence to give refuge to the Jews either the United States or a third country. In fact, it was his administration which turned the ill fated ship, "St. Lous" from American shores.
By contrast, H.L. Mencken, a conservative/libertarian opponent of U.S. intervention, was writing editorials beginning in the late 1930s urging FDR to let in Jewish refugees. Hamilton Fish also urged that something be done ot help them.
Furthermore, later in the war FDR REFUSED to bomb the death camps or aid the Jews who rebelled in the Warsaw ghetto. Had we listened to Mencken, instead of FDR, the mass murder of the Jews could have been prevented.
I thought his rediscovery of some 19th century political figures from Upstate New York in an earlier book was interesting. It's a part of our history we could know more about, but I wouldn't trust Bill to decide how we should conduct our relations with other countries.
That's outside his area of expertise, and probably he should inform himself more before he offers advice. He likes to paint in broad strokes when a more precise hand is needed.
I wouldn't entirely write off Kauffman's contribution to the political conversation, though. A stopped clock is still right twice a day, and in two hundred and twenty years his heroes can't have been wrong about everything.
No injury, no cause, in this case. Bringing the Holocaust in to the argument is a Strawman at the point of time you are talking about. Until the Japs attacked us most of my family could have cared less about the War. You have to remember that Germany declared war on us, 12/22/41.
I am glad that people have engaged this post. I am also glad this book review was posted. The principals involved are no small matter.
I will admit that I did invoke the Holocaust because I knew it would raise the stakes. Nonetheless, the tragedy is what it is. The tragedy continues daily around the world.
The Adams quote is fantastic and the best rebuttal to my own sentiments. The fact that America does not seek monsters is part of her best character.
Despite its excellent nature, I think we do live in a powerfully linked global world. The agonizing lesson of World War II is that we will never return to the practices of Adams— even if we only have purely selfish reasons for doing so.
The America First movement delayed the American intervention in those affairs until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The consequences were two fold: 1) the Holocaust and associated horrors of Hitler’s vision gained greater fruition and 2) the political momentum necessary to freeze the dangerous leagues of monsters was 400,000 American men.
On this second point, Adams principal will be set aside. We will wish the world well and we will now engage it early on questions of monstrous statism. Engaging too early has little show in costs comparable to the death and carnage of world war 2.
The idea that America has become herself and imperial Monster is shown transparently ridiculous by the nature of her sword— an all volunteer army of half a million men and women. One of the foremost reasons we have for believing in the just nature of the Iraq war— despite the collaboration of conservative nativists and liberal reactionaries— is the decision of these volunteers to continually re-enlist in record numbers for their ‘evil imperial cause.’ Their 4,000 deaths since the war’s inception to stand as a monument to sacrifice while hardly signifying the colossal failure of war that could reasonably be attached to a war no one would ever dare name as such— World War II.
The more engaged stature of America today has not betrayed her restrained character nor jeopardized her belief in the necessity of limited government. If anything, the sacrifice of the American solider since World War II has emphasized that the dangers of over reaching government are more dangerous than even our founders professed.
Contradiction or paradox? history will judge.
MICKEY: “...It’s very well structured. Now I’m talking now, incidentally, about the-the, uh, against-school-prayer, pro-abortion, anti-nuclear wing.” — Woody Allen, ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’
Though the results are the same, there are different attitudes behind conservative and liberal isolationism:
Conservative isolationism = America is too good for the world.
Liberal isolationism = The world is too good for America.
Would this be the same John Quincy Adams who negotiated the “Monroe Doctrine”? Of what about he Presiden Adams who was chief executive of an empire, dominating subject Indian nations?
That would be the same John Quincy Adams. The Monroe Doctrine as originally conceived is well in line with the speech I quoted before. Also, Adams' policy towards the Indians was a bit different than his predecessor. He wanted to buy their lands from them instead of just annexing them. He also believed the government had a duty to abide by the Indian treaties, and he also spoke out against and renegotiated a treaty with the Georgia Creek Indians that had previously stripped them of their lands.
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