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Confessions of a warhawk: defending the American Empire
Enter Stage Right - A Journal of Modern Conservatism ^ | November 26, 2001 | Jackson Murphy

Posted on 11/28/2001 10:18:12 AM PST by gordgekko

Enter Stage Right - A Journal of Modern Conservatism

Confessions of a warhawk: defending the American Empire

By Jackson Murphy

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the ongoing war against terrorism, criticism of American foreign policy has not only been the job of the predictable and bankrupt left but also the object of some in the libertarian crowd. They have ratcheted up the anti-war rhetoric, all but issuing their own fatwa on the conservative movement-especially those at National Review. Who are they kidding? It is not as if liberal apparatchiks like Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd are writing for NR. Sure editors Rich Lowry and Jonah Goldberg purged their publication of the shrill Anne Coulter but this hardly makes Buckley and Co. an enemy to freedom.

There are those who claim that US power in the world is misplaced-the traditional left who see the US as mere imperialistic baby killers and the Libertarians whose lofty ideals lead them to thinking that the US operates in some sort of giant freedom vacuum.

Libertarians are fearful of two concurrent themes that have emerged-one the on domestic front, the other on the international side. First they are worried that the terrorism has concentrated powers of the president, may erode civil liberties, and could end up returning the big government of the past. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) recently wrote that, "Any talk of spending restraint is now a thing of the past, we had one anthrax death, and we are asked the next day for a billion dollar appropriations to deal with the problem."

Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review Online, had a helpful response. "It's worth pointing out that we've been told that we are on a slippery slope for more than two centuries. And yet, from the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed to the moment you eat your turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2001, Americans have become more, not less free. Maybe not on a month-to-month basis but the trendline is undeniable. The emancipation of the slaves, the enfranchisement of women and blacks, the breakthroughs in technology which make Americans the most mobile — i.e. free — people in the history of the world: All of these things describe a society climbing up a slippery slope not swishing down it."

Second, one of their first principles, call it their foreign policy 'Alamo', is that the reason the attacks took place were because of a growing American Empire abroad and the fear that the US is the global policeman.

The Libertarians are right to be concerned over the erosion of freedom but during war this is not something new-and growing numbers of people would rather make sure that airport security is rigid rather than have another 5,000 citizens dead. Not that it makes it right but it has come to be expected.

But on the foreign policy front they continue to argue that American foreign policy should return to the rationality of the time of Washington and Jefferson. That separated by an ocean, America could live without the interference and bother of European politics and wars. It was George Washington writing to a friend in 1788 that said, "Separated as we are by a world of water from other Nations, if we are wise we shall surely avoid being drawn into the labyrinth of their politics, and involved in their destructive wars."

Then in his farewell address Washington told the nation that, "The great rule in conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible." To which Thomas Jefferson later elaborated, in his First Inaugural Address, that American foreign policy should strive for, "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none."

How long did this golden age of non-interventionist foreign policy last? Not very, if it ever was true it lasted until about 1823 -- but really the US was already flirting with the European powers earlier than that. It would be President Monroe, and his Monroe Doctrine, that laid out a vision for an American Empire that would go from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Less than a century later America waged its first war of conquest-the Spanish-American War in 1898. And by the end of World War I America was showing its economic might which at that time represented 33 percent of the world's GNP.

President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, wrote that, "America's political institutions and free market economy created unprecedented opportunities for ambitious and iconoclastic inventors, who were no inhibited from pursuing their personal dreams by archaic privileges or rigid social hierarchies. In brief, national culture was uniquely congenial to economic growth, and by attracting and quickly assimilating the most talented individuals from abroad, the culture also facilitated the expansion of national power."

Current Libertarian thought on foreign affairs takes basic premises of harmonious trade and independence to new levels. The Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter's work, "Toward Strategic Independence", argues for a policy of strategic independence which would best protect American liberty and encourage world peace. These goals are part of a larger school of "Libertarian nonintervention" which is not isolationism per se but a grand strategy of military and political nonintervention combined with economic and cultural contact across borders.

Carpenter suggests that the United States should only use the military to defend her, "vital security interests." A new Libertarian foreign policy would mean that it no longer takes part in UN peacekeeping operations, that it's Cold War alliances must be phased out, it rejects a role as global policeman, and becomes the "balancer of last resort in the international system, rather than the intervener of first resort."

He concludes that, "The US government has the constitutional and moral responsibilities to protect the security and liberty of the American republic. It has neither constitutional nor moral writs to risk lives and resources to police the planet, promote democracy, or advance other aims on the bureaucracy's foreign policy agenda."

Ground zero for the libertarian anti-war movement can be found at websites like Lewrockwell.com and Antiwar.com. Lewrockwell.com is the self-proclaimed, "anti-state, anti-war, pro-market news site". It's founder, Lew Rockwell, is also the founder of the Mises Institute and a vice-president for the Center for Libertarian Studies.

In a recent article Rockwell says that, "I'd venture a guess that there's less than 1 percent backing among full-time workers who earn less than $30,000 per year for permanent stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia." But I would guess that those same workers know how much a gallon of gas costs and if you told them that Saudi Arabia produces a barrel of oil for $2.50 we'd all hope they would put two and two together.

In another piece he says this: "So let's talk motive. It's a fact that the terrorist actions and continuing threats are a direct response to US troops in Saudi Arabia, trade sanctions against Iraq, and the perception that the US approves of the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Anyone who pays attention to the news, and understands anything about the region, knew that these policies spelled trouble even before bin Laden announced it."

The terrorists don't have a grudge that is solely against the US-this is a canard. Bin Laden, ever the student of history, has argued that the actions on September 11th have to do with, among other things and in no particular order, the expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia in the 15th century, Israel, the United Nations, MTV, Bush (41), Bush (43), and so on. Suppose for a moment that the US had not been engaged in the Middle East? Iraq, for instance, is a menace not because of American involvement but in spite of it. Bin Laden was kicked out of Saudi Arabia because even the decadent House of Saud thinks that having a few US troops there will give Saddam pause. Does the woefully inept "street" in the Islamic world really know why the US is on their soil? I think not.

Another Rockwell contributor tries to equate America to the Roman Empire. "The point suggested is that of pristine Imperial Conservatism: Empire and its trappings are preferable to barbarism; if you wish to be safe in your person and your property, you must empower Government to do whatever it takes at home and abroad to develop and maintain the Empire that will shield against barbarism, including that apparently burbling within your own people."

It is not the empire building that is the problem. History shows us that the eras of relative peace coincide with the existence of a reliable and stable hegemon. Sure if the US is that hegemon it is going to pay a large share of the burden for peace while others free ride. This unabridged hegemony or empire is also a burden that carries with it a dire warning. "The road to empire leads to domestic decay because, in time, the claims of omnipotence erode domestic restraints. No empire has avoided the road to Caesarism unless, like the British Empire, it devolved its power before this process could develop," writes Henry Kissinger in his latest book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy? "As challenges grow more diffuse and increasingly remote from the historic domestic base, internal struggles become ever more bitter and in time violent. A deliberate quest for hegemony is the surest way to destroy the values that made the United States great."

Far be it for me to disagree with Henry the K, but as New York Times writer Thomas Friedman tells it, "The global system cannot hold together without an activist and generous American foreign and defense policy. Without America on duty, there will be no America Online." Globalization requires the US to ensure that goods flow. Terrorism, major wars, and intra-state conflict, are all threats to that flow of goods and make pretty much every backwater region in their interest.

Seriously if we left globalization up to France, for instance, not only would they have surrendered our freedoms to Germany in World War II. Had they managed to hold out globalization's freedoms would be limited to stinky cheeses and women's unshaved armpits. If the US is not a global leader, will the Rockwell crowd be willing to risk some other nation becoming one?

There have been mistakes in US foreign policy. Its general liberal tendencies are not unknown and its often-crusading exceptionalism is never to far off. The selfish poll driven and focus group policies of the Clinton Administration come to mind. There are intangible goods, say freedom, that are not the sole possession of Americans. Just take a good look at the liberation of Kabul and how happy those people were to do the little things-kite flying, going to see a movie, shaving, removing the veil.

On a personal note I guess all this makes me a "warhawk". Am I pro-state? Hardly, but that is the problem I have with libertarians. If you are even the remotest bit sympathetic to the state, say during wartime, you are a statist-against freedom and liberty. Forget that this is preposterous claptrap for a moment. While you can't be slightly pregnant, you can certainly be slightly, moderately, or predominantly libertarian. Being more conservative during this war on terrorism in no way makes me a socialist any more than living in Cuba would.

They call us conservatives overly statist like it is some sort of mental problem rather than a realist reaction to what the world is, not what it ought to be in some libertarian utopia. In an article in the December Atlantic Monthly Robert Kaplan sees the conservatives somewhat differently. "In the United States, Federalists like John Adams and Alexander Hamilton expounded conservative principles to defend a liberal constitution." In this way conservatism and libertarianism are yin and yang-more complementary than combative.

"Real conservatism cannot aspire to lofty principles, because its task is to defend what already exists. The conservative dilemma is that conservatism's legitimacy can come only from being proved right by events, whereas liberals, whenever they are proved wrong, have universal principles to fall back on," writes Kaplan. In effect it is the conservatives, those 'bastards' at NR and beyond, that are liberties greatest ally during war-not as the libertarians argue, its greatest enemy.

My support for this war is not blind. To be fair, and honest, my warhawk stance is nothing like Homer Simpson's love of donuts. The libertarians are off their rocker if they think staying close to home will give us more security and more liberty. Terrorism has given us pause. Liberty cannot be placed ahead of life; terrorism requires us to temporarily rethink our pursuit of happiness.

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He also writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

Enter Stage Right - A Journal of Modern Conservatism


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1 posted on 11/28/2001 10:18:12 AM PST by gordgekko (editor@enterstageright.com)
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: gordgekko
"Real conservatism cannot aspire to lofty principles, because its task is to defend what already exists."

That's why I'm not a conservative, at least not in the sense he means.

4 posted on 11/28/2001 10:33:10 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: gordgekko
"Real conservatism cannot aspire to lofty principles, because its task is to defend what already exists

What if what already exists is rotten to the core?

5 posted on 11/28/2001 10:53:53 AM PST by AUgrad
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To: gordgekko
Jonah Goldberg reminds me of Kommies whose recurrent theme was that the life of the workers and peasants is constantly improving and that Kommunism has brought equality and prosperity.
6 posted on 11/28/2001 11:06:30 AM PST by madrussian
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To: tex-oma
I gotta admit, for an exposition on the flaws of libertarianism, or libertarian thinking, this is more fair in its criticism than anything I've previously seen -- despite the fact that I disagree with nearly every criticism.
7 posted on 11/28/2001 11:13:16 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: gordgekko
Jonah Goldberg, editor of National Review Online, had a helpful response. "It's worth pointing out that we've been told that we are on a slippery slope for more than two centuries. And yet, from the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed to the moment you eat your turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2001, Americans have become more, not less free. Maybe not on a month-to-month basis but the trendline is undeniable. The emancipation of the slaves, the enfranchisement of women and blacks, the breakthroughs in technology which make Americans the most mobile — i.e. free — people in the history of the world: All of these things describe a society climbing up a slippery slope not swishing down it."

In fact, the trendline has been clearly downhill since FDR, albeit with some bumps upward (in civil liberties during the 1960s and economic liberties during the 1980s).

8 posted on 11/28/2001 11:14:04 AM PST by steve-b
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To: tex-oma
The emancipation of the slaves, the enfranchisement of women and blacks ... All of these things describe a society climbing up a slippery slope not swishing down it."

These things describe a society which is improving in important ways for some of our citizens. It says nothing about the many ways in which others are becoming substantially less free.

9 posted on 11/28/2001 11:16:47 AM PST by LSJohn
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: tex-oma
Not sure how you equate freeing slaves and the evolution towards anything-goes society we live in with owning washing machines. Jonah statements are correct. We're too friggin free and its time to tighten up our borders and allow the feds to hunt down the terrorists.
11 posted on 11/28/2001 11:19:00 AM PST by plain talk
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: gordgekko
Until the early '70s, when "Scoop Jackson Democrats" like Perle, Podhoretz, Abrams and the like began to court Repulicans, most "conservatives" even those of the National Review bent, did not embrace the cause of "crusading for democracy." I for one support our strikes against the terrorists who did this to us, but don't want us to embark on "spreading our democratic values" around the world, as the turds at National Review/Weekly Standard/Commentary wish us to do.

We are the Friends of Civilization everywhere, but the keepers only of our own --- John Quincy Adams

13 posted on 11/28/2001 11:21:54 AM PST by Clemenza
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To: AUgrad
What if what already exists is rotten to the core?

Well, see, you should ignore the rot (you will be ever so much more . . . . . . . .blissful) and conserve it. You wanna be a conservative doncha, 'cause if'n you ain't, yur jus' another one a them Klintoon-lovin' moron-traitor-socialist-blameAmericaFirsters.

14 posted on 11/28/2001 11:22:42 AM PST by LSJohn
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Comment #16 Removed by Moderator

To: tex-oma
"I was also under the impression that the amendment that expanded the franchise is generally seen as the beginning of the feminization of politics, which has been one of the main forces behind many of our most socialist policies, like welfare."

I would NEVER say that.

......but I can think anything I damn well please.

17 posted on 11/28/2001 11:26:30 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: tex-oma
It kinda reminded me of someone.....!

LOL

LF Loyal opposition, bless his heart.

18 posted on 11/28/2001 11:29:35 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: Clemenza
I wish I'd said that.

'Course I'd have written one of your four[5]-letter words in all caps and boldface.

19 posted on 11/28/2001 11:32:03 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: gordgekko
I can't speak for anyone else, but this libertarian(small l)is not so much concerned about the "war" in Asia. I definitely am extremely concerned about the expansion of police powers and the potential for abuse(or the actual abuse which seems to be accelerating)of those powers here at home. I believe the leadership of our country is acting outside the bounds of the Constitution and is using this national tragedy to consolidate power and impose their wishes on an unwilling populace. I love my country but I fear my government.
20 posted on 11/28/2001 11:32:09 AM PST by AUgrad
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To: annalex; tex-oma
annalex: Puhleeeze don't read this . . . . . I'm exhausted already.
21 posted on 11/28/2001 11:33:57 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: AUgrad
is using this national tragedy to consolidate power and impose their wishes on an unwilling populace

Maybe I should have said "unsuspecting populace"

22 posted on 11/28/2001 11:35:12 AM PST by AUgrad
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Comment #23 Removed by Moderator

To: AUgrad
I love my country but I fear my government.

Good luck with convincing more than about 5% of our associates here.

24 posted on 11/28/2001 11:35:56 AM PST by LSJohn
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To: LSJohn
Good luck with convincing more than about 5% of our associates here

All we can do is try. I'm afraid my fears will be vindicated before too very long.

25 posted on 11/28/2001 11:40:10 AM PST by AUgrad
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To: tex-oma
Typical county club Republican, doesn't give a damn unless it is money related. They will happily march off to the Gulag as long as the lobster bisque is good and the Wall Street Journal is on their porch every morning.
26 posted on 11/28/2001 11:46:45 AM PST by WALLACE212
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To: LSJohn
Puhleeeze don't read this

I didn't, really. Appears to be close to what I would say.

27 posted on 11/28/2001 11:58:13 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
If you're not joking, you should. It's pretty good despite my many disagreements with it.
28 posted on 11/28/2001 12:06:15 PM PST by LSJohn
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: tex-oma
I stopped reading this when the author had the gall to claim that we are freer today than ever before. What hogwash!
30 posted on 11/28/2001 12:36:07 PM PST by Captain Kirk
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To: gordgekko
[Libertarians] are worried that the terrorism has concentrated powers of the president, may erode civil liberties, and could end up returning the big government of the past.

Lost me right there. Returning the big government? Returning? Big government of the past? What is this guy smoking?

31 posted on 11/28/2001 12:52:32 PM PST by Sandy
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To: tex-oma
Where does one begin??

~First they are worried that the terrorism has concentrated powers of the president, may erode civil liberties, and could end up returning the big government of the past.

What an insolent LIE! It should be insulting to everyone reading this that he would think he could get away with it!

~"It's worth pointing out that we've been told that we are on a slippery slope for more than two centuries.

It's worth pointing out that that statement is TRUE!

~And yet, from the moment the Declaration of Independence was signed to the moment you eat your turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2001, Americans have become more, not less free.

Please, tell THAT to those that have lost their homes and livilihoods due to "imminent domain". Tell that to those farmers in Oregon or the citizens who have had the voice of their vote declared mute by Ashcroft! Tell that to the lumber and steel workers! Tell that to parents who have to wonder what their kids will be asked by their family doctor or their teacher at school! Shall I go on? I could.

~Maybe not on a month-to-month basis but the trendline is undeniable.

Yet it's the MONTHS that make up the YEARS...the DECADES...

And THIS??

~Liberty cannot be placed ahead of life

Does he not remember ANYTHING?

I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past....
What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

I'm sorry, Patrick Henry.

32 posted on 11/28/2001 1:18:36 PM PST by SusanUSA
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To: susangirl
Liberty cannot be placed ahead of life

I guess WWII was just for grins.

33 posted on 11/28/2001 1:47:27 PM PST by AUgrad
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To: tex-oma
Jonah thinks that being out of Lucianne's house is freedom. I think she made him stay in his room for 30 years.
34 posted on 11/28/2001 2:47:26 PM PST by Twodees
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To: susangirl
Consider the source, ma'am. This guy is a 20something Canadian. He's probably been to an opera in New York once or twice.
35 posted on 11/28/2001 2:52:18 PM PST by Twodees
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Comment #36 Removed by Moderator

Comment #37 Removed by Moderator

To: tex-oma
Jonah is such a dunce that he thinks freedom is owning a washing machine and a car.

Jonah is conflating 'liberty' with 'freedom'.
My own rule of thumb regarding these terms is this:

liberty is freedom from (state) control
freedom is liberation from (social) constraints

I think one could argue that our freedoms have expanded over the years, but that our liberties have contracted. Hell, you can't even burn a pile of leaves nowadays without a govt. permit.

38 posted on 11/28/2001 3:24:07 PM PST by Dan De Quille
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Comment #39 Removed by Moderator

To: AUgrad
I guess WWII was just for grins.

I wonder what he would answer if asked that question.

40 posted on 11/28/2001 3:45:41 PM PST by SusanUSA
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To: Twodees
I overreacted? :-)
41 posted on 11/28/2001 3:48:12 PM PST by SusanUSA
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To: Askel5
No empire has avoided the road to Caesarism unless, like the British Empire, it devolved its power before this process could develop," writes Henry Kissinger in his latest book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy? "As challenges grow more diffuse and increasingly remote from the historic domestic base, internal struggles become ever more bitter and in time violent. A deliberate quest for hegemony is the surest way to destroy the values that made the United States great."

Have you seen this?

42 posted on 11/28/2001 3:58:00 PM PST by independentmind
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To: gordgekko
Globalization requires the US to ensure that goods flow. Terrorism, major wars, and intra-state conflict, are all threats to that flow of goods and make pretty much every backwater region in their interest.

Seriously if we left globalization up to France, for instance, not only would they have surrendered our freedoms to Germany in World War II. Had they managed to hold out globalization's freedoms would be limited to stinky cheeses and women's unshaved armpits. If the US is not a global leader, will the Rockwell crowd be willing to risk some other nation becoming one?

The author apparently isn't perceptive to realize that this is a fairly good argument against globalization. And the idea that if we don't do it, someone else will is really quite unimaginative.

43 posted on 11/28/2001 4:01:37 PM PST by independentmind
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s/be:

The author apparently isn't perceptive enough to

44 posted on 11/28/2001 4:04:45 PM PST by independentmind
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To: tex-oma
seen as the beginning of the feminization of politics

Bingo. Whenever I hear someone speak of our being "more free" (as if we'd discovered Additional human rights), I can't help but suspect someone who's bought at least one of the bogus freedoms gifted us by the State in the name of Choice ... like the mother-only right to homocide.

45 posted on 11/28/2001 4:24:39 PM PST by Askel5
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To: Romulus
Typical county club Republican, doesn't give a damn unless it is money related

Remind me to get the exact quote for you from Molnar on "conservatives" from one time he was in town.

46 posted on 11/28/2001 4:26:38 PM PST by Askel5
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To: hogwaller
who's been involved in American intelligence for 50+ years that's still alive

An easy way to tell is to look for the Decent People.

As Kissinger told Putin ... "all decent people get their start in intelligence."

(Wish I'd been in the jump seat of their St. Petersburg limo at that moment to witness what I'm certain was a most soulful exchange of the eyes between two of the globe's most Decent Men men ever.)

47 posted on 11/28/2001 4:48:42 PM PST by Askel5
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To: D Joyce
Ahaha, the very worst is French opera. It goes on for years and years. A man could drink long enough to pass out during a French opera and snooze long enough to wake up cold sober. He'd miss less than half of it. ;-)
48 posted on 11/28/2001 4:55:25 PM PST by Twodees
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To: susangirl
Oh, no ma'am. I was marveling at your restraint. ;-)

You're still the prettiest young lady on FR, BTW. Tell your hubby I'm not flirting, though. I'm too old to flirt.

49 posted on 11/28/2001 4:58:03 PM PST by Twodees
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To: independentmind
You know ... I call them useful idiots all the time but these fellahs than hang on the wisdom of Henry really blow my mind.

What do you think he is saying here? I'll bet they don't even know. I can't imagine why we'd take a page from the British Empire. Do we still have an opportunity to avoid Caesarism?

I don't understand how the division at home over remote interventions is a problem ... seems to me (just from observation) that such divisions stem strictly from our government's departure from its historical (read:Declaration, Constitional) base.

Americans have no problem fighting to hell and gone. It's not a conflict's being remote so much as it is being unjust or flim-flam that causes the division.

And if he's going to be throwing around words like Hegemon, why no mention ever of China? Considering the fact that this will boil down to an East-West cataclysm and the heat's already on in earnest, it seems pretty superficial and sorta sneaky to constantly avoid the dragon breathing fire so as to load up your assurances and stratagems with strictly Western references.

Devolve in advance like the Brits? What kind of advice is that? Given that he must have some "remote" concept of the mind of the enemy to all that is the "historical base" of American thinking as embodied in the universal human liberties and self-evident truths of our founding documents to which men the world over respond ... I find his counsel passing strange.

50 posted on 11/28/2001 5:06:24 PM PST by Askel5
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