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So call me Unpatriotic, or, What is a Conservative?

Putting Truth Ahead of Nation.

by James Leroy Wilson
June 5, 2003

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So call me Unpatriotic, or, What is a Conservative?_James Leroy Wilson-Putting Truth Ahead of Nation. A couple of months ago David Frum's National Review cover story "Unpatriotic Conservatives" singled out a number of prominent anti-war conservatives and libertarians for excommunication from the Conservative Movement. Well, libertarians had already said good riddance 35 years ago. But isolationist "America First" conservatives (with whom libertarians share common ground in foreign policy) were the main target. Keeping, not America, but the entire world (and especially Israel), safe from "terrorism" is now America's moral obligation, according to neo-conservatives. And pursuing Woodrow Wilson's 85-year-long failed goal of making the world "safe for Democracy" is also, still, America's moral obligation. To be critical of either policy is to be a reactionary and an anti-Semite. Anyone who believes that America does not have a Messianic mandate to save the world through global empire and a Pax Americana is now, according to Frum, and National Review's editors, no longer a conservative.

Never mind that America was founded on liberty and secession, not democracy, and that both inductive reasoning, and history, proves that democracy is hostile to liberty. And that every war the United States started, and every foreign war it decided to join, did nothing but cause further wars. None of that counts. Death and the destruction of property doesn't matter to Frum's true "patriot." It never has to any socialist or nationalist, and never will. To them, moral rightness, which to them is the "national interest," completely disregards the actual infliction of pain and suffering on actual human beings.

To be fair, this contempt for life is even more blatant in the Democratic Party, whose followers don't care how many innocent people are slaughtered without defense, as long as private ownership of guns are outlawed for "moral" reasons which make sense only to the already-deformed logic of the socialist. These types will also willingly see the murder of ten unborn children so long as one receives "adequate funding" for health care, day care, and education, thus absolving parents of responsibility of their sexual acts - and thereby encouraging greater sexual and parental irresponsibility. Democrats have more blood on their hands than they can imagine. To let my criticism of the insane tyrant named Bush, be an excuse to vote for any Democrat who opposes him, is as far from my intention as possible.

But anyway, National Review had defined conservatism for two generations. It did for me, and actually helped keep me sane during the Clinton years. But since becoming a libertarian, I love the irony that now Frum and the magazine's editors have made themselves the very targets of conservative icon Samuel Johnson's famous remark "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Unable to prove a shaky to groundless case for war, *National Review* went on the attack against right-wing critics. So far, the outcome of the War on Iraq seems to confirm the doubts and charges of the Bush administration's critics. The administration, and *National Review*, has yet to prove the "unpatriotic" anti-war crowd wrong. They're just proving themselves to be a bunch of scoundrels.

That said, maybe Frum has a point. I hope he does. Before I get to it, I must point out another irony, that aside from Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak, Frum's other targets are - most unfortunately - less well-known, and make a lot less money, than Frum himself. (Not to mention Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, President Bush, and Bush's advisors.) Paleo-conservatives aren't invited to become White House speechwriters and write bestsellers to tell about it. No libertarian was asked to become National Security Advisor. Knowledge of the Constitution, or Herbert Spencer, or Garet Garrett, or Austrian economics, just isn't going to earn many people fame or fortune in today's world. But that the defenders of freedom and non-intervention warrant a cover story in National Review indicates that Buckleyite- and neo-conservatives are threatened nevertheless. Threatened by what? Perhaps by the courage of conviction.

These people Frum calls "unpatriotic" can't help but speak out. Even if they could use their talents for greater personal profit if they sold themselves out to the mainstream. Even if their names are obscure, or tarnished by charges of extremism or worse. This is certainly the mark of a patriot, that he sacrifices personally for the sake of his country. Peggy Noonan isn't suffering for catering to the prejudices of Wall Street Journal readers. George Will doesn't need to ask for donations to support his wisdom.

But getting back to the point. I would hope that Frum is at least partially correct. I'm certainly less patriotic than I used to be. I'm not into the Pledge of Allegiance; with or without "under God," it's still idolatry. I don't get chills watching color guards anymore, feeling instead sorrow for the many good, patriotic young men who killed innocents and died for the political careers of cynical politicians, rather than for this or any other country's "freedom." "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was once one of my favorite hymns, but that was when my patriotic eyes were blind to the Christian heresies behind the lyrics.

Why am I less patriotic now? Because I *understand* things better. I understand economics better. I understand the nature of government better. And these help me interpret history more accurately, and, like the 19th-century French economics writer Fredric Bastiat, consider what is "not seen," what might have been had the State not sacrificed and murdered millions of lives in useless wars, incarcerated millions more for victimless crimes, and taxed trillions of dollars from us.

No libertarian wants to see any damage to life or property through violence. And no "America First" conservative wants to see American blood shed overseas for a counter-productive moral crusade or for imperialist reasons. What they have in common, and what outrages Frum, is that they put another love ahead of country, namely love of truth. Economic truth. Political truth. Moral truth. Frum's "Unpatriotic Conservative" is one who's commitment to objective truth shapes his judgment for what's best for our country. Whereas Frum's "real" patriots, apparently, are militarist, nationalist conservatives whose love for country shapes their judgment on what is true. The modern-day "mainstream" conservative is threatened by truth.

If fearing the truth is patriotic, call me "unpatriotic" any day.

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