The Benefits of Reactionary Politics

Seemingly reactionary politics are actually a far more complex ideology that has for too long been marginalized by mainstream establishments in western civilization.  In this response to a New York magazine essay, I consider the merits of this “reactionary” ideology.

 

Andrew Sullivan’s recent essay for the New York magazine is a good example of how something can be insightful, and yet fundamentally flawed.  His subtitle “An open-minded inquiry into the close-minded ideology…” puts the article off to a rough start.  I do think Sullivan is genuinely open-minded after reading the entire article, but he is too quick to call these “reactionaries” close-minded.  Are they close minded for being skeptical of globalization?  Are they close minded for rejecting what most in academia swear by?  Or is most of academia close-minded for not giving serious thought to the possibility that globalization will do more harm than good?

Despite Sullivan’s inconsistent critical thinking, I do think this article is a genuine effort to understand this movement he’s calling “the reactionary right”.  First, he draws a brilliant distinction between conservatism and reactionism.  This is spot on!  Conservatives, as the very name suggests, seek to conserve the status quo, and implement modest, incremental changes.  The changes they seek are to build upon what is already there, rather than change it fundamentally.  In this last Presidential race, Clinton was actually the conservative.  Clearly, the conservatives are not who elected Trump.  As many in the media stated many times over, Trump voters were “thirsty for change”.  While I think the term “reactionary” doesn’t do this movement justice, Sullivan’s description of these reactionaries is astute:

“Reactionary thought begins, usually, with acute despair at the present moment and a memory of a previous golden age. It then posits a moment in the past when everything went to hell and proposes to turn things back to what they once were. It is not simply a conservative preference for things as they are, with a few nudges back, but a passionate loathing of the status quo and a desire to return to the past in one emotionally cathartic revolt.”

Sullivan’s first-hand experience, and my own

In the essay, Sullivan discussed his own background as a “reactionary”.

“Growing up steeped in traditional religion, in a household where patriotism seemed as natural as breathing, I became infatuated with a past that no longer existed. I loved the countryside that was quickly being decimated by development, a Christianity that was being overwhelmed by secularism, and an idea of England, whose glories — so evident in the literature I read, the history I had absorbed, and the architecture I admired — had self-evidently crumbled into dust.”

I can see that Sullivan is genuine in describing his own experiences, but also that he doesn’t do it justice.

Like Mr. Sullivan, I too have, in the past, fit this description.  In my early adult years, despite my mixed heritage and German surname, I strongly identified with my English heritage to the point of wanting to “go back”.  I romanticized England, the land of my forefathers, and imagined it much like Sullivan describes above.  I’ve discussed my dismay at what I actually found before.  I too know the despair of modernity, when compared to a glossy and cherry-picked image of a past I’ve never experienced except in my mind.  I admit that to this very day, this “reactionism”, which I prefer to call “nostalgiaholism”, is my instinct.  This level of nostalgia really can have an intoxicating effect, and I think of myself now as a recovered nostalgiaholic.  Despite this, the ideals of “reactionaries” should not be dismissed, and may have merits.

Sullivan makes two assumptions that should be challenged.  1. That looking to the past equates to resisting progress, and 2. That change is necessarily good.

The benefits of nostalgia in moderation

As drinking in moderation has proven health benefits, I contend that nostalgia in moderation can also benefit the health of society and human progress.  What Sullivan is calling “reactionism”, Roger Scruton calls this “restorationism”, and distinguishes it from mainstream conservatism, and this label is probably the most accurate.  Reactionaries, after all, would not be proactive, nor have any particular goal other than to impede some sort of change they don’t like.  But restorationists see something from the past they’d like to restore.

While trying to fully restore an entire era is not only dangerous but impossible, this does not mean that the past should be ignored.  Many times in human history, great leaps forward have been motivated by nostalgia.  It was nostalgia for ancient Rome that drove Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance.  It was nostalgia for the logical thinking of ancient Greek philosophers that motivated the creation of the university.  What is more civilized than the critical thinking skills developed out of the early modern university?

Sullivan refers to the Roman Catholic “Counter Reformation” as part of this “reactionary” tradition.  However, it should be noted that the Counter Reformation brought about much needed reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, much to the benefit of those nations that were predominantly Catholic, such as finally ending the practice of “selling indulgences”, and disciplining corruption among the episcopate.

The United States of America was motivated also by nostalgia.  Go back in time to 1776.  Monarchies and oligarchies are the norm.
Republican form of government?  Isn’t that the primitive government the early Romans had before they became an empire?  Oh yeah, they also tried that in England under Cromwell.  Didn’t he turn into a dictator and massacre Irish priests, nuns, and laity in their parish?  Why would anyone want a Republic?

But the Founding Fathers looked to those few examples of a successful republic in the ancient world with fondness.  They also saw the failures of the Cromwell Republic in England, and were careful not to repeat those failures.  (The first amendment guarantee of “free expression” of religion is a crucial component of that.)  Rather than living in the now of 1776, the Founding Fathers lived in the past, the ancient past.  Thanks to the ancient past, they were able to restore a republican form of government.

The Church of England has made leaps forward not only for the Church itself, but also for Great Britain, motivated by nostalgia.  In the 19th century, many in the Church of England started longing for their Catholic roots.  Few desired a full reunion with the Roman Catholic Church, but they did push for the restoration of many Catholic styles of worship.  Consequently, they also found themselves increasingly sympathetic to the plight of their long oppressed Catholic brothers in Ireland.  In the political sphere, they pushed for better treatment for the Irish with some success, and at least brought an end to formalized suppression of Catholic worship in Ireland.

Then comes the Irish themselves.  Around the time of World War I, they began looking to the past.  Ireland was free once, wasn’t it?  They began pining for an independent Irish nation.  They also looked to the United States for inspiration.  This all sparked the Irish revolution, leading to a now small but thriving Irish Republic.  How fortunate that the Irish looked to the past, rather than embracing the now of 1916.

The Fallacy of Novelty – Change isn’t always good

People don’t necessarily resist change just because they are stubborn and set in their ways.  Most academics would in principle agree with the statement – skepticism is a healthy component of critical thinking.  Yet, when it comes to “progress”, suddenly skepticism is to be viewed as the anti-thesis of critical thinking.  But this is not so.

Many of these salt-of-the-earth Americans are more intelligent than recognized by those in the ivory towers of academia, the Washington beltway, and the mainstream media.  There are many changes that they do embrace, some of which Sullivan has identified, such as a desire to fundamentally transform the administrative state.  But their skepticism of many proposed changes that are imposed upon them is perfectly healthy.  Rather than seeing it as a stubbornness that should, at best, be coaxed out of them, or a worst, should be broken by brute force; perhaps we should be humble enough to admit that they might actually be right, or at least partly correct.  Human history is full of examples, after all, of a nouveau elite imposing massive changes on a people with disastrous consequences.

The Cromwell example in England mentioned above is one such.

The Soviet Union is another such example.  Massive changes were imposed on the people of Russia.  Their historic Orthodox faith was suppressed.  Their economy was radically reorganized.  Dissenting opinions were not tolerated.  It was assumed that anyone who doubted communism was “insane” and they were institutionalized.  The Bolshevics never had the humility to consider the possibility that they may not have known what was best for everyone, all the time.  And the result was nearly a century of suffering, mass murder, starvation, and the final collapse of the Soviet Union.  Communism in China went similarly, though they managed not to collapse.

In America, the early progressives implemented some very positive changes that transformed out economy and led us to victory in World War II.  However, some of their imposed changes make up the darker chapters of American history.  Many of the early progressives sought to advance the human species with eugenics, which also influenced early Nazi Germany.  They also studied diseases on some “lesser human beings”.  Sadly, this meant the long oppressed African Americans, some of whom were denied treatment for syphilis as part of the Tuskagee Study in order to study its effects.  A growing number of blacks became skeptical of all that change.  They were right to be skeptical.

How fortunate that in Spain, many reactionaries resisted change!  Led by Franco, the seemingly benign center-left Republic was overthrown.  The momentum to overthrow this Republic was not a desire fascism, nor even Carlism (Spanish conservatism), though those elements were there.  The momentum that led Franco to victory came from the genuine fear that the Soviets were about to use the Spanish Republic to ultimately turn Spain into another Soviet satellite.  Spain could have been like Romania under Ceausescu.  Instead, it went from an authoritarian right government under Franco, to a monarchy, to a now a thriving democracy structured around a constitutional monarchy, much like Great Britain and several Nordic states.

As we should not hold on to tradition just for the sake of tradition, we should also not embrace change simply because it’s new.  Ideas old and new should be scrutinized, and it is the scrutiny of the new that is an essential function performed by these “reactionaries”.

 

Make America Great Again – What does this mean?

Many have dismissed this slogan as a racist desire to return to the Jim Crow era.  As a recovered nostalgiaholic, I can tell you that when I was on the wagon, I had no desire to restore white supremacy.  Actually, I had great sympathy for some of the most radical African Americans who wanted to embrace their African roots.  I wanted to embrace my English roots, they wanted to embrace their African roots…makes sense.  To me, the desire of any people to reconnect with their ancestors, their traditions, and the land of their forefathers, is a perfectly natural desire.  The philosopher Roger Scruton (the aforementioned restorationist) has argued that Islam is incompatible with the West, but he likewise has shown respect for the right of the Islamic people to be autonomous, and not have western values imposed upon their part of the world.    In so doing, Roger Scruton shows greater respect for the Islamic world than many a self-righteous neoliberal, who preaches compassion when calling for admitting refugees, but doesn’t hesitate to bomb entire nations into submission because they think that the west knows what is best for the whole world.

This claim that “reactionaries” or restorationists are racist is absurd, and is a cheap tactic by the globalists to racially isolate this movement as an exclusively white movement.  But people of all races across the world face different threats from the forces of globalization.

Sullivan, fortunately, is open minded enough not to dismiss this movement as “racist”.  But this is only a matter of strategy, rather than intellectual inquiry in the merits of “reactionary” politics.

“The American elite’s dismissal of these truths, its reduction of all resistance to cultural and demographic change as crude “racism” or “xenophobia,” only deepens the sense of siege many other Americans feel.”

It’s commendable that Sullivan seeks to reach out to these American under siege, but how can he expect them to be open to his ideas, if he is not also open to their ideas?

Sullivan himself not only acknowledges that globalization is very new and fragile, but admits to the negative consequences of globalization.  He refers to the work of Robert Putnam, who found that “people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ that is, to pull in like a turtle.”  I saw this firsthand during my time in London.  You’ll never meet a more unpleasant Englishman than the one who lives in London.  But I found the English I met anywhere outside of London to be far more pleasant and welcoming, contrary to stereotypes.

In America, we are more accustomed to multiculturalism, given our long history as a nation of immigrants.  While the 1950s were, admittedly, “whiter”, it is not the “whiteness” that so many in Trump’s base pine for.  My father tells me of a time in America when you could walk into a factory and get a job the same day.  As a political scientist, I look at a time in the past when there wasn’t as wide of a gap between rich and poor, and America had a strong middle class.  Do I really care how “white” the middle class is?!

The great thing about restorationism is that you don’t have to restore everything.  If we can restore America as a manufacturing giant, it doesn’t mean we have to restore Jim Crow.  Manufacturing in no way depends on racial segregation.  (If anything, segregation was an impediment, and manufacturing thrived in the 1950s despite it.)

We can debate whether or not restoring America’s manufacturing sector is possible, or a good idea if it is.  But to claim that this is “racist” is a cheap straw man argument designed to impede any legitimate debate.

The stale intellectual elites, and Mr. Sullivan 

At the risk of getting back on the wagon, I must lament at the changes I see in academia.  I joined academia in the hope of becoming a part of an institution that valued knowledge and critical thinking.  Many in academia still do.  But I see this under assault by a violent wave of political correctness.  The short term feelings of students and faculty takes precedent over the development of their minds.  Expanding the mind is sometimes a painful process, which involves challenging everything you know, or think you know.  But when doing so is “offensive”, it is increasingly suppressed by those claiming to be the open-minded advocates of the oppressed.  I see this in academia, but others on the #trumptrain see it all around them.

This is not progressive, but the antithesis of progress!  We do not move people forward by shielding them from scrutiny.  We do not move society forward by embedding a strict set of social norms and ostracizing those who challenge those norms.  It makes no difference whether those norms are conservative values or politically correct values.  As John Stuart Mill stated, “This mode of thinking makes the justification of restraints on discussion not a question of the truth of doctrines, but of their usefulness; and flatters itself by that means to escape the responsibility of claiming to be an infallible judge of opinions.”  This assumption of infallibility I see increasingly from academic elites, as well as beltway bureaucrats and media pundits.  Those Sullivan comes from that ilk, he is fortunately more humble.

Sullivan, like me, laments the rise of left-winged authoritarianism on university campuses.  Maybe, like me, he also looks fondly on the past, on the foundation of the university, as a place of open minds, thoughtful questions, and the pursuit of genuine, objective answers.  Restorationism deserves to be a part of the conversation.  It is not merely reactionary, it is a method of critical thought, rooted in the principle that human history contains many examples of past glories that can be revitalized in new and interesting ways.  Don’t get drunk on it, but we could all use a nightcap of nostalgia.

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Trump / Kasich ? My Prediction

TrumpKasich1

Have you noticed that Kasich has said little to nothing about Trump?  Unlike every other establishment candidate, Kasich doesn’t seem that worried about him.

I was watching CNN, thinking about the electoral map, and a light bulb appeared above my head!  In a Trump vs. Clinton race, Trump will need to focus heavily on the Midwest, AKA “the rust belt”.  These are swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and of course, Kasich’s Ohio.  These are states with a history of manufacturing, and a strongly blue collar mostly Caucasian group of voters.  Who better to help Trump win these states than Kasich?

In a Trump v. Clinton matchup, we know Trump will sweep the south simply because he is the Republican, with the exception of Florida, and maybe VA and NC.  We know Trump will win those very red and sparsely populated western, non-coastal states like Arizona and Montana.  We know Clinton will dominate New England, except for New Hampshire, and we know she’ll win the West Coast.  Florida and the Midwest will therefore determine the next President, as they so often do.

So back to Kasich.  The media has noticed that he’s been very hesitant to criticize Trump.  While Trump is almost certain to win more delegates to the RNC than any other, he may not win a majority.  That would mean a “brokered convention”.  Trump’s delegates will have to cut a deal, or maybe second place Ted Cruz might work something out sooner.  Trump is almost certainly not teaming up with Cruz or Rubio at this point.  But as things have been relatively civil (considering it’s Trump) with Kasich, Kasich only needs to win enough delegates to be able to give Trump the majority.  Also, Kasich could help Trump at least in Ohio, if not the entire “rust belt”.  Not only that, but Kasich is politically experienced, and in the establishment of the GOP.

Therefore, I’m predicting that one way or the other, if Trump is the nominee, he picks Kasich as his running mate.  Kasich could help satiate the establishment.  And more importantly, would be valuable to Trump in a race against Clinton.  About the only swing state where he’d be of little help is Florida, but then, Rubio and Jeb Bush are clearly out of the question.  Trump may fight extra hard in Florida, or write it off and focus on the Midwest.  But Trump already has his trade policy that will be well received in states that have suffered from decades of outsourcing.  Those states are always close, especially Ohio, so Trump needs any edge he can get.

Maybe I’ll be right, maybe I’ll be wrong.  We’ll see.  I just wanted to put this out there and see if I get some bragging rights after the RNC.

Trump and Emotional Politics

TrumpYelling

Some are angry with Trump, others are angry at Trump.  Either way, Trump evokes lots of anger.  The anger at Trump is certainly justified.  Trump has claimed that Mexico sends its worst people into America, including rapists and drug dealers.  To be fair, he also said “…some, I assume, are good people.”  Trump’s views on Islam are far more disturbing.  He has called for shutting down mosques in the US, and banning Muslims from entering the country.  Some have tried to justify this by bringing up former President Carter’s temporary ban on Iranians during the hostage crisis.  It’s one thing to ban people from a particular country with whom we have hostility.  It’s another to ban an entire world religion, especially considering that some Muslims are native born American citizens.  How do you ban them?!

So, in short, Trump is nuts!  And I am deeply concerned that all of the anger he is able to invoke will cause large segments of the middle and working class population in America to vote against their own interests…by voting for Hillary Clinton!  Trump, for all his faults, knows that we can’t continue to allow China to erode our manufacturing sector.  Though he may seem like a “shoot first, aim later” type, he also has enough sense not to get us tangled up in the Syrian civil war trying to attack both sides (The Assad regime and ISIS).  Trump wants to focus on going after ISIS, while Clinton seems to think we should try to take out ISIS AND Assad.  Most of the political establishment wants to take out ISIS AND Assad!  This is pure lunacy!  You don’t go into the middle of a bloody civil war, and start attacking both sides.  If you must get involved, pick a side.  Otherwise, instead of killing each other, they both kill you instead.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, IS the establishment.  She’s Dick Cheney in a pants suit and a “D” next to her name instead of an “R”.  She has a long history of supporting “free trade” agreements that cripple the economy for working Americans, and her husband signed the devastating “China Free Trade Act” into law in 2000.  (Recession of 2000, weak recovery, and “Great Recession” follow…coincidence?)  Blacks and Hispanics are hit the hardest, by the way.  On foreign policy, Clinton, like any Republican neocon, claims that ISIS exists because we didn’t take out Assad!  This is your “serious candidate”?  She seriously thinks that we can take out ISIS by attacking the very regime that is also fighting to take out ISIS?  If Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Carson, etc. ever proposed a foreign policy so utterly absurd, the media would be all over them talking about how unrealistic it is and how it shows their lack of “experience”.  But Clinton, Bush, Rubio are free to propose these kinds of lunatic foreign policies and be only politely questioned by the mainstream media.  Sure, once in a while a journalist might mention, “psss….you know Assad is on the other side of the Syrian Civil War, right?  He is fighting against ISIS, right?”

The base of Trump’s support is highly emotional, and often dismissed as a bunch of narrow minded poorly educated whites who hate diversity.  Trump does appeal particularly to working class whites who have been feeling the shaft from the establishment for decades.  He also seems to have a sizeable portion of the black community supporting him, for many of the same reasons.  They are angry at career politicians, and they are angry that their job opportunities are diminishing.  As whites are losing their middle class status, blacks who were reaching so close for middle class status that they could feel it at the tip of their fingers have had it yanked away and sent to China.  Most of them haven’t considered the policy positions I’ve laid out above.  They vote for Trump with their hearts, not their heads.  But even if by pure chance, emotions have led many to the perfectly logical conclusion that Trump is preferable to the establishment, were there better choices?  Of course!  Jim Webb and Rand Paul, to name two.  But neither of them can stir the emotions of the masses like Trump, or Sanders.

And so, the current narrative from the main stream media goes something like this…

There’s a lot of anti-establishment sentiment.  Instead of looking at experience and qualifications, voters are angry, and that’s why Trump and Sanders won in New Hampshire.  But neither has executive experience.  Neither has much electability. 

Then the interviews follow, where the media speaks to pundits who sound something like this…

(Insert Clinton, Rubio, Bush) is clearly more qualified than (insert Sanders, Trump, Cruz) as he/she has a history of getting things done.  Many may be excited by (Sanders, Trump, Cruz) but his policies are very unlikely to pass through Congress.  (Clinton, Rubio, Bush) on the other hand, knows how to work across the aisle and get things done.  And (if Clinton) we’ve never had a woman president before!

Let me break it down for you.  None of these candidates will get much of what they propose in domestic policy!  None of them!  We live in the era of congressional obstructionism.  Congress has learned that the people praise the president when things get done, and blame the president when they don’t.  Therefore, it is in the best interest of the opposite party in Congress to block anything and everything until they get 110% of what they want.  If Clinton becomes president, the only way she’ll get funding for whatever domestic programs she wants from Republicans (and remember, Republicans only need 41 out of 100 Senators to block everything via filibuster), is to give, give, and give.  I’m sure if she bloats the military budget by another $200 billion, slaps new sanctions on Iran and stations troops on their border, the Republicans will let a little birth control subsidy or two slip into an omnibus budget bill which will include massive tax cuts for Wall Street.  And Clinton will say, “See?  I’m a progressive who gets things done!”  Nothing will be done about job loss to SE Asia, and little to nothing will be done to curb risky behavior by the big banks.  Much of “Dodd/Frank” is still up to interpretation by the President, and don’t expect Clinton with all her Wall Street/big bank support to interpret Dodd/Frank in a way that her financial campaign support doesn’t like.

A Trump Presidency would probably look more like this.  There will be no wall on the border of Mexico.  Yes, technically the President is already legally authorized to build a wall, but that cost bucks!  We ain’t got ‘em.  And Mexico is not going to build a wall for the US on their border.  Here’s the good news for you Trump supporters, if he wins…and for all of us who work for a living (including Sanders supporters and misguided Clintonites).  Even if Congress does nothing about trade, simply based on current trade agreements, Trump can enforce portions of these agreements against currency manipulation.  He can and will slap tariffs on China at least, if not many others who suck our jobs.  On foreign policy, there will be no ban on Muslims.  It’s blatantly unconstitutional and impossible to enforce.  But here’s the good news!  Trump knows that ISIS is the enemy.  Not Assad, not Iran, and certainly not Russia.  He’ll be firm when negotiating with Iran, but he knows that we need to focus on ISIS.  While the establishment candidates seem to think we can take out all of the bad buys and democratize the world, Trump knows better.

So, in short, I am not moved by Trump’s populism.  With Paul out, if the Democrats nominate Sanders, I’d choose Sanders over Trump.  Sanders can win, but it’s an uphill battle for him.  In the more likely “Clinton vs. Trump” scenario, I’ll take a reality show patriot over a “serious” candidate whose loyalty is with the international community, Wall Street, and the global banksters.  Some say, “Vote blue no matter who!  There’s too much at stake to let the Republicans win!”  I say there’s too much at stake to let the establishment win.  We can’t afford to keep losing our manufacturing jobs, and we can’t more neocon military adventurism that destabilizes the Islamic world further empowering ISIS.  If I have to hold my nose and vote for Trump, so be it!

 

Military Adventurism in the Conservative Big Tent – My Peer Reviewed article!

If I’ve been a little slow with my blog and vlog lately, it’s because I was wrapping up this article.  The full title is “The Decline of Military Adventurism in the Conservative Big Tent: Why Grassroots Conservatives in the United States are Embracing a more cautious foreign policy“.  I cannot post the entire article here, but it is a free, open access journal provided by Sage Publications.  You can either read it directly on their website, or have a PDF emailed to you.  Just follow the hyperlink I just gave.  I can at least post the abstract, as follows:

It is now clear that the American conservative movement can no longer be easily categorized as “hawkish” on foreign policy. This essay examines the different perspectives, ranging from intellectuals and experts to grassroots conservatives and popular political culture, to grasp the widening range of foreign policy preferences that currently make up the conservative movement (or conservative big tent). Second, this essay considers the challenges that these hawks, mainly the neoconservatives, are likely to face due to the realities of generational politics. This essay will therefore provide a useful analysis of the different foreign policy preferences in the American conservative movement in the 21st century.

Is Lindsey Graham the slimiest Neocon of all?

LindseyGrahamAgain

Do they get any slimier than Lindsey Graham?  The same fear-monger who wanted to hide the truth about CIA torture, supported sacrificing our constitutional right to a fair trial due to fear of terrorism, supported invading Syria to fight against Assad on the basis that militant Islam is growing (never mind that Assad was fighting AGAINST those very Islamic militants)…well this same fear mongering, half truthing, opportunist now claims that Rand Paul is the one “creating anxiety for no good reason.”

Rand Paul did admittedly make a careless comment that he has heard of “many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”  Still, looking at the big picture on Rand Paul’s position, he has stated repeatedly that he strongly encourages vaccinations, but opposes Federal mandates, as Dana Bash showed in this article.  This is actually the same position Lindsey Graham takes, yet Graham suggests that Paul would try to stop vaccinations by stating as part of this rebuttal of Paul that “I would reject any effort to stop vaccinations until someone can show me a scientific reason to do so.”  OK, and Rand Paul has made no attempt to stop vaccinations, only to stop efforts at a government mandate.  So what is the problem Mr. Graham?!

As Graham considers a Presidential bid himself, largely in opposition to Paul, this is clearly his first of what are likely to be many cheap attacks and straw man arguments.  I sincerely hope that Graham runs, because he is so detestable that his attacks against Paul would only serve to draw more favorable attention to Paul.  When I think of the other major neocons of our time, both politician and pundit, none do I find so detestable as Graham.  McCain is by far no saint, and a major flip flopper on domestic policy, but there is a consistency to his foreign policy idealism that I can respect (even while I reject it).  As McCain sees the US as a beacon of freedom and progress for the world, he supports almost limitless military invasions, but he also opposes torture.  After all, if we are to be the world’s moral police, we should at least practice such morals ourselves.  Bill Kristol has expressed such idealism as well in his essays for the Foreign Affairs, and I think he really believes what he says.  I think McCain and Kristol are both well intended, but are both idealistic fools who would throw us into devastating quagmires, as they have before.  Still, I could sit in the same room with them and probably have a civil debate.  There’s also Krauthammer, the most sober minded of the neocons.  His neocon hawkishness often carries undertones of pragmatism to the point where Krauthammer is a self-identified “democratic-realist”.  While I think Krauthammer is still far too quick to support military force, I know he thinks it through, and I’ll always listen to his point of view and consider it.  For Graham, however, I haven’t a shred of respect.

PS  I do want to express my gratitude to CNN’s Dana Bash for providing a fair analysis of this recent debate between Graham and Paul.  CNN isn’t perfect, as the recent interview with Paul on vaccines shows, but in the greater scheme of things, CNN has shown itself far more objective than the other major news networks, particularly FOX and MSNBC.  Also referenced above, here is the link the Bash’s article http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/politics/measles-vaccines-lindsey-graham-rand-paul/index.html

A link to an excellent Rare article on why the neocons are making a big stink out of this

Neocons want us to be aggressive? OK

BillKristolOnFox

Peaceful, enlightened southerners like myself are often blindsided by macho neocon rhetoric.  Neocon arguments seem to have descended from their grandiose pax Americana ideals of spreading freedom all over the world to simple appeals for US foreign policy to be “aggressive”, “assertive”, or “decisive”.  To anyone thinking critically, this begs the questions – Assertive towards what?  Aggressive towards whom?  And exactly what decisions should we be so decisive about?  And for what purpose?

To someone who thinks things through, their arguments fall flat.  Why then, are the great minds behind the neoconservative philosophy such as Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, etc. using such weak, illogical arguments?  These are the people who have written brilliant pieces in the past for Foreign Affairs, and various academic journals.  They have written great books, have wielded great influence on policy makers, and are certainly capable of developing a more constructive foreign policy than “be aggressive”.  But we need to remember, the neocons may be intelligent, but they are also very politically expedient.  They know their audience.

When I see them on FOX news, and I see their GOP candidates from Jeb Bush (the establishment moderate) to Scott Walker (the supposed conservative challenger) using such rhetoric as “be aggressive”, or “be decisive”, I see how it affects the average blue collar southerner, especially men.  When the neocons criticize Obama for being weak or indecisive, this appeals to a certain primal instinct that has long dominated the white male southerner.  Southerners have a long history of such masculine insecurity masked by projections of machismo, and this is exactly why we keep hearing these clever rhetorical appeals by neocons that to anyone else seem illogical.

However, they underestimate the intelligence of the South, as Yankee intellectuals often do.  Yes, appeals to manliness may stir something in the male southern heart, but we are a very pragmatic people with a long memory.  (Why do you think you still see those Confederate Battle flags all over the place down south?)  The white southern man remembers the Bush era.  We remember the lies.  We remember the lack of WMDs.  Yes, some of us fell for the more recent half-truth that WMDs were found, and then “hidden” by those “liberals” in the media, even though those WMDs were nothing more than decommissioned weapons left over from the Iraq-Iran wars of the late 1980s.  Truth ultimately prevails, and the neocons will likely find that they can only mildly stir the “aggression”, “assertiveness” and “decisiveness” of the white south when there is a Democrat in the White House.  After all, we are the same people who elected Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Walter Jones, and more recently Dave Brat.  Neocon rhetoric and deception relies on Cold War era partisanship and tired sentiments held by an aging demographic of boomer southerners.  Even they are not so easily manipulated, despite 24/7 FOX.  After all, FOX knows too well that the neocons’ days are numbered, as they are branching out with the likes of John Stossel, Judge Napolitano, and even Hannity frequently interviews Rand Paul.  The neocons can maybe stir a little aggression by manipulating the machismo insecurities of an aging demographic in the south, but it grows weaker by the day.

Be aggressive?  Sure.  If the neocons won’t even attempt to give us a good reason for their wars.  If they continue to accuse those who point out their past mistakes of “blaming America”, then let’s aggressively point out the lack of purpose of today’s neocon foreign policy.  Let’s aggressively speak the truth.  And let’s aggressively vote out every neocon remaining in Congress.  How’s that for decisiveness?

Combating this neocon rhetoric in the South

Scott Walker has recently argued that we should be more “aggressive” in Syria.  But he never says towards whom we are supposed to be aggressive, or for what purpose?  Does he want us to be aggressive towards the Assad regime?  If so, why?  Is it because of those beheading we keep seeing?  But that’s ISIS!  Assad is fighting against ISIS.  So are we aggressive towards ISIS?  Do we ally with Assad?  If that is the case, then it’s a good thing Obama was indecisive a few years ago, because the neocons nearly had us at war with Assad.  Ooooppps!  So much for decisiveness.

Unlike the neocons, we must respect the intelligence of the blue collar southern man.  Reason with him, be patient, and know that you can’t win them all over.  We didn’t turn against the Iraq War overnight.  It happened little by little, year by year, as the facts presented themselves.  Don’t let the neocons get away with empty appeals to manliness anymore.  Be aggressive, be decisive about foreign policy.