This is a little late in coming, but I did want to mention the series of excellent essays in the November 20th issue of The American Conservative. Any literary endeavor associated with Patrick J. Buchanan is guaranteed to be lively and, shall we say, colorful. The magazine does not disappoint. I have learned to appreciate the writings of Daniel Larison at Eunomia and particularly wanted to see what he had to say in the current issue.
The headline on the cover asks Who Killed Conservatism? with a droll caricature of Bush as a gravedigger beside an open grave. One writer after another excoriates the Bush Presidency and his foreign policy legacy. And this from conservatives--just imagine what is being written over at The Nation. And I think therein lies the gist of this issue: that whatever Bush is, he is not conservative, or at least not one in the traditional meaning of the word, back when words actually had meaning. In a strange way, he and Hillary Clinton occupy opposite ends of the same continuum; each suffused with a heady Methodism, convinced that the world can be remade in this life, and that is what the "Almighty" (to use a Bushism) intended.
Judgment day appears at hand. For the neo-Wilsonian foreign policy Bush embraced after 9/11 is everywhere collapsing in ruin. It consisted of three components....the concept of preventive war...an "axis of evil".... [and] contending contra history, that America can never be safe until the world is democratic...Neoconservatism has thus given us a bloodshed unending in Iraq, inflamed the Islamic world, divided America from Europe, antagonized Russia, and probably effected our early expulsion form Central Asia.
Austin Bramwell, former director and trustee of National Review observes:
Since 9/11, the conservative movement has not made unsound or fallacious arguments for supporting Bush's policies. Rather, it has made no arguments at all....the broader conservative public supports Bush for very sensible, non-neoconservative reasons. Those reasons just happen to be poorly informed....If Americans understood that soldiers were dying not to kill the bad guys but to prevent them from killing each other, Bush's popularity would evaporate.
Jeffrey Hart concludes:
Is Bush a conservative? Of course not. When all the evidence is in, I think historians will agree with Princeton's Sean Wilentz, who wrote a carefully argued article judging Bush to have been the worst president in American history. The problem is that he is generally called a conservative, perhaps because he is obviously not a liberal. It may be that Bush, in the magnitude of his failure defies conventional categories. But the word "conservative" deserves to be rescued.
Daniel Larison writes:
In Traditional Christianity, the motif of liberation and deliverance is a strong one--so strong that the story of Israel's freedom from bondage in Egypt and the spiritual liberation of humanity from sin through Christ's death and resurrection can easily become confused with ideas of earthly, political liberty from which they are clearly and sharply distinct....but lately here in America we have started to see a similar blurring of the lines between Christian spiritual liberty and political liberty, the latter of which assuredly has its historical roots in the lands and traditions of Christian civilization.
[Quoting Bush]: "I believe a gift form that Almighty is universal freedom. That's what I believe...God's gift to every man and woman in the world."
...there is something deeply disturbing about the conflation of God's gifts and political liberty, and especially with the political liberation of other nations....it can dangerously blur the lines between the sacred and the profane...and...there is the danger of encouraging despair and loss of faith in a God who supposedly gives universal freedom but nonetheless withholds it from billions of our fellow human beings and who denied it to most of humanity for thousands of years.
Political freedom is a product of culture and habit, the fruit of the discipline of civilization. As beings created in the image and likeness of God, it might be said that all men have the potential to acquire these habits and learn this discipline over a great length of time, but to believe that this discipline is more or less automatically inherent in all people right now is to dismiss both the effects of the fall and the contingencies of history.
If Bush speaks of God giving men universal freedom, he might as well say that God has given man universal bread or universal world peace, while tacitly ignoring hunger and war....He grants to men spiritual liberty from sin and death--far greater liberation, surely, than the tawdry Rights of Man. It is not faithful to the Christian tradition, and possibly rather unhinged, to say that God gives man universal freedom.
Read it all here, or better yet, go out and purchase a copy.