Toward a Conservative Foreign Policy of Non-Interventionism

During the presidency of George W. Bush, those of us who criticized U.S. foreign policy as overly hawkish tended to be considered “liberal,” a tendency neoconservatives had little reason to resist.  I personally found this very frustrating, for reasons that probably mystify some readers.  Does it really matter whether any given position is suitably “conservative”?  It does to a conservative, because conservatives are supposed to obsess about continuity with the past.  Conservatives are, by definition, strongly committed to the proposition that our received political traditions represent centuries of political wisdom which, at least in the ordinary case, should trump all but the most extraordinarily well-founded private judgments.  Read the rest of this entry »

A thought for the day, or maybe the decade

The following is from a copyrighted newsletter by Bill Bonner.  I find it so insightful that I have to pass it on.  I sure hope it’s “fair use” under the copyright laws:

Neither limits nor adversity are what ruin men. Under pressure, they handle themselves pretty well. It’s the lack of limits they can’t handle. That’s when they run amok. So, if you really want to see what a man is made of let him think he can get away with something.

How true!  And how much of our recent past this explains.  Perhaps such reflections will make it easier to embrace the coming adversity.

Five Quick Thoughts on the New and Improved, This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It Stimulus Bill

It’s a big day for bailouts, and there’s too much happening for us to look at any of it in depth.  But here are five quick thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Closing the Money Hole

The bailout debate almost defies parody.  Almost.

Five Things About the Economy on Which We Should All Be Able to Agree

So, another day, another plunge in stock prices, another wave of aspiring moochers descending on Washington, and another God-knows-how-many billions set to be doled out under the Treasury’s “TARP” program.  (“TARP” is an acronym, of course, which stands for “Totally Arbitrary Rewards and Penalties.”  The goal of the program is to render unreliable the economic signals that have guided business activity for centuries, like interest rates, or profits or the lack thereof.  By replacing these traditional signals with totally arbitrary rewards and penalties, policy makers can simultaneously pretend to “rescue” one group after another while vastly expanding their power over the livelihoods of private citizens.)

Treasury Secretary Paulson, who in September told us that buying troubled assets from investment banks was the only way to avoid a total financial meltdown, now says that buying troubled assets was not the only way; in fact it wasn’t really a very good way after all so it’s time to try something different.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bush and Congress: Left of McGovern

How irresponsible are we as a nation? Here’s one indicator: There is now a bipartisan consensus in favor of a level of government paternalism that goes too far for George McGovern. Read the rest of this entry »

Bush on McCain

The Washington Post‘s online headline really grabbed my attention this time:

Bush: McCain a ‘Conservative’

My immediate, involuntary reaction was, “How would he know?”

To be fair to the President, there is currently no consensus on what conservatism is all about. I’ve tried to suggest a few important elements of authentic conservatism on this blog from time to time, including

On Liberty and Security

A great deal has been written in the last few years about the extent to which we can or should trade liberty for security. Precisely because so much has been written, it may seem unlikely that anything new can be said now. But in a recent book review, Jeremy Waldron describes the nature of the tradeoff with a clarity that struck me as unprecedented. Although his observations seem obvious in retrospect, I have not seen anyone make them before, which suggests to me that perhaps they only seem obvious because they are so keen. Read the rest of this entry »

Catching up with the New York Review of Books

I spent a lot of time on my back this week due to a freak dog-washing injury. But I’m a silver-lining kind of guy, so instead of writing about the stabbing pain I’m writing about the fact that I got to catch up — a bit — on a few unread issues of the New York Review of Books, which always seems to give me so much to think about.

From the September 27 issue, I enjoyed Christopher Jencks’s review of Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency, a book we also discussed on this blog a few months back, and also Janet Malcolm’s article “Pandora’s Click,” an uncharacteristically brief review that provides a timely reminder about the perils of e-mail and that medium’s own special contribution to our incivility. I also finally got around to reading the piece Jim Walsh recommended in the October 11 issue, Bill McKibben’s review of four books on climate change.  But what really held my attention in the October 11 issue was this fascinating excerpt from Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s journals of 1966 and 1967.

It’s called “The Turning Point,” and it’s all about LBJ’s fateful decision to escalate rather than withdraw from Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Book Reviews, Bush Presidency, Civility, Failure of Imagination, Foreign Policy, History, Iraq, Politics. Comments Off on Catching up with the New York Review of Books

A More Practical Quiz

In the wake of the “civics” quiz featured in the last post, I thought I’d make up my own multiple choice question this time. This is not a research question; it’s designed to test what you’ve picked up from your normal participation in society, so don’t look it up. The question is:

Under the Defense Authorization Act of 2006, if a terrorist incident occurs on U.S. soil, or if the President determines for any other reason that there has been a breakdown of “public order,” the President may:

A. declare a federal emergency in the affected area(s);
B. detail federal troops to the affected area(s), to work under the direction of state and local officials;
C. declare martial law throughout the United States; or
D. none of the above.

Hint: This legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent (on Sept. 30, 2006), so how controversial can it be?

Give up? Read the rest of this entry »