Conservative Wanderer

“A troubled and afflicted mankind looks to us, pleading for us to keep our rendezvous with destiny; that we will uphold the principles of self-reliance, self-discipline, morality, and, above all, responsible liberty for every individual that we will become that shining city on a hill.” — Ronald Wilson Reagan

Islamism: The Peril of Appeasement and Containment

Roger Kimball’s new book of essays, The Fortunes of Permanence, is excellent. I have slowly been making my way through these superb essays: Kimball (the publisher of Encounter books and editor of New Criterion) is one of our most articulate conservative intellectuals.

I’ve been reading Kimball’s essay on James Burnham, a former Trotskyite who became one of the great anti-Communists. Burnham wrote for National Review for many years. If anyone questions his bona fides, William F. Buckley said that Burnham was the “number one intellectual influence on National Review since the day of its founding.”

High praise indeed.

The events of the past few days in the Middle East, and the wimpy response of the Obama administration, has troubled me as it has many of you.

A short paragraph in the essay encapsulates the fundamental problem with the self-conscious American policy of weakness and appeasement. While these are Kimball’s words, he was articulating the underlying beliefs of Burnham about the battle a few decades ago between freedom and Communism:

“In terms of foreign policy, the fight against Communism required neither appeasement — appeasement was merely a prelude to capitulation — nor containment — containment was merely appeasement on the installment plan. What was required was a concerted campaign to undermine, to roll back, the Communist juggernaut.”

The idea that ultimately, we had to defeat Communism was exactly right. It is based on the principle that evil must, in the end, be defeated, and anything less will result in our own defeat or force the battle to a later date when we are much weaker.

I suggest that if you substitute the word “Islamism” and “Islamist” for “Communism” and “Communist” in the quotation above, we have a perfect crystallization of the issues in the Middle East.

We’ve seen what appeasement in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia has wrought: Americans murdered, flags burned, embassies and consulates attacked, and the al Qaeda flag flying over the American embassy in Tunisia.

While Obama talks tough on Iran, the fact is that he has no plan whatsoever to deny nuclear weapons to Iran. As Charles Krauthammer said to in NRO:

“The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, ‘for Iran to live up to its international obligations.’

This is beyond feckless. The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.”

Unless action is taken quickly, we will be in the midst of a dangerous, and ultimately disastrous, containment policy. The danger to Israel is existential. The danger to America, in the long-term, is existential as well.

I can only hope that the American voter will see that the Obama foreign policy will lead to disaster and that he’ll be sent packing soon: I see know reason to believe that a man who lacks the time to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister to discuss a region in flames will do anything but continue to appease and, when he’s really tough, fecklessly try to contain the uncontainable.

Obama just can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that the Islamists don’t just want to win — they wish to destroy. The American people must come to terms with the notion that we must defeat Islamism. We can’t do it by sitting on our hands.

Introducing… Edward Smith!

And another new contributor joins the CW gang. I discovered him on, and he’s accepted the offer to start posting some things here.

His Ricochet bio says:

I was born and raised in Brooklyn.  I have lived, worked and studied in Baltimore, Berlin, Scotland, England and Wales. I traveled to Poland (ask me about winter in Wrocslaw!) Amsterdam, and Paris.

But I never stopped being a New Yorker.  Although, for the opportunity to raise both roses & Romano tomatoes in a big enough back yard (and still make money),  I would consider moving.  Baltimore can be very nice that way.

I served as an Independent Living Aide in Monmouth, Wales. One of his clients had advanced Muscular Dystrophy, the other had been a quadriplegic for 20 years. It was hard work. But it was very rewarding. The greatest reward was the knowledge that I helped two handicapped men lead a fuller, more enjoyable lives.  Mind you, I had a steep learning curve there … I almost got fired for a lack of sensitivity to people’s emotional needs.

I have put myself in situations requiring me learn to deal with many different people and circumstances, and am not done doing so.

BTW, this is an edited version of what goes on my Real Estate profile, so if it sounds like a pitch, it is based on one.

Welcome, Edward!

If You Don’t Know Him You Need to Get to Know Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton is a real-life British conservative (as in “conservative in the American sense”). He’s been with AEI for many years, taught in British universities, and has written several superb books on politics and culture.
Of his books my two favorites are The Meaning of Conservatism, his magnum opus, and Gentle Regrets, a wonderful and very touching memoir of his rediscovery of conservatism and God. The man is incapable of writing of boring sentence. For several years, he’s written a monthly column in American Spectator (though I understand he recently wrote his last one). I don’t agree with everything he’s written, but the areas of disagreement are very small. So do yourself a favor and pick up one of his books.
As an incentive, here are three quotations. The first one is particularly pertinent to today’s American political scene:
“[T]his is the strongest argument in favour of democracy, and the reason for retaining democratic procedures at the heart of politics: namely, that they enable us to get rid of our rulers.”

This insight on the power of tradition (a subject that he often addresses) is powerful:
“Tradition . . . must include all those practices which serve to define the individual’s ‘being in society’. It constitutes his image of himself as a fragment of the greater social organism, and at the same time as the whole of that organism implicit in this individual part. . . . In seeing yourself as a father you find yourself entangled in a bond of responsibility.”

Finally, a thought on the relationship between “freedom” and our civic “institutions”:

“Freedom without institutions is blind: it embodies neither genuine social continuity nor . . . genuine individual choice. It amounts to no more than a gesture in a moral vacuum.”

Try Professor Scruton. You’ll like him. I guarantee it.

Voting For vs Voting Against

I’ll state right up front that I haven’t been watching the Democratic National Convention. However, I also didn’t watch much of the Republican National Convention, tuning in only to see who their “mystery speaker” was, so I’m being close to equal in ignoring the conventions.

However, from the coverage of the conventions, and from the political ads I’ve seen, I’m noticing a pattern. The GOP is running ads explaining both why voters should vote for Romney, as well as why they should not vote for Obama. On the other hand, the Democrats are running mostly ads explaining why they shouldn’t vote for Romney.

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The Democrats’ 2012 Confusion

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Obama, his loyal Democrats (what I call Obamacrats), and his elite experts had it all planned out in 2008. Lightbringer Obama would be elected, he’d spread the government money around, take over a large portion of the economy, and bow to foreign leaders to get them to like us again. His re-election in 2012 would be assured, as would a lefty-Democrat-led government for the foreseeable future, allowing America to become a socialist democracy like those in Europe.

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