The Principled Conservative in 21st Century America by C. Scott Litch - HTML preview
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Military might and foreign policy
Superior American military strength is always the best idea. It goes hand-in-hand with effective diplomacy to promote national security and peace. However, we must marginalize the United Nations.
Because we have an all-volunteer army, most Americans today have never served in the military. Hardly anyone particularly relishes the idea of being shot at, and few would profess to any special personal bravery.
However, it is difficult to imagine living in a prosperous American society in the 21st century without the protection of a strong military. Probably all but the most hard-line leftists would bemoan the importance of American military power. You would be hard-pressed to find a successful American politician to suggest that we don‟t need it. But if you press further there are some fundamental policy choices to be made under this state of affairs, choices that distinguish those who treat American military strength seriously versus those who merely give it lip service.
Conservatives are often stereotyped as militarist or war-mongering because we favor a strong military. This position is contrasted to touchy-feely liberals who love to ask “wouldn‟t we all be better off beating our swords into plowshares and living in peace and harmony?” Think about how much money we would save on military expenditures! But of course this dream of an earthly paradise has no basis in reality. We would not need a military if men and women were angels. That is not the case, however, because human perfection is contrary to human nature. Conservatives might be called cynical for simply accepting the fact that America must always be in a state of armed readiness for the protection of its citizens.
But this is not a cynical or pessimistic vision. American military might helps protect the freedom not only of Americans but many around the world. The principled conservative believes that the more people can live without fear of attack by hostile enemies, or a repressive totalitarian government, the more they will prosper and see the benefits of peace and prosperity over war. The principled conservative must always be the first to argue that without the safety and security of one‟s person and property, nothing else matters. It is a perquisite to the pursuit of happiness, and must always be the highest priority of government. Such protection is basic to liberty and a clear measure of whether we would deem a government just or unjust:
“The first and chief design of every system of government is to maintain justice: to prevent the members of society from encroaching on one another‟s property, or seizing what is not their own. The design here is to give each one the secure and peaceable possession of his own property.”4
The principled conservative understands that America would not exist in its current state without strong military protection. The most compelling case in the 20th century was prevailing in World War II over the militarist national socialism as practiced by Nazi Germany. In the aftermath of 9-11, fortunately there has not been a series of repeated successful terrorist attacks on American soil precisely because of our military might. Whether that can continue remains unseen, but to those who suggest dropping our guard, the principled conservative would politely inquire as to what planet they are living on? The only folks who should be pushing for a lackadaisical approach to national defense are jihadists (and other enemies of America) or Americans who have a societal suicide wish.5
However, we cannot simply leave things with the premise that American military might is important. Even very liberal politicians will say the same thing, even if their understanding of what this means and how to use it in practice are much different from the principled conservative approach.
Engagement in armed conflict should never be taken lightly, but neither should it be abhorred at all costs when the alternatives are worse (and options must include preemptive war).
Many recent political debates have focused on the appropriate uses of American military might. Is preemptive (or preventive) war acceptable? Can the U.S. invade a sovereign country to fight terrorism without an open invitation from the prevailing government and/or authorization from the United Nations? Conservatives tend to poke fun at liberals with the jab that liberals are for a necessary war—they just oppose whatever war is on the table for consideration at any given time. But this runs the risk of making conservatives seem eager for war.
Even with advanced technology and sophisticated techniques to minimize collateral damage, war is brutal for both the combatants and civilians. It is never to be taken or pursued lightly. The principled conservative must acknowledge these costs. We are not opposed to diplomacy or to carefully weighing all options short of a military intervention. And if an intervention is warranted, planning must be prudently brilliant in order to both minimize the loss of American soldiers and civilian casualties. Indeed, the two basic Monday-morning quarterbacking policy arguments over the Bush Administration‟s decision to initiate war in Iraq are: 1) was military intervention necessary? and 2) was there a comprehensive plan in place to ensure success during and after the military conflict? The principled conservative position should be that a preemptive war is sometimes regrettably necessary. Not often, not usually, but it should not be ruled out unilaterally. Thus, while reasonable principled conservatives could reach the opposite policy conclusion on whether the Iraq war was a necessary preemptive war, we would stand united in opposition to those who argue that preemptive or preventive war is never necessary. While President George W. Bush may not have been the greatest articulator of the doctrine, the principled conservative must point out that without the option of preemptive war in the 21st century, the benefits of American military might well be under-utilized or utilized too late—all to the detriment of freedom and safety.
Since war is never to be taken lightly but rather always considered with regret and sadness, it bears repeating that the principled conservative does not seek war. We do understand the terrible costs of war in both human misery and enormous government expenditures. It is not the way we wish things to be, but it is sometimes necessary. What the principled conservative can say is that by having the military option always available, as part of diplomacy, we may in fact avoid the escalation of conflicts and potentially nip problems in the bud before they develop into a full-scale war.
The contortions and reflexive gagging of some on the issue of preemptive war is perplexing because it‟s likely that 90+ percent of all Americans would agree with the sentiments Clemenza expressed in The Godfather:
“You know, you gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they should have stopped Hitler at Munich, they should never let him get away with that, they was just asking for trouble.”
Today, as we face the specter of countries that are harboring and supporting terrorists who intend to do great harm to Americans and citizens of other western democracies, it would appear to be societal suicide to sit around and wait for attacks before taking action. The principled conservative should point out that to dither and debate over whether preemptive wars are sometimes necessary is an exercise in mental masturbation that the nation can ill afford. The debate should simply be on the merits of whether a particular preemptive war option should be pursued.
American Weapons and Personnel Must Always be the Best
Another ongoing policy debate over the American military is how much we need to spend and what to spend it on to successfully defend American interests around the world. The political debate over resources needed to protect and fight has almost become a parody. Conservatives typically assert that liberals want to kill off every expensive new weapons program (especially missile defense) no matter the benefits, content to fight each new war with the technology of the previous war. Liberals typically pull up the Eisenhower “military-industrial complex” speech on You Tube ® and warn of the dangers of throwing money away to satisfy defense contractors and the Pentagon budget.
But what to fight with is a fundamental question and one where the principled conservative should boldly proclaim a better vision of the future. Conservatives, despite the philosophy of preserving and conserving the best elements of a civilized society, eagerly embrace the benefits of science and technology where they can build a better and safer society. What better example than military weapons and defense technology?
Before we go down this road, it must be acknowledged that some will dredge up the charge of conservatives being enamored of a Star Wars-type universe of high technology warfare.6 This is not the vision we seek. We seek a safer society where human life can be better protected with less risk to civilians and our fighting men and women. This goal can best be achieved via superior weapons technology, as opposed to the leftist notion of arms control, disarmament, and a “nuclear-free” world. The principled conservative should boldly point out that the concept of arms control and related themes is an utterly foolhardy endeavor; it is the foreign policy equivalent to domestic policy arguments to restrict guns. Given that criminals always seem to wind up getting guns from the black market, what rational person thinks that a totalitarian regime will disarm in the interests of world peace? So why do some argue that America should start destroying its nuclear stockpiles at the earliest opportunity and encourage other nations to do likewise? Yet these arguments are made and conservatives are portrayed again as uncaring, as if we would actually like countries to be nuked by any particularly destructive weapons, nuclear or otherwise.
The principled conservative is not in love with weapons or the need to have them. Indeed, the protection is pursued reluctantly but out of necessity. Since the protection is needed, the two overwhelming objectives should be to have far more than any other nation, and have technology that far outclasses any other nation on earth. It may not be a perfect state of affairs, but it is reality. Unless the free and democratic protect themselves, rights can be usurped. And to reiterate, we live on the planet earth, not an Eden or utopia.
Further, we must realize that America is in fact the world‟s policeman and the world is better off for this role.
Once this is understood, the question about how to protect freedom and how to spend our defense budget is clearer. Although this is not to suggest it is always obvious as to what types of weapons systems are needed. We know there will always be military infighting and legitimate policy debates over the merits of competing weapons systems. We can never know in advance if the general who argues for a new and bold fighting innovation is a visionary, an utter fool or somewhere in between. But conservatives can posit some guiding principles.
First, new technology must always be embraced and fully exploited. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the area of missile defense. Perhaps the greatest threat is from a rogue totalitarian state or terrorist groups (obviously in many cases aided and abetted by rogue states). It is interesting that while some like to bash conservatives as being anti-science, it is often the same crowd who seem to constantly and pessimistically expect that science will never lead to an effective missile defense system. But just look how wrong they have been in light of the technical advances in missile defense even in the short time since President Reagan promoted the concept in the 1980‟s (naturally derisively dubbed “Star Wars” by many liberals). The principled conservative should point out that common sense dictates that the highest national defense priority should be against the greatest risk—missile attack. And yes, this includes developing weapons for use in outer space. If that is the best way to develop a missile defense, strike capability and/or destruction of enemy communications, we would be fools not to pursue it vigorously.
Air and naval superiority will continue to be critical, meaning that improvements in planes and ships should generally be pursued, including maintenance of existing fleets and squadrons. It is hard to imagine such forces becoming unnecessary in the foreseeable future. Sure, some should be built at a greater rate than others, but to cut promising models for current savings only to be caught short-handed in a future conflict would also be a foolhardy strategy.
The focus on technology should not overlook the human element and the noble calling of those who serve in the military. They are heroes and should always be respected as such. Right now, the volunteer armed forces meet national defense needs. Ironically, most Americans benefit as free riders from those who put their life on the line; the rest of us debate military strategy from a safe distance. Does that mean principled conservatives should call for a return to the draft? After all, mandatory military service, including remaining in the active reserves until age 45, has been cited as a major factor in the tremendous economic growth and innovation in Israel.7
However, there are far too many downsides to that policy for America, especially for the principled conservative who abhors mandates and “forced volunteerism.” But the principled conservative view is to make military service as attractive as possible, via existing scholarships and continued care given to the quality of military life, and letting the individual decide whether to serve. We must never again have any qualms about making military service as important and prestigious as possible. For example, consistent with the Supreme Court‟s thinking and Congressional legislation, no college campus that receives any federal aid should ever be allowed to deny the opportunity for military recruitment on campus. While conservatives cannot clean up the rampant collegiate faculty knee-jerk socialism in one swoop (that will probably require the retirements of many aging radical baby boomers), this is an important step. It is a simple principle that all young people deciding whether they wish to serve should have access to all the relevant information in making such a decision. And maybe learning more about how America‟s military protects freedom around the world, versus the America (and Israel)-bashing from so many leftist faculty, wouldn‟t be such a bad thing either!
The United Nations (U.N.) should play no role in American decision-making over the use of armed force8; further, America needs to put some competitive pressures on the U.N. and also distance herself from this misguided institution.
Quite simply, the principled conservative says the U.S. Constitution already settles the decision of whether and when America engages in a military conflict, not the U.N. We will not explore a detailed analysis of whether Presidents have properly followed the war powers provisions of the Constitution in numerous instances (they have not) or whether authorizations of military force (versus outright “war”) are acceptable under the Constitution. The bottom line is that under the Constitution it must always be based on actions of the President with oversight and approval by Congress, not a foreign government or organization—even one where America maintains a membership card. The principled conservative does recommend a refocus on Constitutional provisions and is inclined to disfavor undeclared wars, police actions and resolutions authorizing the use of force. Some have argued that the formal declaration of war is an obsolete or outmoded constitutional process that should be ignored. But we do so at great peril to the Constitution and the democratic process. The phrase
“war” conjures up the seriousness of the enterprise and the necessity of gaining the acceptance of the American people via their elected representatives in Congress. We have seen the harmful consequences when military conflict is pursued and continued without the overwhelming support of the American people. Hence, the principled conservative wants an open and serious debate on such matters, throwing out the challenge that if the declaration of war is not relevant to modern times, then we should amend the Constitution to institute a better process. It should be embarrassing and unacceptable that every sustained and lengthy military intervention since World War II (Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Bosnia, Korea) has been pursued absent a formal declaration of war.
The principled conservative says either follow the Constitution or fix it via amendment, but don‟t ignore it:
“The principled constitutional interpreter must bite the bullet, shallow hard, and be willing to say that much of our nation‟s actual practice with respect to the power to declare war in fact has been unconstitutional. So much the worse for our nation‟s practice.9
It is apparent that one of the main lines of debate over wars in the 21st century will be the scope of American autonomy versus international bodies like the U.N. The principled conservative has an opportunity to clearly explain how our principles resolve this matter constitutionally, with common sense, with American uniqueness, and in the best interests of our country. If we do not make the case, no one else will. America is an exceptional country that will continue to operate as a world power and world‟s policeman with the support and advice from like-minded countries, but never beholden to the U.N. Now some might argue that this pushes America into a role not contemplated by and indeed far beyond constitutional authority. And didn‟t we just argue above about respecting the constitutional procedures for declaring war? But, the Constitution provides the power for the common defense and the facts of the 21st century are that the common defense of America requires America to be the world‟s policeman. The two oceans and distances no longer protect America from foreign encroachment.
Speaking of the U.N., justifiably a favorite target of conservative wrath, bold changes in America‟s relationship with the U.N. are in order. The principled conservative believes the U.N.‟s problems are essentially not correctable in its current state.10 The principled conservative would favor an association of western democracies, a competing organization to the U.N. where admission is limited to those countries that meet the basic criteria of a rule of law, elected government, individual freedom, and free trade. Once such an organization is established and operational, the U.S. and fellow association countries can determine the benefits of whether to continue their U.N. membership. One suspects that this type of organizational competition will motivate the U.N. to mend some of their more egregious habits, starting with their gratuitous bashing of America and Israel. The principled conservative should not hesitate to point out that the U.N. monster was brought to life by FDR at Yalta in exchange for Russian membership, leaving Eastern Europe to suffer under Soviet enslavement. Hardly a moralistic start! The principled conservative observes that the U.N. cannot effectively police the world and usually fails miserably in this task. Often even its relief efforts, while laudatory in theory, are diverted or wasted in practice. Yet some have almost a religious-like faith in the U.N. While conservatives are bashed for wanting to fight Star Wars in outer space, the U.N. has become the magical, earth-based United Federation of Planets from Star Trek. Anyone who denies we should move in this direction versus maintaining sovereign nations is derided as a backwards thinking Luddite by the U.N.‟s fan club.
Should the principled conservative object to the peaceful nations of the world organizing themselves together for common interests? Of course not. The concept of an association of western democracies suggested above would be such an effort.11 But would such an organization eventually evolve into world government or a
governing organization like the unelected European Union? No, this could only happen with the consent of the governed, a right the principled conservative always preserves at any cost. We must follow the U.S.
Constitution and not surrender national sovereignty. If at some future point there is a compelling reason to grant governance powers of some degree to such an association of democracies, or even to formally remake it into a governmental body, here‟s a simple process to follow: put it to the American people via a Constitutional amendment. The objection of the difficulty of amending the Constitution is a vapid argument. If something as hypothesized above is such a wonderful idea, then why wouldn‟t two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states support an amendment? This is also a compelling way to demonstrate that the Constitution is a living, working, breathing document—not in the way that some liberals fantasize—but in a democratic matter. It can change with the times—but with the consent of the governed, not by ceding national sovereignty to any unelected organization.
To gain momentum and enthusiasm for such an association of western democracies (which should be a very prestigious group that every country should aspire to join), the principled conservative would certainly support the following membership criteria that best describes the essence of what it means to be a western democracy:
—meaning elected, representative government;
Being the world‟s policeman does not make America an empire in any traditional or rational use of the word.13
Some will object to the association of western democracies concept and the world policeman role, arguing that America will be viewed as an arrogant and militarist empire, only willing to surround herself with “yes man”
countries. This will allegedly hurt our ability to protect national interests.
This is a dangerously misguided viewpoint. It is the foreign policy version of the leftist domestic proclivity to hate the rich and successful. Since other countries will despise the U.S. for being powerful and rich, some suggest we shouldn‟t hurt their feelings but instead should apologize and try to be less rich and powerful. And apparently the only way to do so is to take our lumps at the U.N. and not impose our style of government or way of life on others. Simply keep paying those U.N. dues, and keep those foreign aid checks coming! The principled conservative believes we do not have to apologize because America is a force for good in the world, and most enslaved people around the globe would (and often do) die to obtain the type of freedom we often take for granted. Promoting a competitive alternative to the U.N. and downplaying the U.N. is not a particularly radical concept or difficult question. It‟s almost a no-brainer. And it can also get America out of the business of pressuring a democracy like Israel to cut a “peace deal” with a terrorist state that can hardly be expected to adhere to the terms of any legal agreement.
The more fundamental philosophical question is whether it is possible to be a benign, enlightened democratic republic while maintaining a powerful military and a world police role. The principled conservative, being a student of history, should examine this carefully because it is apparent few such nations have ever existed or existed for very long.
But America does not conquer other countries. Take our recent actions in Iraq as an example. The U.S. literally came, saw, overthrew a totalitarian government, helped the country transition to the post-Saddam era, learned the hard realities of why a counter-insurgency strategy is necessary, and then ramped down and pretty much left. Leaving behind the people of Iraq as the only Muslim-majority democracy in that region of the world. Was that cultural imperialism? The principled conservative would say it gave the Iraqi people an opportunity for freedom, while removing a tyrant who not only mistreated and mass murdered his own people but constantly threatened (or in some cases like Kuwait actually harmed) the peace and security of other countries. Whether that war was justified or in the best interests of America to pursue is beyond the purview of this book, as is cataloguing the many factual contradictions of the leftist “blood for oil” conspiracy fanatics. The point is that after an overwhelming military victory, America did not act as an empire.
America does not interfere with peaceful democratic countries or wage wars with them. One never picks up the paper or reads an online news headline about America going to war with Canada, Australia, or Brazil. It‟s just not going to happen. Democracies rarely if ever go to war against each other. No doubt part of the explanation is that when political leaders are accountable to the electorate this forms a powerful incentive not to do something rash and stupid. In contrast, countries which America has engaged in armed conflict in the past 50
years were not exactly bastions of democracy and freedom. Our message is clear—boundaries and sovereignty are only encroached when another country steps out of line. Contrary to how an empire would operate, we do not demand tribute; conversely, we give out foreign aid and lots of it. We do not pick the governors. The elections are up to the people of the countries, as they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those governments are by no means perfect, but are so much better than their predecessors. Yes, America is a unique world power, but is not an empire. We are also willing to share world police duties with other western democracies. Such shared partnerships for peace and prosperity further demonstrate how America‟s actions could not be further removed from that of traditional empire-building.
The principled conservative does acknowledge that we would like other countries to adopt our style of government and the basic tenets of our civilization. We need not be shy to say that, while we respect other cultures, we do think our way of life is better. The principled conservative truly believes in American values and will not apologize for promoting them around the world. At this point in history, it is indeed the role and responsibility of America to promote Western civilization.
This American role as policeman and leader of Western civilization and western democracies will guide many foreign policy decisions as to alliances. For example, what better friends to celebrate and support than the recently resurrected democratic republics of Eastern Europe, countries whose friendship and sympathy to American interests have been forged by their bitter enslavement by Communism for forty years? Conversely, to expect friendly and normal diplomatic relations with countries like Iran and North Korea, totalitarian terror states, gives them an aura of credibility and legitimacy they do not deserve. Can or should America in its interest support democratic revolutions in such countries? In the name of freedom, absolutely! The principled conservative find it ironic that so many liberals raised on the four freedoms of FDR consistently reject the concept that we should pull out all stops to make those things happen in non-free or slave societies. Perhaps part of this hesitation is that it would legitimize the thought that America is an exceptional country and that our way of government and freedom is right. To reiterate, the principled conservative vision is that you are damned right it‟s the best way and it‟s the only way if we hope to actually achieve world peace, as well as dignity and freedom for every human being on the planet.
Diplomacy has its place, but only if backed by military strength and strong principles; don‟t expect successful negotiations with tyrants.
The principled conservative should not rashly criticize diplomacy, just the ill-conceived and/or naive use of it.
And this will require several fundamental shifts in diplomacy, starting with the basic concept that America and other western democracies simply do not need to respect the opinions and sovereignty of totalitarian police states. Such states have forfeited their rights to such respect.
The “no respect to tyrants” doctrine14 means America promises no respect for sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs. To the contrary, America should make clear that we support freedom-loving people everywhere, and in an unelected totalitarian police state (which as of this writing would clearly include North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Burma/Myanmar, Syria and many others) we make no apology for offering aid and support to their internal dissidents, explicit and implicit, overt and covert. We will not just give lip service to freedom.
The principled conservative American vision should be that we are the international beacon of freedom. We also must separate the popular culture issues from the individual liberty issues. America is not “exporting”—at least through direct government action—our popular culture. Individuals around the world should be free to determine whether they wish to purchase the entertainment coming out of Hollywood, but our government should not care whether they purchase that particular product (although we do encourage people around the world to purchase a lot of American products of some type). We certainly believe entertainment companies should be free through their corporate resources to market their products worldwide. But what the U.S.
government should be solely in the business of exporting is a simple but brilliant concept in the history of humanity—the democratic republic that features a rule of law, free markets, religious freedom, and individual liberties. Are we making a value judgment that this is the best form of government? You bet your sweet ass we are! Is that a little conceited? No more so than asserting that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever or that Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer (or womanizer). The performances speak for themselves. This is the best model of government and society and if America doesn‟t promote it, it is not going to happen through osmosis. And sometimes it is going take armed force and some mess to overthrow the tyrants. There are also plenty of “carrot” approaches that the principled conservative would support. For example, why not a simple rule of only providing traditional U.S. foreign aid to countries that are members of an association of western democracies? It would not only save billions of dollars, but would be consistent with American values and not cause the taxpayer to feel the taste of bile when reading about billions given to countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia who are only our “friends” because they‟re not quite as bad as Iran. This does not mean we cannot pursue specific agreements with such countries that might involve infusion of American resources, but it should only be done so in our national interest, with great caution, and not with the sense that any such countries are
“entitled” to foreign aid. And if we still want to spend some of what is saved, funnel it to democratic resistance leaders and organizations in totalitarian states!
This principled conservative vision, rather than being overly somber and pessimistic, acknowledges that through our actions we can achieve results (not merely good intentions) that actually make the world a better place. We care deeply about people living in terrorist totalitarian states. If we could do it tomorrow, we would free them all, because as discussed above the principled conservative is not afraid to make a value judgment about the best form of government and laws for a prosperous and free society. While we cannot realistically free them all in one swoop, we can pursue a foreign policy dedicated to their freedom. This point bears repeating: if America cannot promote these values (including the many benefits of membership in the association of western democracies), then nothing less than our civilization is doomed. Many Western European political leaders may not understand this, but we as Americans must be relentless in promoting the basic tenets of democratic republics and the celebration of the achievements of Western civilization. (And at this point, America-hating leftists may be asked to leave the room—perhaps to try living in one of their favorite totalitarian states for a few years.)
How does America relate to the “Muslim world” (or for that matter any culture that doesn‟t share our values)?
Will showing no respect to tyrants be labeled as saber-rattling that will make the Muslim world nervous and thus be bad for America? Does diplomacy in the traditional sense among fellow western democracies help us with the difficult decisions, understandings, and concessions that are needed to get along with the non-democratic Muslim world? The principled conservative can say that, with all due respect, we should not as a country turn the concept of right and wrong on its head. It really is not that complicated in terms of principles.
We respect freedom of religious belief or non-belief. When others are harmed, however, that crosses the line.
So are we saying that a religion-based government or theocracy is a bad idea? In a word, yes. Is that anti-Muslim? It depends on how some interpret Islam. If a Muslim embraces living in a pluralistic society of freedom, including freedom of worship, that individual‟s rights will be protected. However, if a Muslim believes that the only legitimate form of government is an Islamic theocracy, well then, Houston, we‟ve got a problem! The principled conservative points out that history and experience is on the side of individual liberty and freedom of worship, whereas Islamic Sharia law and a state based on such an official religion leads to religious intolerance, strife, war, terrorism, etc. It simply doesn‟t work, it is intolerably oppressive to freedom (especially that of women), and America should oppose such states with the same force and resolve that we oppose communism or any form of totalitarianism. We should call it what it is, Islamic totalitarianism or Islamofacism.13 Does this mean America should immediately invade any such country to liberate the people?
Of course not. While such action would rarely be beyond the military capability of the U.S., we must always be prudent and cautious about using military force for the reasons discussed earlier. Eastern Europe was eventually liberated from Soviet communism, but it took 40 years and was achieved via military strength, economic strength, and diplomacy—fortunately not a direct armed confrontation. This is a policy judgment call on which principled conservatives may disagree in applying principles to specific cases (as noted earlier in discussing the Iraq war). But we all support the desire that all people should be free. The best way to achieve it may vary by country and region, and may require a host of strategies—even some seemingly contradictory. It will be trial and error. The principled conservative acknowledges there is no easy way about this, but asks America to hold firm to this vision.
But what of those who argue that certain true adherents really do want to live under the radical Islamic totalitarian terror state? If we would just leave them alone, would they leave us alone? Sadly, this is pretty deluded thinking given the history of terrorist attacks and nature of Islamic revolutionary thought. All the evidence, all the doctrinal writings, and all the harsh experience suggest they seem very much set on making the whole world Islamic versus an “I‟ve got my space, you‟ve got yours” attitude.14 And just ask the state of Israel about the amount of tolerance for different religions even among the “moderate” Arab countries.
We must be unequivocal that this religion presents unique challenges because tens of millions of its adherents believe in a radical form. America and indeed the entire civilized world is not in a war with “terror” in a general or abstract sense, but in a war with radical Islam. We must acknowledge and declare it so. And by the way, this means that in pursuing the war we can accept principles of ethnic/racial and religious profiling of potential suspects. One hopes that by the mid-point of the 21st century, we will no longer be vigorously searching grandmothers of Scandinavian descent in airports.
Of course, America would be more popular without being the world‟s policeman, but would we rather be unpopular and alive or popular and dead?
This response may sound glib, but it is a serious matter because avoiding or surrendering the world policeman role would likely mean winning really only a minor popularity contest while risking our very lives and the future of free people around the world. Radical Islamists will want us dead in either scenario, so why make it easier for them? Further, unless one enjoys marching in futile celebrity-organized protests against foreign atrocities without any hope of resolving them and the only promise being that of a sternly worded U.N.
resolution, we must reject the inaction option. Rather, we should aggressively lobby other like-minded countries to contribute their fair share to a common world police force, so that it is viewed (rightly so) as a mission of western democracies for world peace, not an American-only enterprise. This can be factored into the association of western democracies organizational membership fee, so that liked-minded countries will be in the fight together with America rather than merely receiving a free benefit from the American security blanket A robust force would also make it possible to respond quickly to crises around the world and not have the usual concerns about over-extension of American forces or fighting more than one war at a time. The principled conservative acknowledges that we are a global village and global economy, hence the need for a global police force. It could not be any worse, or less competent, than U.N. peacekeepers. Besides, who really likes those stupid baby blue U.N. helmets anyway, a color that only looks good on the Carolina Tar Heels or San Diego Chargers.
Would America be more popular if we treated terrorists differently after their capture? No experience to date has indicated this would be the case. Rather than worrying about world popularity, let us do what is fair and consistent with our values while also protecting the American people. Admittedly, the issue of proper adjudication for captured terrorists is a tricky issue because these terrorists are not soldiers of a foreign government fighting a traditional war who would be accorded P.O.W. status and not be subject to interrogation.
They are committing individual crimes, but as part of a terrorist conspiracy that wages war on America. Since those captured are usually non-U.S. citizens, the principled conservative must conclude that to accord such non-citizens the right to a trial in U.S. civilian courts does not make sense and is certainly not required under the Constitution. While military tribunals may not be the perfect venue, they are far superior compared to bringing such terrorists onto American soil and treating them the same as the petty criminal who robs a local bank.
But it is fair to ask the principled conservative, since we do claim to be strong purveyors of American values, about how to deal with the issue of interrogation and potential torture of terrorists and terror suspects. The principled conservative must oppose physical torture as being contrary to American values. While it is mighty tempting to allow a terrorist to be pummeled with a baseball bat to yield information about a pending plot that could results in the deaths of one‟s family members and friends, we must be content that the military tribunals can impose the ultimate penalty of death. America is simply not in the business of hooking up electrodes to testicles; that and other horrific business as regularly practiced in totalitarian police states should never be acceptable in a democratic republic. The principled conservative does not expect this stance to make America less hated in terrorist circles, but we support this because it is consistent with our principles. However, we do not have a problem with psychologically aggressive interrogation. If the CIA wishes to “break” terrorists by making them listen to the collected works of Shakespeare, or more low-brow entertainment such as the Porky‟s trilogy or gansta rap, we should not lose a minute‟s sleep.
Does all of this foreign involvement contradict the traditional conservative desire for smaller government?
After considering the discussion of a huge military and pro-active foreign relations including a very active association of western democracies, one might object that the principled conservative is promoting a direction that will result in a tremendous expenditure of government funds and huge bureaucracies needed for military might and diplomatic success. These strategies would appear contrary to conservatives who favor smaller government and less American entanglement in other countries‟ affairs.
But the principled conservative would truly be a rigid and unrealistic curmudgeon to suggest that all government everywhere is too large and must be shrunk. We don‟t think all government is necessarily bad. Nor do we think that highly skilled leaders and managers in the public sector are not to be recruited, justly compensated, and recognized for accomplishments. This is, after all, a principled conservative vision for the future, not a radical libertarian viewpoint. Our articulated vision is that the federal government should do fewer things, but the things it does should be done extremely well and should be extremely well-funded. On national security, it is quaint and nostalgic to rhapsodize about a well-regulated militia preventing domestic terrorism versus a strong federal government. We must acknowledge as principled conservatives that Alexander Hamilton was right and Thomas Jefferson was wrong. A strong central government, with a strong national defense, is necessary for the nation‟s survival.
This is not to accept that every branch of the military is fine the way it is or that the FBI, CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security should be organized in the same manner forever. To the contrary, the principled conservative must always promote rigorous re-assessment and re-organization of critical government agencies to ensure that performance is met and taxpayer dollars are most efficiently used. While we embrace the function of national security, there are a number of reforms that can be considered. For example, given the joint coordination needed in modern warfare, the artificial distinctions of Army, Navy, and Air Force are anachronistic. While this doesn‟t mean we favor the elimination of excellent specialized forces such as the Marines or Navy Seals, in principle we have no problem moving towards a unified armed forces structure with a unified command. The principled conservative should not conserve artificial service distinctions that are no longer efficient simply because that‟s the way we‟ve always done things.
Still, a traditionalist conservative might press the point that this does indeed mean large standing armed forces with tremendous costs. Yes, it does and there is no getting around this. In a perfect world—which the realistic person acknowledges never exists—we would not need this, but there is no turning back at this point. We need the protection. Is this compatible with a democratic republic? We are indeed going to find out, as we must make it work because there is no other way. But if one thinks in terms of a global village and a global economy and the need for a global police force, this concept makes a lot more sense. As noted earlier, it may be possible to allocate the policing burden among western democracies, and thereby limit most U.S. Armed Forces to actual military conflicts (which hopefully will be fewer and further apart) versus peacekeeping missions and police work. Further, having the necessary defense does not imply that America should be looking for a fight or engage in foolish international undertakings. The principled conservative is certainly skeptical of over-extending our forces and having our military go beyond fighting and policing to actually running a country. We must let freedom-loving people around the world understand their personal responsibility and ownership in their own fight for freedom. America will assist, but they must truly own it.