Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Bush hatred"

A conservative site accuses liberals of fomenting "Bush hatred." What need is there for that? Aided his Mephistophelean consigliere Dick Cheney ("I am the Vice-President, You're Not"), Bush has been perfectly capable of generating the hatred himself.

He has presided over the twin disasters of Iraq and Katrina. Gradually, even those who unwisely supported the Iraq invasion, are jumping off the bus. This leaves a dwindling corps of Bushbots to defend the bunker. I was saddened to see that Gaypatriot.com is among their number. What could be less patriotic than demolishing our reputation abroad?

Most disheartening to those who favor limited government and fiscal responsibility, Bush has sought to curtail civil liberties and permitted Congress to go on the biggest spending spree in our history. This erases the libertarian case for the Republicans.

Bush has turned out to be a pure gift for the Democrats. For a generation, possibly more, he has obliterated any reasonable case for principled Conservatism. Republican government turns out to be a new version of the regime of Boss Tweed. Enrich yourself and your cronies, and the Devil take the hindmost.

With respect to Iraq the Bushbots are unceasingly capable of generating new nonsense. After so many mantras, from Mission Accomplished to Defeat is Not an Option,, have become inoperable, the warmongers now tell us: "We have a plan. Those who criticize us have no plan."

Of course there are plans. The Galbraith-Biden plan is to partition Iraq along the lines of Yugoslavia. Murtha proposes redeployment.

One of the worst features of the current Bushian behavior is the refusal to make provision for what will happen when the day comes, as it inevitably will, our troops must withdraw. Left behind will be tens of thousands of Iraqis who collaborated with us. Now we are told that we can't leave, because these poor people will be killed. Well then, let's bring them out now.

To do such a thing would be a rare concession to reality. Let's try anything but that. Before long, though, we must withdraw.

So devastating has Bush been to conservative prospects that one might almost suspect a Manchurian Candidate scenario. Could it be that Bush is a liberal mole planted a long time ago with the mission of discrediting the Right? As we used to say on the old Left, he is "objectively" an agent provocateur whose secret mission is to destroy the things he claims to support. At least some of the speakers at a recent National Review weekend seem to think so. He has "betrayed" them.

Many observers, whether on the Right or Left, seem to believe that there is such a thing as "genuine Conservatism," which they either adore or execrate according to taste. Alas, Conservatism has always been a loose, baggy monster. Historical reflection confirms this surmise. Consider the careers of Benjamin D'Israeli and Otto von Bismarck. Far from pursuing the modest foreign policty goals the "Realists" think should guide us, D'Israeli made Victoria Empress of India. He recognized that ordinary English people would find solace in "National Greatness." And of course Bismarck blunted the effect of German Socialists by instituting the first social-security program in the history of the world.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After Kekes's, Scruton's, and now Cahoone's "case for conservatism," the only consistency of this notion harks back to Burke's history, tradition, and institutions as some sort of mantra that is supposed to embed society in a context to prevent revolution. Sullivan's conservatism appears more "libertarian" than conservative. His liberal inclinations come-out when he feels pushed against the "social" conservative, or the neo-conservative, or the religious conservative.

I'll agree that Oakeshott and Hayek are types of "conservative" in the liberal tradition (as technically was Burke). But even Classical Liberalism (hyped as "libertarian") is more credible than "conservativism." Conservatism (other than the Goldwater movement) is indeed personified in Bush. Conservatives believe the State is an instrument of morality, to inculcate moral virtue, and to contain human evil. In this select aspect, I'll agree with conservatives. The State needs to inculcate moral virtue and contain moral vice. As a liberal, the only vice the State has a legitimate interest in is the vice that "harms." But conservatives disagree. And since some want biblical morality, some Aristotlean ethics, some Kantian morality, etc., which morality shall the State impose?

Therein is the problem. Morality is deontological -- a duty to either a deity or maxim or principle. Ethics, conversely, is a way of life, an excellence of virtue overcoming vice through the Golden Mean. Ethics is something one acquires through imitation and habituation of virtuous individuals. Morality is law-bound duty, usually prescriptive, often religious.

If the State wanted to inculcate an ethical way of life, I could support that notion; indeed, I think it would be immensely valuable. Even if we dropped Aristotle's ethics and chose Enlightenment "morality" of Hume and Smith, I agree that inculcation of empathy for others, reciprocal altruism, and cooperation within a competitive framework is agreeable for both individual and society. So, if conservatives espoused either Aristotle's or the Scots' ethics, we'd have a consensus of a State action.

But look. Behold. No conservative espouses either! The Burkean mantra of "history, traditions, and institutions" is code for Christianity. And more recently, a type of Christianity that goes by "Evangelical." Those "values" are not my values. They lack the virtues of justice, courage, temperance, and prudence of an Aristotle, and they lack empathy, sympathy, reciprocity of a Hume or Smith. They default to biblical morality -- some more genteel, some draconian, but still Judeo-Christian in detail. Some Calvinistic, some "natural law," some Decalogogic, some Levitical, and all entirely disagreeable. It's neither ethics or morality, it's biblical and immersed in religion.

So, Bush is perfect as a "conservative," and now that conservatives find his values disagreeable, it should repudiate the whole conservative mantra. But it won't. It'll simply shift the ground, but keep it focused on a particular conservatism that suits their particular morals and values.

Many wise individuals have called for a return to civility, which I suspect is what conservative voters were hoping to get from Bush, and did not. Civility harkens back to ehtics, not religious doctrine or dogma. But as long as the various parties cannot come to an agreement over "which" values, morals, and ethics, we'll revisit this same conservative nonsense about each one's particular "values." (Not to mention the neoconservative values that justify the type of unethical behavior of a State like Israel.)

The Enlightenment has proven itself right. Reason, science, criticism, and an end to superstition, dogma, and institutions are the only way to freedom. But freedom requires responsibility, and some fanatics cannot abide either, so they chose gawd to "impose" the law from above. Meanwhile, the rest are being exploited, and intolerant of such egregious malevolence in search of the "right" formula. Where are the Franklins, Jeffersons, Madisons, and Paines? They'd remind us. Alas, they're a "social construction" and hypocrites, better assailed that heard or read.

It will not change. It will only oscilate like a social masturbation. Someone gets their jollies, but I'm not one of them. I'll just accept those enlightened dudes, however crude they might have been, over the toxic nonsense that parades in today's melieu. Left, Right, Revolutionary, all have their own "moral" agenda, sadly none of them have any recollection of tyranny. Perhaps it is the minorities who understand that morality is often just an excuse to tyrannize with State support. But as minorities, we'll never threaten their illogical hegemony. They have that all to themselves.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

In my view this thoughtful comment is nonetheless marred by a quest for the "essence" of conservatism. There is no such essence.

Burkean conservatism is but one strand, one that is literarlly reactionary because of his horror at the effects of the French Revolution. (Nonetheless, Burke's assessment turned out to be much closer to the mark than that of Thomas Paine, that Enlightment stallwart who was almost executed for his efforts.)

There are at least two other major strands. One stems from Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees of 1714. Summing the matter up in the precept "Private vices make public benefits," Mandeville was an early advocate of individualist laissez-faire. His ideas are not stabilizing, but in the aggregate disruptive and revolutionary.

Then there is "national greatness" conservatism. This strand seeks to project power abroad in a muscular, often military form.

Doubtless there are other strands. But these examples should suffice to show that there is no "essence" of conservatism, any more than there is an essence of liberalism. What we see is the constant intervening of motifs. Sometimes, as in the 19th century, liberals will take their cue from Mandeville, and sometimes, alas, they will yield to national- greatness temptations (witness both Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt). Conservatism is similarly eclectic.

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Of all the virtues liberality
Of mind were greatest, as per Aristotle;
Yet, be it witnessed rather recently
Another class that virtue like to throttle.

It is a breed vainglorious as
Believes itself to hold secret possession
To universe´s riddles the true keys,
Without a doubt, ungainly its procession.

It called itself "conservative," a catch-phrase
(For truly, what did ever it conserve?)
Yet, mindful, never left the rag-and-patch phase:
Instead of thinking, it gets by on nerve.

Here´s how it works: belligerence and bluster,
Slander engaged in rather than discourse,
Of criminal idealogues the truster,
Permitting itself any use of force.

10:25 AM  

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