Militarism on the Right

Conor Friedersdorf

Noah Millman writes:

I talk about the need for a different "emotional dynamic" on the right with respect to foreign policy, where right now a kind of identity politics usurps everything, and the goal is not to articulate some vision of foreign policy but to prove that you're a "real American." But then I segue into talking about George Bush Sr. and the appeal (or lack of appeal) of "competence" in the management of foreign policy. And I think Ross's answer to that is right: "I'll manage well" is never a winning slogan, and wasn't the slogan even of Presidents who are admired in retrospect for managing well, such as Eisenhower.

But I think where I was really headed with this was somewhere else.

The danger in the existing emotional dynamic isn't so much that it is an emotional dynamic, that it's not a cold-blooded search for a good manager, but rather the conflation of patriotism and militarism. The gauntlet to run within the right is to prove that you're a real, patriotic American - fine. But apparently you prove this by asserting that no amount of military spending is ever enough, by making torture a virtue, by mocking the very idea of diplomacy, by dividing allies into two camps, vassals who must be punished if they don't obey our commands (Japan, the various countries of Europe) and holy causes for whom we must be willing to bear any burden, pay any price (Israel, Taiwan, Georgia) and, most alarmingly, by a kind of hero-worship of conquering generals. This is not the way it has to be, nor how it was within fairly recent living memory. America has a citizen army, and the right has a long tradition - one that encompasses leaders like Eisenhower who were hardly isolationist - of calling for caution in the commitment of our military precisely because it is an extension of the citizenry, not a mere tool of the government.

I don't actually expect revival of full-throated anti-interventionism on the American right, something like the pre-World War II America Firsters. I don't think even Daniel Larison expects that. But some kind of tendency to counter militarism is necessary, and right now, with Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney trying to outdo each other in their appeals to the militarist tendency on the right, I kind of despair of any counter-dynamic getting traction.

Read the rest here. I should add that I am slightly more optimistic about push back on this issue, due to an unexpected shift in rhetoric from Ann Coulter of all people. It's complicated, but I try to explain here.




Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus
Idea of the Day Show Us What We Spend on Power

Show Us What We Spend on Power

Electricity bills are confusing, and don't arrive until long after the damage is done. The fix to a system that's high in both costs and headaches lies in connecting consumers to their consumption--show people what they're using in real time, and make it easy to compare costs to kilowatts. Geoffrey Gagnon

Features from the Magazine: Stories from our
The End of Men

The End of Men

The sexes: Women are dominating society as never before. By Hanna Rosin Plus: Are Fathers Necessary? By Pamela Paul

Xanadu

Xanadu

Energy: A map of one couple's attempt to build the world's greenest home By Joshua Green

Closing the Digital Frontier

Closing the Digital Frontier

Technology: How media companies are taming the Internet's chaos By Michael Hirschorn

The Littlest Schoolhouse

The Littlest Schoolhouse

Education: Helping wayward students—by personalizing curricula By Ta-Nehisi Coates

No Refills

No Refills

Business: Why are fewer drugs being approved, even as R&D surges? By Megan McArdle

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty

Wealth of nations: An eminent economist discovers the virtues of colonialism. By Sebastian Mallaby

The Case for Calling Them Nitwits

The Case for Calling Them Nitwits

Security: Most terrorists are bungling fools. Spread the word. By Daniel Byman and Christine Fair