But the dialogue this blog forced upon me also helped me much better understand my own positions, and abandon some when the power of the counter-argument in these pages overwhelmed me. I have moved to a more pro-choice position than I once had, and the emails from women who had had late-term abortions did not just move my heart, they changed my mind. Watching the national security state achieve more and more power and less and less accountability, observing the sheer horror of counter-insurgencies in places we could never understand or master, seeing how the absolute evil of torture could not just enter the heart of American government, but be defended by so many, enabled by the media's cowardice and entrenched by a refusal to prosecute it or even call it by its proper name ... well, these events have indeed radicalized me. I have become an instinctually anti-war conservative, rather than an instinctually pro-war one. I do not understand how anyone who has lived and breathed this last decade could not reach a similar conclusion. Which is why I have also been unstinting in my criticism of a key ally, Israel, and its dogmatic American cheer-leaders, for failing to understand this, and to gamble not only with Israel's own future with diplomatic brinkmanship, collective punishment of Palestinians, and more pre-emptive war - but our own future as well.
What I have tried to do, however, is balance this radicalization with a clear and prudent reminder that we are still at war with enemies of a brutal and dark and very dangerous kind. This re-balancing has not been easy, and you and I have made this journey together, and I don't think any of us quite yet know where we will find ourselves in the years ahead. Our debate last week is a reminder of how difficult this is. But my dismay at those conservatives and neoconservatives who have doubled down on their own fantastic failures and refused to reflect one iota on the consequences of their own illusions has indeed turned to contempt. In that sense, I think the populist GOP and its neoconservative foreign policy remains one of the most dangerous forces in the world today, and why this blog will continue to expose, attack and rebut it until a saner, calmer conservatism can emerge from the ashes of this grotesquery.
I remain very proud of a few things: of my early recognition of the anti-conservative nature of the Bush administration in almost every respect - fiscal, constitutional, social - and the fact that I did not hesitate to call it out, even though I was a Bushie at the deeply divisive start and tried, perhaps for far too long, to give him the benefit of the doubt. I remain proud of the part this blog has played in pioneering the equality of gay people in marriage and military service; of being among the first to recognize the potential of Barack Obama and being an integral and early part of his viral rise to the presidency, and to elaborating the core conservative and reformist rationales for his pragmatic presidency. I am also proud to have been among the first to see the deeply dangerous phoniness and authoritarianism behind the Palin cult, and to insist that her constant lies be exposed and that the core symbol of appeal to the base - the disgusting political abuse of a child with Down Syndrome - be subject to the same media skepticism that should be applied to every other aspect of her fraudulent and farcical candidacy for vice-president and now president. I remain proud that I did not flinch in exposing and writing about the hideous crimes of the Vatican hierarchy and my own church in the rape and abuse of countless children, and the refusal again of anyone truly to take responsibility and be accountable. I am proud of that extraordinary June in 2009 when this little blog became fused night and day with a young revolution in a distant country whose people demanded the freedom this medium gave them, however briefly, however tragically. And I cannot tell you how proud I am of the young men and women, from Reihan to Jessie and Patrick and Chris and Conor and Zoe, who pioneered this with the same spirit with which I founded it.