The Retreat From Realism

The essence of conservatism is realism. Conservatives properly study the bloody lessons of history and recognize the ambiguous temper of human nature. They reject the grand but unworkable schemes for radical reform proposed by the socialist left. They favor local and state programs over federal ones, because they fear that the plans of a distant Washington will be too abstract for parochial community needs. By extension, the notion of a world government is even more fanciful.

Ever since the first modern multilateral congress of powers gathered at Münster and Osnabrück in 1648 to draw up the Peace of Westphalia, schemes for a "New World Order" have been hatched at the end of every major conflict. William Penn, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, and James Mill are among the many who have tried their hand at such plans. All have failed. And while enlightened thinkers have played the parlor game of peace-mongering, the duty has fallen to conservatives to keep a wary eye on the inventory of powder and shot.

At the turn of the last century hope was invested in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. The Great Powers held conferences in 1899 and 1907 to discuss arms control and dispute resolution. However, a third meeting scheduled for 1915 had to be canceled . . . due to the outbreak of World War I.

President Woodrow Wilson then took his turn as champion of a new order....

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