American Proscenium

Patriotic Conservatives During “Shock and Awe”

How does a patriotic conservative behave when he believes his country has made a mistake by entering a war?

“Politics ends at the water’s edge” has been the conventional wisdom since 1940’s.  The statement was made by Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Midwestern isolationist who signed on to FDR’s adventurism and the postwar crusade against the Soviet Union.  Vandenberg’s about-face is usually attributed to patriotism or anticommunist Realpolitik.  The reality turns out to be somewhat less noble: British intelligence agents set up the highly susceptible senator with an attractive woman and then blackmailed him into submission, an operation documented in Thomas Mahl’s Desperate Deception.

The corollary to Vandenberg’s dictum is that, as loyal citizens, we must support the troops or even that we must obey the Commander in Chief.  The President, however, is the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, not of the citizens of the United States.  To suggest otherwise is to treat our country as a military dictatorship.  Every nation demands loyalty from its citizens, and no decent American would give aid and comfort to an enemy or undermine the morale of American soldiers.  One complicating factor is that we no longer have a citizen army drafted from the people but a volunteer army whose members have enlisted for a variety of reasons:...

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