Not What I Signed Up For

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  • Author Larry Farmer
  • Published July 6, 2022
  • Word count 733

Not What I Signed Up For

Conservatives have traditionally been isolationist or noninterventionist. Although there are many examples to buttress this point, two are worthy of mention. William Graham Sumner, a conservative philosopher in the late 1800’s, was ardently anti-imperialist. Sumner even went so far as being opposed to most any warfare. He wasn’t exactly a pacifist, but he was close. Senator Robert A. Taft, a legendary politician of the mid-20th Century, led an effort to keep us out of World War II before Pearl Harbor. Taft was the leading figure in the Old Right which is what conservatism was called in the first half of the 20th Century. After the war he actually opposed the creation of NATO. There was a rumor that General Eisenhower would not have challenged Taft for the 1952 Republican Presidential nomination if the senator had accepted NATO.

Opposition to foreign alliances among conservatives changed during the 1950’s and beyond with the challenge of communism. William F. Buckley, Jr., arguably the greatest conservative intellectual of all times, led the movement in this effort. This change of pace in regard to foreign affairs is understandable in that we were facing an existential threat. Karl Marx, the founder of communism, never made any secret of his desire for the absolute destruction of capitalism. Communism by its very nature was bent on worldwide conquest, and it had two superpowers (the Soviet Union and China) to promote this goal.

During the late 1970’s, Buckley and his allies made common cause with a group called neoconservatives. He was attracted to them because of their advocacy of a strong national defense against Soviet aggression and their academic and intellectual credentials. As far as domestic affairs are concerned, they had little in common with traditional conservatives. They tended to be liberal or moderate on issues such as gun rights, abortion, gay rights, the Electoral College, the Senate filibuster, etc.

Many of the neocons were former communist followers of Leon Trotsky. Made up largely of Jews, they became concerned about the treatment of their brethren in the Soviet Union and their ability to emigrate to Israel. Another cause which concerned them greatly was the general stability of the state of Israel. In addition to their strong stance against Soviet Communism, they believed in the spread of democracy, particularly in the Middle East. The idea was that Israel’s future would be secure if the Middle East was made up of democratic countries since democracies do not tend to fight each other. President Reagan appointed many of them to positions of power, and they helped bring down communism in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they almost got Reagan impeached with the Iran-Contra affair, a foreign policy initiative in which they were almost exclusively in charge.

The heyday of the neocons was during the George W. Bush administration. They were the ones behind the war in Iraq and the attempt to turn Afghanistan into a Western democracy. They also flexed their muscles in Libya and Egypt during the Obama administration. Their Middle Eastern enterprise eventually culminated in the Syrian Civil War stalemate. Late in Obama’s Presidency, they turned their attention to Ukraine. At that point their intent had evolved from the Middle East to spreading liberal democracy deep into Eastern Europe. Who knows where this appetite will end? In all probability, it is a worldwide phenomenon.

True conservatism has never been about worldwide conquest. In fact, it has always been opposed to such endeavors. We fought against fascism because its main adherents (Germany, Italy, and Japan) had ambitions that expanded the globe. We fought against communism because of its desire to bring everyone into its fold. Neither fascism nor communism presents such a challenge today. China is still there, of course, but it has become a semi-capitalistic entity which worships money over ideology. All big nations have their spheres of influence and areas that are critical to their national self-interest, but that is as far as it goes. Nationalism appears to be the current wave, and that is not a bad thing. As a conservative, I never signed up for an international crusade. Nations can do as they please as long as they pose no existential threat to me and mine. George Washington advised us to beware of entangling alliances, and Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us against the military industrial complex. We should listen to their words.

I received a bachelors degree in 1967 and a masters degree in 1971 from Western Kentucky University. I taught school for 44 years. One year was spent at Fordsville High School, 17 at Ohio County High School, and 26 at Trinity High School in Whitesville. The subjects I taught were government, history, and English. At Trinity I also served as coach, athletic director, and dean of students. I fancy myself a fairly good writer, and my main interests are sports and politics.

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