The Reactionary Utopian
                     August 31, 2006

by Joe Sobran

     Most observers are predicting a rout of the 
Republicans in this fall's elections. Some think the 
Democrats can even recapture both houses of Congress.

     I hope so. Oh, how I hope so. May the Republicans 
perish forever. May vultures gobble their entrails. May 
their name be blotted out. In short, may they lose their 
shirts in November.

     Yes, I'm disillusioned with the GOP. It was bad 
enough when I thought they were unprincipled. Now, 
however, it's worse, because they do have a principle 
after all: war.

     Two Bush administrations have proved that. War on 
Panama, war on Iraq, war on "terror," war on Afghanistan, 
war on Iraq again, and war on Iran, comin' up. And of 
course the recent Israeli war on Lebanon was waged with 
George W. Bush's complicity. Am I leaving anything out? 
Oh yes, his father's war on "drugs"; but let's not even 
count that one.

     Next to the violence of war, I hate the 
philosophical fallout. This Bush administration has 
managed to pervert the meaning of "conservatism": in most 
Americans' minds, for the next generation, the word will 
mean, above all, "militarism."

     Not that this is wholly new. Goldwater conservatives 
supported the Vietnam war, originally a liberal project, 
even complaining that it wasn't being waged with enough 
force. They began sneering at "peaceniks," then equating 
peace with liberalism (and war with patriotism) and 
automatically favoring huge military budgets. Lyndon 
Johnson's war soon became "Nixon's war," and the anti-war 
George McGovern redefined the Democratic Party.

     By the Reagan years the old lines were redrawn. 
Quite a change from the days when Democrats wanted war on 
fascism and Republicans were accused of "isolationism" 
for preferring peace. Does anyone remember Robert Taft?

     By identifying the conservative cause with war, the 
Republicans have given liberalism the finest gift they 
could possibly have bestowed on it. The popularity of war 
is intense but brief. Americans will support quick and 
victorious wars, but after a few months the thrill tends 
to wear off.

     As late as 1976 grouchy Bob Dole, a bitter World 
War II vet, could still take a swat at "Democrat wars," 
but the phrase sounded quaint. The amnesiac American 
public thought it was a contradiction in terms. When had 
the Democrats ever wanted war?

     Today's blowhard conservatives have no reservations 
about it. They suspect, and openly accuse, the "liberal 
media" of sympathy for the enemy so freely that you 
wonder why they don't just call them the "Islamic media." 
For these right-wingers, the Iraq war -- not the 
Constitution, government spending, or abortion -- is the 
defining issue dividing liberals and conservatives.

     They even pardon liberal Republicans like Rudy 
Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as well as the 
liberal Democrat Joe Lieberman) for supporting abortion 
and homosexual rights, as long as they support the war. 
That is, they count a liberal as a conservative, provided 
only that he's for this war.

     Being the most devastating of human activities, war 
would seem to be at the opposite pole from conserving 
anything. It's a grotesque accident of history that it 
should have acquired even a verbal association with the 
philosophy of conservatism.

     Just what is that philosophy? Is it a philosophy at 
all, or just a natural disposition to reject radical 
change? These questions have been debated for centuries, 
and I can only suggest an answer.

     Briefly, conservatism is a more or less articulate 
sense of normality, whereas liberalism has been described 
(by G.K. Chesterton) as "the modern and morbid habit of 
always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal." 
Conservatism can tolerate many abnormal things that can't 
be eliminated from human society, but it doesn't call 
them "rights" or confuse them with normal things. And, 
after all, few things are more abnormal than war.

     So today's alleged conservatives (and especially the 
misnamed "neoconservatives") are aberrations. They 
delight in destruction; they are full of enthusiasm for 
violent and radical action; they lack the ironic and 
skeptical attitude of real conservatives, the prudent 
sense that precipitate acts bring "unintended 

     The presidency of George W. Bush has been one long 
object lesson in unintended consequences. It's amusing to 
recall that his father was kidded for using the phrase 
"wouldn't be prudent," an expression the son could 
profitably adopt.

     Until the Republicans learn that peace is normal, 
they will deserve defeat and infamy.


Read this column on-line at 

Copyright (c) 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, This column may not be published in 
print or Internet publications without express permission 
of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to 
interested individuals if you use this entire page, 
including the following disclaimer:

"SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available 
by subscription. For details and samples, see, write, or call 800-513-5053."