|Anti-War Conservatives Bash Hawks on Iraq
News Analysis, Rene P. Ciria-Cruz,
Pacific News Service, Feb 12, 2003
Opposition to war in Iraq comes from the Right, too. In fact, writes PNS
contributor Rene P. Ciria-Cruz, unlikely Left-Right alliances and fiery
denunciations of war in "paleocon" and libertarian media could further
fracture the American Right.
"Evil though they may be, Islamic killers are over here because we are over
there," booms the essay, "Terror on American soil is the price of American
Another anti-war liberal waxing rhetorical? No, it's former presidential
hopeful Patrick Buchanan, editor of The American Conservative, bashing
President Bush's Mideast military buildup.
There are indeed anti-war conservatives. Moreover, these
big-government-hating, tax-loathing right-wingers reserve their sharpest
barbs for the "neoconservative" hawks in the Bush administration. Some even
predict that war in Iraq will widen fissures within the Right and cost the
Republican Party in the voting booth.
"Realists" like Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to the
first President Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger, former secretary of state, and
business leaders who ran "A Republican Dissent on Iraq" in the Wall Street
Journal this January, drew attention with their warning that a hasty war
could set the entire region on fire. Less well known are objections from
conservatives driven by a strict reading of the Constitution and distaste
for the "welfare-warfare state."
"Opposition to an unjust war is a conservative tradition," insists Jon B.
Utley, the Robert A. Taft fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in
Auburn, Ala. "War of conquest encourages the growth of state power and
burdensome taxation." With war in Iraq, Utley fears that America is forging
a world alliance against itself. "We'll all be soft targets."
Utley wants conservatives to join protests organized by left-liberal
coalitions. Although he's "uneasy seeing far-out socialists condemning free
markets, theirs is usually the only game in town." Besides, he says, this is
not a Left-Right battle.
The Antiwar.com site in Sunnyvale, Calif., gets 2 million page views a
month, 35 percent from visitors outside the United States, according to
webmaster Eric Garris, a Republican and "small 'l'" libertarian.
At peace coalition meetings in San Francisco, Antiwar.com staffers "get some
static from old-style Stalinists," but otherwise feel welcome, Garris says.
He laments that conservative speakers have yet to be invited to the big
Buchanan and columnists like Robert Novak, Charley Reese, Paul Craig Roberts
and Georgie Anne Geyer regularly skewer Bush on Iraq. So do Right mainstays
like Lew Rockwell Jr., Alan Reynolds, Joe Sobran and Justin Raimondo, whose
opinions appear on Townhall.com, Worldnetdaily.com, The American
Conservative, the Chronicles, Americans Against World Empire, and in
publications by the Cato and von Mises institutes.
"Saddam Hussein is no Hitler; George Bush is no Winston Churchill. And this
war will definitely not be our finest hour," Reese wrote. "Bush," wrote
Geyer, "has a religiously inspired grandiosity of character which leads him
to believe he has been called to a religious duty in the Middle East to rid
the world of Saddam Hussein!"
Congress has right-wing doves too. In the House, three GOP conservatives and
three centrists voted against giving Bush authorization to use military
force against Iraq. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), known for his dislike of the income
tax, the Federal Reserve and the United Nations, called the undeclared war
unconstitutional, costly and "morally unjustifiable."
Warned John Hostettler (R-Ind.), "Don't fire unless fired upon." He said the
notion "is at least as old as St. Augustine's Just War Thesis, and it finds
agreement with the Minutemen and framers of the Constitution."
The split on Iraq pits traditional conservatives (paleocons) and
libertarians on one side against neoconservatives (neocons) and the
Christian Right on the other. Paleocons and libertarians disagree on moral
issues such as abortion and drug use, but they both oppose large-scale state
social programs and, like the isolationist America First movement of the
1930s, U.S. intervention abroad. When the Right closed ranks during the Cold
War, the paleocons muted their isolationism but revived it with the demise
of the Soviet bloc.
Neocons are former liberals who moved to the Right after being "mugged by
reality," as neocon patriarch Irving Kristol famously quipped. They oppose
affirmative action and Great Society-type programs, but not the entire
legacy of the New Deal. Former Cold Warriors, they want the United States to
boldly wield its clout as the only military superpower in the world.
The neocon-Christian Right alliance rose to power during the Reagan
presidency and now claims hegemony over the conservative movement. It wields
much influence through the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise
Institute, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Commentary, The New
Republic and the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.
Traditional conservatives see the neocons as usurpers and as the brains of
the "War Party," pointing to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz,
Defense Policy Board chief Richard Perle and Weekly Standard editor William
Kristol as the center of Iraq hawks.
To Geyer, they're "macho Likudniks with intimate ties to the hardest parts
of the Israeli Right" who want to remake the Middle East "for their own and
"The conservative split over Iraq will deepen," Garris predicts. "Those who
are pro-war now want to go in and get out, not extend the U.S. stay as the
neocons say now must happen."
Already, prominent evangelicals seem to be vacillating. Few are speaking for
or against the war, reported The Washington Post, because they feel an
attack on Iraq could lead to the expulsion or death of U.S. missionaries
"There will be greater fracturing of the Right," Utley says. "Bush could
lose in the polls. After big wars, the party in power is always defeated in
the first elections. Look at Churchill and the first President Bush."
Ciria-Cruz (email@example.com) is also a longtime editor for