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Buckley in 2004The founder of Neo-Conservatism, William F. Buckley, passed away today. The TV news opined about Buckley as being “The Founder of Modern Conservatism” as well as his magazine “The National Review“, which Ronald Reagan once called “his favorite magazine”.

If you don’t recognize William F Buckley, you would almost assuredly recognize his distinctive way of talking. Not an insult, Buckley’s speech always reminded me of a rich English billionaire that just jumped out of the swimming pool with his nose full of water: “Hfaw, faw, wah-ha-fah.” If you were to accuse someone of “putting on aires” for the way they talked, they’d sound like Buckley.

But in all the Conservative nostalgia served up this day, the media was reluctant to report that Buckley renounced the Grand Experiment that was Iraq in a 2006 column in his own magazine, The National Review.

The Associated Press dedicated a grand total of two sentences to Buckley’s denouncement of the war in Iraq, which is better than NBC News (video on the page) did, omitting any mention whatsoever of his recent criticisms of Iraq and Neo-Conservatism in general. It is because Buckley was SO Conservative that he often found himself on the outs with the modern Neo-Conservatives in and around the current White House. One thing modern Conservatives DID inherit from Buckley, a vapid disdain for all things “Liberal” and occasionally allowing his racist/sexist/misogynistic attitudes to leak out unchecked.

So, while Conservatives genuflect tonight over the passing of the man that gave us the modern Conservative movement, I think it is only proper that we go back and revisit Buckley’s 2006 criticism of the folly that was Iraq:

It Didn’t Work

[…] Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. […]

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elucidates on the complaint against Americans. It is not only that the invaders are American, it is that they are “Zionists.” It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others’ throats.

A problem for American policymakers… for President Bush, ultimately… is to cope with the postulates and decide how to proceed.

One of these postulates, from the beginning, was that the Iraqi people, whatever their tribal differences, would suspend internal divisions in order to get on with life in a political structure that guaranteed them religious freedom.

The accompanying postulate was that the invading American army would succeed in training Iraqi soldiers and policymkers to cope with insurgents bent on violence.

This last did not happen. And the administration has, now, to cope with failure. […]

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

[…]

(Emphasis mine, pointing out Buckley’s recognition of Bush’s inability to acknowledge his own failures.)

But Buckley’s criticism of the Neo-Cons in Washington did not end with Iraq, nor can any Neo-Conservative say, “Yeah, but that was before the Surge!”

Here is Buckley less than a year ago (April, 2007) on the subject of a dying GOP:

The Waning of the GOP

The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. The opinion polls are savagely decisive on the Iraq question. About 60 percent of Americans wish the war ended … with at least a timetable for orderly withdrawal. What is going on in Congress is in the nature of accompaniment. The vote in Congress is simply another salient in the war against war in Iraq. Republican forces, with a couple of exceptions, held fast against the Democrats’ attempt to force Bush out of Iraq even if it required fiddling with the Constitution. President Bush will of course veto the bill, but its impact is critically important in the consolidation of public opinion. It can now accurately be said that the legislature, which writes the people’s laws, opposes the war.

[…]

When the Romans were challenged by Christianity, Rome fell. The generation of Christians moved by their faith overwhelmed the regimented reserves of the Roman state. It was four years ago that Mr. Cheney first observed that there was a real fear that each fallen terrorist leads to the materialization of another terrorist. What can a “surge”, of the kind we are now relying upon, do to cope with endemic disease? The parallel even comes to mind of the eventual collapse of Prohibition, because there wasn’t any way the government could neutralize the appetite for alcohol, or the resourcefulness of the freeman in acquiring it.

[…]

(I encourage you to read the full article.)

So on this day when Neo-Conservatives morn the man whose movement gave us Ronald Reagan, let us not forget that even this Conservative monarch could see the devastation the Bush Doctrine was having on his brand of Conservativism.

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