Monday, July 14, 2008

Jonah Goldberg -- Not a Conservative

I have returned from a vacation of considerable length and have been catching up on my reading and I feel it is time to talk about Jonah Goldberg. The National Review Online editor-at-large and Republican establishment hitman has been taking aim at Pat Buchanan and his most recent tome, "Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War." I generally choose to avoid Mr. Goldberg and NRO because the prevalence of neoconservatism tends to be too much for my already high blood pressure. I was reading Tom Piatak on when his piece for June 25 directed me to Mr. Goldberg on NRO.

Talk radio and "mainstream" conservatives love to refer to Jonah Goldberg as a genuine conservative at every turn. Mr. Goldberg is a recurring guest on Sean Hannity's radio program and Rush Limbaugh could not stop singing the praises of Jonah Goldberg's massive book "Liberal Fascism." Regular readers of, The American Conservative, and Chronicles magazine are probably unsurprised that a self-described paleoconservative and Pat Buchanan supporter would label Jonah Goldberg a non-conservative or even a liberal.

Mr. Goldberg is an excellent writer who regularly skewers his opponents but a few pieces that I have stumbled upon illustrate his non-conservative credentials particularly well. First, Mr. Goldberg dedicates his June 25th column to the alleged hypocrisy and racism of Pat Buchanan because the latter prescribes different foreign policy solutions to different foreign policy circumstances. Mr. Goldberg then tells his readers that Mr. Buchanan's duplicity is on par with "The New Republic," a left-of-center magazine that Mr. Goldberg rips up in his book as one of the liberal admirers of fascism in the early 20th Century. Does he really mean to equivocate "The New Republic" with conservative stalwart Pat Buchanan? Jonah Goldberg makes any and every claim he can to prove his point and push his agenda.

The second column in question comes all the way from May 3, 2000 in which Mr. Goldberg advocates military and governmental intervention in Africa to save the continent from itself. I took the time to read the 3-page discourse, which based on its advocation of taxation and the government's responsibility to take care of the world, may as well have been written by Ted Kennedy, not some alleged purveyor of conservatism. To reduce the length of this entry, I am omitting his May 23, 2008 column in which he suggests John McCain name a Democrat as his running mate, as if there weren't enough Democrats already running on this year's Republican ticket.

Some may think that dumping on Jonah Goldberg for an 8-year-old op-ed is unfair because people's opinions and interpretations change. For example, 8 years ago I was 16 years old and believed that Governor George W. Bush was a principled conservative. I changed my mind through facts, the course of events, and probably a little bit of maturity. "9/11 changed everything," right?

From my perspective, the only thing that changed for Mr. Goldberg was the substitution of "Iraq" for "Africa" with very little of the rationale changing. It was "America's mission" to save the Iraqis just as it was to save the Africans. In each instance, it was the responsibility of the U.S. government and the U.S. military to carry out these humanitarian missions of mercy.

Conservatives have historically discouraged and shunned the use of the military for humanitarian purposes. The U.S. military is supposed to defeat enemies on the battlefields. That is the purpose of a military. One of Napoleon's dictates was that armies are to defeat armies, not to take cities. The main objective is to defeat the enemy. Getting involved with the populations opens up a can of worms that can slowly strangle the conquering empire. One might even consider this axiom to be the early 19th Century version of "no nation-building."

In fact, many critics bring up President Bush's now-broken promise of "no nation building" which cause his remaining defenders to say some version of this: "Well, 9/11 changed everything. It's not the same world as in 2000."

Judging by Mr. Goldberg's column of May 3, 2000, all that seemed to change was the destination of "America's mission." Though often billed as a conservative, the writer in question deployed all the standard liberal arguments for benevolent military intervention used from Woodrow Wilson through Lyndon Johnson.

Conservatives and libertarians are certainly not opposed to helping the downtrodden of humanity. We oppose the use of force and tax dollars to do it. Personally, I favor the peace corps, missionary work, and churches taking care of many of the world's least fortunate souls. After all, it has been said that more harm is done through intended good than from pure malevolence because of all the unintended consequences that come from unsolicited intervention. If conservatives are against foreign aid, then why not feel the same way towards military intervention where there is no national interest present?

Mr. Goldberg, in his 2000 article frequently refers to "our response." "We should" this and "We should" that when it comes to putting American troops in harm's way in Africa. He lectures the reader about "our" moral obligation, but even though he keeps using personal pronouns, it is the U.S. military that actually bears the burden and responsibilities he advocates. This is another tool employed by liberals who want the government to take care people they wouldn't take care of themselves.

Why does Jonah Goldberg even matter? He has no direct power or influence with this administration. Why does his opinion on U.S. policy toward Africa in 2000 matter in 2008? Well, the ideas expounded by Mr. Goldberg in 2000, a year of peace, suggest that he was already a liberal interventionist. The "9/11 changed everything" argument is rendered obsolete by Mr. Goldberg's own words. He was already in favor of intervening on the basis of human rights. This matters because, unfortunately, Mr. Goldberg is considered conservative by a majority of his readers when he is in fact the very opposite: a liberal.

So before anyone who happens to be reading this wants to heap praise on Jonah Goldberg for being a "great conservative," keep in mind that he is merely a Republican whose principles are liberal, not conservative. He is effective at skewering Democrats, which gains him admirers among the GOP, but is also adept when it comes to anyone to his right, as the piece on Mr. Buchanan can attest. Shall we listen to this man of the Left, masquerading as one of the Right, whose political convictions have more in common with Democrat Woodrow Wilson than the Republican and "Great Communicator" Ronald Reagan?

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