Skip to comments.When being right is a duty (Pt 1 series "Conservative America"
Posted on 01/13/2005 7:03:06 AM PST by GMMAC
When being right is a duty
National Post (Canada)
Thu 13 Jan 2005
Page: A1 / Front
Byline: Lorne Gunter
Series: Conservative America
Next week, George W. Bush will be inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States. In a six-part series preceding the ceremony in Washington, the National Post explores the force that returned Bush to power -- the sometimes contradictory mix of individualism, patriotism and traditionalism that makes up American conservatism. Today, Lorne Gunter explains why conservative values are increasingly working their way into the mainstream of American political life.
America is a more conservative nation -- more conservative than Canada, more conservative than Europe -- because it has to be.
Post-modern liberalism is a luxury. As the world's defender of last resort, it is a luxury the United States cannot afford.
At least, that's the way the 62 million Americans who voted for George W. Bush last November see it: Ceaseless dithering over the right course of action and endless appeals to multilateralism are all well and good if your nation isn't the backstop of freedom in the world.
But like it or not, the United States is what Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer has called "the fire department of the planet." It's a role the majority of Americans take seriously, whether they like it or not. (And whether the rest of the world likes it.)
In those African hellholes --mostly France's former colonies -- where France is the final guarantor of stability, the French government never bothers with the niceties of international coalition building: It acts first because it knows it has to.
The Americans fulfill the same duty on the world stage.
To be sure, lots of Americans resist their nation's role. In fact, they despise it. Many of the 59 million who voted for Mr. Bush's Democratic opponent, Senator John Kerry, hate the international policing duty thrust on their nation by virtue of its status as the world's sole superpower.
(Of course, many of those who now object so strenuously were all in favour when one of their own -- Democrat Bill Clinton -- was poking America's nose and military firepower into Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. But that's a debate for another time.)
Still, as the world's reluctant traffic cop, customs agent, bomb defuser, SWAT team and referee, the United States has no time for such extravagances as interminable weapons inspections, never-ending sanctions without force or strings of international conferences on the root causes of discontent.
Such nations as Canada, France (outside Africa) and Germany may be able to indulge in infinite chin-stroking and afford always to take the moral high road -- to be woulda, coulda, shoulda nations.
If we and our government, or the Europeans and theirs, or even the United Nations, guess wrong about a threat to international peace and security, well, no one's the worse for it.
But if the Americans guess wrong, all hell could break loose.
As U.S. foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan put it in his 2003 book, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, the end of the Cold War also ended conventional military threats against Europe.
Freed of their need to shelter under America's security umbrella, the Europeans have convinced themselves the entire world has entered a new age of "the rule of moral consciousness." To believe this, they have had to turn blind eyes to myriad threats outside the old East-West axis. But since those threats are out of their reach, the Europeans have found it easy to keep them out of their minds, too.
The Europeans have rested secure, too, in the knowledge -- at least subconsciously -- the Americans remain rooted in the real world, ready to deflect any dangers that might threaten Europe.
"What this means," Mr. Kagan writes, "is that although the United States has played a critical role in bringing Europe into [its current] Kantian paradise, it cannot enter the paradise itself."
Somebody has to remain outside the garden beating back the barbarians, even as the inhabitants of the garden claim there are no barbarians and tut-tut about the use of force.
The Europeans have become Canadian in their view of the United States, reliant on the Americans for real security, but simultaneously contemptuous of them for their militarism, like socialist teens who sneer at their industrialist father's capitalism, then rush off to the bank to cash his cheques.
American voters in undergrad seminars or teachers' lounges or in line to buy a Michael Moore propaganda flick may have convinced themselves their nation, too, can afford to temporize over the true nature of the threats in the war on terror -- to be smug, condescending, know-it-all sideline commentators, Bush-bashers and even America-haters, too. But thankfully, a bare majority of voters in the United States understand what's at stake if they vote for this post-modern fairy tale, too.
There are lots of other reasons the Americans have grown more conservative in the past decade -- spiritual, cultural and economic reasons.
There are more conservative Christians in the United States -- the percentage of Americans who attend church at least twice a month is double what it is in Canada. More importantly, conservative evangelicals there have become much smarter at political organization. They can marshal believers to work, raise money and vote for candidates, which has earned them politicians' ears.
In Canada, conservative Christians mostly resort to sending form letters and e-mails to politicians once elections are over and issues are generally settled.
And the "blue state/red-state" split is very real. Indeed, it is actually a red-county/blue-county split.
The blue areas won by the Democrats in the past two elections are even tinier than the state-by-state maps indicate -- just a few urbanized counties in the northeast, around the Great Lakes and along the Mississippi and the West Coast.
Of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the United States, only nine are in blue (Democratic) states, and only three voted for John Kerry. Mr. Bush won 97 of the 100 fastest-growing counties by a margin of 1.72 million votes. The economic-engine counties are more conservative, too, because they understand the golden goose cannot simply be squeezed to produce money for endless social fantasies; it must be stroked every once in a while as well.
But Americans are more conservative mostly because they have to be. Their lonely role in the war on terror makes them so.
Columnist/Editorial Writer, National Post
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Ping to PAIC!
Very nicely articulated, execellent points. Kudos to the author.
Exellent essay. What with Fox News now gaining access to Canadian viewers and the increasing frequency of posts like this, I think we may see a shift in Canadian political opinion over the next few years. They've been spoon-fed by the CBC for so long, real unbiased news is going to be like a breath of fresh air. We may have our old friends back by the end of the decade.
I thought that was the best part of the article. Very profound analogy.
I was all set to post a screed about "typical blue-fog analysis about the American red-state phenomenon", but this article is a pleasant surprise.
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