Conservatives Have Never Been Warmongers

Ironically, especially for those who have not been keeping score, liberal Democrat administrations committed the United States to every major conflict in the 20th century except one. That one exception, George H.W. Bush's foray into Iraq, along with his son's clean up project to kick off the 21st century, convinced America that the Republican party is the perpetual party of war. For many Americans, history seems to have started on the morning of September 11, 2001. For all they know, Republicans do start all the wars. But the reality is that war-starting has very little to do with political party affiliation. Conservative leaders have consistently opposed the vulgarity of American empire, while progressives of either major party have been the ones to push us into empire, with those needless and messy wars.


The actions of both Bush administrations have convinced many Americans that only Republicans have never met a war they didn't like. This

Red vs. Blue is a worthless comparison. Republican vs. Democrat is, too. Instead, we need to find out how a politician feels about American empire. That tells us all we need to know.

is a weak caricature of history, however. Here's what really happened.

The Monroe Doctrine was only ever meant as a defensive doctrine. Progressive American politicians latched onto their convenient misinterpretation of the Doctrine as justification for building an American Empire around the globe. What began as attempts at colonizing Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba and other unfortunate elsewheres reached designs of full-scale empire as the 20th century gathered steam.

The president who got us into World War I--right after praising himself for having kept us out of war--was a progressive Democrat.

The president who embroiled the United States in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II was a progressive Democrat.

The president who declared a police action in Korea, without the consent of Congress, was a progressive Democrat.

The president who sent our troops to Vietnam, and the president who fabricated an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, were, to varying degrees, progressive Democrats.

The president who fanned the false flames of American

Limited, Constitutional government and empire are incompatible.

hatred, and who sent our troops to Iraq to maim and kill thousands of Iraqi soldiers, whom, it was incorrectly rumored, were supposedly bashing Kuwaiti babies' heads out on hospital floors, was a progressive

His son, who created a more fantastic and outlandish pretext for finishing the job of pounding Iraq back into the stone age, was also a progressive Republican.

The Democratic party seemed for nearly 100 years to be the party of empire. With the Bushes that seemed to change. In reality, we were looking at a progressive shell game the whole time. The Establishment wing of each party has taken its turn embroiling us in wars that only enrich the elite. At the same time, conservatives of both parties have most wanted to conserve federalism over the years, or in other words, a weak national government balanced by strong state and local governments.

Limited, Constitutional government and empire are incompatible. In their lust for power, progressives from both major parties have regularly sought U. S. involvement in war. Empire building has always been much more about the stealing away of American liberties through regimentation and control on the home front than it ever was about bringing "democracy" to the rest of the world.

Conservatives have always understood this concept. Progressives...want to rule the world.

Republican Robert Taft strongly opposed U.S. involvement in World War II. Said he:
Every war in which the United States has engaged since 1815 was waged in the name of democracy. [Yet] each has contributed to that centralization of power which tends to destroy...local self-government...
A preponderant majority of today's so-called "conservative Republicans" are, the antithesis of Robert Taft. Since 2001, most Republicans have religiously supported forcing democracy down the throat of the rest of the world, never giving thought to what democracy at the point of a gun must look like to the ones at the business end of that gun. Their blind allegiance

Empire building has always been much more about the stealing away of American liberties through regimentation and control on the home front than it ever was about bringing "democracy" to the rest of the world.

to the mis-named Patriot Act numbs them to the reality that the only real statesmen left are those who can no longer be called "patriots". Incapable of engaging in intelligent debate when such inconvenient realities are pointed out to them, faux conservatives resort to the Giulianian tactic of name calling.

George Washington would be branded an Islamo-fascist sympathizer by the Republican neo-cons if he were alive today. So would conservative Democrat George McGovern if he were still politically active. McGovern, once a Democrat candidate for president of the United States, revered Republican Charles Lindbergh, for the reason that Lindbergh had opposed America's entry into World War II.

Red vs. Blue is a worthless comparison. Republican vs. Democrat is, too. Instead, we need to find out how a politician feels about American empire. That tells us all we need to know.

Conservatives have never been warmongers, but Progressives always have been.


  1. In the pre-Reagan good old days, Republicans used to be against military adventurism. When I was self-identified as GOP, we used to point out that Democrats started wars and Republicans ended them.

    I guess whatever party is on top for the moment, it's hard for a superpower, drunk on power, to reject the "war of choice" as an option. It's what we used to call a war of aggression. Never a good idea.

  2. I would again caution you about admiring Charles Lindbergh's isolationist and passivist stances.

    During his self-imposed exile in the UK, Lindbergh visited Nazi Germany many times. He had nothing but praise for their increasingly militarist regime and culture. He lavished praise on their regimented air flight industry and program. He was publicly awarded the Nazi Iron Cross by Hermann Göring, Hitler's Luftwaffe commander.

    As Hitler's forces gobbled up neighbors nearly unopposed and war between Germany and the UK became more likely, Lindbergh advised Britons to surrender to Hitler. The German culture, which operated like a machine (and treated individuals as part of the machine) would, he said, roll over the decadent Brits with ease. Of course, Lindbergh then promptly fled the endangered UK and went back to America, which was separated from German aggression by an ocean.

    Back in America, Lindbergh loudly denounced American support of the UK and had nothing but bad to say about the UK's attempts to defend itself. Despite the fact that his own transatlantic flight had proven that the US was now vulnerable to attack -- and especially given his inside knowledge of German air capabilities -- Lindbergh promoted isolationism. He loudly denounced anything America did that was not in line with passivism, although, he never uttered a single word of criticism against Germany and its aggression. Rather, the Germans, he said, were to be admired.

    To protest US involvement in WWII, Lindbergh resigned his Army commission and treated his military honors much as John Kerry treated his back in the early 1970s. But Lindbergh kept the Iron Cross prominently on display. When some criticism of this arose, a Lindbergh associate said that the famed pilot didn't get rid of the Iron Cross because he didn't know what to do with it. FDR responded that he knew what he would have done with it.

    Late in the war, Lindbergh regretted his previous stances and asked to have his military commission reinstated. He had belatedly decided that he wanted to fight for America. But he had burned too many bridges for that to happen. His request was appropriately denied.

    Having been turned down, Lindbergh became an aviation consultant for military contractors. In this capacity, he eventually flew about 50 combat flights as a civilian consultant in the Pacific theater. He even shot down enemy aircraft. Still, he continued publicly defending Germany. After WWII, however, he personally toured German concentration camps and muted his opinions.

    It's fine that McGovern admired Lindbergh. But I find Lindbergh's tale a combination of ego, misplaced loyalties, and confusion. He appears to have eventually changed his opinions away from those positions that you seem to support. In the end his writings and speeches came to focus on "balance" and doing only that which improves conditions for people -- an elusive concept at best, since almost any political stance can be made to fit under that heading.

    This does not mean that I agree with pursuit of empire. I merely want to set the record straight.

    Theodore Roosevelt was the original progressive Republican. He pushed for and gloried in the Spanish-American War in his pre-presidential days.

    You have cited a number of progressives that have taken us to war. But what of James Madison, who got us into the War of 1812? He was a staunch Washingtonian. Throughout his political career he stood against more progressive movements. Is he also a progressive?

    And what of Ronald Reagan who sent our military into Grenada and dropped bombs on Libya? Sure, those were limited actions, but they seem to fall within the definitions you have laid out. Is Reagan a progressive too?

    I appreciate your historical insights, but they seem to be incomplete. We need a full reading of history to understand its lessons.

  3. Conservatives never have been warmongers... True, but perhaps the problem is that many assume the terms Conservative and Republican can be used interchangeably....

    With the exception of Ron Paul, does the Republican Party even have any actual Conservatives in it?

  4. Reach,

    Lindbergh admired the efficiency of the Nazi regime. That was before their efficiency in killing and destruction of liberty became apparent.


    With the exception of Ron Paul, not very many...


  5. George McGovern was a conservative? Is Zinn or Chomsky, both vocal opponents of military adventurism? Was MLK? Or Mo Udall? These people who passionately opposed war were conservatives?

    How you could consider such political pundits as Beck and Lonsberry "progressive" is beyond me. I suppose you would consider Nixon, who aggressively escalated the War in Vietnam until it became completely unfeasible, and whose administration worked hard to create the conditions under which Allende would be deposed, to be a progressive. I suppose you could also describe Ike, whose administration played a key role in violently overturning the democratic elections in Iran and reinstalling the Shah, as a more progressive Republican. But William F. Buckley, who enthusiastically endorsed US adventurism? Was he a progressive? And what of Goldwater, whose criticism of the Vietnam war was not based on a fundamental opposition to the war itself, but was--like many conservatives--based on a belief that LBJ was not prosecuting the war aggressively enough? The eternal poster boy for conservatives, Ronald Reagan, shared Goldwater's view on Vietnam, used federal power to covertly intervened in conflicts such the Iraq-Iran War, the Afghan resistance, and the Contras, and was apparently felt that national security was threatened enough to invade the tiny island nation of Grenada. Was the vaunted Reagan a progressive?

    Yes, the early progressive movement in particular must bear the cross of colonialism under the banner of such bigoted and self-serving rationalizations as "The White Man's Burden." But there has always been within liberalism a very strong anti-war streak. And since approximately the middle of the century, that voice has grown to become a dominant one in liberalism. Conservatism, on the other hand, has always placed a strong emphasis on defense, which easily and often turns to militarism. Especially during the conservative renaissance of Goldwater, Reagan, and their disciples, this has become the dominant aspect of conservatism, particularly over the last half-century. The anti-war element of conservatism does exist, but has been considerably weaker within the conservative movement than in the liberal. To try to claim that progressivism/liberalism itself is fundamentally militaristic, or that conservatives have not been the equal of liberals in warmongering--let alone never warmongers--is a gross distortion of reality, especially in the current political climate.

  6. And Reach, I think you need to look at the Founding era more closely. Washington abhorred the factions that were rising up in the nascent nation, but was far closer to Hamilton's federalists in his executive days than to Madison's Republicans. And it is impossible to judge Madison's relationship to anything "progressive," as there was no equivalent movement in the early era of the US.

  7. In the current political climate, you might be right, but then again it's important to notice that "neo-cons" never really were conservatives.

  8. I'm not just talking about the current political climate, Frank. I specifically mentioned several conservatives who were around before the rise of the neo-cons. The conservative emphasis on defense and might was around long before the neo-cons. Conservatism has plenty of blood on its hands.


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