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A Bush "post-mortem" – Part One

By Mark Wegierski
web posted November 15, 2010

George W. BushThe two electoral victories of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 and of the Republicans in the U.S. Congress (until 2006) had given rise to a vituperative, envenomed, fevered discourse on the part of much of the radical Left, equating Bush with Hitler, and suggesting that we were on the verge of seeing a "fascist" take-over of America. Indeed, George Lucas, hyping his last main movie of the Star Wars saga, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, at the Cannes Film Festival, drew historically strained analogies between the rise of Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, and Bush – as supposedly constituting a similar theme in human historical experience. It is interesting how the Star Wars saga, which in the late 1970s and in the 1980s seemed to epitomize pro-Americanism, was being rhetorically positioned by its creator in a putatively anti-American direction.

The outlook of traditionalist conservatives or so-called "paleoconservatives" in the United States has certainly criticized many aspects of the former Bush Presidency, but these criticisms were only partially congruent with the multifarious left-wing attacks on Bush.

It may first of all be noted that, although the so-called "paleolibertarian" websites like lewrockwell.com and antiwar.com have themselves tried to feed the "Bush is a fascist" meme, no thinking paleoconservative can seriously make that charge against Bush. The Left sees Bush's ferocious prosecution of the war against Iraq, and assumes that that constitutes "fascism." The Left forgets that some of the most ferocious wars in human history have been waged by democratic powers. During the period of the English Civil Wars and Jacobite uprisings, it was the broadly-speaking "liberal" side that crushed its royalist and Catholic opponents with severity. As the French Revolution unfolded, the Jacobins unleashed the Terror and made war upon Europe in the name of the ideals of the Revolution. The royalist rebels in the Vendee and other areas were cruelly massacred. It could be argued that the motor behind one of the most vicious, fratricidal conflicts in human history, the American Civil War/War Between the States, was the drive to impose one definition of "liberal democracy" on the entire polity.

The huge battlefield casualties were justified (mostly ex post facto) by the desire to abolish slavery -- which could have probably been better and more meaningfully accomplished through gradual evolution. During World War I, the exemplary democracies of France, Britain, and America consciously inflamed their national public with lurid atrocity propaganda, which then made peace without the "war-guilt clause", massive reparations, and stripping Germany of her overseas colonies, impossible. Much of Hitler's success was driven by his stoking of German resentment against the Versailles Treaty, as well as his feeding off of the social chaos that the removal of the German Imperial Monarchy, had created. During World War II, the liberal democracies were willing to carry out the militarily pointless mass-fire-bombings of German cities in the last few months of the war – which resulted in huge civilian casualties. If these were to be seen as an act of justifiable revenge, the Allies should have been honest enough to admit that that was their motive. The liberal democracies were also willing to hand over hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners-of-war to virtually certain death at the hands of Stalin. And they reached an expedient arrangement with Stalin that left East-Central Europe under Soviet occupation. 

Traditionalist conservatives or "paleoconservatives" in the United States have been witnesses to hugely precipitous shifts in the American polity over the last forty to fifty years. The idea that the critique of the massive, bureaucratic-corporate "managerial-therapeutic regime" in America, worked out by "paleoconservatives" in the 1990s and before, suddenly becomes invalid, because a Republican occupies the White House, is absurd. There are three major elements that contribute to what most U.S. paleoconservatives would see as the illusion of America as "the Right Nation" (as it is sometimes called).

The first is the huge American military and its war-making capacity and actions. However, looking at the history of politics, the presence of a comparatively huge military in any given society does not necessarily say anything positive or negative about a given society. As the world's "one remaining superpower" it is not surprising that America maintains a comparatively large and effective military establishment. Although the American military may in some senses be supportive of some aspects of social conservatism, it too, is, to a large extent, enmeshed in the structures of the "managerial-therapeutic regime."

The second element is the large presence of organized Christian religion in the United States, including both traditionalist Catholics, and, especially of course, fundamentalist Protestant evangelicals. However, in the face of a thoroughly secularized academy (at least as far as the prestige universities), and the virtually all-pervasive, antinomian pop-culture (reinforced by the corruption of the so-called "high art" world) – the extent of Christian power in the United States is rather overrated in many people's minds.

Finally, the third element is the large network of putatively right-wing think-tanks, foundations, publications, and so forth (now recently supplemented by the so-called "blogosphere"). "Paleoconservatives" do understand these, however, as being mostly controlled by the so-called "neoconservatives."

It could be argued that the viewpoints represented by "neoconservatives" – who have had a huge degree of influence on President Bush – are, to a large extent, diametrically opposed to traditionalist conservatism.

In foreign policy, the "neoconservatives" have led with the ideas of a "global democratic revolution" as the "grand strategy" to be followed by the United States. President Bush's Inaugural Address of 2005, and his State of the Union Address of 2005, were suffused with the imagery of such a "global democratic revolution" – of lighting "a fire in the minds of men." Paleoconservative commentators concluded that either Bush's inflamed pronouncements could only be seen as rhetorical – though they certainly were dangerous rhetoric – or, if one were to take them seriously as a guide to action, they could lead to untold disaster for the American polity. Indeed, they could be seen as amounting to a "declaration of war" against the entire world, to be waged in the name of so-called "American ideals."

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

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