Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Iraq and William F. Buckley

I never cared for William Buckley's conservative view of things--his privilege blinded him. But there was something engaging about him. He wrote a book back in the 80's about sailing called "Atlantic High" that I remember as utterly delightful. I wish I still had a copy of that book.

Arts & Letters Daily has a link to this article about Buckley's view of the Iraq War. Here's the beginning of the article:

Right at the End

William F. Buckley’s last gift to conservatism may have been his opposition to the Iraq War.
by Jeffrey Hart


Soon after Bill Buckley died, William Kristol published a column called “The Indispensable Man” in the New York Times. He celebrated Buckley as the founder of the conservative movement, and his tone was not only celebratory but affectionate. And surely Kristol was right: Buckley was indispensable. Without his leadership there would have been no conservative movement. Yet at the end of his life, Buckley believed the movement he made had destroyed itself by supporting the war in Iraq.

The central foreign policy initiative of the Bush administration had two rationales: eliminating Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and, by establishing democracy in Iraq, turning the country into a beacon of liberty in the Middle East. Both National Review and Kristol’s Weekly Standard followed Bush on Iraq and continue to do so. But Kristol must have known that Buckley had grave doubts about the war.

Buckley published three syndicated columns about Iraq, all of which were reprinted in National Review. The first argued that it is doubtful that an effort “hugely greater in scale and more refined in conception” would produce the desired result. When no weapons of mass destruction were found, Buckley speculated that this rationale for the invasion, now discredited, would not matter if all ended well. But as the 2004 presidential election approached, he compared the evident quagmire to the French defeat by a brutal insurgency in Algeria.

In these pieces, Buckley diverged sharply from the generally optimistic view of Iraq taken by National Review. Kristol must have read these columns at the time but had perhaps forgotten them when he wrote his column about Buckley—or else dismissed them since the Weekly Standard still believes that the Iraq effort has been a success.

But the conviction hinted in the columns only hardened during the last year of Buckley’s life, when he arrived at a tragic view of the Iraq War. He saw it as a disaster and thought that the conservative movement he had created had in effect committed intellectual suicide by failing to maintain critical distance from the Bush administration.

His entire life as a conservative leader lends authority to this judgment, which should stand as the final word of Mr. Conservative, so allow me to provide some impressions of Bill Buckley as I knew him. ....

3 comments:

Jan said...

Katherine, thanks for this new slant (for me) on W.F. Buckley. I hadn't realized he was against this stupid war. It's good to know.

Jan said...

PS. If I get stuck at the DFW Airport tomorrow, may I call you? I'm supposed to go to Minneapolis but don't know if any flights there will be viable.

steve said...

Yeah, actually the ware goes against many traditional conservative principles (such as limited international intervention). As a Democrat, I think there's a huge opportunity here to move the country forward in a progressive direction. On the other hand, I worry about the war's impact on American politics -- it's use as just another wedge issue to divide us. Sigh.