Most Conservatives are in Denial
Let’s remember how conservatives used to talk in the heyday of the Cold War:
George H. Nash, in his definitive history of American conservatism, captures the conservative anti-communist resolve. “In this struggle, there were, according to [Frank S.] Meyer and other conservative cold warriors only two choices: ‘the destruction of Communism or the destruction of the United States and of Western civilization.’” 9 “Liberals might prefer to hope – serenely, pathetically, endlessly, futilely – that maybe now, maybe this time, maybe soon, the Communists would change their spots, cease to be committed revolutionaries, and settle down. Perhaps we could then have peaceful coexistence at last. Meanwhile let us negotiate, “build bridges,’ engage in cultural exchanges, climb to the summit. Come let us reason together.” “The Communist system is a conflict system; its ideology is an ideology of conflict and war …” says Robert Strausz-Hupe 10 Frank S. Meyer argued, the Communist “’is different. He thinks differently.’ He is not ‘a mirror image of ourselves’ Communism is a ‘secular and messianic quasi-religion’ which ceaselessly conditions its converts until they become new men totally dedicated to one mission: ‘the conquest of the world for Communism.’” Gerhart Niemeyer writes, “It was totally unrealistic to expect that Americans could ’communicate’ with a Communist mind that ‘shares neither truth nor logic nor morality with the rest of mankind.’”The conservative movement rightfully emphasized a respect for tradition but raised it to a fundamental beyond the principles that make our tradition great. Indeed, taking the view of Russell Kirk, they were skeptical of abstract principles themselves. Edmund Burke was a chief influence on traditional conservatives:
One of America’s most eminent traditionalist conservatives, the late Robert Nisbet, writes: “Rarely in the history of thought has a body of ideas been as closely dependent upon a single man and a single event as modern conservatism is upon Edmund Burke and his fiery reaction to the French Revolution.” 17 … Tradition for Burke wasn’t merely the British tradition. Burke was truly multicultural in his respect for traditions. He fought on the side of the “historical tradition of a people” in England and throughout the British Empire. His supported “a sufficient autonomy for natural development of American potentialities” and the American desire for a distinctive governing ethos. But he didn’t stop there. “The same held for Ireland and India, in each case an indigenous morality under attack by a foreign one.” He believed in the collective wisdom of the historical process imbedded in the customs and traditions of a people. And he defended Hindu and Muslim traditions withinIn many cases there is an explicit hostility towards reason on the traditional right that attacks Continental Rationalism and Hobbsian materialism as a proxy for reason in general. This ignores the Hellenic rationalism and naturalism which provide a richer and centered description of human nature. While this focus may have had some relevancy when fighting communism, it failed to reaffirm our philosophical Greco-Roman secular heritage. It’s influence – particularly that of Aristotle – is profound. The importance of taking stock of one’s achievements, distinctive character, and fundamental differences is vital when facing a vicious propaganda war from the enemy and, even worse, from the 5th column within. Conservatives have to do better than “Islamists are a bit extreme but they’ll snap out of it.”
If conservatives are to fight this war effectively, they must do what we all must do: face this enemy’s nature and our superiority. We need to know what we are fighting for as well as what we are fighting against. … We all need to realize that we face with an enemy driven by a pure religion - undiluted with Hellenic rationalism and Aristotlean eudaimonism. This is not a religion that shows any capacity to restrict its focus to individual salvation as a personnel private matter – it is, from its inception, a political religious ideology. This is not a religion that has been reformed by the rebirth of the classical worldview; it rejected that path long ago.I often wonder if the fall of communism has left both left and right in denial of the power of ideology. Let’s remember that over 110 million people died as the result of communism before they shook it off. And given the ability to acquire nuclear weapons, failing to face the nature of the ideology of Islam is criminal negligence. Conservative intellectuals have to "snap out of it" and get serious about this war. We have to wake-up our own and not just remain complacent that we aren’t as absurd as the far left. Let’s hold the bar higher – much higher.
But this is the path we took. From Aquinas through the Renaissance and up until the mid-19th century, classical Greek or Latin was a part of a well-educated person’s course of study with which he entered the rich world of classical literature, art and science. Conservatives have to do more than pay occasion lip service to this heritage if we are to fight the Islamic barbarians effectively. This is what makes us different from them. Upon this foundation, stands the Anglo-American tradition of individual rights – a tradition that rejoices in the pursuit of happiness and well being. This is not a country of suffering, denial, and renunciation. This is not a martyrdom nation bent on holy war for the glory of Allah – whatever name you may give Him. Our nation was founded by absolutists who were certain of the rights inherent in human nature and expressed themselves eloquently in conceptual terms – not mere sentiment. Moral clarity comes from conceptual clarity. Conservative sentiment won’t do the job this time.