The Spectacle Blog

Re: Conservatives for Obama

By on 3.19.08 | 3:44PM

Andrew Bacevich's attempt to make the conservative case for Obama that Jim linked to earlier is rather silly, even when viewed through his own anti-Iraq War perspective.

At the beginning of the article, Bacevich articulates his vision of authentic conservatism:

  • a commitment to individual liberty, tempered by the conviction that genuine freedom entails more than simply an absence of restraint;
  • a belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law;
  • veneration for our cultural inheritance combined with a sense of stewardship for Creation;
  • a reluctance to discard or tamper with traditional social arrangements;
  • respect for the market as the generator of wealth combined with a wariness of the market's corrosive impact on humane values;
  • a deep suspicion of utopian promises, rooted in an appreciation of the sinfulness of man and the recalcitrance of history.

He spends most of the article discussing how President Bush and John McCain are deficient in these areas, and no doubt there is plenty of fault to find in both Republicans. However, Obama would be far worse in any of these areas.

Bacevich wants limited government, and yet Obama wants to raise taxes, as well as drastically expand the role of the state in health care, education, energy, and so on. Any domestic problem to Obama requires a big government solution translating into more subsidies and regulations.

Bacevich has "a reluctance to discard or tamper with traditional social arrangements," but I'm not sure how he'd square that with Obama's invocation of the Sermon on the Mount to defend his support for same sex unions. Bush has not done enough for the pro-life cause for Bacevich (even though he vetoed increasing stem cell research funding and appointed Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Ct.) yet he makes the case for Obama, who is pro-choice, would appoint pro-choice judges, and would support increasing funding for stem cell research.

And seriously, Bacevich professes "a deep suspicion of utopian promises" and is willing to get behind a candidate whose entire candidacy is based on some vague pledges to initiate sweeping changes in Washington by restoring hope and bringing people together?

Ultimately, Bacevich's case for Obama boils down to the fact that "this liberal Democrat has promised to end the U.S. combat role in Iraq." From Bacevich's perspective, an Obama victory would translate into "a definitive judgment of the Iraq War" and put an end to the imperialist fantasies of neoconservatives. However, there's no guarantee that Obama would be able to end the Iraq War as promised once he's in office, and even if he tries to, there's a decent chance that his inexperience would mess things up so badly that the resulting chaos would only serve to strengthen neoconservative arguments. Furthermore, as Bacevich himself seems to recognize, despite Obama's opposition to the Iraq War, his foreign policy in general in no way represents a non-interventionist mindset. Quite the contrary, Obama is all about foreign aid and is sympathetic to humanitarian intervention. While Bush argued that for Americans to be secure we needed to end tyranny in the world, Obama has argued that American security is linked to ending poverty in the world.

I could go on. And to be clear, I don't share Bacevich's vision of conservatism. But more than anything, I think the self-delusion exhibited by Bacevich in his article underscores how formidable Obama can be. Given that he has a genial demenor and such a thin public record, people tend to see in him whatever they like, even if the reality is quite different. But just because Bush or McCain don't fit into your definition of conservatism, it doesn't mean that Obama is defacto a better option.

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