The Spectacle Blog

Kauffman, conservatives and war

By on 5.6.08 | 12:56PM

Bill Kauffman will be at Cato Institute on Thursday to talk about his new book, Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism.

Kauffman is a charming writer whose brand of small-town Burkean conservatism gives him an unusual perspective on current politics. I enjoyed his book With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in American. However, the title of his new book is a bit off-putting. I just don't like the phrase "anti-war," for the simple reason that I don't think any sane person can be "pro-war," at least not in a general sense.

War is a dreadful thing to be avoided if possible, but it is not always possible to avoid it. The history of the 20th century teaches that outright pacifism -- such as flourished in England and France after World War I -- can be an incitement to aggression. If France had been willing to fight a small war when Hitler re-militarized the Rhineland, they could have avoided the big war they eventually got.

Of course, most of Kauffman's readers are likely to see his new book through the prism of Iraq, an issue where I think the schism among conservatives is much deeper than has been generally recognized.

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