Matt Yglesias on the Obamacons
March 25, 2008
To Bacevich, opposition to the hubris of empire is part of what makes a cosnervative. And in a purely abstract sense, he may have a point. But actually existing American conservatism seems so committed to a project of militarism and coercive domination that Bacevich’s case seems a bit precious.
On the whole, I sadly have to agree. But I’d like to take this opportunity to indulge my own definition of terms and therefore why I am a conservative.
I am a conservative because I subscribe to the philosophy of Russell Kirk, particularly to his concept of the negation of ideology. As such I am most decidedly not a man of the right, which is what Yglesias means by “actually existing American conservative”. I subscribe to the definition of the left-right spectrum provided by a very batty leftist professor I once had (he was furious when I used his definition as a basis for my identification with Edmund Burke): With liberalism defined as the center, the right is the enemy of the left, in other words, the forces which hate the left more than they love liberty.
In addition to neatly explaining why so much of the right, from the fascists to the neocons, came out of the left, there can be no better description of “actually existing American conservatism”. Which brings us back to the Obamacons, and the point which Yglesias seems to miss. It is precisely because actually existing American conservatism is what it is that the natural position of the principled conservative is to support Obama. Indeed, one could hardly think of a more positively Burkean answer to the specter of revolution that was on offer from Ron Paul.