In The American Conservative’s 15 year anniversary issue, Andrew Bracevich, a frequent contributor, explains the magazine’s principled stance against the establishment, and how it was founded to oppose and denounce the “fantasies of global hegemony.” In those fifteen years, the magazine has often been correct in its analysis, though, as Bracevich says “presidents and those who advise presidents haven’t bothered to take heed.” He writes:
The launch of The American Conservative in October 2002 was itself an act of dissent, either courageous or quixotic depending on your point of view. When it appeared on newsstands, volume 1, number 1 made it clear that TAC was to be an anti-establishment journal. So the magazine has remained in the ensuing years, a testament to principled consistency.
This has been notably true on all matters related to America’s role in the world. Since TAC’s founding, editors have come and gone. Yet throughout, the magazine has kept faith with the position staked out in its inaugural editorial, which denounced “fantasies of global hegemony” and promised to oppose temptations of “go-it-alone militarism.”
The nominally conservative National Review endorsed the idea of invading Iraq as did the nominally liberal New Republic. The editorial pages of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post were positively gung-ho to go after Saddam. As for The Weekly Standard, it’s a wonder that younger staffers eager to join in the fun didn’t rush off to their local Armed Forces Career Center to enlist.
In terms of intellectual firepower, the Pax Americana cartel both outnumbered and outgunned the antiwar camp. True, Michael Moore, Brent Scowcroft, Edward Kennedy, and the Dixie Chicks expressed opposition to the war. So too did Pope John Paul II, who to the dismay of Catholic neoconservatives denounced the coming invasion of Iraq as “a defeat for humanity.” In this instance, if in few others, the left-leaning Nation magazine agreed with the right-leaning pope. And standing shoulder-to-shoulder with The Nation was its ideological opposite: the brand new American Conservative
Yet, although the analysis in TAC has been on the mark, its critique has had little discernible impact on the foreign policy establishment. Henry Clay once remarked that he’d “rather be right than be president.” On foreign policy, TAC has generally been right, but presidents and those who advise presidents haven’t bothered to take heed.
Throughout the 15 years of its existence, TAC has made the case that in the present century Pax Americana isn’t working. It isn’t working for citizens of the United States, and neither is it working for the recipients of our intended beneficence abroad. Evidence is overwhelming that efforts to maintain American dominion are contributing to disorder, breeding animosity toward the United States, and doing immense harm.
Yet those who occupy (or covet) positions of influence inside the Beltway don’t want to hear that. So they indulge the whimsical promptings of Bret Stephens and his numerous confreres, who offer assurances that with just a tad more “global leadership,” i.e., the threatened or actual use of armed force targeting the world’s ne’er do wells, all will be well.
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