February 09, 2009

You Shall Love Your Country”€”By Order of the State!

If searching for a personification of everything that is wrong with modern American conservatism, Tony Blankley might be your man. With his impeccable movement credentials, the former staffer for Newt Gingrich has long been deft at disseminating GOP talking points for any media outlet that will give him a hearing, and as the talking points shift, so does Blankley, dutifully following the wind and orders of his Republican masters.

Like his conservative talking head contemporaries, Blankley has a shtick, and the Englishmen’s current song and dance is too adopt the physical appearance of a Soprano’s cast member, couple it with a dose of Churchillian idolatry unparalleled by anyone this side of John Lukacs, and pass it off as the true voice of Middle America. It’s a well paying act that has earned him plenty of face time over the years. It also happens to be completely at odds with reality.

Considering the source, it’s no surprise that Blankley’s latest book, American Grit: What It Will Take To Survive and Win in the 21st Century, is a near perfect representation of the military-statist mentality that has come to dominate conventional political thinking on both sides of establishment divide.

Declaring himself a “nationalist” early in the introduction, the remainder of the book is spent shamelessly promoting a mass centralization project of Rooseveltian proportions. Blankley is brazen about this, arguing on behalf of a cryptic “collective destiny” and favorably quoting President Lincoln on the paramount importance of preserving the total power of the State. “Sacrifice” for the aforementioned “collective destiny” is seen as the patriotic duty of all Americans, and requires different things from different people. To be specific, the younger generation must morph into a class of military serfs, and submit to living in an America devoid of
Constitutional liberties. In exchange, poor old Blankley is willing to forego his Medicare entitlements. Clearly, a fair trade.

Whatever one’s definition of nationalism, Blankley’s call for American “dominance” is not born of a healthy sense of place or love of country. As the book progresses, the reader gets an even better vision of Blankley’s perverse perspective, as the author suggests that the military might of a nation is the proper measuring stick by which citizens should determine whether their country is worthy of their love. And consistent with his “taking orders” vision of America, Blankley’s unwillingness to answer tough questions – even when he asks them – is a sign of man firmly committed to an ideological model untethered by the constraints of common sense.

For example, Blankley argues that his advocacy for a draft is based on a “need” for more troops primarily to fulfill our broad military commitments. A true nationalist, in the conservative sense, might question the legitimacy of such alliances in an age of great economic peril. Instead Blankley declares that “we will soon be faced with the choice of severely scaling back our role in the world or expanding the army through conscription,” and charges ahead, discussing the virtues of American supremacy and the wonderful bounties a draft will afford. In other words, there is no “choice,” the draft is a necessary good and reexamining military defense pacts is beyond the pale.

And the critics of this arrangement, like Blankley’s “friend” Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul? Those “isolationists” are to be effectively marginalized as promoters of “anti-Americanism,” precisely because they are willing to address the costs and consequences of American Empire. The “existential” nature of “Islamo-facism” is never to be questioned, and new threats lurk at every corner.

By taking up the mantle of “nationalism,” Blankley is perverting a tradition that has played a major role in the intellectual history of the American Right. Though often identified as a strict libertarian, the Old Right writer Garet Garrett was a fiercely nationalist thinker, who never let his ideological sympathies get in the way of his patriotic duties. He was also an “isolationist.” By contrast, Blankley equates servitude with service and duty with deference to the State. His “Nationalism” is globalist internationalism on steroids.

Where Garrett always put America First, Blankley is a pundit first and treats readers to the usual Republican hypocrisies on the warfare state. Multiculturalism is bad – except when it (supposedly) makes our military stronger. Immigration is a problem – except when it means more troops. Liberalism is dangerous – except when exported by U.S.
Marines. And on and on.

After perverting, inverting and all but annihilating the term “conservative,” if successful, the ripened, full-blown “nationalist” militarism of Blankley and co. promises to damage or possibly destroy the American Right at large. Their hyperbolic denunciations of those who dare harbor doubts about the Global War on Terror and hysterical exaggerations of the threats facing us, will not only serve to further discredit all critics of expansive federal power”€”but if Blankley had his druthers”€”all critics period.


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