Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Excommunicated... Again

So I promise I won't write about politics all the time, but I can't resist commenting on David Frum's recent article on "paleoconservatives" in National Review. In the article, Frum, late of the White House speechwriters' stable, attempts to excommunicate from the conservative movement those whose opinions do not sufficiently match the opinions of National Review's editors, most notably on matters of war and the state of Israel.

Now, National Review has played the role of self-appointed guardian of "conservative" orthodoxy since its founding. From time to time, it conducts purges of the unworthy, and in the past, Bill Buckley's enterprise has sent such luminaries as Joe Sobran, Murray Rothbard, and Russell Kirk to their rooms without dessert. So Frum's piece is nothing new under the sun. But it has certainly stirred up enough controversy on some of the web sites I read regularly (see "Pub Crawl" on the righthand side of your screen) among those Frum calls "paleoconservatives."

Anyway, the article, titled "Unpatriotic Conservatives," is an interesting exercise in dark insinuations and breathless innuendo. If those on the right who criticize NR's bubbly enthusiasm for military conflict were strictly as Frum describes, I suppose I'd find them every bit as loathsome as he does. As it happens, however, his article -- how shall I say it? -- lacks subtlety where matters of political philosophy are concerned.

I'm not sure these sorts of dust-ups can be characterized as internecine fighting so much as the difference between those who are perfectly comfortable with big government when it suits their purposes, and those who believe there aren't any good purposes to which big government can be put.