What is an anti-war conservative? I am the Editor of The American Conservative magazine, Kelley Vlahos, Ask Me Anything!
Good morning! I’m Kelley Vlahos, executive editor at The American Conservative -- a magazine that has been a staunch critic of interventionist U.S. foreign policy and illegal wars since our founding in 2002. I’d like to talk about duplicitous friends and frenemies like Saudi Arabia, our tangled web of missteps and dysfunctional alliances in the Middle East, and how conservatives can possibly be anti-war!
This AMA is part of r/IAmA’s “Spotlight on Journalism” project which aims to shine a light on the state of journalism and press freedom in 2018. Join us for a new AMA every day in October.
I think my favorite/ the most informative part of this AMA is the lack of an answer to this question.
Conservatives don't like to think about how this administration is the logical conclusion of their ideology, at least the ones self-aware enough to consider the consequences...
If this administration was a "logical end to our ideology" then all the troops would be home, the defense budget slashed and all of the foreign lobbyists in Washington called out and turned out of town. But that is just our magazine. You'll have to ask other conservatives how they feel.
You could say she's good at... picking her battles! Hey-o
that's because if she criticizes dear leader she'll get purged.
as in trump will write a nasty tweet about her and unleash his brigade of sycophant trolls on her, then every other "conservative" they hold hostage will pretend she doesn't exist anymore, and her career in politics will be over.
Sorry, that was done already in 2002 and we're still here:
The only thing I am sure of is conservatives are split on the question. While many find him personally repulsive they know why he was elected and the dynamics that elected him. They find his policies on immigration strong, they like the way he triggers Democrats and liberals. Some like the tariffs, while others think he is a threat to free trade.
Others, like many in my magazine's ranks, think he is much better than Hillary would have been on war and interventions abroad. But even at TAC, we differ on whether that is even true. So a mixed bag.
What should the White House response be to the Saudis killing and dismembering a journalist in a consulate in Turkey. Is this also a NATO issue?
I can't speak about this being a NATO issue (though Turkey is a NATO member); but I believe Trump should use the weight he is always threatening to throw around against the Kingdom now. And hard.
Trump should use the weight he is always threatening to throw around against the Kingdom now. And hard.
Do you think he will?
We can only hope but his most recent comments don't bode well.
How much has Trump done that actually aligns with your ideals? I mean come on now. He’s not tough on our adversaries, he’s creating artificial barriers to trade, he’s shot up the deficit. He bows to dictators.
Sounds to me like conservatives cannot both support Trump and stick to their ideals.
Trump was never the 'candidate of conservatives.' As I pointed out some like him (and yes, there are conservatives who think fair trade, and if that means getting it through tariffs and a trade war, is preferable to the trade practices that bled American jobs and escalated debt); others hold their noses because they like his corporate tax cuts, deregulation and his immigration posture, and others are waiting for him to leave in 2020/2024. Conservatives are not a monolith.
You’re “anti war” but want trump to escalate the situation by “throwing his weight around, hard.” There seems to be a bit of a disconnect there since that is obviously going to increase the chance of some kind of conflict.
Also, on an unrelated note, I think the implication here that other conservatives are all PRO war is ridiculous.
Like the poster said before there is more than military might in the tool box. End the arms sales and the massive foreign aid for one, refuse to send any of their officials to their boondoggles and conferences, two. Refuse to shuttle back and forth trying to solve their problems with Qatar, for another. Call them out in front of the international community and say you refuse to do business with them until they clean up their act and stop living in the 4th century, hanging and whipping people and dismembering them in consulates. And end the war in Yemen.
How do you explain being anti-interventionist, yet wanting Trump to step in against Saudi Arabia?
As I think I said in another reply: cut off arms sales, aid, business, until they agree to join the 21st century; call out/turn out all the foreign lobbyists who still for them (even if that means pressuring congress to get off their buts and do something about it); stop shuttling top officials over there to kiss the hand and help handle their problems with Qatar; put your foot down on Yemen; don't stand in between the 9/11 families and the right to sue the Kingdom in court -- all non-military ways to "throw his weight around."
Where do you see the difference between anti-war conservatives like yourself and anti-war “libertarians” like former TAC contributor Justin Raimondo and antiwar.com?
I may not consider myself a libertarian in the true sense, but I wrote for Antiwar.com for many years so there is not a ton of daylight between my foreign policy views and Justin's (who is a friend). I cannot speak for all writers at TAC, many of whom who would consider themselves more in the "Realist" mode like John Mearsheimer, or the gang at The National Interest.
What do you see as the main difference in your foreign policy views and that of a “Realist”?
Also, thank you for doing this AMA.
Personally, I am much more reactive to the human impact of our wars, where a Realist might be more dispassionate about national interests and geopolitics. But in the last 17 years the two have been intertwined. Take Yemen for example. Our assistance of Saudi/UAE is killing and starving people. But the excuse that we are helping Saudis serve as a hedge against Iran is also wrong. Realistically, Saudis are only exacerbating tensions with Iran, not helping the region, or our interests in the situation.
Ok, but what do you do when you stop assistance to KSA and the UAE while Iranian meddling continues? By not having a hand in the situation, do you not exacerbate the situation?
I would not necessarily assume that Iranian "meddling" is happening in a vacuum. There is a struggle between the Gulf States/Arabs/Sunni and Shia powers and we have been in the middle of it. Who is to say what would happen if states were forced to fight their own battles?
How would the U.S. extricate itself from the Middle East and not create a power vacuum?
One would have to decide 1) whether or not the vacuum is worth the damage and lives we would be saving if we weren't meddling around so much ...if so, and 2) extricate military and ensure we can rebuild our diplomatic corps.
I'm not sure I see an answer to the question here. Is your strategy, "eh, fuck it?"
There has to be a better way than the status quo wouldn't you agree? The last 20 years is more than enough proof. And there are better minds than mine who could plot out the reset. First step, reduce if not fully erase our huge, military footprint abroad.
Do you believe journalists are the enemy of the people?
No! I think corrupt government and their handmaidens in Washington are the enemy. Journalists who serve as courtiers to power and party/government hacks aren't the "enemy" per se, but are simply bad journalists who need to be called out as such.
How do you define "conservative" in today's political climate?
What are successes of the Trump administration in the realm foreign policy? Failures?
Same questions for the Obama and Bush administrations.
I know how I would define conservative: A personal, political and intellectual philosophy that is wary of radical, progressive social changes on the domestic front (in that it eschews rule of law and constitutional frameworks) ... and for an Eisenhower/Washington foreign policy that puts national interest and constitutional limits before foreign interventions, Empire and military industrial congressional complex.
Hi, Kelley! Since you mention rule of law, I'm curious how you see the current state of affairs within the GOP in that regard. It seems like every new story that comes out is another indication of Republican politicians unabashedly abandoning the rule of law -- for example, the many legal problems of Trump and his family, hardcore gerrymandering, the Kavanaugh hearing, the governor's race in Georgia, other blatant attempts to disenfranchise voters or annul votes, refusal to enforce sanctions, attacking the press as "the enemy of the people," attempting to pack the FL state supreme court, and on and on.
Do you agree with some of the prominent conservatives pundits who have said that everyone should vote Democrat and force the GOP into a hard reset, or do you think it's still appropriate to vote for GOP candidates on the basis of their political philosophy/policy alone?
As I mention below I do not support Republicans or the duopoly; our magazine's motto us "ideas before ideology, principles before party." Partisans rarely stick to principles, and power, as we know corrupts. The entire construct of politics in Washington drives people to hypocrisy and compromise. I cannot condone the behavior of craven politicians and today's politics, and wouldn't want to. I can only tell you what I support, and what moves me as a reporter and an American.
Would you define the leading elements of the modern Republican party as being radical progressives in the sense that they are also trying to impose social changes on a domestic front, but rather than trying to achieve an idealized egalitarian social structure they are trying to achieve or rather resurrect a regressive social structure?
Not sure what you mean about "radical social changes on a domestic front"?
So basically a static, isolationism.
How does the US remain competitive without wars AND living in a shell?
"Isolationist" suggests no trade, no diplomacy. We believe there should be fair trade and much better diplomacy to engage the rest of the world. The military has been our spear-point, literally, for U.S. foreign policy since 9/11. That needs to change.
Hi Kelley, thanks for coming!
Do you think the Republican party is on a dangerous path, and if so, what do you think it would take to change course?
I don't care about the Republican Party, or the fate of the duopoly for that matter. The magazine's motto is "Ideas before Ideology, principles before party." That makes it easy :)
Seriously though, I think the Republican Party has been a mess since Reagan and Gingrich probably could have put it on a glide path for broader success, maybe, but the hubris over Clinton impeachment, i feel, did more harm than good.
Can you name some examples of US politicians who you support, vote for, donate to, or just who your views align with?
So far you seem to take the stance of “I don’t agree with anyone, I’m very independent” which... great, I guess, but you still identify as conservative so you clearly have preferences.
I’d also like to hear what, in your opinion, differentiates Reagan/Gingrich from people like Trump/McConnell, other than that the latter tend to turn dog whistles into bullhorns.
There are very few politicians I felt were NOT phoney baloney in my time in Washington -- Ron Paul, Chuck Hagel, Walter Jones, Bernie Sanders are four that come to mind. I appreciate pols that stick to their convictions, even if I don't entirely agree with all of their positions.
As for comparing Republicans, I think the only pol in that group that is not like the other is Trump. He is a former Democrat who is clearly a populist and an opportunist and has no experience in government, the electoral process or working with others. While one could say he is not a "Creature" of politics and Washington, it does make him a bit more unpredictable about where he will stand on any given issue.
How do conservative values align with policies related to Israel and do you see Israel as a frenemy?
George Washington warned about entangling ourselves in foreign alliances. I cannot think of one more fraught today than our allianc/friendship with Israel.
As for conservative values; there are several prominent factions of conservative politics in the U.S. Our conservative evangelical and neoconservative friends are very supportive of Israel, while our magazine (paleos, Realists, libertarians) has been much more circumspect and questioning about our policies with the Israeli government today, whether they are in America's interests here and abroad.
You realize Washington lived 2 centuries ago right? No doubt he was a great leader, but his time was so different from our own. Should we really be taking his advice?
But as long as we are taking founders advice; Jefferson said that each generation should re write the constitution to better fit the values and problems in their time (I’m paraphrasing). Would you take his advice?
Not sure Jefferson believed that.
When a right leaning person compares social services like welfare to slavery, is this accurate?
Thanks for joining us today. Clearly your views on foreign intervention differ from most mainstream conservatives. Do you align on the other issues, or are you more of a socially libertarian oriented publication too?
Hi ! Thanks for your question -- I joined TAC in 2007 because it was difficult for writers who weren't naturally aligned with the anti-war left , but who were angry about the War on Terror, Afghanistan, and Iraq, to write anywhere in this town! TAC is flush with traditional conservatives, crunchy cons, paleo-conservatives (like founder Pat Buchanan), libertarians, and even left-of-center types angry with today's politics and who share common cause on wars, civil liberties , etc.
How do you reconcile your anti-war stance with the obvious endpoint of your overarching ideology, which is perpetual war profiteering led by psychopaths like Erik Prince?
Mainstream American conservatives aren't the definition of conservative.
There's conservatives in every country, not every country seeks perpetual war.
A lot of Americans need to realise that your two party system is a cancer. You only have two mainstream accepted views, your political system inherently promotes an us Vs them mentality.
Stop buying in to it. Just as liberals can be highly nuanced and disagree with each other on almost every issue, so can conservatives.
What you want and what your policies get you are often vastly different things.
Put some of our best TAC national security experts into the White House and you never know what might happen :)
Less glibly, the national security establishment in Washington is made up of the same sad, Dem/GOP pro-war types; changes in policy will only come when elected officials start bringing in new blood with different ideas/values.
We have tons of stories criticizing the privatization of war, so I'm glad you asked about that. My favorite is (of course :) my piece from 2007, "Hired Guns: : https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/hired-guns/
Where do you stand on Citizens United and the influence of corporate money in politics? What, if anything, do you think needs to be done in that regard?
I regret corporate money fueling campaigns ; money has made Washington the swamp it is. But much of that is because the federal trough is so big. So many interests competing for budgets and influence and policy that will make them money.
Hi all! I must sign off for now. But it was great (and enlightening) to get all of your questions. Sorry to not answer all of them. Please take a look at our magazine online, www.TheAmericanConservative.com and get to know us!
Hi Kelly, lifelong conservative and Republican here. Was also active duty in the military, infantry. You think you could call yourself something else besides an anti-war conservative? That seems to label all conservatives, or most of us, with a war mentality. Which I don't believe we have. Most of the wars we've been involved in seem to come from the business side of weapons procurement, and sales. Most people who are conservatives understand what war is, and why it should be avoided at all cost. Other than that, keep up the good work.
Good point! Sometimes labels are convenient but they don't tell the whole story. But as you might recall, our magazine was quite the underdog in the right of center/conservative world in 2002. There were no prominent Republicans (save for Ron Paul) who even dared talk out against war then. Times have changed, certainly!
How do you feel the current administration has reflected on Consertives and their ideology? Do you think this administration will be a benefit or hinderance to conservatives when it's all said and done?
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