Magazine article The American Conservative

Kill 'Em All Conservatives

Magazine article The American Conservative

Kill 'Em All Conservatives

Article excerpt

Pro-war pundits say: give Muslims liberty or give them death.

CONSERVATIVES WHO HAVE aligned themselves with the neocons' Middle East strategy are getting frustrated. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Nation-building and international social work have not traditionally been the stuff of conservative foreign policy. This whole business about democracy and the universal thirst for it seems unnatural. War, after all, is supposed to be about killing your enemies. But in the war currently raging in Iraq, who are we supposed to be killing?

The answer, to the befuddlement of many pro-war conservatives, is almost nobody. Unless we were to level the place entirely, killing is not going to solve our problems in Iraq. As the U.S. military has grown weary of pointing out, there is no military solution to the problems on the ground. But wars are supposed to have military solutions, and the fact that this one does not isn't sitting well with many hawkish conservatives.

National Review's John Derbyshire described his own reasoning for supporting the war and eventual disillusionment with it. Explaining that his initial support for the invasion was "really just punitive," Derbyshire admitted that he doesn't "in fact, give a fig about the Iraqis." But trying to keep two sides apart in a civil war was never part of the deal for hawks like Derbyshire.

The "to hell with them hawks," as Derbyshire's fellow travelers have come to be called, still yearn for this war to become a conservative war-a war of annihilating opposing militaries, of unconditional surrender, of victory and ticker-tape parades. These conservatives have begun to wonder: why don't we just kill them all?

The first signs of this bloodthirsty ethos emerged during the outrage that most of us suffered after Sept. 11. Ann Coulter explained that we ought not concern ourselves with "locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack." In fact, she argued, "those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots." Coulter went on to invoke favorably the carpet-bombing of German cities during World War II.

Most of us felt something similar to Coulter during the immediate period after Sept. 11. But since that time, conservatives have grown frustrated with the complexity of counter-insurgency in the Islamic world. The confusing and ever shifting alliances and tactics coupled with wily opponents like Moqtada al-Sadr have made the conservative commentariat as uncomfortable as the stereotypically stuffy Brit trying to make his way through a chaotic Arab souk. Coulter, hardly sobered by the five years since 9/11, thinks it's time to just bring in the big guns: she told a whooping, supportive audience at Sean Hannity's "Freedom Concert" that we could "carpet-bomb [the Iranians] so they can't build a transistor radio. And then it doesn't matter if they have the nuclear material."

Coulter may be an extreme example, but she isn't alone. Take the February 2005 remarks of Republican Congressman Sam Johnson. Playing to a conservative audience, he argued that in the Middle East, "Syria is the problem." And what to do? "I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em, and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore." Johnson's statement-which he would later protest was a joke-and his utter lack of evidence for the argument that Syria was the source of our troubles were both alarming, but perhaps still more troubling was the venue: Suncreek United Methodist Church. What would Aquinas-let alone Jesus-say? Something about the sanctity of human life?

Trawling the darker swamps of right-wing talk radio, one can find still more disturbing comments. Michael Savage, who has made a living from notoriety, has remarked in passing that we might "kill 100 million [Muslims], then there'll be 900 million of them. I mean, would you rather die-would you rather us die than them? …

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