Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Some thoughts on being conservative.

No, not my thoughts. But thoughts they are.

From Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor reader Rod Montgomery writes;

Subj: Bush&Co. - ideology or not?

Krauthammer's "Neoconservative Convergence" piece says G.W.Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld are practicing a neoconservative ideology of "democratic realism" while speaking an equally-but-differently-neoconservative ideology of "democratic globalism".

My own reading of the situation is somewhat different from the notoriously-neoconservative Krauthammer's reading. The distinction Krauthammer makes, between what Bush&Co. expansively say and what they much less expansively do, is important; but Krauthammer's *explanation* of that difference is not the only possible explanation.

Like all ideologues, Krauthammer does not consider-and-reject, he merely *ignores*, the possibility that someone, and especially someone who has the conservative attitude, might not have any ideology at all, but rather might have conservative principles instead.

The major rhetorical problem of the Bush administration, as I see it, is that Bush&Co. have been captured, not by the whole current corrupt Zeitgeist of the American ruling elite, but by that part of that Zeitgeist that assumes, as a first principle, that *everyone* must have *some* ideology. Bush&Co., consequently, feel compelled to emit the sounds of that available ideology that is closest, as they see it, to what Bush&Co. really do believe -- while at the same time, *not* in fact *being* ideologues, Bush&Co. do not feel compelled to *act* according to that ideology.

One problem non-ideological conservatives have, not only in communicating with their opponents, but also in communicating with each other, is that non-ideological conservatives do not have recourse to an all-encompassing ideology to force a superficial a-priori coherence on their stated positions, much less to force superficial coherence between stated positions and actions. Conservative principles are always in tension with each other, and with the particular nuances of each individual situation to which a conservative responsible for acting must apply them. "Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few pretentious phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals" (Russell Kirk, _The Conservative Mind_, page 7). See also Kirk's explication of Edmund Burke's "determination to deal with circumstances, not with abstractions" (_TCM_ page 39).
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