The -Ism That Failed

The aftermath of the Iraq war will surely see U.S. foreign policy at the forefront of national debates for years to come. Conservatives will claim -- as they have been claiming for months -- that only they were sufficiently prescient about "the present danger" of Saddam Hussein. And liberals will again find themselves on the defensive.

Sound familiar? Back during the Cold War, neoconservative intellectuals flattered themselves in their conviction that they carried forward the anti-communist cause that liberals had dropped in the late 1970s and 1980s, and they ran with it as though they had recovered a fumble and headed toward the goal line to win the game and enjoy the glory. The monthly magazine Commentary has basked in that glory, enjoying more influence on recent government foreign policy than any other intellectual journal.

While Commentary influenced the Reagan administration, the newer Weekly Standard has had similar influence with the current Bush administration. But whereas Commentary Editor Norman Podhoretz convinced readers that America was losing the struggle against the Soviet Union, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol seeks to convince us that fundamentalism's days are numbered once Iraq is transformed as the first step in the democratization of the Middle East. One writer desired to see American military power prevail, the other its political ideals. Have either?

Let's look at the record. Commentary's persistent assumptions about communism -- who the ultimate enemy really was and why America was going to lose the struggle unless it took its advice -- did much to help create the perilous post-Cold War situation in which we now find ourselves. Kapital is gone now and the Koran has taken its place. But 20 years ago, Commentary dismissed "the Islamic revolution" as little more than a sideshow concealing the movement of the Soviet Union into the Mideast. Thus the fall of the shah in Iran in 1979 was alleged to be as ominous as the fall of the czar in Russia in 1917 -- not because it presaged a religious fundamentalism that one day would become America's mortal enemy but because it signaled the "prelude" to communism's inevitable march into the oil states. With the stakes so high, Commentary saw nothing wrong with America arming Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and establishing a covert alliance with the House of Saud, which would turn out to be the financial angel of al-Qaeda.

Years earlier, liberals, of course, saw nothing wrong with America shipping arms to Joseph Stalin during World War II. But that effort lasted only a few years, and it was Ambassador George Kennan who warned us of the Soviets' domineering aims as the war drew to a close. In the recent Mideast, however, America's misjudgments lasted for an entire decade with no sense of danger. We are living with the consequences of those decisions today.

On the intellectual cold war in America, Commentary took its stand as a unilateralist long before today's neoconservatives gave the word its cachet. Just as the Bolsheviks once believed that to defeat czarism one must extirpate Menshevism and the liberal Kadets, so, too, did the conservatives of our time believe that to defeat communism one must extirpate radicalism and the liberal democrats. Commentary convinced itself and its readers that in order to fight communism, it had to rid the country of progressive politics and expose its illusions in the name of the hardheaded realpolitik of conservatism. The proliferation of weapons would succeed where the patience of wisdom had failed. With such assumptions, Commentary emerges victorious in the annals of modern American history. It claims to have won without needing any friends on the left.

Why this assumption has caught on is curious. Was it not the compromising disposition of conservatism, from the prudence of Winston Churchill to the pecuniary politics of Henry Kissinger, that proved quite willing to accommodate itself to communism, both in Eastern Europe as an established "sphere of influence" (drawn by Churchill with a blue crayon) and in Asia as a land of economic opportunity? The American presidency remained almost as indifferent as the public when, in Hungary in 1956, the Red Army turned the Budapest uprising into a bloodbath, and when, in China in 1989, a young man stood alone and defiantly halted a tank in Tiananmen Square as others looked up to their jerry-rigged Statue of Liberty and sent desperate faxes to an America that shamefully averted its eyes. Struggling to be born behind the Iron Curtain and the Great Wall of China, freedom died as much from the failure of its friends as from the acts of its foes. World communism had nothing to fear from American conservatism.

In fact, the history of the Republican Party should serve as a cautionary tale of conservatism's limitations for statecraft. With Dwight Eisenhower, communism survived in Korea; with Richard Nixon, it prevailed in Vietnam. Gerald Ford assured the American people that Poland was a "free" country. Ronald Reagan withdrew from Lebanon after terrorists massacred about 400 American and French soldiers. And George Bush Senior had no objections when Chinese officials told him that in crushing the Tiananmen Square movement, they were simply doing what America had done against student demonstrators in the 1960s. The party that Commentary claims won the Cold War was actually the party of pullout and back off. And today The Weekly Standard looks to the party that refused to support democracy in China, and could not even bring it to our neighbor Haiti, as the very party that is ready and willing to establish it in Iraq.

Intellectually, the Cold War began in New York City at the Waldorf Hotel on March 26, 1949. A conference organized by, among others, Lillian Hellman brought communist cultural celebrities together to defend the U.S.S.R. The older, more liberal Commentary carried William Barrett's lively account of the affair. Those who bolted from the Stalinist-dominated conference and started the American Committee for Cultural Freedom included liberals, democratic socialists and even anarchists (Dwight Macdonald), with no conservatives in sight. Indeed, there was more true, gut-felt anti-communism among Italian American, Polish American, Irish American and Jewish American anarchists (Carlo Tresca, Aldino Felicani, Max Nomad, Dorothy Day, et al.) than within the entire Republican Party, some of whose leaders used the issue to win elections, only later to shake hands with communist leaders and open up trade relations. As early as 1920, it was the anarchists and the liberals, Emma Goldman and Bertrand Russell, who first perceived the treacheries of Leninist communism, and in the 1920s, Max Eastman of the old Masses helped translate Russian documents for The New Leader to publicize the plight of the opposition in Stalin's Russia and make available to Americans the writings of Boris Souvarine and Boris Nicolaevski. The valiant struggle against totalitarianism became synonymous with democratic liberalism and the anti-communist left.

That was then. Four decades later, when Norman Podhoretz edited Commentary, he took the magazine away from the zany liberal radicalism of the '60s and, in the late '70s, liberalism became the problem -- not only the wimpy liberalism of Jimmy Carter but liberalism itself, going all the way back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and World War II. The failure of nerve to resist communist expansion, Podhoretz insisted, had its origins in America's "acquiescence" to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe toward the end of the war against Adolf Hitler. The Cold War may have begun in 1947 with Harry Truman and containment and the Marshall Plan, but "up until this point the Russians had enjoyed a free hand. They had been permitted to occupy most of Eastern Europe and to begin installing puppet regimes in one after another of the countries of the regions."

Podhoretz and sociologist Robert Nisbet claimed that FDR allowed such developments against the advice of Churchill. But in the essay "Neoconservative History," first published in The New York Review of Books and later reprinted in his A Present of Things Past, Theodore Draper insisted that "there is nothing, I repeat nothing" in the voluminous FDR-Churchill correspondence to support such a charge.

Podhoretz came to anti-communism rather late -- so late, in fact, that one would never know that the same editor who criticized liberals for opposing the war in Vietnam actually opposed it himself in a 1967 Commentary-sponsored symposium on "Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited." Even the fiercely anti-communist philosopher Sidney Hook -- Commentary's great intellectual hero of the 20th century -- acknowledged that America should not have gone to war in Vietnam, though he shrank from advocating withdrawal (a strange position for the pragmatist, who believes that when experience proves the errors of one's ways, something else must be tried).

If Hook was Commentary's hero, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was its villain. In his contribution to "Liberal Anti-Communism Revisited," the historian used the term "obsessive" to describe those who had absorbed themselves in anti-communism long after the communists in America had lost all influence in trade unions, government and higher education. Schlesinger himself had been a staunch anti-Stalinist, but that proved insufficient to the enraged Hilton Kramer, editor of The New Criterion, who defended Hook while going after Schlesinger as an apostate to the cause to which Commentary had belatedly dedicated itself.

Commentary was always more comfortable with communism alive than dead, and Podhoretz thus singled out Schlesinger as one who left the trenches before the war had really begun. "In the 40s and 50s, when the Soviet Union was very much weaker than the United States," wrote Podhoretz in 1980, "Schlesinger expressed great anxiety over the Soviet threat; yet now, when the Soviet Union is as at least as powerful as we are and by any objective standards constitutes a greater threat, he keeps telling us how beleaguered and toothless the Russians have become."

The Soviet Union in the 1940s was "very much weaker than the United States"? Again, facts matter. This was the very Leviathan that had conquered the Wehrmacht on the eastern front, moved into the entire land mass from the Baltic to the Balkans, liquidated the Polish intelligentsia, crushed Czechoslovakian democracy, enjoyed broad support within Western European communist parties and the heroic mystique of anti-fascism -- and, unlike America, made no gesture at demobilizing its militaristic posture at war's end. If the Soviets were "very much weaker," why did the West need the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the Congress for Cultural Freedom? When Schlesinger took on communism, it was still regarded as popular in some sections of America and of the world -- championed by Hellman, Paul Robeson and Jean-Paul Sartre. By the time Commentary came so late to the issue -- indeed, after the anti-Semitic "Doctor's Plot," Nikita Khrushchev's "Crimes of Stalin" speech, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Sino-Soviet split, Afghanistan, the Gulag -- the Soviet Union was little more than a faceless bureaucracy wheezing its death rattle. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was another who saw communism's "terminal contradictions" (Bill Bradley's phrase invoked at a recent Moynihan memorial). Even Reagan recognized, in his second term, that Russia was nearing its end and urged Mikhail Gorbachev to join him in beginning disarmament and ignoring their respective bureaucracies. But to some it was better to be wrong with Hook, Kramer and Podhoretz than right with Schlesinger, Moynihan and Reagan.

Commentary's second villain was John Kenneth Galbraith, the liberal economist who would return glowing from Russia as though he had been swept away by the Bolshoi Ballet. Confident that Russia's collectivized economy would prove efficient and productive, he was misguided, to be sure; but perhaps no more so than Henry Ford, who in the 1930s decided to invest in Stalin's Russia for similar reasons; or the J. P. Morgan Company, which invested in fascist Italy; or the clients of Henry A. Kissinger & Associates, who invest in contemporary communist China with their eyes as wide open as their checkbooks. After all, it was not simply liberal intellectuals but Wall Street brokers who demanded that the United States recognize the Soviet Union in 1933 -- the same forces demanding today the right to do business with Fidel Castro's Cuba. All capitalism corrupts, but consumer capitalism corrupts consummately.

Whatever the behavior of capitalism, communism expands irresistibly and liberalism retreats inevitably. Such was the thesis of Podhoretz's momentous essay "The Present Danger" (1980), published as a book and widely influential during the Reagan administration, where several Commentary contributors became advisers. The text evolved from the thinking of the Committee on the Present Danger, formed in the '70s by political and labor leaders, neocon intellectuals and CIA officials, all convinced that the Soviet Union was massively arming for an ultimate showdown.

In Commentary, American liberals are depicted standing before the Russian menace the way Thomas Carlyle depicted old regime aristocrats standing before the French commune: dumb, inert, squeamish about power, guilty in the face of history. We cannot explain the French Revolution, Carlyle instructed, we can only follow the surging specter moving with the force of nature, "like an Angel of Death." So, too, are we advised in the opening lines of "The Present Danger." We are not to ask patiently for the meaning of events but to respond fearfully to the drama itself:

On November 4, 1979, the day the American embassy in Teheran was seized and the hostages were taken, one period in American history ended; and less than two months later, on December 25, when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, another period began. The past being easier to read than the present, we can describe the nature of the age now over with greater assurance than the one into which we are at this very moment just setting a hesitant and uncertain foot. Yet even to recognize whence we have come, let alone whither we are going, will require an effort to clear our minds of the cant that prevented an earlier understanding of the terrible troubles into which we were heading. I propose that we start, then, by renouncing the general idea that before Iran and Afghanistan we have moved from 'cold war' to 'détente' and that the old political struggle between 'East' and 'West' was yielding in importance to a new economic conflict between 'North' and 'South.'

Podhoretz was convinced that the shocking events in Iran and Afghanistan represented "the final collapse of an American resolve to resist the forward surge of Soviet imperialism." As late as 1999, he remained convinced that in the '70s the Soviet Union "began taking advantage of the post-Vietnam demoralization of the United States to resume its expansionist thrust." Earlier he warned that America must realize it is entering into a new era, one in which "we would be forbidden to speak its name aloud: the Finlandization of America."

The phrase may carry little meaning to a younger generation today, but a quarter-century ago, Commentary and its conservative readers saw it as containing such profound truth about geopolitics that it was repeated as a mantra. In late 1939, Russia went to war against Finland, a Nazi-leaning country that fought valiantly but, after seeing that the war was hopeless, settled for a compromised status under the Soviet behemoth. Rarely has a metaphor about the fate of a country been so manipulated in a combination of wordplay and spectral evidence. The phrase, remember, did not refer to Europe but to the United States, and its author implied that American political leaders were turning pacifist in order to win elections at any cost, peace at any price. "There is no need to go on filling in the details," Podhoretz added, after coming close to accusing liberals of betraying their country. Finlandization! Was America going to lose the Cold War internally, state by state, or globally, first Angola and then Alabama?

Podhoretz assumed that Iran and Afghanistan were connected, that they represented a second and more dangerous phase of the Cold War and exposed the delusions of those who believed in détente. He even warned readers that they must not be misled by the "Orwellian inversions at which Soviet propaganda has always been so adept," the technique of concealing imperialist ambitions in the language of emancipation. Ironically, George Orwell also warned against the very rhetoric invoked in "The Present Danger" thesis in an earlier essay he wrote, "Second Thoughts on James Burnham." The American Cold Warrior, Orwell noted, tries to hypnotize the reader by building up a "picture of terrifying, irresistible power" in a world where everything is "expanding, contracting, decaying, dissolving, toppling, crumbling, crystallizing, and, in general, behaving in an unstable and melodramatic way." "The Present Danger," too, transfixed some readers with the rhetoric of the irresistible in a narrative whose success in literary persuasion need not bother with the demands of historical proof, just as today Iraq was to have posed an imminent danger with its weapons of massive destruction and al-Qaeda terrorists on every street corner.

But Podhoretz never tried to explain -- or understand -- why Iran and Afghanistan had happened. In fact, what happened in those nations had little to do with the alleged thrust of Soviet imperialism. Indeed, in 1946, U.S. foreign policy compelled Russia to withdraw from Iran, and in 1979, Iran was hardly inviting back the Russians to return as liberators. As for Afghanistan, Podhoretz indulged in the descriptive fallacy of simply narrating what happened without explaining why and leaving the rest to our imaginations. He felt no need to explain the possible reasons for the Soviet invasion. So one would never know that the Soviet Union was not only frustrated about the factionalism that befell its party in Afghanistan, but also that Islamic fundamentalists had killed numerous Afghan communists in a bloody jihad. The fundamentalists were prompted to do so when young Afghan women dared to leave behind their chador, burqa and veil and go off to school to learn to think for themselves. Commentary couldn't have cared less what the Afghans were fighting for; all that mattered was whom they were fighting against. For all its prating of Western values, Commentary sided with the Islamic East in Afghanistan.

Similar misperceptions ruled the neocons' response to Angola. One would think that the aftermath of Vietnam, the longest war in America's history, might have caused Cold War intellectuals to reconsider their premises about the Munich analogy and all those falling dominoes that not only failed to fall but had communists fighting one another in Cambodia. Yet in Commentary the war continued as an ontological necessity. "No sooner had Vietnam fallen than Soviet proxies in the form of Cuban troops appeared in Angola," wrote Podhoretz.

But were Cuban troops Soviet proxies? The latest archival research, in Johns Hopkins University professor Piero Gleijeses' Conflicting Missions, suggests the opposite. When, on Aug. 15, 1975, Castro sent a message to Leonid Brezhnev asking to support the introduction of Cuban troops, Moscow balked, fearing that such a move "would hurt détente and offend most African countries." Likewise, William Colby, the CIA director at the time, told the National Security Council that then-Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin desired deeply to go before the Congress of the Communist Party with assurances of "significant progress" in Soviet-American relations. "A meeting with Ford, the Politburo hoped, would produce a SALT agreement. Clearly, Castro and Brezhnev were on different wavelengths," Gleijeses writes.

Ironically, in Angola the CIA covertly financed the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), which behaved as the Bolsheviks had in 1917 by refusing to allow an election of a constituent assembly. "It was the U.S.-backed FNLA that had violated the Alvor power-sharing agreement of March 1974 in a daring bid to seize total control of the state apparatus," writes the diplomatic historian William R. Keylor in A World of Nations. "The first foreign combat forces to enter Angola were the Zairean units that invaded in July 1975 in support of the FNLA with the tacit support of Washington. ... The United States began to complain about foreign interference in the Angolan Civil War only after the tide had turned against the faction it had been covertly backing since the beginning of the conflict." The Marxist regime in Angola continued to do business with American oil firms and did not allow Russia to obtain naval or air bases or any other strategic advantages. But Washington and Commentary worried that the Soviet Union would use Angola and its Cuban "surrogates" to support liberation movements elsewhere in the Third World. And the Ford administration, Keylor writes, "chose to interpret the political outcome of the Angolan Civil War in the worst possible light."

This, then, was "The Present Danger" mentality, which did much to lead America into making the dangerous decision to arm the Afghan resistance, the mujahideen, with handheld heat-seeking missiles that were devastatingly effective against Soviet helicopters and aircraft. The missiles were sent against the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and after Gorbachev had made known his intention to withdraw Russian troops from Afghanistan. Whether they were also deadly against American troops in Somalia we can't be sure. But we do know, thanks to Mary Anne Weaver's Pakistan: In The Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, that the mujahideen sold to Iran many of the very Stingers that America had given the resistance to fight Russia.

So there was a connection between Afghanistan and Iran after all. They were the first deadly expressions of Muslim fundamentalism's challenge to the West. They were not "The Present Danger" that America would immediately have to face but the future danger; not a communism that was on the wane but a fundamentalism that was on the rise. And, at the neoconservatives' urging, America chose as allies creatures from the caves who would prove that they were "freedom fighters" by detonating a Buddhist temple.

Podhoretz's thesis found support in Jeane Kirkpatrick's "Dictatorships and Double Standards," published in Commentary in November 1979. The essay provided much of the rationale for Cold War policy and led President Reagan to appoint Kirkpatrick ambassador to the United Nations. Kirkpatrick put the ideologies of liberalism and Marxism on trial by questioning what might be called the "fetishism of the following," the idea that what comes next in history is always and everywhere preferable to what went before.

The Carter administration had allowed the fall of the shah in Iran and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, assuming the forces of opposition, whether Islamic or socialist, to be progressive. But America should have supported the shah and Somoza, Kirkpatrick instructed, for they represented traditional autocracies that allowed a modicum of freedom, whereas communist totalitarianism can neither be challenged nor changed.

Kirkpatrick advanced three arguments -- relating to Latin America, Russia and the Mideast. All proved unfounded. In Nicaragua, the Sandanistas did postpone elections while the Reagan administration supported their opponents, the Contras. But when elections were held, the cocky Marxists, assuming they had a basis in "the people," were shocked to find that they had lost and had to have their own false consciousness examined as they peacefully, though begrudgingly, relinquished power. The victory of the publisher Violetta Chamorro over the revolutionary Daniel Ortega demonstrated that liberalism was not entirely helpless in the face of communism.

Nor did totalitarianism prove to be so permanent a phenomenon. Kirkpatrick's thesis came to be called the "doctrine of irreversibility": Once totalitarianism takes hold there is no turning back and no way out. In January 1989, Commentary published Jean-Francois Revel's "Is Communism Reversible?" To those few who seemed hopeful, the French author remained downright skeptical. "Despite what so many in the West appear to regard as an extremely easy process," he wrote, "we cannot name a single completed instance of Communist reversibility." The current editor of Commentary, Neal Kozodoy, has attempted to rescue the magazine from its embarrassment by claiming its writers predicted only that Russia was not reformable. Yet Revel, just 10 months before the Berlin Wall fell, made it clear that the regime could neither be reformed nor ended without its leaders committing "hari-kari."

In the Middle East, the Kirkpatrick analysis has offered no guidance whatsoever because it proved to be bereft of all standards. So worried was Commentary that Iran might turn out to be a "prelude" to a communist takeover, and so worried was the Reagan administration that Iran would become the leading power in the Persian Gulf, that America decided to support Iraq as a means of protecting Saudi Arabia and other oil resources. It was then believed that Saddam Hussein was the rational autocrat and the Ayatollah Khomenei the totalitarian fanatic.

George W. Bush's defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was Reagan's special envoy to the Middle East, where he embraced Hussein and, together with Bush Senior, secretly supplied the dictator with whatever he asked for in his fight against the Kurds and other opponents. A National Security Directive of Nov. 26, 1983, aided the counterinsurgency campaign, called Anfal, with money and materials (anthrax, botulinum toxin) with which Iraq was able to develop and use chemical weapons, resulting in the systematic slaughter of 100,000 people. When stories of the atrocities reached the press and the world reacted in horror, the U.S. Department of State launched an "Iran, too" gambit, claiming that both sides used poison gas. "It was a horrible mistake," observed Kenneth Pollack, author of The Threatening Storm. "My fellow CIA analysts and I were warning at the time that Saddam Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department."

Russian history has always seemed tragic to me. But those of us who were once under the spell of totalitarianism's savage power came to see it as more decrepit than dangerous, and we felt for the fate of a Russian people stuck with communism the way America had once been stuck with slavery. But did Commentary not see the stories that were all over the press? A Russian nuclear sub breaking apart beneath the sea, Chernobyl spewing radiation for hundreds of miles, alcoholism and the demoralization of labor, a military barely receiving pay, ethnic unrest in Georgia and elsewhere, the repression of intellectuals and the defection of cultural heroes, a command economy that refused to be commanded.

The neoconservatives would have us believe that the fall of communism was a result of realpolitik and that America emerged victorious because it had the wealth with which to develop sophisticated weapons, especially "Star Wars." But why should that program have made a difference when Reagan assured Gorbachev again and again that it had no offensive capacity? According to Anatoly Dobrynin in his memoir, In Confidence, U.S. military spending was far less crucial than Reagan's coming to realize the importance of establishing good relations with Russia, a move that enabled Gorbachev to embark upon "new thinking" (novoe mishleniye) and launch his reforms. Reagan himself, in his autobiography, An American Life, writes of changing his mind about the "evil empire" upon visiting Moscow for a summit in May 1988. The Soviet citizens, he wrote, were "indistinguishable from people I had seen all my life on the countless streets in America." While Reagan was changing his mind, that of the neoconservative intellectual remained as fixed as an irrefutable error. As late as 1990, the historian Richard Pipes told Commentary's readers that the Soviet Union may not be breaking up but cracking down. Reagan's willingness to negotiate with Russia, meanwhile, sounds pretty much like what liberals had been advocating all along.

Liberals should take pride in the end of the Cold War. Commentary was reluctant to acknowledge the Eastern European forces of freedom that courageously took to the streets to overthrow communism, in part because the surprising phenomenon represented the three great antagonists of conservatism: the youth culture, the intellectuals of the '60s generation and the laboring classes that still favored Solidarity over individualism. American neoconservatives like William J. Bennett are haunted by the crisis of authority at home and see knowledge threatened by skepticism everywhere. In Why We Fight, Bennett claims that we are in Iraq to take a stand for truth and to rescue "moral clarity" from the quicksand of liberal "pseudosophisticated relativism." But in Eastern Europe, intellectuals took a stand for courage without certainty. "For my generation, the road to freedom began in 1968," recalls the historian Adam Michnik, who wrote of the members of the Solidarity union movement in his Letters From Prison. The playwright Vaclav Havel, associated with Charter 77 and the Prague Spring, took his bearings from the metaphysical anxieties of Martin Heidegger and the existential meditations of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett. Against totalitarianism such writers stood for skepticism, irony, uncertainty, and a refusal to believe in and yield to an authority that prefers to possess truth rather than pursue it. Soviet communism ended the way American liberalism began: "Resist much; obey little," as Walt Whitman wrote.

The older "Present Danger" thesis and the "Double Standards" analysis rested easily with power politics and autocratic regimes. The position of The Weekly Standard, in contrast, aspires to Wilsonian democratic idealism in American diplomacy. A noble purpose, to be sure. But with Iraq in mind, its editors should heed Max Weber's warning that while morality may be about intentions, politics is inescapably about consequences, especially unintended consequences. Recall that Lyndon Johnson thought America could bring democracy to the Mekong Delta. One can only wonder whether our younger neoconservatives risk coming dangerously close to reversing T. S. Eliot's definition of "the greatest treason" by doing the wrong deed for the right reason.