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Russell Kirk

It is ridiculous…to talk of “fighting for democracy” in Indo-China when the people we support there are not democrats at all and cannot be, in the light of history and the present condition of Indo-China. We owe ourselves and the world candor. We are not struggling to establish universal “democracy” or “capitalism” or “human rights.” Our mission in the affairs of nations is not to undertake an eccentric crusade on behalf of these abstractions, but rather the practical task of repelling the menace of Soviet imperialism, and of conserving the freedom and justice and strength of the United States. Most of us are not really so arrogant as to think we have a right to remould the world in our image. The best we can do, toward redeeming the states of Europe and Asia from the menace of revolution and the distresses of our time, is to realize our own conservative character, suspicious of doctrinaire alteration, respectful toward history, preferring variety over uniformity, acknowledging a moral order composed of human persons, not of mere political and economic atoms subservient to the state. We have not been appointed the correctors of mankind; but, under God, we may be an example to mankind. (Program for Conservatives, 1954)

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We have a great appreciation for the thought of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt and Christopher Dawson, among other imaginative conservatives. However, some of us look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.”

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11 replies to this post
  1. I don't know. In hindsight, had the US not actively pursued those ideals in the variety of ways that it has, is there any doubt that Soviet and Chinese Communism would pose a much greater threat today to the practical tasks Kirk lists?

    The Russian and Chinese people are better off due to their steps toward liberalization as are we by proxy. I don't see how allowing oppressive regimes to grow in power unchecked serves anyone better. The light of history has demonstrated that people CAN be democrats when they previously were not.

  2. To expound a little on the meaning of this quote by Kirk, I'll refer to Kirk's reading of Orestes Brownson with whom Kirk agrees in saying, "It is America's mission…to offer to the world an example of such a state and such a society, at once orderly and free." Note that Kirks says that America's mission to the rest of the world is to serve as an "example" of ordered liberty, not to remake other nations in America's own image through war or nation-buidling.

    In, fact, to do so, according to Kirk, would constitute an injustice. For, the "just society does not reduce human beings to the condition of identical units on the dismal plain of absolute equality." Justice, quoting Brownson, and harkening back to Plato and Aristotle, is to "give each person his due," which entails "the right of every person to do his own work, free of the meddling of others." This applies to individuals within a nation as well as to relations among nations. Thus, "in any particular country…the form of government must be suited to the traditions and the organic experience of the people. In some lands, therefore, the form of government will be monarchy; in others, aristocracy; in America, republicanism or democracy under God."

    To impose American-style republicanism/democracy on a nation with which its history and culture is incompatible is not only foolish – like attempting to sculpt a statue out of dry sand (the materials being ill-suited to the form) – but is unjust in that it deprives a people of the history, culture and traditions that are rightfully theirs. Kirk gleaned this wisdom principally from Burke who discerned the extreme moral difference between America's fight for independence, an effort to preserve the society of ordered freedom they inherited from England, and the French Revolution, which razed society's culture and tradition in the name of some universal, but ultimately inhumane, brotherhood.

    Kirk reminds us of the success of "American humanitarianism" (of which the French Revolution is a precursor), which takes America's mission to be an effort "to wipe out everything else — to destroy the older order in all the rest of the world, the old faiths, the old governments, the old economies, the old buildings, the old loves and loyalties." He notes President Wilson who was "sure that he could make the world safe for democracy by resort to arms — and succeeding…merely in delivering eastern Europe into the hands of Bolsheviki; FDR's intention "(frustrated by events) to make all of Africa (after an expected victory at Dakar) into an American sphere of influence; and JFK and Johnson and "their illusion that American-style democracy…could be established instantly in Vietnam and neighboring states."

    Based on these examples we might therefore question to what extent we have successfully turned back communism or other threats through military means. But even if we have and can repel such treats, this quote from Kirk raises the question whether that is, in fact, what, more recently, we have been doing? Are we merely repelling threats to our accomplishment of ordered freedom, or are we unjustly attempting "humanitarian" efforts of making the rest of the world good Americans? And, even if America has some providential mission, a view that seems to motivate the "American exceptionalism" view that we have a duty to export Americanism, why should our mission be other than to serve as an example of ordered freedom, one that arose, like all others must arise, out of a nation's particular set of concrete, unrepeatable history, culture and circumstances? (Quotations from Kirk's essay, "The American Mission" in Redeeming the Time).

  3. It appears that Kirk's quote that I responded to was altered quite a bit since my comment. I guess the first version was paraphrased…?

    A few points:

    A) I don't believe that oppression, genocide, murder, etc. belong to the organic traditions of any culture. Instead, they are acts carried out by certain regimes and are always wrong. It's not like the people being abused are ok with it for culture's sake. To stand by as people are abused by such regimes with the explanation that we should let their cultural process carry itself out is to miss how a minority party can dominate the majority via brutal means. The authorship of a culture should not belong to those most willing to abuse the rest. Otherwise, we must accept that those cultures will increasingly be defined by violence and coercion. If our American example is only about the value of our civility then it becomes a model for how other citizens can continue to be oppressed by their local bully.

    B) The United States' own fight for independence would not have been successful without outside help from other societies. The US example includes foreign intervention.

    C) Imposing values is not the same thing as aiding people who are seeking basic rights. As we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Egypt, their people want to vote. To help people obtain fundamental rights that are kept from them by tyrants is not an example of imposing American values. Many of those people are now free to vote according to whatever societal values they hold.

    D) Moral obligations aside, the US government has a duty to stand up to tyranny and oppression because it serves our national security interests. A world in which tyrants do not feel that they will be confronted and are allowed to gain power via brutality is not as safe for American citizens.

  4. Joe,

    The selection as originally posted was shortened (as was shown by the use of ellipses). The full quote is now posted for increased context (sacrificing brevity).

    It appears that you desire that all nations have governments which, relying on democratic processes, support a western notion of basic human rights. Assuming the U.S. can achieve your desired goal, a questionable assumption at best, we should not believe that having the opportunity to vote will bring about the level of human rights you seek.

    If they are free to vote for a government which oppresses religious minorities, is that an improvement (Hamas, Nazis)? Are we then to interfere with the policies of the newly elected government which carries out the desires of the electorate? Is elected government the desired end state or is it accepted western concepts of freedom? Should we decide this for every nation?

    If, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, we use our nation's military might to reconstruct the governments of nations which do not meet our standards of democracy and civil rights, where does it end? What about China? North Korea? Somalia? Venezuela? What if the newly elected regimes demonstrate a high level of corruption? Is there no limit to our responsibility to remake the world into democracies which meet our definition of rights and competency?

    Are you willing to sacrifice your life, or that of your son, to bring democratic government to China? Or restore it to Venezuela after Chavez finishes making himself the "elected" dictator?

    There is a significant cost to waging war to overthrow established regimes, in blood and treasure. We should move from the hypothetical to the practical when discussing war, death and destruction. Simply put, some 6,000 Americans have died fighting to establish the fragile democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan (33,000 more wounded). The casualty estimates for Iraqis and Afghans in these wars are estimated to be at least 20 times American loses.

    Additionally, an estimated 1.3 trillion American tax dollars have been spent on these two nation building exercises in the last 10 years. Are these costs too high? How many dead for a free Libya?

    We do not live in a utopian world. Every use of military power to improve the governments of other nations comes with a heavy price which is denominated in blood and sacrifice. We have an obligation to envision the faces of our dead and wounded soldiers when we consider the American Republic's "duty" to stand up to tyranny and oppression in foreign lands.

    What if each American had to personally sacrifice instead of only the young who risk life and limb? Would we so agreeably pay an immediate war tax surcharge of 20 or 30% of our current tax bill instead of borrowing to finance the wars and passing on the bill to unborn Americans?

    No, what Joe suggests sounds laudable but I believe that in the end we are not naive enough, or callous enough, to continue to offer up young and unborn Americans to pay the price for our utopian dreams of universal freedom as a gift to all at the point of a gun.

    We must be prudent. We must serve as an example to the world of freedom and responsibility. We must be strong enough to assist, encourage and inspire other peoples to find their own path to ordered liberty. Alas, we do not have the power to end injustice, oppression or sin. America is not god.

  5. Joe,

    Your point (A) indicates we have a moral obligation to prevent other nations from committing grave injustices. Grave injustices like those committed by Gaddafi have occurred/are occurring in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, etc. By your logic, we would have to intervene in those countries as well. But one has a moral obligation to do only what one can do. According to traditional just war theories, it's questionable that we have a moral obligation to intervene as you indicate we should, but even if we do have such an obligation, it's not clear, as Winston indicates, that we can afford the lives or monetary costs of doing so. It's also questionable that we would be successful without performing the "national make-over" we're engaged in in Iraq – the complete success of which we've yet to see.

    In response to (B), it's irrelevant that other nations came to our assistance during the war of independence. We had been governing ourselves for more than 150 years prior to the war of independence. Thus other nations were helping us preserve a pre-existing democratic order. No such pre-existing democratic order exists in Libya. Consequently, our assistance to the rebels in Libya is not analogous to the assistance we received during the war of independence.

    Winston's thoroughly answers your (C) and (D), but to (D), I'll add that we can't be sure our involvement in Libya benefits our national security interests. We don't know enough about these groups of rebels we're supporting or the kind of order they will establish if and when Gaddafi's regime is toppled. A known evil is often better than an unknown one and by ousting Gaddafi, we're creating a power vacuum that could be filled with something much worse.

  6. Gentlemen, having worked lifelong in 50 countries, allow me an observation. There seem to be in many lands deeply-entrenched traditions that are stoutly anti-democratic (not to over-tout democracy) and hugely unfair (a more useful term). I sat many an evening with African friends and colleagues pondering the Big Man cult so common over so much of Africa. Effectively, if one rises to power and does not abuse that power visibly, does one's respect and prestige (and then power itself) diminish? Many Africans regret to say yes: 'abuse it or lose it.' Yet there is Ghana (growing less corrupt) which is now so intrinsically, merrily democratic that one cannot imagine it ever becoming anything else.

    Another example: South Asians can be servile, spending more time fawning over the boss than doing their work. I presume this is due to (a) oppression by maharajahs, colonial powers, etc; (b) too many talented, unemployed people who'd like your job; (c) extended family pressures on a boss to fire you and hire his relatives; and (d) how people learn to grovel from their parents and grandparents. Yet this is changing somewhat, particularly among the educated middle classes and in new, globally cross-pollinating industries such as IT.

    What these two examples have in common is that, first, these are indigenous and traditional attitudes just as we from the Anglosphere have our traditions of fair-play or punctuality, etc. Second, their habits, good or less so, have very deep roots and do not change easily: they have probably been reinforcing these values (such as manners and hospitality too) for millenia quite literally. Third, if they change they tend to change themselves. 'Regime change' can matter very little – trying to polish a turd, as the Tibetan Buddhists say – while changing values matters a lot. Colonial occupation can (partly) change values but over a very long time and not always (a century did little to governance-values in Nigeria but two centuries did in India). The American neo-colonialists and secular missionaries that I meet (bright or dim, noble or venal) cannot wait to finish a two-year foreign tour and go back home while the 19th C British went to their colonies for a working lifetime. Americans have neither the stomach for empire nor the patience, and it often makes no difference anyway because different cultures have their own values and change (if ever) at their own pace. I remain with Drs. Creech and Kirk.

    Kipling says:
    "Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,
    For the Christian riles, and the Asian smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
    And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
    And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."

  7. Winston Elliott III.

    "It appears that you desire that all nations have governments which, relying on democratic processes, support a western notion of basic human rights. Assuming the U.S. can achieve your desired goal, a questionable assumption at best, we should not believe that having the opportunity to vote will bring about the level of human rights you seek."

    I don't believe that being oppressed is a desired condition for any person in any country. The desire to not be oppressed is not a western notion. If you can point to a group of people that want to be oppressed, I will agree that others should stay out of it and let them pursue that goal.

    I don't believe that voting will always bring about desired results. It doesn't always bring about desired results in the US. However, it at least allows for a people to make their own mistakes and corrections. Under some regimes, there is little to no capability to improve conditions based only on internal influences.

    "If they are free to vote for a government which oppresses religious minorities, is that an improvement (Hamas, Nazis)? Are we then to interfere with the policies of the newly elected government which carries out the desires of the electorate? Is elected government the desired end state or is it accepted western concepts of freedom? Should we decide this for every nation?"

    People should decide this for themselves. As I pointed out, the people of these countries have not rejected the opportunity to vote when they were finally able to have it. They have embraced it enthusiastically.

    Nobody is deciding for someone else. Others have decided what they want but have been unable to obtain it due to oppressive regimes. Helping those people is not a case of changing their minds. There is nothing wrong with having principles and supporting others who share them by their own reasoning in whatever way is possible/effective.

    "If, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, we use our nation's military might to reconstruct the governments of nations which do not meet our standards of democracy and civil rights, where does it end? What about China? North Korea? Somalia? Venezuela? What if the newly elected regimes demonstrate a high level of corruption? Is there no limit to our responsibility to remake the world into democracies which meet our definition of rights and competency?"

    I believe this is a straw man argument. There are many ways to influence foreign countries beyond military might. Nobody is arguing that the US should attack every country it disagrees with at the same time no matter how subtle the disagreement. The field of play in foreign policy is not 1 yard long. It's at least 100.

    There are obviously cost/benefit and feasibility aspects that have to be considered. There are people capable of making these determinations effectively.

    "Are you willing to sacrifice your life, or that of your son, to bring democratic government to China? Or restore it to Venezuela after Chavez finishes making himself the "elected" dictator?"

    Similar to above, this is a straw man in my view. For one thing, nobody is sacrificing someone else to service if that person has freely decided for themselves to serve. Second, as mentioned before, foreign policy is complex. We aren't talking about an always war vs. never war decision. China, for example, has made many strides toward liberalization on its own.

  8. Continued:

    "There is a significant cost to waging war to overthrow established regimes, in blood and treasure. We should move from the hypothetical to the practical when discussing war, death and destruction. Simply put, some 6,000 Americans have died fighting to establish the fragile democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan (33,000 more wounded). The casualty estimates for Iraqis and Afghans in these wars are estimated to be at least 20 times American loses."

    This is to evaluate the costs of one act without consideration of the costs of not making that act.

    Saddam Hussein's regime killed far more people than the numbers you cite via genocide, political killings, subjecting his people to unnecessary trade sanctions poverty and starvation, wars against neighboring countries, etc. His successors showed no promise of changing that.

    "Additionally, an estimated 1.3 trillion American tax dollars have been spent on these two nation building exercises in the last 10 years. Are these costs too high? How many dead for a free Libya?"

    Relative to the amount of money the US government spends, 1.3 trillion for 10 years of military operations is not that much. If money is the worry, there is plenty of it bottled up in misguided domestic pursuits that would cover our military costs in folds.

    "We do not live in a utopian world. Every use of military power to improve the governments of other nations comes with a heavy price which is denominated in blood and sacrifice. We have an obligation to envision the faces of our dead and wounded soldiers when we consider the American Republic's "duty" to stand up to tyranny and oppression in foreign lands."

    I believe that we do have an obligation to honor the sacrifice and service of our troops. However, I don't believe that they are best honored by suggesting that they haven't made their own decisions. We have an all volunteer military.

    "What if each American had to personally sacrifice instead of only the young who risk life and limb? Would we so agreeably pay an immediate war tax surcharge of 20 or 30% of our current tax bill instead of borrowing to finance the wars and passing on the bill to unborn Americans?"

    Nobody "has" to sacrifice. It's an all-volunteer military.

    I'm not sure where you are getting a "20 or 30%" war bill. Are you counting all money spent on defense each year? Is your position that no money should be spent on defense at all?

    "No, what Joe suggests sounds laudable but I believe that in the end we are not naive enough, or callous enough, to continue to offer up young and unborn Americans to pay the price for our utopian dreams of universal freedom as a gift to all at the point of a gun."

    If anything is utopian and naive it's the notion that we can just decide to focus on ourselves and be left alone by the rest of the world. Our people want to travel to, do business with, help and interact with the world and vice versa.

    If we are to expect security and safety in those ventures, we will have to play on the field of foreign policy and sometimes act against tyrants more substantially than simply being a civil example.

    "We must be prudent. We must serve as an example to the world of freedom and responsibility. We must be strong enough to assist, encourage and inspire other peoples to find their own path to ordered liberty. Alas, we do not have the power to end injustice, oppression or sin. America is not god."

    This I agree with. However, sometimes, military action is the most prudent option. Sometimes, military action is an example to the world of responsibility (to international law). Sometimes, military action is assisting, encouraging (and discouraging enemies) and inspiring other people to find their own path to liberty.

    We don't have the power to end all injustice, oppression or sin. However, we do have enough power to work against it to some degree and we are justified in doing so on many levels.

  9. John Creech:

    "Your point (A) indicates we have a moral obligation to prevent other nations from committing grave injustices. Grave injustices like those committed by Gaddafi have occurred/are occurring in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, etc. By your logic, we would have to intervene in those countries as well."

    My logic is not that we should use military might to address every level of disagreement with every country at the same time.

    "But one has a moral obligation to do only what one can do. According to traditional just war theories, it's questionable that we have a moral obligation to intervene as you indicate we should, but even if we do have such an obligation, it's not clear, as Winston indicates, that we can afford the lives or monetary costs of doing so."

    I agree that we can only do what we can. I reject the notion that all we can do is be a civil example.

    It's questionable that an isolationist strategy would be less costly in terms of monetary costs and lives lost when you consider what acts regimes would likely take knowing that they wouldn't face confrontation. The affects of such international lawlessness would most likely destroy international trade and give tyrants access to much greater means of destruction than they currently have.

    "It's also questionable that we would be successful without performing the "national make-over" we're engaged in in Iraq – the complete success of which we've yet to see."

    The goal in Iraq has already been completely successful. We have removed an oppressive regime that we had wanted removed for years. We can and should help as much as possible to replace that regime with a better one. However, much of the responsibility for accomplishing that must rest on the shoulders of the Iraqi people. There is no guarantee that they will succeed. That doesn't mean that removing Saddam Hussein was unjustified.

    "In response to (B), it's irrelevant that other nations came to our assistance during the war of independence. We had been governing ourselves for more than 150 years prior to the war of independence. Thus other nations were helping us preserve a pre-existing democratic order. No such pre-existing democratic order exists in Libya. Consequently, our assistance to the rebels in Libya is not analogous to the assistance we received during the war of independence."

    Just because we decided that we wanted to govern ourselves didn't change the minds of the British regarding whose land it was. It took military might for us to secure our right to govern ourselves and we got foreign help in the process. It's absolutely relevant to Libya.

    Libyans want to govern themselves but need to use force to secure that right against an oppressive regime.

    "Winston's thoroughly answers your (C) and (D), but to (D), I'll add that we can't be sure our involvement in Libya benefits our national security interests. We don't know enough about these groups of rebels we're supporting or the kind of order they will establish if and when Gaddafi's regime is toppled. A known evil is often better than an unknown one and by ousting Gaddafi, we're creating a power vacuum that could be filled with something much worse."

    A known evil, if you are living under its rule, is never an acceptable condition. I don't think you would rest easy while being oppressed based on the idea that replacing your oppressors might be worse. You would want to see anything increase your odds of improvement.

    By using military force on protesters, Gaddafi has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that there is no chance that civil means will result in the liberties that Libyans want.

    It is a risk that things could become worse in Libya after Gaddafi. However, even a 50% chance of improvement is better than a guaranteed 0% chance.

  10. Joe,

    Let me see if I understand you correctly:

    1) You state that "It's questionable that an isolationist strategy would be less costly…" Let's get this straight, if I argue that the American military should not be used to force regime change in a foreign nation then you equate this with that old bogey man "isolationism?" Really? So any foreign policy which stops short of war to bring about your desired democratic institutions is isolationism? That kind of extremism will give military intervention in other nations a bad reputation if you aren't careful. That is if the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia haven't already tarnished the arguments for using the American military to decide the fate of foreign nations.

    2) You state that: "Relative to the amount of money the US government spends, 1.3 trillion for 10 years of military operations is not that much." So one thousand three hundred billion dollars is not much money? In addition to the normal annual military budget of 558,000,000,000? Wow. I am a piker. I thought the U.S. had a really big problem. You know with the whole deficit and debt thing. Clearly you are a much more generous person, with other people's money, than I am. Since we are passing the bill on to our grandchildren anyway you are probably right. Its not much for them to pay after I'm dead. This is the price they pay for our generation's commitment to freedom in foreign lands. No penny pinching for us. I'm sure our grandchildren will thank us for offering their treasure out of our generosity.

    3) You state: "I believe that we do have an obligation to honor the sacrifice and service of our troops. However, I don't believe that they are best honored by suggesting that they haven't made their own decisions. We have an all volunteer military…Nobody "has" to sacrifice. It's an all-volunteer military." Since the young men and women who serve in our military volunteer to defend our Republic and our Constitution "nobody has to sacrifice?"

    The members of the U.S. military do not pick the wars, they just fight the battles. They do not choose to fight and be wounded or killed in battles to bring about democracy in foreign nations. They take an oath to "…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic…"

    Is their sacrifice any less because they are volunteers instead of being drafted? So when they come home with severe brain damage or no legs that is not a sacrifice? What is it then? An on the job accident? Are you implying volunteers are only mercenaries or the equivalent of at will employees? The members of the U.S. military who we have sent to bring about your desired democracy in foreign lands are asked to sacrifice their comfort, and often their very lives, to fulfill the foreign policies you advocate.

    Your comments indicate a wish to bring about the type of governments you believe other nations should have. For generations those who called for the U.S. military to bring about regime change overseas have over estimated the likelihood of success and underplayed the cost in blood and treasure. It is time to end this wishful thinking. It is time to be prudent and realistic. The American Republic can be a significant positive force in international relations. First we must stop using war to impose our ideals and asking the young and the unborn to bear the cost.

  11. Winston.

    You set out to see if you understand me correctly but then proceed to make many assumptions and add embellishments to my comments.

    1) Part of what "isolationist" means is to avoid foreign military operations. The term applies correctly to what you have argued and shouldn't be seen as a "bogey man" if that is what you believe.

    I feel that I have been clear that I don't believe war is always the most appropriate means to an end in foreign policy. I'm not sure why you are suggesting again that that is my position.

    Regarding the various conflicts and wars that you list, each one has its own complex context and history. Upon closer inspection, I don't believe that they offer the kind of validation for your position that you are implying.

    2) That is a lot of money if it were to be held by an individual, yes. However, we're talking about the wealthiest nation on earth. Not an individual Bank of America account.

    1.3 trillion over 10 years breaks down to 3% of the 3.5 trillion we're now spending per year.

    The US government is tasked with the responsibility of keeping Americans safe. They shouldn't reduce the amount spent on that effort unless we have first considered cuts in spending on entitlements and other programs that are arguably not mandated to their responsibility. As I have pointed out, the wealth squandered by such programs easily dwarfs the 3% per year cost you're talking about.

    I do think that our grandchildren will thank us for working against tyrants that would be much costlier and bloodier for them to face if allowed to stay and grow in power.

    3) Nobody "has" to sacrifice as in it is not a requirement to serve. Not that nobody voluntarily makes sacrifices. The members of the US military join knowing that they may be called to battle.

    I was pretty clear in stating that the sacrifice the troops make should be honored. So, I'm not sure why you are trying to suggest that I don't think it's a sacrifice. The point is that they sacrificed something for us. Not that we sacrificed them against their will.

    The vast majority of troops voted to re-elect George W. By and large, they are more on-board with foreign military intervention than civilians are. The notion that they went begrudgingly at the behest of others is simply false.

    "Your comments indicate a wish to bring about the type of governments you believe other nations should have."

    Not really. Though, it seems like your position on this subject relies on the assumption that this is what the opposing argument is.

    I believe that if there are foreign people who are being oppressed and we share principles to a degree, it is in our mutual interests to assist them in whatever way that is most effective.

    "For generations those who called for the U.S. military to bring about regime change overseas have over estimated the likelihood of success and underplayed the cost in blood and treasure. It is time to end this wishful thinking. It is time to be prudent and realistic. The American Republic can be a significant positive force in international relations. First we must stop using war to impose our ideals and asking the young and the unborn to bear the cost."

    I think that you underplay the affect of potential military force toward making more peaceful means of foreign diplomacy effective.

    If anything is wishful thinking, it's that removing the risk of confrontation wouldn't result in international lawlessness, increased violence and costlier wars.

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