NR Goes to War

That's the title of Neal Freeman's article in the June 2006 American Spectator. It's well worth picking up. Freeman, a longstanding member of NR's board of directors, believed all along that the Iraq War was unwise and made the case to his fellow board members. You can guess how well that went down. (He also argued that the magazine should print an apology, to Robert Novak at least, for David Frum's "Unpatriotic Conservatives" hit piece — "As America went to war," Freeman writes, "NR gave its warm endorsement to the invasion but then — rather than rallying reluctant conservatives to the flag and cause — it turned abruptly to the settling of intramural scores.")

In our final meeting before the balloon went up in Iraq, I pleaded with my NR colleagues to reconsider their drum-beating for war. I rehearsed my old arguments and added the prudential point that we should husband our resources to meet the real threats in Iran and North Korea. I thought then and I think today that if NR had opposed the invasion it could have made a decisive difference within the conservative movement and, radiating its influence outward, across the larger political community. There were no takers for my brief. For all involved, I suspect, that last pre-war evening was difficult. I probably pushed too hard against the carefully tended fences of collegiatility. In an overwrought phrase that I regretted instantly, I characterized the decision to invade Iraq as "stupid, dangerous, and hubristic." (I recall the phrase only because it was tossed back at me repeatedly in the early months of the war, as if it had been memorialized on a plaque in the Hall of Crazy Sayings.)

The Frumpurge, where NR tried to do to antiwar conservatives what it had long ago done to the Randians and Birchers, was just about the last straw.

I continued to attend board functions, holding a grin-and-bear-it pose as the editors reported, early on, how swimmingly the Iraq campaign was going and then, in a later analysis, how Rumsfeld's inept tactics were botching Wolfowitz's brilliant strategy.I hung in there because I had enjoyed a great run with the magazine. Hell, Bill and our little gang had repainted the map of the known world. I had deep reserves of affection for hte magazine and for my band of brothers and I just dind't have it in me to tell Bill I was quitting.

When Buckley himself stepped down as owner, however, Freeman followed him out the door.


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