At long last, I’ve been able to get my hands on a copy of Russell Kirk’s Prospects for Conservatives (also known, in various editions, as A Program for Conservatives). The book is out of print and I never got around to ordering a used copy, but a colleague had one on hand — and now I do.
Several of the things Kirk says in the book apply very aptly to America’s world situation today:
In the present instance we contend, with an ingenuous provinciality, that all the world wants to be American. … Displaying an impatient perplexity which is wholly sincere, we decry as reactionary or conspiratorial or Russian-influence [today we might say Iran-influenced] anyone in foreign parts who dissents from The American Way. We manifest a yawning ignorance of the venerable principle that cultural form and substance cannot be transported intact from one people to another. We claim that everyone except feudal barons or Reds longs for tractors, Bob Hope, self-service laundries, direct primaries, clover-leaf intersections, high-school extracurricular activities, two evening newspapers, Coca-Cola, and a stylish burial at Memory Grove Cemetery.
Kirk was an early “unpatriotic conservative” — just look at what he says about the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the concept of “preventive war”:
A handful of individuals, some of them quite unused to moral responsibilities on such a scale, made it their business to extirpate the populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima; we must make it our business to curtail the possibility of such snap decisions, taken simply on the assumptions of wordly wisdom. And the conservative can urge upon his nation a policy of patience and prudence. A “preventive” war, whether or not it might be successful in teh field–and that is a question much in doubt–would be morally ruinous to us. There are circumstances under which it is not only more honorable to lose than to win, but quite truly less harmful, in the ultimate providence of God.
He’s talking about the Cold War and a preventive attack on the Soviet Union, of course. But I think the application of his line of thinking to latter-day issues is plain enough.