Mr. Republican’s Military
In “Conservatarianism” (March 23), Charles C. W. Cooke characterizes “the Right’s traditional approach to defense” as being based on the “sober recognition that the global order requires a strong power [namely, the U.S.] to underwrite its security.”
Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio was “Mr. Republican” of the 1940s and ’50s and narrowly lost the Republican presidential nomination to Eisenhower in 1952. His credentials as a “traditional” conservative are impeccable. He had this to say about the use of military force in a speech to the American Assembly on May 22, 1951:
My view is that American foreign policy should be directed primarily to the protection of the liberty of the people of the United States, and that war should only be undertaken when necessary to protect that liberty, that we are not justified in going to war simply to increase the standard of living of the people throughout the world, or to protect their liberty unless such protection is necessary for our own defense. . . .There is one policy and only one policy which can destroy this nation — the commitment to projects beyond our capacity to fulfill.
Taft saw a leadership role for America, but not a leadership based on power. In his book A Foreign Policy for Americans (1951), he said that we should assume “moral leadership . . . in impressing on the world that only through liberty and law and justice . . . can [it] hope to obtain the standards which we have attained in the United States.”
Traditional conservatives such as Taft supported the selective application of American power (he supported the Korean War, for example) but not its use to underwrite the security of the “global order.” Sadly, this misreading of history limits the usefulness of Mr. Cooke’s article as a blueprint for an alliance between conservatives and libertarians.
David E. Steuber
Mineral Point, Wis.