The Rightwing Roots of Bush's Foreign Policy

News Abroad

Mr. Tygiel is a Professor of History at San Francisco State and author of the book, RONALD REAGAN AND THE TRIUMPH OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM (Longman, July 2004).

Polls show that Americans have grown increasingly disillusioned with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Most people view this as a product of the Bush administration’s hubris or mistakes rather than a failure of its ideology. Yet what is particularly striking is how much the problems in Iraq stem from longstanding conservative and neoconservative policies and strategies. Pre-emptive war, unilateralism, a disregard for international treaties, contorted legal interpretations, and the manipulation of intelligence reports, have characterized not merely President Bush’s efforts, but more than a half century of conservative thinking and leadership.

When President Bush proclaimed his doctrine of pre-emptive war at West Point in June, 2002, commentators described this as a bold departure. But many conservatives had long advocated an aggressive strike-first policy in its foreign affairs pronouncements. As early as 1950, James Burnham, one of the most influential fathers of modern conservatism, advanced a theory of “preventative war,” arguing that in the battle against the Soviet Union, it might be necessary for the United States to launch a war in order to secure peace. The notion remained at the core of conservative thinking as an alternative to Cold War policies of containment and détente. Throughout the lengthy and ominous confrontation with the Soviet Union, “preventative war” inspired relatively few adherents outside of the radical right. President Bush and his neoconservative advisers, however, resurrected it in the aftermath of September 11 and employed it as the primary basis for the Iraq invasion.

Conservatives similarly preached the virtues of unilateralism and aggressive military strength as the keys to foreign policy. This included not only the deep-seated hostility to the United Nations displayed by President Bush in the buildup to the Iraq war, but an imbedded suspicion of all international alliances and treaties. The Bush Administration has balked at enforcing even such basic agreements as the Geneva Conventions that govern the treatment of prisoners of war. The Justice Department, under John Ashcroft, sought and developed questionable legal opinions that would absolve the United States from applying the principles of the pact, leading in no small part to the disgrace at Abu Ghraib.

This legal manipulation to evade international standards also has a clear precedent in conservative thinking. In supporting Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), conservatives bristled under the constraints of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM Treaty specified that “Each party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems or components…that are space-based.” On the eve of the 1985 Geneva Summit, Reagan’s first meeting with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, conservatives suddenly introduced a new “broad interpretation” of the pact. Hardliners in the Reagan administration now claimed that the ABM Treaty, despite its specific language barring space-based applications, left open the possibility of developing systems based on new technologies not in existence in 1972.

This “broad interpretation” constituted not only a rejection of the ABM accord as it had been generally understood for over a decade, but an unprecedented assertion that the executive branch could independently reinterpret any longstanding international agreement. State Department legal adviser Abraham B. Sofaer claimed that an examination of the original ABM negotiation transcripts, which remained classified, supported this conclusion. A congressional investigation of the documents, however, and subsequent testimony by Sofaer himself, revealed that the transcripts in no way endorsed a “broad interpretation.” The entire affair had been a legal subterfuge to evade the ABM Treaty and create a loophole for the development of SDI.

Perhaps most striking are the parallel abuses in intelligence gathering in the 1970s and 1980s and those leading up to the Iraq invasion. The Bush administration, as we now know, ignored intelligence reports that failed to support their contentions that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was linked to Al Qaeda and seized upon any evidence, no matter how questionable, that supported its position.

In the mid-1970s, neoconservatives united under the banner of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), charged that the CIA had grossly underestimated the Soviet military and nuclear threat. At CPD urging, CIA Director George H.W. Bush created an “independent” Team B, several of whose members belonged to the CPD, to reassess Soviet capabilities.

Not surprisingly, Team B concluded that the Soviet Union had achieved military superiority over the United States. Its findings became the basis for the massive Reagan-era defense buildup. When in the mid-1980s the CIA determined that Team B estimates had wildly overstated Soviet defense spending, the Reagan administration refused to acknowledge the more accurate assessments. Similarly, when the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research questioned Soviet involvement in world terrorism, a core conservative belief, administration officials rejected the reports.

The disastrous missteps and deceptions of the George W. Bush foreign policy team thus represent not an aberration, but a continuation of principles and practices inherent among the dominant faction of modern American conservatism. In part this is true because many of the same people—Vice President Richard Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and others—remain at the center of the decision-making process. But given its track record, and the broader foreign policy assumptions of the Republican leadership, the time has come for Americans to question not just the personnel of the current administration, but its bedrock philosophy and values. The debacle in Iraq has laid bare the shortcomings of the conservative worldview. Americans must recognize this if the nation is to reconstruct a viable foreign policy for the post-Iraq era.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Ephraim, your well-written English is better than that of most people for whom it is the first language. But, I think you are overly optimistic about the long-term international attention-span of most Americans.

Furthermore, even if there had been a strong enduring public commitment in the U.S. after 9-11 to, for example, spend $100 billion a year for twenty years to remake Iraq, wouldn't the support have been even stronger for, and the money even better spent on, forcing reform on Saudi Arabia and Pakistan instead? The Iraqis might then have even found a way to topple Saddam themselves. Instead we had possibly the all-time most extreme gamble of American foreign policy history conducted at the hands of one of the least competent leaders ever, giving us all the lies about WMD, the stupid insults to the world community, the looting of a whole country while we stood by helpless, followed by terror bombings, the Abu Ghraib horrors, and Osama -or his 100 Iraq-inspired successors (now probably)- laughing in his/their cave.

As for your German and Japanese analogy, I fear you are misinformed. The victims of (turned victors over) German and Japanese aggression treated them after 1945 much better than those victims had been treated by Germans and Japanese before 1945. That lesson in optimistic generosity was far more powerful and has yielded vastly greater benefit to American security and international democracy than the highest paid and best trained Halliburton mercenaries and all the solitary wonders of ten thousand internet cafes

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The "conservative worldview" postulated here is largely an artificial and unhistorical construct. George Bush Senior, for example, pursued what by most commonly understood standards was a "conservative" foreign policy. His "New World Order" reflected a desire to preserve many features of U.S. Cold War policy even after the collapse of the USSR (which his administration had little to do with): support for NATO, the UN, the EU, and adherence to traditional diplomacy and arrangements with other countries. The purpose of the Gulf War was simply to restore the status of Iraq and Kuwait ex ante by using a cautious and carefully multilateral build-up to military involvement in line with the "Powell doctrine". No regime change, no doctrine of preventative attack, no wild experimentation with waging war on the cheap, no confused conflating of war with terrorism, no arrogant thumbing of the nose at the UN. A typical "liberal" world view would have been somewhat different, however - contemplation of more sweeping changes in NATO after the fall of the Iron curtain, for instance- and would not have been as deaf to the human rights violations in Yugoslavia, and Iraq (suppression of the Shia and Kurd uprisings after the Gulf War).

Junior Bush's foreign policy has been opposite in many ways to that of his pappy. Traditional conservative caution has been thrown out the window along with the Powell Doctrine. The manifestation of suicide terrorism (nothing new) has been cynically used to rationalize an unworkable, unconservative and wasteful attempt to conduct an unwinnable so-called "war" on evil. 50 years of American bipartisan foreign policy has been ignored, and typical conservative values of prudence, respect for tradition, and limited government have been made a mockery of.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

"Self-defense" when applied to countries of millions of inhabitants is a dubious concept with a notorious past.
I doubt whether any self-described conservatives today would want to praise the "regard for self-defense" thunderously claimed by Germany in 1914 and 1939, or the USSR in Hungary (1956) or Czechoslovakia (1968). Nor do I recall the term being used by notable conservative minds such as Burke or Goldwater.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Ephraim, you are out to lunch on a far desert isle.

Chivalry, fencing, and chess are not the issues here. The issue is whether the Bush administration's policy and actions fundamentally reflect some kind of "worldview" consistent with a "half century of conservative thinking and leadership". As outlined above, this is basically a crock. It represents a convenient but unworkable ploy by lazy, self-styled “progressives” to avoid doing their historical homework.

My critiques of the administration are manifestly NOT "based on how they (and many others) define a threat" or how they "define conservatism", or even how they abuse and insult conservatism. My critiques, and those of thousands of liberals, moderates, conservatives, (and atheists, theists, blondes, brunettes, redheads, rednecks, red meat lovers and vegans) are based instead on the Bush's administration's manifest ineptitude, and its arrogant inability to listen to sound advice, admit errors, and get a clue as to the long term interests of the country.

For selfish political reasons -to try to shore up a weak and lackluster presidency, and deflect attention from its manifold screw-ups in failing to prepare for, or even sanely respond to, the biggest disaster ever on American soil- Bush chose to squander the international solidarity which followed 9-11, and to ignore the advice from conservatives and others re going into Iraq multilaterally, and with a realistic and workable long term plan for nation-building (which Bush had said, in an earlier more honest moment that he would not (i.e. could not) do). He and his arrogant, crooked cronies instead sent our young men and women in as cannon fodder, using a non-strategy of winging it, gambling foolishly on some new pro-American "strongman" emerging in Iraq, and committing blunder after blunder to boot. America will being paying the price, for years to come, of having put its foreign policy into the slippery hands of these chickenhawk neophyte phony-imperialists.

Deposing Saddam was an improvement over merely containing him with sanctions, air patrols, and inspections. Doing so in such a grossly incompetent manner as to spawn hundreds of Bin Ladens (Sadrs, etc) in the process is a big long term setback for America's security.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Ephraim, your double negative "lost focus" is lost on me.

As for the (obviously rhetorical) diverse and sundry laundry list of those criticizing Bush for his practical failures rather than his supposed ideology (in my previous comment): This was (I thought not too obscurely) a semi-sarcastic comment reflecting my general disgust at how the American news media in general, and this website, and this article, in particular, are foolishly addicted to the ridiculous practice of trying to jam every public policy question into an archaic and largely useless "liberal vs conservative" or even more semantically stupid "left-right" straitjacket.

To the substance then, of your last comment. In a very roundabout way, you seem to be saying that my criticisms of Bush's foreign policy are weakened by my not describing a clear alternative. Well, I am not giving up my day job to run for president, but as one important element of such an alternative, consider the now jettisoned "Powell Doctrine". As I recall this philosophy (articulated by the then articulate general, who is now an incompetent and disgraced bootlicking Secretary of State) held that America should not go to war without (1) a clear objective, (2) a clear exit strategy, (3) very strong popular support, and (4) using overwhelming force that guaranteed victory. W. Bush in Iraq was not as clear as he could have been on (1), muffed (4) pretty badly (not enough troops to, for example, keep Sadr from getting mortars and the mosque), and all but ignored (2) and (3). His reasons for doing so -beyond his incompetence- were, I think, mainly a forced result of an equally serious shortcoming: no workable strategy for what to do AFTER toppling the Baathists.

Any objective policy analyst worth a damn was saying very clearly in 2002 that it would take years, if not decades, and a massive American commitment in order to not have Iraq revert to something almost as bad if not worse than Saddam, if he were forcibly overthrown by America. A sensible and competent U.S. president following an sensible and pragmatic foreign policy would have (a) exhausted the alternatives to invasion (armed inspections, armed distribution of food and medicine, indigenous rebellion etc.) thereby gaining international support, (b) built a case for invasion on human rights grounds (e.g. Saddam's undisputed past war crimes), (c) anchored a position of regime change in Iraq within a credible overall Mideast strategy, and then (d) either waited for a suitable provocation or delivered a carefully packaged unfulfillable ultimatum. (Read the history books that the C-average history student president failed to read for copious past examples of how to start a war without looking like the bad guy). Under such an approach there would have been at least a decent chance of fulfilling prerequisites (2) and (3) above. With or without Saddam still in power, America would then be safer and stronger internationally for the coming decades than it is with the lasting mess Bush has created.

E. Simon - 8/26/2004

E. Simon - 8/26/2004

Thanks Peter, I appreciate that. This has been engaging.

I think we're getting around to addressing opportunities. Saudi Arabia certainly plays an unhelpful role and occupies an unhelpful position in our foreign policy, but modifying energy policy will take a very long time to effect the changes necessary to provide us the kind of leverage we current lack with Bani Sa'ud. Pakistan, too - a problem area with a large population and a strong infrastructure of terrorist cells, but to some degree this has to do with the too-long institution of Afghanistan as al Qaeda's safe haven, a country with which it shares a very porous border. This set-up applies to both pre-war and post-war situations. Should Musharraf liberalize? I doubt the time is right socially given the internal strength of al Qaeda's sympathizers. Further, you have to place Musharraf's position in the context of Pakistan's political history. Typically military coups are not a good thing, but the previous regime was seen as overly corrupt, in a way in which the current regime is not. Musharraf is arguably our most useful (and helpful) foreign leader in the larger war on terror, and I doubt that any antipathy on his part against political liberalism is deeply-ingrained, ideological or pathological. I think there is just too much power, instability and support for terrorism in the country's religious institutions right now for democratization to set the agenda.

Iraq, for better or for worse, held the opportunity that the previous two examples lacked. The people were ready to junk the regime, and its leader's actions toward us provided the legal rationale that we were ready to capitalize on as a legitimate basis for conflict. (There already was quite a bit of uncondoned and conflagrating activity coming from him against our aircraft in the no-fly zones, and worse). The fall-out from France's untimely withdrawn position, initially supporting use of force (I think this is called a chapter 8) for 1441, was certainly not expected, and Powell the commited diplomat took personally his lost face over the issue. Had it not been for that comparatively tiny technicality there would have never been this row over inconsistencies in our interpretation of international law. By then our military build-up of over 300,000 troops in the gulf had forced Saddam to cave, but we could no longer afford to look the paper tiger willing to build-up troops for such measly ends as allowing the inspections he was obligated to authorize in the first place, despite his prior behavior to the contrary. Someone had to blink first and it wasn't going to be the U.S.

Displaying generosity is certainly an incredibly important aspect of any successful attempt at nation-building. We are becoming better at sorting out the terms with which generosity will apply to the likes of people such as Sadr, for instance, with initial offers of amnesty to be followed by military decapitation should he refuse to reciprocate. In the meantime, this back and forth will afford the general populace an opportunity to learn which political and military actors are truly on their side, and commited to a vision of Iraq that will work best for them. There should be less of a disconnect between our real improvements in infrastructure and the reception with which they've been met - and this is an important point of criticism. However, structural and economic improvements will continue to become more tangible as the polity matures, and oil revenues will make financial assistance obsolete within a few years. Physical improvements in infrastructure are slow, but clearly visible.

I never really bought into the WMD thing. I looked at the political and geopolitical (and [Bush's] personal) picture from the beginning. I realized by fall of 2002 that he was determined to do it and accepted that as long as he was, there were definitely some positive things that could come out of it in the long run. But that doesn't change the fact that France legitimately did (buy the WMD thing), the UK did, the US did, the Israelis did, etc. Certainly the Bush administration, incompetent or not, did not have the power to control multiple foreign intelligence bureaus.

Arnold Shcherban - 8/21/2004

Peter amd Ephraim,

Instead of playing that obsolete (for the whole world
outside the US) partisan blame-game, you, as HISTORIANS, have to admit that the core of the US foreign policy
has always been(and continue being) the strife for world
economic, ideological and political supremacy, sometimes
maskaraded (by the "strategical" interests, national security interests, support for "democracy and human rights", etc.), often in open violation of international laws and agreements, or specifically designed interpretation, i.e. misinterpretation of the latter.
I'm talking about any White House administration, Republican or Democrat, alike, over the last century
of the foreign policy.
This country has never been suspending its strife for
the above mentioned supremacy, and AGAINST DEMOCRATIC
national movements in other regions of the world.

Walter X. McElligott - 8/19/2004

It did not take a poll to show me "Americans have grown increasingly disillusioned with President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq..." Like most people who have awakened to find they have been lied to, not G. W.
Bush personally, but by "the Bush administration’s hubris or mistakes..."
as well as "a failure of... "conservative and neoconservative policies and strategies..." of the Reagan, & both Bush administrations. Most disgusting is that "[p]re-emptive war" would be a post-[s]election centerpiece of the cadre of Bush II puppetmasters.

Was it not embarrassing that 48% of American voters supported the conservative leadership that brought us 9/11/01 & active terrorist acts to our shores. Of course, no one predicted "unilateralism, [&] a disregard for international treaties would bring destruction to so many & so much on a mass scale, but apparently Bush II thought that ignoring the effect on us of the rest of the world's problems would make them go away.
We tried that as kids & closing our eyes did not make us invisible to friends, nor did Bush's ignorance of world events protect us from those who hate us. The result: 3000 dead on 9/11 & nearly 1000 murdered in an unnecessary war wanted by a small number of conservative war mongers. My sympathy goes out to all families ripped asunder by george bush's twisted thinking.

After the 9/11 tragedy, Bush’s Justice Department, under Ashcroft, an ex-GOP senator needing a job we were blessed by "contorted legal interpretations, and the manipulation of intelligence reports... not merely Bush’s efforts, but more than a half century of conservative thinking and leadership..."

Bush & Co. then preached the virtue of "aggressive military strength" as one of the keys to his foreign policy, which included "deep-seated hostility to the United Nations displayed... in the buildup to the Iraq war, [&] an imbedded suspicion of all international alliances and treaties..." Yet, when rank & file soldiers adhered to the (apparently
new) Bush Administration shift in "enforcing... basic agreements as the Geneva Conventions..." they find themselves scapegoats to "questionable legal opinions... leading in no small part to the disgrace at Abu Ghraib...."

Where was the otherwise omnipresent judicial activism that ignored Florida voting irregularities & put Bush II in the White House when the supreme court justices who owe their lifetime appointments to conservative republicans saw the occurrence of obvious "legal manipulation to evade international standards...." Or, was the "clear precedent in conservative thinking... of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative..." sufficient for this court to collectively be adorned with the blindfold worn by Lady Justice?

Hopefully, voters will recognize that the Bush kingdom has outlived its existence, in that both george's seem to have a problem dealing with "intelligence reports that failed to support their contentions..."
whether "Hussein possessed [WMD or] was linked to Al Qaeda..." "[A]ny evidence, no matter how questionable, that supported [Bush's] position was good enough to present to the nation & the world as a truthful reason for America's first 21st century preemptive invasion of another sovereign nation.

In the mid-1970s, ((George H.W.) Bush I as the "CIA Director created an “independent” Team..." that overassessed Soviet capabilities, & "concluded that the Soviet Union had achieved military superiority over the United States..." findings which "became the basis for the massive Reagan-era defense buildup...." If Bush II saw how his father "in the mid-1980s... had wildly overstated Soviet defense spending... [for] the Reagan administration [that] refused to acknowledge the more accurate assessments." We need freedom from the "core conservative belief" now evident in officials who ran both Bush administrations Americans must be able to belive what our president says & not reject out of hand reports arising from the White House rather than the "disastrous missteps and deceptions of the George W. Bush foreign policy team..."
We must discontinue "principles and practices inherent among the dominant... modern American conservatism..." by emptying DC officialdom of "many of the same people... Vice President Richard Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, and others... at the center of the decision-making process."
The "track record, and... broader foreign policy assumptions of the Republican leadership..." have taken America to a "time... to question...the current administration... bedrock philosophy and values... laid bare [by] the shortcomings of the conservative worldview... to reconstruct a viable foreign policy for the post-Iraq era."

Walter X. McElligott

E. Simon - 8/18/2004

Make that "precedent of sorts" in the last paragraph. I am certainly not arguing that this strategy, and certainly not that these tactics, should be necessarily repeated.

E. Simon - 8/18/2004

This is much more substantive. I agree with you on the nearly useless distinction between right and left, or at least the prevailing obsession with which it is pursued in most pedestrian analyses. The Powell doctrine is a tight prescription that can certainly ensure success better than almost any other military recipe, but I think Saddam's monopolizing the international agenda for over a decade speaks to the fluidity between military and political perspectives. Was the first Gulf war a military success? By almost any measure. But the ability of Casa Hussein to monopolize the international agenda for nearly 10 years later by politically exploiting our "containment" of it was indicative of a longer-term political failure. Starving Iraq's children was not gaining us any allies in the regoin where we needed it and was often cited by the rejectionists as proof of why they felt their hatred of us, and acts of terror against us, were justified.

The Iraqi adventure was pursued in a manner that can understandably be criticized as slipshod, without a doubt. Politically and military things don't necessary look all that good right now, I accept that. But I doubt that the medium and long-term picture won't make up for the current shortcomings. As far as the long-term commitment goes, I think it is quite unlikely that things could be worse than before, and much more likely that they will be better. The (un)fortunate thing about the having a guy like Hussein in power for 30 years is people develop a very clear understanding of what they don't want. Internet cafes sprouting up throughout Baghdad are not the answer to everything, and building a functioning democracy doesn't take place overnight, but I believe that the proliferation of vehicles of mass communication and networking are a tremendous boon to accelerating the pace of democratization in any society.

It was hard to predict how to go about the aftermath. Much of it, I'm sure, has been played out as the events developed. But the opposition to the former regime was and remains willing, and they are getting stronger. In contrast to the German and Japanese occupations, we don't have the burden of needing to erase years of brainwashed indoctrination into an unquestioningly accepted nationalist mindset. The overall Mideast strategy which you await (which is commonly understood to employ a significant deviation from denying democracy and stabilizing dictatorships) will be much easier to understand and more clearly pursued once this precedent has been successfully concluded.

E. Simon - 8/17/2004


Both my geographical proximity to, and my serious interest in, the same heavily populated areas shared by other potential American victims of terror, do not prevent me from subjectivizing this discussion to a point of lost focus.

While your anger with regards to Bush's "missteps" I find legitimate, your arguments overall come across as at least as muddled as the policies you derail. Although politics may make for strange bedfellows, I am quite certain that your complaints with Bush do not line up perfectly with every one made by those "thousands of liberals, moderates, conservatives, (and atheists, theists, blondes, brunettes, redheads, rednecks, red meat lovers and vegans)" to whom you refer. "(A)rrogant, crooked cronies" aside, I'm not sure if your response is meant to convey more than rhetoric. If your argument is that the "improvement" made by deposing Saddam has been reversed by creating "hundreds of Bin Ladens (Sadrs, etc)" - [the two are actually NOT the same, and the Bin Ladens are not home-grown but outsiders attempting to vie for influence in a society that doesn't want them and won't accept them], then I would have to disagree. I'm not sure where you're trying to go with the "strongman" thing. Do you honestly think that the current Iraqi government, and its successor(s), will divide and rule according to previous example? Allawi and al Yawer must merely be stronger than the Sadrists in order for them and the people of Iraq to succeed. Or is that too strong for you?

Controlling security during a reconstruction is easier when your adversaries have been decimated in battle - (see WWII). The rejectionists (with whom I'm assuming you don't find common cause) are more numerous *because* the war was won so quickly. Again, I'm not discounting missteps by the administration - (again, you COULD afford to be a little bit more precise in defining them and exploring them fully), but I think this fact, as a principle contributor to the insurgency, is underappreciated.

The solidarity which you so miss was based on having been victimized. If we need 9/11's to gain "international sympathy" then they can take it back. I am not interested in a worldview that uncritically resents the mere use of the power that others lack as a form of arrogance, and conflates the absorption of targetted mass casualties with a necessary humiliation and a precondition for goodwill.

You had me with the last paragraph, Peter. But the previous four, while far from "lackluster," make me wonder exactly what kind of a strategy you're trying to campaign for. I sense some genuine points hidden here and there beneath the speech. A little more prose, perhaps...

E. Simon - 8/17/2004

They lived in a different world where threats were less easily defined. Was this instance, shall we say, a bit "proactive...?" You bet. Much moreso than would have been accepted before. But let's make one thing clear about Hussein: The man was a threat. His presence further destabilized the least stable and most threatening region in the world. Even Clinton believed that all-out conflict with Hussein would ultimately be unavoidable. Your disagreements with the administration are, therefore, based on how they (and many others) define a threat, and not with how they define conservatism.

I'm sure addressing threats before they are acted out may seem less chivalrous vis a vis the traditionally understood concept of defense, but I have trouble accepting the argument that old rules still apply in a post-9/11 world. Before the initiation of conflict, there is such a thing as posture, and we need to take the stance and intents of an adversary as seriously as we would direct actions. Emboldening an adversary's posture with empty words is a bit too risky these days in my view.

So I'd have to put it this way: Chivalry is all fine and dandy -- for fencing. But when your chessboard continues to lose pawns, it's time to throw chivalry out the window and make use of a broader strategy.

E. Simon - 8/16/2004

I would not buy any argument that paints "unconservative" a regard for self-defense in higher esteem than any of the values you mention.