»  The American Conservative

December 6th, 2004

  Security Begins at Home

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[Note: This was my contribution to a colloquium in the post-election issue of TAC, responding to the editor's question: How would you advise President Bush to proceed in his second term, if you had his attention.]

Dear Mr. President:

You have won a splendid victory. As Charles Moore noted in the London Daily Telegraph, what happened on November 2 was "the biggest vote ever cast for a conservative in the history of the world." There are, of course, some on our side of the aisle who doubt whether you can properly be called a conservative at all. You have broken a lot of conservative hearts this past four years. From what I know of your character, I doubt the next four years will leave us in a much happier frame of mind. We can hope, though. Here is my personal hope list.

Get out of Iraq.  I supported the Iraq war, and I do not regret my support. September 11 showed that the civilized world is in peril from fanatical terrorist groups with access to government-scale resources in barbarous nations. It is unlikely we can eliminate terrorism altogether (as you yourself confessed in an unguarded moment during the campaign); but we can deny the terrorists government-scale resources by bringing down or intimidating likely governments and smashing up the resources. Iraq was a good start. I am sure we shall need to do more of this work. "Nation-building" is a liberal fantasy, though. The best we can hope for in Iraq is a despotic government that is not anti-American; or for continuing chaos in which no government can build threatening resources; or for fragmentation into small, impotent statelets. A swift departure soon, accompanied by suitably ferocious rearguard actions and properly brazen refusals to apologize or compensate, would bring about one or other of these results.

Change minds abroad.  We have learned this past year and a half, those of us who did not know it already, that the United Nations is an embezzlers' club, the European Union is a discussion and dining group for failed politicians, and rabid anti-Americanism is the normal daily cast of mind for several billion people. This is not good. The civilized world needs to present a more united front to the forces of barbarism. It ought not be beyond the wit and powers of a U.S. administration to devise ways to turn important foreign nations more to our way of thinking without abasing ourselves before their fantasies of superior wisdom or truckling to thieves, fools, and pacifists. There is some promising material you might work with out there. Think of India, Turkey, Russia; think of the Anglosphere.

Face up to the entitlements crunch.  It will soon be upon us; you have read all about it. The longer we wait, the more dire the situation will become. You don't have to look to re-election now, so you are better placed to administer painful medicine. Let it not be said, twenty years from now: "This awful fiscal calamity could have been prevented if the second Bush administration had acted."

Enforce the immigration laws, or ask Congress to change them.  If it is true (which I do not actually believe) that the U.S. needs several million unskilled workers from abroad, propose immigration laws that acknowledge that fact, and execute a policy that administers those laws in a strict and orderly way. If it is not true, instruct your officers to enforce the current laws, especially those that forbid employers to hire illegal immigrants. The greatest outrage in America's public life today is the wilful refusal of our federal executive to enforce the people's laws. Oh, and have the federal courts look at the "jurisdiction" clause in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. "Obstetric tourism" is a much lesser outrage than the other, but it is still an insult to U.S. citizenship.