I've always felt an affinity with conservatives. At the heart of any true-blue conservative is an idealist who essentially believes in the same principles of justice and individual freedom that I do. I enjoy discussions with thinking conservatives because I think it is useful to have my liberal notions challenged and tested.
In a Harper's essay a few months back called "The Case for Liberalism: A Defense of the Future Against the Past" (couldn't find it online update: PDF is here), George McGovern made a strong argument that every major social advance of the past century has been made by liberals struggling against conservative opposition. But he gave props to the conservatives, too. The social advances worked partly because conservatives were there as a check, testing the ideas before they were put into place.
Reason is good. I like reason. As Frederick Douglass said, "Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason."
Part of what distresses me about this war is that a reasonable discussion of its pros and cons is of little interest to many of its most powerful proponents. George W. Bush is famously opposed to intellectualism and has stated on many occasions that he makes decisions based on gut instinct.
A conservative who exited the Administration in frustration, speechwriter David Frum, says George W. Bush is "a good man who is not a weak man. He is impatient, quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed." Frum is partly the source of the phrase "axis of evil."
Although war advocates may disagree, I think it matters deeply how this nation's foreign policy is determined. Not just what the policy is, but how it comes to be. The method by which the United States chooses a policy or an action can matter as much as the policy or action itself. It can be the difference between going to war against Iraq with a world united, or going to war against Iraq with our former friends deeply suspicious of us and no doubt making plans for when they will find themselves declared enemies of U.S. power.
The way this Administration arrives at its foreign-policy conclusions should frighten anyone who thinks reason should be involved. Hendrick Hertzberg wrote in the New Yorker, about speechwriter Frum and "axis of evil":