I do not like calling myself a “conservative” for a number of reasons, none of which have anything to do with my political inclinations. I believe in the Second Amendment, states’ rights, small government, low taxes, and sealing our borders. I oppose affirmative action, would allow prayer in public schools, and don’t know of a location in the entire United States where a Confederate flag wouldn’t brighten up the place. I love this country and want to conserve its traditional character, for myself and generations to come.

Which is exactly why I oppose our war in Iraq. Despite what his cheerleaders say, President George W. Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war is not only a radical departure from traditional American foreign policy, but it is a radical departure from American conservatism as it has been defined throughout history.

When President George Washington warned of the dangers of becoming involved in “foreign entanglements,” he was simply the first in a long line of conservative statesmen to make this case. In the early 20th century, when Democratic President Woodrow Wilson began promoting the notion that the United States should spread democracy worldwide, he was considered a starry-eyed liberal. It was conservatives who opposed him, believing that a republic could not afford a global empire.

When Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt extended America’s foreign policy and military further than Wilson. Even Gen. Dwight Eisenhower found it troubling. FDR’s most vocal critic, Sen. Robert Taft wrote that we should choose “war only as the last resort” and that those “who talk about an American century in which America will dominate the world … assume a moral leadership in the world to solve all the troubles of mankind.” Taft was widely known in the 1950s as “Mr. Republican.”

On the intellectual side, virtually every conservative writer in the 1940s and ’50s considered war a last resort that should be avoided at all costs. Take what Russell Kirk, the man many cite as the founding father of the conservative intellectual movement, said about the first President Bush and the Persian Gulf War in 1991: “Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson were enthusiasts for American domination of the world. Now George Bush appears to be emulating those eminent Democrats. In general, Republicans throughout the 20th century have been advocates of prudence and restraint in the conduct of foreign affairs.”

So what happened? Many argue that the world has changed since then, and they would be correct. What used to be considered utopian liberalism, using the U.S. military as the world’s policeman and promoting global democracy at the point of a gun, is now conservative doctrine.

Even as Ronald Reagan was calling the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire,” he met with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, shook his hand, and held diplomatic relations. In the eyes of today’s Republican Party, this would be seen as “appeasing” the enemy and would make Reagan a “liberal loony” on par with Barack Obama.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, certainly created a different world in which Islamic terrorism is viewed as a serious threat. So what did we do? We invaded Iraq, a country that never attacked us, posed no threat, and whose secular dictator was considered an infidel by radical Islamists.

Of all the Republicans currently running for president, only one opposed the war in Iraq, yet voted to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan, and believes our military should be hunting for Osama Bin Laden right now — Ron Paul. Unlike President Bush and every other Republican presidential candidate, Paul, as a pragmatic conservative realist, doesn’t want to go to war with the entire Middle East — he only wants to go to war with al-Qaida. Rudy Giuliani’s a “conservative?” Mitt Romney? Fred Thompson? I don’t think so.

To listen to talk radio, support for the president’s failed war isn’t a question for debate — but a command. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and their followers march in lockstep with Bush’s Republican Party, blindly supporting what some consider the worst foreign policy disaster in American history, all under the guise of conservatism.

Unless a Ron Paul or a Pat Buchanan or some other real conservative can take the movement back to its roots, I cannot in good conscience call myself a conservative. It’s not only inaccurate, but given the current bastardized definition, it repulses me.

Let Islam be Islam, let America be America. If Islam acts up, take out those acting up. Trying to turn entire Muslim nations into Western democracies is not only impossible, but it will only increase terrorism both here and abroad, as it already has.

What do you know? When it comes to the dangers of “foreign entanglements,” it seems that crazy, liberal George Washington was right after all.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.