When the average Mark Levin listener hears the phrases “national defense” or “national security,” he naturally thinks of current U.S. foreign policy, automatically assuming that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops stationed all over the world are not unnecessary occupations or imperialism as some claim, but very necessary defensive measures of the American homeland. That this might be a bizarre way of looking at the world, and that many conservatives have said so—including giants like Russell Kirk whom Levin cites—is something the reader will never know. One even wonders if Levin knows. And Levin gives the impression that global American empire, not merely a republic in which “each state was free to act on its own,” had been the Founders intention from the beginning.
In his attempt to create a conservative defense for policing the world, Levin promotes neoconservative utopianism and imperialism by denouncing any attempts to pursue utopianism or imperialism. Confused? On the Iraq War Levin writes:
The key is that these decisions must never be motivated by utopianism or imperialism but by actual circumstances requiring the defense of America against real threats. If the war in Iraq is understood as an effort to defeat a hostile regime that threatened both America’s allies and interests in the region, the war and the subsequent attempts at democratic governance in that country can be justified as consistent with founding and conservative principles.
As for the utopian motives for invading Iraq, apparently Levin had forgot about Bush’s many “spreading democracy” speeches or the president’s seeming comfort that “hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror… bringing hope to the oppressed.” I certainly don’t remember Levin criticizing or warning of Bush’s utopianism, even for a war Levin now claims to have supported on non-utopian grounds. I have also heard Levin use similar, utopian language himself, usually in the midst of a heated pro-war rant.
As for imperialism, the subtext to Levin’s argument that “if the war in Iraq is understood as an effort” of actual defense against “real threats,” then virtually any possible future preemptive military action could qualify as “defense.” The talk radio host’s refusal to even reexamine whether Saddam Hussein was ever an actual threat is a curse that continues to plague the mainstream Right—due in large part to the glaring blindness of men like Levin. Writes The National Interest’s Jacob Heilbrunn: “the Bush administration and the neoconservatives and liberal hawks who supported the invasion didn’t just get it wrong. They got it exactly backwards. In every way possible and then some, they invented a threat that simply did not exist.”
If the obvious disaster of Iraq isn’t enough to reexamine one’s hawkish, foreign policy views, then what is? The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison’s indictment of conservatives who refuse to learn from the foreign policy mistakes of the past is custom made Levin: “Among the mainstream right, the foreign policy of the Bush administration is barely a subject of debate. Rather than reorienting Republican foreign policy towards a political center defined by realism, humility and restraint, the GOP’s leadership and activists have redoubled their commitment to Bush and Cheney’s hawkish stances and to a lock-step defense of the Bush administration’s policies.”