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De-Based Conservative 

by Robert Stokes & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & y first conservative hero was William F. Buckley. I was 12 when he launched The National Review in 1955. I have read that journal and Buckley's writing ever since. As I learned more about conservatism, I realized my childhood attachment was part of a much larger movement within my (now graying) generation.

During the cold war, Buckley had the courage to face reality while retaining principle. Questioned about the implications of deterring Soviet expansion with nuclear weapons, he said, "We do what we must do -- if we die, we die."

I don't remember exactly when he said that. But it had particular impact because I was then one of the doers. My little part in the Cold War was that of a junior officer in the U.S. Army Special (nuclear) Ammunition Support Command. We were the other end of the President's "nuclear button."

My list of conservative heroes has shortened since then, especially since 9/11 and the Iraq war. Writers I once respected for independence of thought and principle turned out to be toadies to presidential power, Republican hack politics, and the brainless paranoia and jingoism of the post-9/11 American public. Robert Novak and William Kristol come immediately to mind, but there are many others.

My hopes for conservatism hit rock bottom when presidential political advisor Karl Rove announced (almost casually) that he intended to run George Bush as the "Warrior President." We all remember the sickening campaign that followed, made worse by John Kerry's pandering to the same base public impulses.

Spring is here and my hero is back. I quote William F. Buckley Jr. on the Iraq war.

& lockquote & "Mr. Bush['s] ... challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy ... [He must] ... face the current development as military leaders are expected to. ...They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies ... different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat." & lockquote &

For Buckley's commentary, visit

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