We Don’t Want To Fight, But By Jingo If We Do….

CPAC’s under way, and the undercard stars are getting their moment. I just decided to check in on the PBS livestream of the event, and quickly heard the end of the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland’s presentation, a pretty classic “Fortress America” pitch focused on documenting that all the horrors of the welfare state were first implemented in times of war.

Next up, Rep. Louie Gohmert launched into a “Kill ‘Em All and Let God Sort ‘Em Out” analysis of U.S. defense policy, beginning with the claim that America could have won the Vietnam War if the generals hadn’t been stabbed in the back by godless liberals back home.

Who says the conservative movement’s not a big tent?

I’m reminded of the old British music hall tune from the Russo-Turkish War:

We don’t want to fight
But by Jingo if we do
We’ve got the ships
We’ve got the men
We’ve got the money, too!

More recently, Metallica offered the same POV in an American context in “Don’t Tread On Me:”

Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail
Never begins it, never, but once engaged…
Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage

These tunes probably get closer to how conservatives think of their national security impulses these days than any neocon manifestos, so long as you understand that “provoking” the U.S. sometimes just involves minding your own business in a way that conservatives don’t like.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.