Two very important articles have appeared today. The first should be read by every Republican candidate, and every conservative who is involved in politics. In today’s Wall Street Journal, the Hoover Institute’s Peter Berkowitz writes about the need to compromise in politics, while remaining true to core principles. Contrary to Rush Limbaugh, who argues that those who compromise are “losers,” Berkowitz argues that “The notion of conservative purity is a myth. The great mission of American conservatism—securing the conditions under which liberty flourishes—has always depended on the weaving together of imperfectly compatible principles and applying them to an evolving and elusive political landscape.”
While everyone claims to be a Reaganite, Berkowitz shows how Reagan, still the no.1 conservative President in our recent past, often offered “strong words but restrained action.” This is practicing politics as the art of the possible, not as a sport in which one simply wins or loses. That means, as Rep. Paul Ryan acknowledges, maintaining a strong social safety net—not running on the dismantling of Social Security.
Berkowitz’s title says it all: “The Myth of Conservative Purity.”
The other essential article appears at The City Journal website, and is co-authored by Fred Siegel and Sol Stern. Titled “Naming the 9/11 Enemy,” Siegel and Stern argue that the coming 9/11 anniversary should be used to “reflect on the source of most terrorism today: revolutionary Islamism.” The problem, they point out, is that “Americans have shied away from the implications of the historic struggle between the West and the political cultures that produced jihadism for 1,000 years before the United States was created.”
Instead, we deny facing the mindset of those who are Islamists, and who believe in a fanatical ideology which is quite different than that of the Soviets in the old era of the Cold War. The leaders of the old Soviet Union had a reason to want to avoid the physical destruction of their country, while Islam, the authors write, “is not a ‘secular religion’ as was Communism, but a religion recognized as legitimate by the Prophet’s devotees. Believers will not be persuaded by criticism, like that directed at the Soviets, about the failure to deliver material prosperity.”
They warn that we cannot view the Islamic world through our own terms, but we must take it on theirs. So heed their conclusion:
A timeless, extremist ideology based on a holy text; true believers’ resentment of the West; the easy availability of powerful weaponry to networked warriors—these realities will keep Americans guarding the ramparts for decades to come.