Joe Sobran on War

As I rummaged through my trove of Joe Sobran clippings, I found a lot of gems unrelated to the privacy motif I’ve already discussed. Especially notable is his stance on our middle-eastern policy, in the face of the insults of those who could not refute him.

In chronological order, beginning on 9-11 (where no credit is given, it’s fairly safe to assume

It was predictable. For years I’ve been writing that the U.S. Government has been making more enemies than Americans really need, all over the globe, and that one of these days some of them would have a nasty surprise for us.
In fact it nearly happened a few years ago, when Islamic radicals tried to blow up the World Trade Center. But of course they made a botch of it and got caught.
This time, though, someone pulled off what must have been an extremely cunning conspiracy, a criminal feat for the ages. They managed to execute a secret plan calling for four simultaneous hijackings of airplanes. Those who committed these coordinated deeds — in spite of all security measures — also had the determination to die in hitting their targets.
This wasn’t “terrorism.” This was war. It wasn’t a random attempt to scare people with an arbitrary atrocity, like the bombing of a pizza joint; it was a serious attempt to kill as many people and do as much material damage as possible at two strategic targets, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
But, as I write, hours after the attacks, we don’t know who is at war with us. We may never know. Who has reason to hate this country? Only a few hundred million people — Arabs, Muslims, Serbs, and numerous others whose countries have been hit by U.S. bombers.
Imagine hating a country so much that you were willing to cross an ocean and carry out an elaborate revenge against its people, killing yourself in the process. This is something far more than the sort of ideological anti-Americanism that leads student mobs to throw stones at U.S. embassies abroad; that’s kid stuff. This is an obsessive, fanatical, soul-consuming hatred.
Foreigners aren’t quite real to Americans, and most Americans are unaware of how profoundly their government antagonizes much of the human race. We are easy-going people who generally have no idea how bullying we seem to foreigners. Until now, we have had no experience of what the U.S. Government has so often inflicted on others. Now, at least, we have an inkling of what it feels like.
Government spokesmen have responded with their usual cant of “cowardly attacks” by “terrorists” who “hate democracy and freedom.” Rubbish. A fanatic who is ready to die is the opposite of a coward, and nobody can “hate” such abstractions as “democracy and freedom” with that kind of intensity.
It’s dangerous to belittle your enemy, especially when his courage and cunning have already proved as formidable as his hatred and cruelty. The first question you should ask about your enemy is why he is your enemy in the first place.
You may be deluding and flattering yourself if you assume he hates you for your virtues. But our “leaders” assure us that our enemies are unnaturally evil people who hate us only because we are so wonderful. And they manage to utter this nonsense with an air of tough-minded realism.
True realism, on the other hand, doesn’t mean blaming Americans for bringing these horrifying and truly evil acts on themselves. It does mean trying to imagine alien perspectives from which our government’s conduct might appear so intolerable that some people might be driven to take atrocious revenge.
“To understand all is to forgive all,” says the French aphorism. Not true. But understanding all can at least teach you how to avoid making enemies, and avoiding making enemies is the best defense — better than a $300 billion “defense” budget that didn’t defend the World Trade Center.
The great director Jean Renoir was once asked why there were no villains in his films. He answered simply: “Everyone has his reasons.” Your bitterest enemy may have his reasons for hating your guts. You may not think they are good or sufficient reasons, but you’d better take them into account. If he has any brains, he may find a way to hurt you.
The United States is now a global empire that wants to think of itself as a universal benefactor, and is nonplussed when foreigners don’t see it that way. None of the earlier empires of this world, as far as I know, shared this delusion; the Romans, the Mongols, the British, the Russians and Soviets didn’t expect to rule and to be loved at the same time. Why do we?

The Unknown Enemy, September 11, 2001.

Once again our trillions of dollars’ worth of “defense” has failed to defend us. If someone hates you enough, he will find a way to hurt you.
The destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon didn’t require computers and couldn’t have been prevented by a missile-defense system. No new high-tech gadgetry was involved. The most stunning crime in modern memory seems to have been accomplished with knives and box-cutters.
This was beyond terrorism, or random violence designed to intimidate a civilian population. It was an unprecedented feat of guerrilla warfare, striking at two of the strategic nerve-centers of the American empire. Three jetliners, somehow hijacked simultaneously, wrought the awful damage; a fourth, apparently headed for Washington, crashed (or was shot down) in Pennsylvania. It appears the result of an amazingly well-coordinated conspiracy.
On the morning of the events, a Washington Times headline unconsciously foreshadowed what was to come: “Bush ‘Tilt’ to Israel Provokes Arab World.” This country is so widely hated that we can’t rule out, say, a Serbian plot, but suspicion naturally focuses on the Arab and Islamic world, where anti-Americanism is deep and visceral, and where suicidal attacks are a familiar modus operandi.
President Bush and other government spokesmen pledged swift retaliation. But against whom? The actual killers died with their victims; identifying their sponsors, if any, may be difficult. The political “solution” may be to posit a scapegoat (Osama bin Laden being the leading early candidate for the honor), strike it hard, and claim to have punished the crime, thereby satisfying the popular demand for revenge.
The most strident shrieks for revenge are coming from Israel’s Amen Corner. The New York Post blames “radical Islamic fundamentalism,” which seeks “the annihilation of Western culture” and “world domination,” no less. Charles Krauthammer, Mark Helprin, and Robert Kagan say much the same thing, calling for a declaration of war and a huge military buildup. George Will announces that “Tuesday morning Americans were drawn into the world that Israelis live in every day. . . . [Americans] are targets because of their virtues – principally democracy, and loyalty to those nations which, like Israel, are embattled salients of our virtues in a still-dangerous world.”
Ah yes, we and the Israelis are hated for our good qualities. Our governments have done nothing to provoke hostility. US and Israeli bombings of civilians don’t count as ‘terrorism,’ of course; nor should Iraqis resent sanctions that cause them and their children to die of disease and malnutrition; nor should reasonable Palestinians mind being shot and tyrannized with American-supplied weapons.
Just how could the radical Muslims achieve “world domination” and “annihilate Western culture”? Is there a radical Muslim naval fleet lurking about our coasts? Do radical Muslims inundate us with popular art and propaganda promoting their values? Obviously the real threats, menaces, and aggression are in the other direction. The US government feels entitled to exercise hegemony in the Middle East. The Muslims are defenseless in conventional warfare; which is why they have turned to ingenious guerrilla and terrorist tactics.
This is not to suggest that the astounding atrocities of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were in any way justified. It is merely to point out that for many years the US government has been arousing dangerous passions with its incessant meddling abroad. Why should we make a habit of getting involved in other people’s quarrels? Do we think it will have no serious consequences for ourselves? I hold no brief for scorpions, but if you step on a scorpion you can expect to be stung.
No doubt we could find some of our values at stake in the feud between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but I don’t remember George Will et al. demanding that we take sides there.
Would most Americans have tolerated their government’s foreign policy if they had foreseen that it would eventuate in this week’s horrors? Of course not. Yet those horrors were foreseeable; ever since the 1991 Gulf War I myself have been expecting something like this, if not worse. And, with the development of biological and compact nuclear weapons, worse may still lie ahead. If our military experts could be outsmarted this way, they can be outsmarted in other ways. The smoldering Pentagon is a natural result – and a perfect symbol – of their hubris.
Before you get into a fight, it’s wise to ask yourself if you really need it. You may be justified abstractly, but you may also wind up paying a price you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning, especially if your adversary holds an edge in imagination. And though our enemies may be weaker than we are, they have now proved themselves far more imaginative.
We are hearing the phrase “national security” bandied about, but security is a relative thing. It can never be absolute. And as soon as you make an enemy – that is, someone who wants to hurt you – you become to some extent insecure. Safety can be best attained by staying close to your base and making no more enemies than necessary, which hardly describes US foreign policy.
Older geopolitical thinkers like George Kennan and James Burnham, who disagreed on many matters, at least agreed that US foreign policy should be guided by specific American interests and a concrete sense of the limits of American power. But the striking feature of the arguments of today’s hawks is its abstractness. We should fight “terrorism,” they contend, simply because it is “evil,” no matter where it is. And we should not count costs: defeating “terrorism” is the categorical imperative of foreign policy, a moral absolute. The very existence of “terrorism” proves that our leaders have been guilty of being “soft” on it, not taking it seriously, not facing it with “will” and “resolve.” We shall pay any price, bear any burden; and the price and the burden will include new restrictions on our freedoms. In order to “protect” us, our government will crack down on us.
We have just paid a terrible price for a solipsistic foreign policy. How much more will we insist on paying?

The Blasts,, 9/14/01.

This is a season of patriotism, but also of something that is easily mistaken for patriotism; namely, nationalism. The difference is vital.
G.K. Chesterton once observed that Rudyard Kipling, the great poet of British imperialism, suffered from a “lack of patriotism.” He explained:    “He admires England, but he does not love her; for we admire things with reasons, but love them without reasons. He admires England because she is strong, not because she is English.”
In the same way, many Americans admire America for being strong, not for being American. For them America has to be “the greatest country on earth” in order to be worthy of their devotion. If it were only the 2nd-greatest, or the 19th-greatest, or, heaven forbid, “a 3rd-rate power,” it would be virtually worthless.
This is nationalism, not patriotism. Patriotism is like family love. You love your family just for being your family, not for being “the greatest family on earth” (whatever that might mean) or for being “better” than other families. You don’t feel threatened when other people love their families the same way. On the contrary, you respect their love, and you take comfort in knowing they respect yours. You don’t feel your family is enhanced by feuding with other families.
While patriotism is a form of affection, nationalism, it has often been said, is grounded in resentment and rivalry; it’s often defined by its enemies and traitors, real or supposed. It is militant by nature, and its typical style is belligerent. Patriotism, by contrast, is peaceful until forced to fight.
The patriot differs from the nationalist in this respect too: he can laugh at his country, the way members of a family can laugh at each other’s foibles. Affection takes for granted the imperfection of those it loves; the patriotic Irishman thinks Ireland is hilarious, whereas the Irish nationalist sees nothing to laugh about.
The nationalist has to prove his country is always right. He reduces his country to an idea, a perfect abstraction, rather than a mere home. He may even find the patriot’s irreverent humor annoying.
Patriotism is relaxed. Nationalism is rigid. The patriot may loyally defend his country even when he knows it’s wrong; the nationalist has to insist that he defends his country not because it’s his, but because it’s right. As if he would have defended it even if he hadn’t been born to it!The nationalist talks as if he just “happens,” by sheer accident, to have been a native of the greatest country on earth – in contrast to, say, the pitiful Belgian or Brazilian.
Because the patriot and the nationalist often use the same words, they may not realize that they use those words in very different senses. The American patriot assumes that the nationalist loves this country with an affection like his own, failing to perceive that what the nationalist really loves is an abstraction – “national greatness,” or something like that. The American nationalist, on the other hand, is apt to be suspicious of the patriot, accusing him of insufficient zeal, or even “anti-Americanism.”
When it comes to war, the patriot realizes that the rest of the world can’t be turned into America, because his America is something specific and particular – the memories and traditions that can no more be transplanted than the mountains and the prairies. He seeks only contentment at home, and he is quick to compromise with an enemy. He wants his country to be just strong enough to defend itself.
But the nationalist, who identifies America with abstractions like “freedom” and “democracy,” may think it’s precisely America’s mission to spread those abstractions around the world – to impose them by force, if necessary. In his mind, those abstractions are universal ideals, and they can never be truly “safe” until they exist, unchallenged, everywhere; the world must be made “safe for democracy” by “a war to end all wars.”
We still hear versions of these Wilsonian themes. Any country that refuses to Americanize is “anti-American” – or a “rogue nation.” For the nationalist, war is a welcome opportunity to change the world. This is a recipe for endless war.    In a time of war hysteria, the outraged patriot, feeling his country under attack, may succumb to the seductions of nationalism. This is the danger we face now.

Patriotism or Nationalism?,, 10/31/01.

Liberals used to accuse me of being an extremist radical right-wing superpatriotic cold warrior. I didn’t exactly enjoy having these labels slapped on me, particularly by Mom, but at least I could understand why some people used them. They were a caricature, which is an exaggeration of real features.
Lately, though, I’ve been called some unflattering names by people I used to think of as my fellow conservatives. One, a radio talk-show host, has gone so far as to call me “anti-American.”
How did I go from being superpatriotic to being anti-American, or even, as some have called me, “treasonous”? I haven’t joined the Taliban, endorsed terrorism, waged war against the United States, taken bribes from foreign governments, or sold sensitive military secrets to Chinese or Russian spies. Wherein, then, have I offended?
That’s easy. I haven’t joined in the spirit of primitive patriotism that is expected of us in wartime. In fact I deny that such patriotism deserves to be honored as patriotism.    Discerning anthropologists have enumerated traits by which certain social types may be recognized. You’ve seen the lists: “You may be a redneck if …”
In the same way, I think there are traits by which we can identify an anti-American.
If, for example, you think the U.S. Government should abide by the Constitution even during wartime, you are anti-American. If you think the government should at least declare war before waging it, you are anti-American. If you deprecate a war that hurts and kills innocent people without achieving its stated goals, you are anti-American.
That’s not all. If you judge your own country’s government by the same standards that you apply to other countries’ governments, you are anti-American. If you think America is not immune to the sins that have often afflicted other countries, you are anti-American. If you think our government has made us enemies we don’t need, you are anti-American.
If you think that even America’s “good wars” – the Civil War and World War II – had terribly tragic results for this country and the world, you are anti-American.
America is an extension of Western civilization, one of whose deepest principles is rationality. The Founders of the American Republic established standards, embodied in the Constitution and explained in The Federalist Papers, by which that Republic and its rulers should be judged. They didn’t expect automatic submission to the government; on the contrary, they set down the grounds on which citizens should criticize the government and, if necessary, remove its officers. A true patriot would be a critic, not a serf, of the government.
This whole approach was in deliberate contrast to the principles of absolute monarchism. A loyal American could judge his government wanting, because the people, not their rulers, were sovereign. They would have no sacred ruler set over them in the name of God and claiming divine authority.
But this original sense of measure has been lost. To judge your government by its own supposed criteria – the specific and limited powers named in the Constitution which our officials are sworn to uphold – is disloyalty and treason. Obey, or be damned!
This reversion to primitive authoritarianism would have shocked the authors of the Constitution. But they are more alien to today’s “patriotism” than the Taliban. Today they would be considered anti-American.
Those men assumed that the Constitution would be a constant rein on the Federal Government. It would be used to rebuke any attempted usurpation of power; and for a while, it was. But in times of war especially, the Constitution has proved a frail instrument. During the Civil War, as Paul Craig Roberts recently put it, Abraham Lincoln “exalted the Union above the Constitution.” Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt went much further than Lincoln. All three are now honored as “great presidents.” Those who respected constitutional limitations are said to have been “weak presidents.” And George W. Bush is already being praised, in some “conservative” quarters, as a “great president.”
The question of constitutionality rarely comes up, except in the feeble and marginal whimpers of pseudo-constitutionalists such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which actually favors socialist-style government in most respects. No president has ever been removed for exceeding his powers. President Bush doesn’t even have to worry about that.
So if you consider the ruin of a noble experiment in limited government “Americanism,” just set me down as anti-American.


The hawks got their war, but it came at a heavy cost to America’s image and reputation in the world. As they tell it, France, Germany, and Russia were the petulant spoilers who tried to ruin the party. But this ignores the war’s huge unpopularity nearly everywhere, not so much with governments (which can be bullied and bribed) as with ordinary people. It also ignores the real spoiler: Pope John Paul II, who, in his measured words, made his own opposition to the war very clear.
Robert L. Bartley of the Wall Street Journal couples the Pope with ìthe voices of liberal Protestantism, which “once again finds itself out of step with the pews.” He adds, “The Pope has the same problem, of course.” And he quotes polls to prove it: “62 per cent of both Catholics and mainline Protestants backed the war.”
Bartley forgets to mention one little fact: these are polls of American Catholics, a small fraction of the world’s vast Catholic population. So the Pope is only “out of step” with American pews.
“As for the Iraq war,” Bartley concludes, “what do the Pope and liberal theologians make of the cheering crowds in Baghdad and Saddam’s torture chambers? The president’s success has confounded his critics … Somehow it’s better, I suspect, for a president to talk to God than to talk to pollsters.”
The non sequiturs are running almost too fast to keep up with here. How is the Pope’s moral opposition “confounded” by the war’s success? Did he suggest that the war would be justified if the United States won? Since when is “success” the Christian standard of righteousness?
Note too the implication that the Pope – of all men on earth! – should be attentive to opinion polls, while a president should disregard them (even though they favor him – in the United States, anyway). And now the war is justified by cheering crowds and torture chambers? What about 9/11, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and all the other urgent reasons we were still being given only a few weeks ago?
Ah, success! Americans are rather notorious for measuring all things by the “bitch goddess, success.” If you win, it must mean you deserved to win. America loves success stories, from Reader’s Digest to Business Week to Vanity Fair. You too can be a success! That’s the American gospel.
The Four Gospels tell a different story. They werenít taking polls yet on the first Good Friday, but if they had, Jesus Christ would have been rated a pretty abject failure. He died a miserable criminal’s death, covered with the mob’s spit, and his followers had scattered in fear. It didn’t look like the beginning of the greatest success story in human history.
Unlike the modern CEO, Christ didn’t surround himself with successful men. He chose poor fishermen and despised tax collectors, and he kept company with rather flagrant sinners. The Sermon on the Mount doesn’t read like a modern motivational speech to a roomful of ambitious executives. It wouldn’t do as a think piece in Bartley’s paper.
Ever since, Christians have been taught to be wary of worldly success – indeed, to sympathize with the poor and to glorify the martyr. Bartley implies that President Bush talks to God rather than pollsters, but whom has he surrounded himself with? Big businessmen and, if not tax collectors, men who are eager to spend our taxes, especially on war.
It’s one thing to defend the president on political grounds. Itís another to offer him as a model of the Christian virtues. Only God can judge his heart, but the appearances suggest a man of worldly aptitudes rather than supernatural virtues. When a Christian is praised for “success” in the Wall Street Journal, it may be time for him to take a good look at himself. It’s possible he’s succeeding with the wrong crowd.
Bush is the most famously religious president since Jimmy Carter; yet we know little of his specific religious views, especially as they bear on his foreign policy. As Bartley mentions, about 40 per cent of Americans believe that these are the last days before Christ’s return. Does Bush share this belief, and has it shaped his views on war in the Middle East?
These aren’t nosy questions. Bush’s theology, like the Pope’s, may affect the fate of millions.

Bush, Religion and War,, 5/7/03.

America is still a great country, and it would be cruel to judge it by its patriots. I mean the sort of “patriots” who think the way to express your love for this country is to insult other countries.
The events of 9/11 have brought the nastiest jingoists out of the woodwork, and their most toxic venom has been directed against France for opposing war on Iraq. Now that the war has failed in its express aims, the French are hated worse than ever. After all, they have committed the extremely annoying faux pas of being proved right by events. And as the French proverb says, itís only the truth that really hurts.
Nowhere has Francophobia been more relentlessly childish than in the pseudopatriotic New York Post, where the columnist Ralph Peters has just published his latest tantrum. After a few swipes at the Democrats, he rails against “those, from Paris to Palestine, who hate our freedom, our values, and our success.” He names France’s president, Jacques Chirac, first among “morally bankrupt leaders.” He lumps the French among “Eurotrash” who are “the most notorious sexual predators in the developing world.”
According to Peters, France is “one of America’s ugliest enemies’ and Chirac is “a moral pygmy whose lack of scruples is, fortunately, balanced by a lack of courage and power.” As for Chirac’s call for a “multilateral” policy on Iraq,

Stick it where the bum hid his money, Jackie-boy. It was you and your frog princes who ruthlessly destroyed the possibility of a multilateral approach to dealing with Saddam Hussein by refusing to cooperate in any serious efforts to call the regime in Baghdad to account. It was you and your political pimps who split the Security Council in two, with France nobly defending the rights of dictators to die of old age on the Riviera.

It gets even more rabid. The French are “the parasites in Paris.” They have “never stood for human freedom.” In World War II “they didnít even fight to free themselves.” Their opposition to the American war on Iraq was “reflexive and irrational. They hate us because we’re us.”
So what should we do now? We should “make an example of France for the benefit of those countries that actively strive to frustrate our efforts to spread human rights and freedom. Far from seeking reconciliation with Paris, we should miss no opportunity anywhere, in any sphere, to rub French faces in the merde.”
Peters isn’t through yet.
France should be made to suffer, strategically and financially. The French stabbed us in the back. In response, we should skin them alive.
If today’s America is the new Rome, France is a garbage-dump Carthage. And Carthage needs to be broken….
And we should pursue every possible avenue to reduce American purchase of any goods produced by the French.
Perfidy must be punished. The French, who would be eating sauerkraut for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we hadn’t liberated them, need to have their treachery shoved down their throats.
“First Baghdad, then Paris,” Peters concludes.
Treachery? Perfidy? Stabbing us in the back? The French were quite open about opposing the war – and about resisting the imperial arrogance shown by the Bush administration, an attitude displayed by Peters himself.
Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it? No wonder this country is now feared and loathed around the world. And no wonder more and more Americans are looking for an alternative to George W. Bush.
Not only liberals but conservatives are feeling qualms about the reckless militarism that has passed, far too long, for conservatism. An older and truer breed of conservatism had deep reservations about trying to “spread human rights and freedom” by raw force.
Conservatism is where you find it. When Teddy Kennedy, the archliberal, charged that we were taken to war in Iraq by “fraud,” he was expressing the kind of skepticism about the uses of power we should be hearing from more conservatives. Liberals are also doing the work of conservatives when they denounce the staggering price of this ill-conceived war.
Granted, itís incongruous (and funny) to see liberal Democrats in green eyeshades fretting about budget deficits like yesterday’s Republicans, but that’s two-party politics for you. When one party goes nuts, youíre stuck with the other one. And if Ralph Peters is any indication, the Republicans have gone nuts.

Nutty Patriotism,, 9/25/03

Reading Ronald Reagan’s newly published letters reminds me how much I’ve always liked him, even after I stopped admiring him as a president. He was always a modest, decent, good-humored man, with more common sense and a keener sense of proportion than most politicians. And he loved a good laugh.
But the very qualities that made him charming and convivial underscored the absurdity of entrusting him, or any man, with the awful power of the American presidency. The superlatives his adulators heap on him seem as wide of the mark as the exaggerations of his detractors: he was really quite an ordinary man, and he never pretended to be anything else. He should never have had all that power, but who should? At least it should be in the hands of a man who didnít take himself too seriously and wouldnít abuse it as grossly as most.
He only shocked me once. That was in 1983, shortly after the grisly bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, when he ordered the retaliatory shelling of a village that was said to be a terrorist stronghold. Such an act was bound to kill indiscriminately. It was murder! And the Ronald Reagan I knew wasn’t a murderer! This couldn’t be happening!
But it did happen, and everyone seemed to take it for granted that a president had to “strike back” at terrorism, however wildly, in order to display American “resolve.” It wasn’t murder; it was part of the job description.
I’d first paid attention to Reagan when I was in high school and I heard a recorded speech heíd given, as a spokesman for General Electric, contrasting American free enterprise with Communism. I thought he was terrific. I was delighted a few years later when he went into politics and got elected governor of California.
By the time he ran for president in 1980 I had high hopes for him. I thought he would lead a repeal of all of liberalism’s gains since the New Deal. I didnít stop to reflect that I was thinking like a liberal myself – hoping for a president who would be a messianic leader, a charismatic one-man show.
Well, there have been worse political messiahs. Whatever else he did, Reagan never lost his modest charm. I heard him speak at a few conservative gatherings, and he never failed to bring down the house with a great joke. As a British writer recently observed, Bob Hope couldn’t hold a candle to Reagan as a raconteur. He really brought fun to the White House. I was never prouder than when I heard he’d roared at some of my own jokes.
I was one of his true believers – one of those who cried, “Let Reagan be Reagan!” in the conviction that those weaselly moderate Republican advisors, those disdained “men around the president,” were holding him back from acting like the true conservative he was at heart.
I was bound to be disappointed by his compromises. In time I was so disillusioned with him that I actually made a joke at his expense: “Let someone else be Reagan.” But that wasnít until his second term.
Many principled conservatives saw through Reagan long before I did – if I ever did. He had a way of convincing sentimentalists like me that he shared our passions, despite any appearances to the contrary. I was a sucker for him, and maybe I still am. I think I know better now, but I’m not entirely sure.
Strange, the way some men can make you want to believe in them. Whatever that quality is, Reagan had it. At one time, about half my friends were Reagan speechwriters, and every one of them worshipped him. They’re still writing loving books about him.
That was my generation. We’ll never feel that way about another politician. Maybe you can be pardoned for getting carried away like that once in your life, but in any case it canít happen twice.
If you’re really wise, it won’t even happen to you once. The U.S. Constitution defines the presidentís duties very narrowly, and they don’t include running the economy, bombing villages, or even telling great jokes.
Reagan wasn’t a great president. “Great” presidents, as usually conceived, are unconstitutional. I like to think Reagan understood this. At least I’m pretty sure he was the last president who even glanced at the Constitution once in a while.

Looking Back at Reagan,, 10/2/03. (The third paragraph is the only one focused on war, but it’s focused powerfully.)

If you care to know, I agree with essentially every sentiment of Sobran that I’ve just quoted.