Wolves in Sheep's Clothing


A Conservative’s Lament


     The following article by Paul Weyrich -- his unabashed yearning for a Parliamentary form of government for America -- will not come as a surprise if the reader is aware that Weyrich was founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  It has been said that ALEC was organized for conservative State Legislators as an alternative to the more liberal National Council of State Legislators (NCSL), an adjunct of the National-International Council of State Governments.  Suffice it to say that ALEC has been, since its inception, one of the most rabid proponents and effective lobbyist for a state-driven Constitutional Convention call.  If American's are to survive as a free people, we must understand the myriad non-governmental organizations, such as the CSG, NCSL, and NGA.

A Conservative’s Lament
After Iran, We Need to Change Our System and Grand Strategy

By: Paul M. Weyrich
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 8, 1987 B-5

     As PROPONENTS of a strong foreign policy and defense, conservatives have a special responsibility. Our advocacy brings with it the burden of doing the job competently. We must be leaders in thinking deeply and carefully about America’s role in the world, about relating goals to means and about our national strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and constraints they impose. If we fail to do this, we lose our legitimacy as advocates.

     In the Iran-contra mess, conservatives have failed. Obviously, they failed in the way the matter was handled. But the failure is really much more profound than that. The scandal is not a disease, but a symptom. It is a symptom of some underlying contradictions in our national strategy and national institutions.

     Conservatives should have identified and addressed these long ago, but we did not. Now, conservative leaders seem to be looking little if at all beyond the details of the scandal – and how to distance themselves from it. That merely compounds the failure.

     Instead, as conservatives, we should be taking the lead in looking for the roots of the crisis. There are three.

     First, our national strategy is outdated, dysfunctional and insupportable. Essentially it is still containment, a strategy developed in the late 1940s. It was an arguable strategy even then. But at least we had the power to carry it out. We had only one rival: the Soviet Union. Europe and Asia were both power vacuums. We moved to fill those vacuums, lest the Soviets do so.

     Today, the situation is vastly different. Europe, Asia and the Middle East are power centers, not vacuums. The concept of a superpower is waning rapidly. The world includes many other forces – China, Islamic nationalism, Polish Catholicism – which are more powerful locally than either the United States or the Soviet Union.

     In pursuit of containment, we still thrust ourself into everything that happens around the world. But what we put forward, increasingly, is weakness, not strength. In a world where we control far less of the total sum of power than we did forty years ago, we cannot do other-wise. The real strength is no longer there. We are propping up a hollow facade, vast commitments unsupported by either capabilities or popular will. So we stumble from failure to failure; in Southeast Asia, in Iran, in Lebanon and now in the Iran-contra mess.

     It is time for a new national grand strategy. Nothing less will address the real problem. Conservatives have a responsibility to take the lead in developing one.

     Second, there is a basic contradiction between the structure of our government and our role as a great power. Our government was designed not to play great-power politics but to preserve domestic liberty. To that end – at which it has been remarkably successful – it was structured so as to make decisions difficult. Separation of powers, congressional checks on executive authority, the primacy of law over raison d’tat – all of these were intentionally built into our system. The Founding Fathers knew a nation, with such a government could not play the role of great power. They had no such ambition for us – quite the contrary.

     For about 20 years after World War II, we were able to act as a great power without running into this contradiction. We could do so because we had only one serious rival, and even over that rival, our superiority was immense. Now, we have to play on a much more crowded and competitive field. Our institutions are not adequate to the game. If the executive does what it must in the international arena, it violates the domestic rules. If the Congress enforces those rules, as it is supposed to do, it cripples us internationally.

     Since Watergate, some 140 measures have been passed by Congress to restrict the president’s power to conduct foreign policy.

     Third, our current system institutionalizes amateurism. Unlike European parliamentary democracies, we have no "shadow cabinet", no group of experts who are groomed by their party for decades before they take high office. Our presidents can be peanut farmers or Hollywood actors. They can choose their top advisors either from among "professionals" who may not share their goals or supporters who often have no background or expertise in policy. Either way, they lose, and so does the country.

     The current crisis could not make the point better; our foreign policy was set by an admiral and a Marine lieutenant colonel, neither of whom had any background in the field. The resulting failure is not their fault. The system by which they were chosen is defective.

     If we are going to be a serious nation, we need a serious system for selecting our leaders and advisors. We need some type of shadow government, in which leaders and top advisors can be identified and developed, and through which our politics can be better focused on policy choices. The world is a professional league, and we cannot win fielding amateur teams.

     If the crisis leads us to get at the systemic problems it manifests, it will, on the whole, have been a good thing. But that is not what we are doing. We are letting ourselves be captured by the symptoms and ignoring the disease.

     We – especially conservatives – owe the country something better. On foreign policy and the institutions that make it, it is a time for us to show some leadership — or give it over to someone who can do a better job.

----- End article -----

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.

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