No one who says of the children of America’s enemy that they have been “degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food,” or, in order to survive, they’ve had to busy themselves with “selling their sisters” and “soliciting for their mothers” to our soldiers can ever be thought to support the troops. No one who describes the “business” of our troops as “burning human beings” and “of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane,” can possibly be said to be supporting them, right?
Now for the punch line: None of the foregoing quotations from high profile libertarians are actually from any libertarian. They derive, rather, from a single speech—“Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”—delivered on April 30, 1967, from none other than Martin Luther King, Jr.
Was King an “isolationist,” naïve, unpatriotic, and unconscionably nonchalant regarding matters of national security? Was he the “traitor” that neoconservatives accuse Edward Snowden of being? Did he provide “aid and comfort” to America’s enemies?
Maybe he was or wasn’t any of these things. The point, though, is that consistency demands of neoconservatives that they answer these questions in the affirmative, for not only did King use his tremendous influence on the world scene—an influence not a fraction of which any libertarian today can claim to have—to call for an end to the Vietnam War; this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize made the harshest of charges, certainly harsher than any that Ron Paul ever would’ve considered making, against his own country.
Yet this MLK Day, like every other, neoconservatives on talk radio, Fox News, and beyond lavished unadulterated praise upon this man of the hard left, a man, mind you, who was upset, not that America was expending astronomical resources in Vietnam, but that it wasn’t spending these resources waging “war” on poverty at home.
Meanwhile, libertarians who, rightly or wrongly, really do stand for the “limited government” that neoconservatives claim to prize as well, continue to arouse the ire of the latter.
It is time for those of us in “the conservative movement” to take seriously the identity issues of our party.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.