Tony Blankley, author of the compelling The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?, has recently published a new “mainfesto.” It is called American Grit: What it Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century.
American Grit makes the case for a new American Nationalism. Explaining the relationship between this nationalism and his conservatism, Blankley writes:
What I have come to realize is that whether it is on issues of trade, legal theory, war fighting, economics, the environment, educational practices, energy production, or foreign policy — while I usually fall upon conservative policy prescriptions, my motive is this: What will help America? What will make her strong and safe? My first objective is no longer to find the policy that best fits my definition of conservative, but rather to find the surest path to protecting my country. Usually they coincide — but not always.
Having identified this core principle (and I can’t think of a better one), Blankley proceeds to set forth the policy prescriptions he believes follow from it. They include reinstating the draft (a bad idea in my view, even as measured against his core principle); moving decisively towards energy independence, mainly through drilling and the use of nuclear energy; enacting stricter laws to guard our national security secrets; teaching patriotism; and defending American law (and hence our sovereignty and, in fact, our democracy) against “internationalist” claims.
Blankley also advocates a foreign policy of “pragmatic internationalism,” which “accepts that we have a vital role to play in international affairs but always puts American interests first.” This means “acknowledging that foreign policy should not function as a means fundamentally to change he world.” Thus, “while democratization may be a good long-term strategy to drain the terrorist swamp,” we “cannot get so swept up in our rhetoric of freedom that we lose the ability to make necesary compromises and cooperate with unsavory regimes.”
American Grit joins David Frum’s Comeback as a key early contribution to the project of rethinking conservatism. Unlike Frum’s book, Blankley does not defend his core principle or his policy prescriptions by any reference to electoral politics. In my view, however, a responsible American Nationalism makes political as well as intellectual sense.
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