Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism Hardcover – Apr 15 2008
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"Here begins the effort to restore a principled conservatism after the havoc wreaked by George W. Bush. Bill Kauffman is a terrific writer and Ain't My America is a terrific—and essential—book."—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism
"This is my kind of book: historically grounded, fiercely honest, and wonderfully expressed. It is one of the best books I’ve read in years. Bill Kauffman is a conservative of the highest order, unlike the false brand now conducting our national affairs."—George McGovern
"You don't have to be a liberal, a progressive, or a socialist to oppose war and imperialism. Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America is a must read for those free-marketers, right wingers and conservatives who want to live in peace with the world. Regardless of your politics, if you are against wars of aggression and would like to try something other than bombing our way out of our problems, you will profit from this lively book."—Nicholas von Hoffman, author of Hoax: Why Americans are Suckered by White House Lies
"For those who have been neoconned into believing that conservatism means unquestioned support for the warfare state, Ain’t My America is the perfect way to show that real conservatives defend peace and liberty."—Ron Paul
About the Author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I wish I'd written this book.
"Ain't My America" is not simply one of the number of books coming out these days calling on the GOP to resuscitate its ancient dedication to peace, economy, and small government. Admirable as those books are, "Ain't My America" has a much larger scope, and Bill Kauffman a much more ambitious brief: the dismantling of empire, the rediscovery of community, and the rebirth of the patriotism of home, family, and locality.
It's, frankly, an unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable message. As the son of a navy family, I found myself strangely moved by Kauffman's description of the toll the unrooted military-family lifestyle has on marriages and children -- and while I admit to never having quite thought of it this way before, I find myself in absolute agreement with his contention that "family-values conservatives" should be the strongest opponents of war and militarism, precisely because of the impact those forces have on families and children. Once you accept that, it's hard to deny the author's contention that George W. Bush "is, by policy, the most antifamily president in American history" (p. 216).
And that's just one of the powerful arguments Kauffman presents. It definitely makes we want to track down his other books at the earliest opportunity. So too does his impressive skill as a writer. I particularly enjoyed his facility with the unusual vocabulary word -- though I noted with some disappointment that the flair for this he showed in the introduction and early chapters dissipated somewhat as the book progressed. Souvenirs I carry with me from the first few pages alone include "nescience," "temerarious," "gleet," "omnifariousness," "atrabilious," and "mingy," plus "fossicking about in tramontane sinkholes" and the frankly delightful "the dashing if dotty Samuel F.B. Morse."
As "conservative" pundits and politicians bang the war drums and sing songs in praise of empire, I've been wondering more and more if they would still love America if we weren't a -- even the -- global powerhouse. I suspect they would not, and that Bill Kauffman's vision of a "little America" is one they not only couldn't accept, they might not even be able to imagine it. It ain't their America. But more and more, "unrooted" as I admit to being, I'm coming to think it's mine.
I loved this book and am amazed at the quality and prolific nature of this writer, what do they put in the water in Batavia? A minor quibble would be parts of chapter five. While interesting and well written, the criticism of space program (certainly a major budgetary boondoggle) doesn't quite seem to fit the overall theme of the book.
I feel that I have been introduced to a whole new crew of All-American heroes. I knew something about the eccentric John Randolph of Roanoke, but have a newfound respect for the portly anti-colonialist Grover Cleveland and, who would have thought it, the much maligned George McGovern.
The historian James Martin was once interviewed. Although usually labelled a 'revisionist' Martin preferred to see himself as an 'additionist', remembering what the other books leave out. Kauffman too has delivered a worthy additionist effort.
This is a passionately partisan and in many ways joyous book. Kauffman introduces a grand selection of characters, not all, but most of them heroic, making a stand for peace and the defense of the old constitutional republic against the many faces of Mars.
Kauffman's shows the great western tradition of American neutralism that crosses party and generational boundaries. George McGovern (Dem.) of South Dakota and North Dakota's Senator Nye (Rep.), the pre-WW2 champion of the Neutrality Acts, both share common roots deep in the American heartland. He explores the careers of Robert Taft and Howard Buffett, of Students for a Democratic Society's Carl Oglesby (who dreamed of a New Left / Old Right alliance against the Vietnam War, before the Marxists threw him out), the Anti-Imperialist League of the late 19th century and Bob Dylan, amongst a phalanx of antiwar artists and writers, more often than not agrarians. He reminds us of the antiwar writings of Robert Nisbet, perhaps postwar America's leading sociologist, certainly leading conservative sociologist, who penned a radical critique of the impact of war as the progenitor of many of the ills of modern society. And he gives exposure to the great postwar critic, Felix Morley, as well as William Appleman Williams.
Kauffman's writing style owes much to the gonzo style and "Rolling Stone" than academe, however his book is lovingly researched and sufficiently referenced to allow interested readers to dig into more conventional scholarly works and original authors on their own.
The tradition Kauffman embraces is actually too large to fit into a single volume. He doesn't explore the great polemic against the arms trade H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen's "The Merchants of Death" that was influential post-WW1 or how Hanighen went on to edit the conservative digest "Human Events". He doesn't explore early and perceptive critiques of the Vietnam War by right wing conspiracy theorist Dan Smoot, Oswald Garrison Villard (who helped found the NAACP) nor the work of the writer Louis Bromfield, an right wing isolationist who (unusually) regulary rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood set in the forties . Still Kauffman has done a remarkable job for one volume.
My main complaint is small. As someone who reads on my daily commute that the chapters do sometimes seem a tad long, I would have preferred more and shorter chapters. Highly recommended.
From the author: "Ignore the neoconservative gleet about America being the world policeman. Neutrality, abstention from foreign quarrels, minding our own business- these, and not the perpetual war in service of American Empire, are our birthright."
He was particularly harsh in assessing the actions of former presidents Wilson and Truman. And rightfully so. Consider the incarceration of vocal dissenters of WWI under Wilson and Truman's unconstitutional power grab in embroiling us in Korea.
Mr. Kaufmann provides some information on the America First Committee, and some of it's prominent members and donors.
Most books that I have read about the real conservative movement in America cover the Republican party. Mr. Kaufmann effectively demonstrates that anti-imperialism and anti-war positions cross party lines. George McGovern is a prime example!
He quotes Robert Taft's January 5, 1951 speech to Congress.An excerpt from the speech that has proven timeless is this - "The principle purpose of the foreign policy of the United States is to maintain the liberty of our people. It's purpose is not to reform the entire world or spread sweetness, and light and economic prosperity to peoples who have lived and worked out their own salvation for centuries, according to their customs, and to the best of their abilities."
An interesting tidbit was the information on Nebraska Representative Howard Buffett. He had a libertarian stance and he was Warren Buffett's father. Mr. Buffett had connections to Robert Taft and Murray Rothbard.
I hadn't heard of T. Coleman Andrews before reading this book. He had served as Commissioner of the IRS from 1953-1955 and resigned his post due to his opposition to the income tax. After his resignation he suggested "that every person who gets a tax return receives a copy of the Communist Manifesto with it so he can see what is happening to him."
Bill Kaufmann covers a lot of conservative political figures through American history with wit and some humor. This is a worthy read on the history of those holding the original conservative ideals.
Kaufmann's 238-page essay is call to "come back home" to small-town America and the revive the county fairs, the hot dog cookouts and the mom ad pop stores. I am afraid though that those days are gone. We now live in a omnipresent state with force-fed Lady Gaga corporatism shoved down our throats. The sources are well-footnoted and the book contains a nice index, but no bibliography. A recommended read to help lead us back to "normalcy."
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