Bacevich compiles a rich menu. So rich, however, that 'conservatism' comes close to being a classification that no longer classifies ... Regarding religion, Bacevich has assembled excellent samples of conservative reflection about, and resistance to, the disenchantment of Americans’ world ... The anthologist’s occupational hazard is to be faulted because of some writers included and others excluded...Bacevich offers nothing from Calvin Coolidge’s luminous address on the sesquicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. Or from The Moral Sense, by James Q. Wilson, the pre-eminent social scientist of the last half of the previous century. Or from the Nobel laureate George Stigler, whose essay The Intellectual and the Marketplace would have leavened Bacevich’s book with something it lacks: wittiness ... The book’s most disappointing lacuna concerns jurisprudence...Yet the only snippet of jurisprudential thinking that Bacevich includes is from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges ... The volume is, however, a nourishing cafeteria of writers, many of them justly forgotten but still interesting because they once were interesting.
... speedy machines and lifted taboos and disenchantment long predate 1900. In fact, there is no obvious reason to trace this 'tradition' back to the turn of the 20th century rather than to either John Adams, the nation’s first great conservative, or to the founding of National Review magazine in 1955 or, perhaps, to the publication of Whittaker Chambers’s great memoir, Witness, in 1952 ... This is not, alas, a trivial point. Mr. Bacevich, evidently in need of some 'conservatives' from the earlier part of the century, makes some bizarre choices. Including works by Henry Adams and George Santayana makes a certain kind of sense, but Walter Lippmann, midcentury America’s most famous liberal? ... It strikes me as unpardonable to include Charles Beard and not Charles Krauthammer in a collection of writings by American conservatives, but there it is ... I conclude that Mr. Bacevich either has little idea what neoconservatism means or that he bungled by including an essay from a viewpoint he explicitly vowed to exclude ... There are some trenchant pieces in this book, to be sure...There are a few fine pieces that nonetheless don’t belong here ... Mr. Bacevich deserves credit for including Kendall’s essay, but I note with irritation that the book’s biographical note is needlessly dismissive ... It’s not a bad way to describe modern American conservatism itself—always adapting to its liberal and progressive opponents; always considered by them vaguely suspect. And always being defined by allegedly sympathetic scholars who show little understanding of the 'tradition' they mean to 'reclaim.'
Bacevich is not looking for agreement — this is neither an evangelistic credo nor a sort of Conservatism for Dummies. Rather, it is a collection of diverse thinkers generally inclined toward the causes of order and tradition, and the best articles have a solidity that can seem a bracing tonic for the present chaos ... Every writer gets only one spot, and I am sorry that Bacevich has chosen to represent Whittaker Chambers by the 'Foreword in the Form of a Letter to My Children' ... An essay by Richard John Neuhaus follows a torturous path to its flabbergasting final sentence ... There isn’t a great deal of humor in the book — no H.L. Mencken, Tom Wolfe or P.J. O’Rourke, all of whom managed to be very funny while espousing their own idiosyncratic conservatisms. Yet Bacevich himself has a certain playfulness. I particularly enjoyed his capsule biography of the brilliant and disorganized Willmoore Kendall.