Despite being on the left end of pretty much any political conversation I join, I've had a number of good friends who were intelligent and honorable and called themselves conservatives. They generally held opinions that were not anywhere near the standard talking points to which most Republicans resort; they were more along the lines of a set of reasoned beliefs, like the more intelligent Libertarians.
Once you begin to discuss actual problems and proposed solutions, you are often brought to conclude that “conservative” and “liberal” are insufficient to describe the differences in peoples' political philosophies. I tend, in fact, to think that Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long (in Time Enough For Love) came up with a better yardstick:
Political tags---such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth---are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from the highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
It seems to me that we currently have two parties dominated by people who believe in, well, domination. They differ on who should dominate: some think corporations, some think the wealthy (to the extent those differ), some think the military, or the West, or the South, or one or another religious sect. Some apparently feel capable of handling the job themselves.
In such times, it's inspiring and invigorating to be reminded of what true conservatives want to conserve, namely, the ideals on which the country was founded. I would claim that's a pretty radical idea these days, but in any case, there's at least one person who called herself a conservative for decades who is speaking out against the neo-con agenda for world domination, and doing it with style: Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, USAF, retired.
The LA Weekly website has an interview that Marc Cooper conducted with the colonel. I highly recommend the interview. Introducing her, Cooper lists her master's degrees from Harvard (government, zoology) and her two books on Saharan Africa before placing her in 2002 “as a political/military desk officer at the Defense Department's office for Near East South Asia (NESA), a policy arm of the Pentagon.” She's also written a bunch of fine articles, which have spread around the net like wildfire, in part because of what she says, and in part because of how well she says it.
She had the background and the intelligence, in both senses, to understand what was going on, and was in position to watch it happen. Given her credibility, some of the things she says are pretty damn scary. To show you why she's worth reading, here are three examples. When asked if the neo-cons were interested in determining whether Iraq had WMD before the war, she replied:
We knew from many years of both high-level surveillance and other types of shared intelligence, not to mention the information from the U.N., we knew, we knew what was left [from the Gulf War] and the viability of any of that. Bush said he didn't know.
The truth is, we know [Saddam] didn't have these things. Almost a billion dollars has been spent---a billion dollars!---by David Kay's group to search for these WMD, a total whitewash effort. They didn't find anything, they didn't expect to find anything.
So Kay's mission was PR. One friend has suggested that Kay is part of a CIA effort to mess with Bush's chances of getting elected. After all, the agency is taking a public beating, much of it undeserved. An agent's been outed. I claim that the President can play politics with the Director of the agency, but outing an agent was not a bright move. I mean, the CIA's very first action was to rig an Italian election right after WW2, and they've honed their skills quite a bit since then.
Now, if you're outing their agents, and lying about what they say, then blaming them for it, and the agency's main skill is rigging elections, and you're running for election, is this arrogance, stupidity, or “faith-based intelligence”?
Anyway, back to the colonel. When asked what drove the neo-cons to war, if it wasn't WMD, she pointed out that they “pride themselves on having a global vision”, which vision led to three reasons for invading Iraq:
One of those reasons is that sanctions and containment were working and everybody pretty much knew it. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit.
The second reason has to do with our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. And also there was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter---to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important---that is, if you hold that is America's role in the world. Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.
The last reason is the conversion, the switch Saddam Hussein made in the Food for Oil program, from the dollar to the euro. He did this, by the way, long before 9/11, in November 2000---selling his oil for euros. The oil sales permitted in that program aren't very much. But when the sanctions would be lifted, the sales from the country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet would have been moving to the euro.
The U.S. dollar is in a sensitive period because we are a debtor nation now. Our currency is still popular, but it's not backed up like it used to be. If oil, a very solid commodity, is traded on the euro, that could cause massive, almost glacial, shifts in confidence in trading on the dollar. So one of the first executive orders that Bush signed in May  switched trading on Iraq's oil back to the dollar.
A devastating indictment if true, and presented so clearly and effectively that it sounds completely believable. I suspect the motive of providing assistance to, and cover for, Israel played a minor part as well. But these three reasons would have much larger constituencies, and would thus, well, dominate.
One final quote, which I guess explains why she allowed some of her work to appear (with her name misspelled in the URL) on a Republicans for Dean website:
A pre-emptive war based on what we knew was not a pressing need is not what this country stands for.
Right on, Colonel.