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This post was edited by RussianMonarchy at 2014-11-13 05:10|
Thinking About Neoconservatism
By Kevin MacDonald on September 18, 2003, 9:00 am
Over the last year, there`s been a torrent of articles on neoconservatism raising (usually implicitly) some vexing issues: Are neoconservatives different from other conservatives? Is neoconservatism a Jewish movement? Is it “anti-Semitic” to say so?
The dispute between the neocons and more traditional conservatives — “paleoconservatives” — is especially important because the latter now find themselves on the outside, looking in on the conservative power structure.
Hopefully, some of the venom has been taken out of this argument by the remarkable recent article by neoconservative “godfather” Irving Kristol (“The Neoconservative Persuasion,” Weekly Standard, August 25, 2003). With commendable frankness, Kristol admitted that
“the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.”
And, equally frankly, Kristol eschewed any attempt to justify U.S. support for Israel in terms of American national interest:
“[L]arge nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns… That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.”
If the US is an “ideological” nation, this can only mean that the motivations of neoconservative ideology are a legitimate subject of intellectual inquiry.
For example, it is certainly true that the neocons` foreign policy fits well with a plausible version of Jewish interests, but is arguably only tenuously related to the interests of the U.S. Also, neocons oppose the isolationism of important sections of traditional American conservatism. And neocon attitudes on issues like race and immigration differ profoundly from those of traditional mainstream conservatives — but resemble closely the common attitudes of the wider American Jewish community.
Count me among those who accept that the Jewish commitment of leading neoconservatives has become a critical influence on U.S. policies, and that the effectiveness of the neoconservatives is greatly enhanced by their alliance with the organized Jewish community. In my opinion, this conclusion is based on solid data and reasonable inferences. But like any other theory, of course, it is subject to reasoned discussion and disproof.
We shouldn`t be surprised by the importance of ethnicity in human affairs. Nor should we be intimidated by charges of anti-Semitism. We should be able to discuss these issues openly and honestly. This is a practical matter, not a moral one.
Ethnic politics in the U.S. are certainly not limited to Jewish activism. They are an absolutely normal phenomenon throughout history and around the world.
But for well over half a century, with rare exceptions, Jewish influence has been off-limits for rational discussion. Now, however, as the U.S. acquires an empire in the Middle East, this ban must inevitably fall away.
My views on these issues are shaped by my research on several other influential Jewish-dominated intellectual and political movements, including the Boasian school of anthropology, Freudian psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School of Social Research, Marxism and several other movements of the radical left, as well as the movement to change the ethnic balance of the United States by allowing mass, non-traditional immigration.
My conclusion: Contemporary neoconservatism fits into the general pattern of Jewish intellectual and political activism I have identified in my work.
I am not, of course, saying that all Jews, or even most Jews, supported these movements. Nor did these movements work in concert: some were intensely hostile to one another. I am saying, however, that the key figures in these movements identified in some sense as Jews and viewed their participation as in some sense advancing Jewish interests.
In all of the Jewish intellectual and political movements I studied, there is a strong Jewish identity among the core figures. All center on charismatic Jewish leaders—people such as Boas, Trotsky and Freud— who are revered as messianic, god-like figures.
Neoconservatism`s key founders trace their intellectual ancestry to the “New York Intellectuals,” a group that originated as followers of Trotskyite theoretician Max Schactman in the 1930s and centered around influential journals like Partisan Review and Commentary (which is in fact published by the American Jewish Committee). In the case of neoconservatives, their early identity as radical leftist disciples shifted as there began to be evidence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Key figures in leading them out of the political left were philosopher Sidney Hook and Elliot Cohen, editor of Commentary. Such men as Hook, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer and Seymour Martin Lipset, were deeply concerned about anti-Semitism and other Jewish issues. Many of them worked closely with Jewish activist organizations. After the 1950s, they became increasingly disenchanted with leftism. Their overriding concern was the welfare of Israel.
By the 1970s, the neocons were taking an aggressive stance against the Soviet Union, which they saw as a bastion of anti-Semitism and opposition to Israel. Richard Perle was the prime organizer of Congressional support for the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment which angered the Soviet Union by linking bilateral trade issues to freedom of emigration, primarily of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel and the United States.
Current key leaders include an astonishing number of individuals well placed to influence the Bush Administration: (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, I. Lewis Libby, Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, Abram Shulsky), interlocking media and thinktankdom (Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Bryen, John Podhoretz, Daniel Pipes), and the academic world (Richard Pipes, Donald Kagan).