Neoconservatism

RADIX II: The Great Purge

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The Great Purge: The Deformation of the Conservative Movement
Edited by Paul E. Gottfried and Richard B. Spencer
$24.00

There has been a long gap between the first copy of Radix Journal and the second one, which has recently appeared in print a good three years later. Compared to its predecessor, which clocked in at 300 pages, concentrated on the possibly overambitious theme of the “deconstruction of White European identity,” and even sent Andy Nowicki on an all-expenses-paid trip to report on the “Rainbow Nations” of South Africa, Radix II—The Great Purge: The Deformation of the Conservative Movement  has a narrower focus — namely the history of the American Conservative movement — as well as a lower page count (206 pages). This might seem like a case of the journal’s publisher and editor, Richard Spencer, drawing in his horns.

Following Radix’s launch in 2012, Spencer obviously took an extended time-out to reconsider just what shape his journal on “culture, history, politics, spirituality, and society” should take. The plan seems to be to make each journal strongly themed and bring in guest editors so that there is a feeling of reading a distinct book each time, rather than returning to a familiar journal. Accordingly, Radix II bears the mark of co-editor and contributor Paul Gottfried, undoubtedly one of the top experts on American Conservatism.

Although Radix II lacks the excitement — and drama — of its predecessor, it is more effective in its task, namely to offer an analysis and critique of its subject matter. With a narrower front, its firepower is more concentrated and effective, and it certainly helps that it includes some big guns in the likes of John Derbyshire, Keith Preston, James Kalb, and Peter Brimelow.

With the inclusion of several authors who have been directly and unfairly wronged by the American Conservative movement, there is even a delicious sense of grudge and “settling old scores” about the project. Read more

The Winner of the Iraq War: Israel

If there was a poll right now asking Americans whether the war in Iraq was a good idea,  undoubtedly the vast majority would say no — the thousands of Americans dead, the tens of thousands wounded, many with life-long disabilities, the stratospheric, multi-trillion dollar costs.

And for what? Eleven years later there is sectarian/ethnically based violence with no end in sight. The neocons advertised a swift and easy victory, followed by joyous and grateful Iraqis eagerly embracing democracy and human rights . After all, underneath the surface veneer of sectarianism and tribalism, the Iraqis are just like us, or so said neocons like Prof. Bernard Lewis. Of course, he’s far from the only one (certainly the manufacturers of false intelligence working under Paul Wolfowitz at the DOD deserve a special place in Hell as  well), but I find Lewis’s behavior as an academic to be the height of evil.

So I guess we can all agree that it was all a huge mistake and everyone regrets what happened.

But that would be dead wrong. The people who sold the Iraq war to George W. Bush and the American people are nothing if not Israeli patriots. And there can be little doubt that Israel is quite happy with the consequences. Read more

Iraq Nightmare

Given the situation of sectarian/ethnic warfare in Iraq, I am posting an article that originally appeared in 2011. It’s amazing that academics like me are routinely pilloried as doing shoddy research and skewing everything they write about for political/ethnic reasons. But that does not apply at all to academic activists like Bernard Lewis, the much praised Princeton University professor who promised George W. Bush that all that was needed for a flourishing of Iraqi democracy of multiculturalism and human rights was a little military nudge. Iraq will never be like the West. 

This logic continues with Tony Blair who absolves himself of any blame because “the sectarianism of the Maliki Government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq. Blair writes as if to say, “if only they had a better leader, all would be well.”

Who could have possibly known that Maliki would simply reverse Saddam’s modus vivendi and  start oppressing the Sunnis? Bernard Lewis, for one. But Lewis was far more intent on  carrying out Israel’s foreign policy interests than telling Bush the truth. A fragmented Iraq or an Iraq torn by war were equally attractive possibilities. Win-win. 

Of all the lies that the neocons came up with to get the U.S. to invade Iraq, the one that most angers me was Bernard Lewis’s lie that Iraq just needed a little nudge in order to unleash the popular surge for democracy and republican government.

Lewis … argues that Arabs have a long history of consensus government, if not democracy, and that a modicum of outside force should be sufficient to democratize the area—a view that runs counter to the huge cultural differences between the Middle East and the West that stem ultimately from very different evolutionary pressures. (see here, p. 50)

I agree that the WMD lie created and promoted mainly by Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and Abraham Shulsky was critical. But Bernard Lewis deserves a special place in academic hell because he used his position as an elite academic to influence policy on behalf of his ethnic brethren in Israel and his close friends in the Likud government.
I assumed that Iraq would implode quite quickly after the U.S. left, but the pace is breathtaking. The LATimes report (“Iraq bombings kill 60, revive old fears“) shows that nothing has changed after 8-1/2 years of occupation, over 4400 U.S. armed forces dead and almost 32000 wounded, and over 100,000 Iraqis dead (see here). The Times article shows that the fundamental social structure hasn’t changed. The country remains divided along ethnic and religious lines.

The scenes of devastation were all too familiar after more than a dozen explosions ripped through the Iraqi capital Thursday, killing at least 60 people and injuring nearly 200, just days after the last U.S. troops left the country.

The attacks, some of the worst in Iraq this year, came in the midst of a political standoff between the country’s main Shiite Muslim and Sunni Arab factions. The dispute threatens to unravel a U.S.-backed power-sharing government, and is spreading anxiety over the prospect of a return to the sectarian bloodletting that devastated the country in recent years.

All the violence has not changed the basic fact that Iraq, like every other Arab culture, is a low-trust society:

“This crisis really is caused because there is pervasive distrust and an absence of institutions that can carry this kind of transition,” said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, has never trusted the Sunni politicians with whom he has been forced to share power, Hiltermann said.

Western societies have uniquely been high-trust societies, a point made, e.g., by Francis Fukuyama and a basic corollary of the psychology of Western individualism (see here, p. 27ff). The problem is that we think that everyone is “just like us”—willing and able to set up individualist societies with democratic and republican institutions. As Ian Morris writes in his Why the West Rules—For Now, people are pretty much the same the world over (see Brenton Sanderson’s review).We want to believe this so badly that it was easy to pull off the big lie. It’s the foundational lie of multi-culturalism. Of course, the same goes for IQ. We are supposed to ignore the findings that the average IQ in Iraq is around 87.

The Sunnis want more autonomy under the Shiite government, and the Kurds will doubtless continue their drive for autonomy. Iraq will be fractionated, politically weakened where the only solution is a heavy-handed dictatorship a la Saddam Hussein, or partition into three states.

In the ideal neocon world, the U. S. would have remained in Iraq indefinitely. Since that didn’t happen, they are doubtless not unhappy to see Iraq’s current turmoil—except that it will be more difficult next time to sell attacks on Israel’s enemies as a crusade for democracy.

I suspect that the neocon strategy will now be to blame the Obama administration for premature evacuation and use this as a trump card in the current campaign for a war against Iran. Already, “Republican leaders have sharply criticized President Obama for not trying harder to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq. Sen. John McCain of Arizona said on CBS television Thursday that Iraq was ‘unraveling tragically.’ ‘We are paying a very heavy price in Baghdad because of our failure to have a residual force there.'”

It is unclear what price we are paying, since it’s unclear what threat Iraq poses or ever posed to the U.S. But it is certainly the case that this will be an issue in presidential politics in the months ahead. One can imagine the Obama administration being more willing to do the bidding of the Israel Lobby on Iran in order to counter the inevitable charges that he “lost Iraq.”

In a sane society, the neocons would have been executed for high treason for their involvement in the death and maiming of thousands of U.S. citizens under false pretenses, not to mention the trillion dollar price tag. In the U.S., they are preparing for their next war.

And the Israel Lobby has their back. Any intimation of Jewish influence related to Israel policy remains off limits. Thomas Friedman recently had the temerity to write, “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” But it wasn’t long before he mollified his remarks and said he didn’t subscribe to any “grand conspiracy theories.”

I don’t subscribe to any grand conspiracy theories either. It’s all out in the open. In your face. Just don’t say so in public.

Philip Giraldi on the Neocons, Ukraine, Russia, and the Oligarchs

Philip Giraldi has a nice column on the continuing power of the neocons, particularly in the Ukraine situation (“Diplomacy is a Four-Letter Word“).

The vitriol unloaded on Russia since the rise of Vladimir Putin and most recently to ridicule almost every aspect of the Olympic Games is astonishing. …

The sustained pressure on the Ukraine over the past several months has likewise been remarkable and, under other circumstances, it would all be difficult to explain but for the fact that it and Russia are essentially two halves of one policy that is being orchestrated by the same group of neoconservatives, some of whom have now, fortuitously enough, attached themselves to the party in power in the White House, which is the Democrats. It was easy enough to do as many neocons are basically liberal Democrats if one excludes their aggressive foreign policy views.

Right. The neocons are too often associated only with the Republicans, but historically the neocons have had a strong position in the Democratic Party and have pulled the Republicans to the left on vital issues such as immigration. Indeed, a very important strand came out of the far left Trotskyist followers of Max Shachtman, a Jewish labor leader who, by the time of his death, had made major inroads in the Democratic Party and whose legacy is still with us today.

The Trotskyist movement had a Jewish milieu as Shachtman attracted young Jewish disciples—the familiar rabbi/disciple model of Jewish intellectual movements. … He became the quintessential rabbinical guru—the leader of a close, psychologically intense group. …

By the late 1950s he moved into the mainstream of U.S. social democracy” with a strategy of pushing big business and white Southerners out of the Democratic Party (the converse of Nixon’s “Southern strategy” for the Republican Party). In the 1960s “he suggested more openly than ever before that U.S. power could be used to promote democracy in the third world”—a view that aligns him with later neoconservatives.  …

In 1972, shortly before his death, Shachtman, “as an open anti-communist and supporter of both the Vietnam War and Zionism,” backed Senator Henry Jackson in the Democratic presidential primary. Jackson was a strong supporter of Israel (see below), and by this time support for Israel had “become a litmus test for Shachtmanites.” (see Neoconservatism as a Jewish Movement,” p. 17).  Read more

Victoria Nuland’s family ties: The Permanent Government in action

Intertwined Jewish power families are an important aspect of Jewish history, cementing business relationships by creating networks of close relatives who married only among themselves—e.g., the Court Jews of 17th- and 18th-century Europe (see here, pp 150-152).  We see echoes of that in the contemporary world, as among the neocons.

As with the other Jewish intellectual movements I have studied, neoconservatives have a history of mutual admiration, close, mutually supportive personal, professional, and familial relationships, and focused cooperation in pursuit of common goals. For example, Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, is the father of John Podhoretz, a neoconservative editor and columnist. Norman Podhoretz is also the father-in-law of Elliott Abrams, the former head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (a neoconservative think tank) and the director of Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council. Norman’s wife, Midge Decter, recently published a hagiographic biography of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose number-two and number-three deputies at the Pentagon, respectively, are Wolfowitz and Feith. Perle is a fellow at the AEI. He originally helped Wolfowitz obtain a job with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973. In 1982, Perle, as Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, hired Feith for a position as his Special Counsel, and then as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy. In 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz helped Feith obtain an appointment as Undersecretary for Policy. Feith then appointed Perle as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. This is only the tip of a very large iceberg. “Neoconservatism as a Jewish movement” (p. 32)
Ethnic networking and ties cemented by marriage are on display in the flap over Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s phone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. As VDARE’s Steve Sailer puts it, Nuland is a member of
a talented, energetic [Jewish] family that is part of the Permanent Government of the United States. It doesn’t really matter who wins the Presidential election: some Kagan-Nuland will be doing something somewhere in your name and on your dime.
The Kagan connection is via her husband, Robert Kagan. As noted by Your Lying Eyes, “Robert and brother Fred seem to have strategically implanted themselves in key policy-making positions within the Democratic and Republican party apparatus. Robert is embedded at Brookings, while Fred is ensconsed at AEI.”
So we have another Jewish neocon family tree, beginning with Donald Kagan, a Yale historian whose history of the Peloponnesia War has been used by neocons as a rationale for invasions of countries Israel doesn’t like (see Sailer). Donald Kagan was also a signatory to a 2002 letter to George W. Bush put out by Bill Kristol’s Project for the New American Century (PNAC) equating threats to Israel (Iran, Syria, Iraq) with threats to the U.S.
The next generation, Fred Kagan (American Enterprise Institute) and Robert Kagan (Brookings) are neocon stalwarts as well. (E.g., Donald, Robert and Frederick are all signatories to the neocon manifesto, Rebuilding America’s Defenses (2000), put out by PNAC.)   They and their wives, are all graduates of elite universities and well entrenched in the neocon thinktank/government infrastructure. Fred’s wife Kimberly (nee Kessler) is the head of the Institute for the Study of War and holds typical neocon positions.
And although U.S. policy toward Ukraine likely stems from other issues besides the neocon hostility toward Russia (the latter due to issues such as Putin’s crackdown on the oligarchs and Russia’s support of Israel’s enemies, Iran and Syria), there be little doubt that Nuland’s energetic support of the pro-EU opposition to the Yanukovych government dovetails with the attitudes of her neocon network. Our Permanent Government at work.

Review of Paul Gottfried’s “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America,” Part 2

Part 1.

2. The “Lockean Founding” of the United States

Gottfried is apparently attracted to the anti-rationalist Burkean tradition of conservatism, which in effect claims that history is smarter than reason, therefore, we should take our guidance from historically evolved institutions and conventions rather than rational constructs. This form of conservatism is, of course, dismissed by the Straussians as “historicism.” Gottfried counters that the Straussians

seek to ignore . . . the ethnic and cultural preconditions for the creation of political orders. Straussians focus on those who invent regimes because they wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended, rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this constructivist task, given enough support from the American government or American military. (pp. 3–4)

In the American context, historicist conservatism stresses the Anglo-Protestant identity of American culture and institutions. This leads to skepticism about the ability of American institutions to assimilate immigrants from around the globe and the possibility of exporting American institutions to the rest of the world.

Moreover, a historicist Anglo-Protestant American conservatism, no matter how “Judaizing” its fixation on the Old Testament, would still regard Jews as outsiders. Thus Straussians, like other Jewish intellectual movements, have promoted an abstract, “propositional” conception of American identity. Of course, Gottfried himself is a Jew, but perhaps he has the intellectual integrity to base his philosophy on his arguments rather than his ethnic interests

(Catholic Straussians are equally hostile to an Anglo-Protestant conception of America, but while Jewish Straussians have changed American politics to suit their interests, Catholic Straussians have gotten nothing for their services but an opportunity to vent spleen against modernity.) Read more

Review of Paul Gottfried’s “Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America,” Part 1

Paul Edward Gottfried
Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America: A Critical Appraisal
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Paul Gottfried’s admirable book on Leo Strauss is an unusual and welcome critique from the Right.

Leo Strauss (1899–1973) was a German-born Jewish political theorist who moved to the United States in 1937. Strauss taught at the New School for Social Research in New York City before moving to the University of Chicago, where he was Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor until his retirement in 1969. In the familiar pattern of Jewish intellectual movements as diverse of Psychoanalysis, Marxism, and Objectivism, Strauss was a charismatic teacher who founded a cultish school of thought, the Straussians, which continues to this day to spread his ideas and influence throughout academia, think tanks, the media, and the government.

The Straussians have not, however, gone unopposed. There are three basic kinds of critiques: (1) critiques from the Left, which range from paranoid, middlebrow, journalistic smears from such writers as Alan Wolfe, Nicholas Xenos, and John P. McCormick, to more scholarly critiques by such writers as Shadia Drury and Anne Norton, (2) scholarly critiques of the Straussian method and Straussian interpretations from philosophers and intellectual historians such as Hans-Georg Gadamer and Quentin Skinner, and (3) scholarly critiques from the Right.

As Gottfried points out, the Straussians tend only to engage their critics on the Left. This makes sense, since their Leftist critics raise the cultural visibility of the Straussian school. The critics are also easily defeated, which raises Straussian credibility as well. Like all debates within the parameters of Jewish hegemony, the partisans in the Strauss wars share a whole raft of assumptions which are never called into question. Thus these controversies look somewhat farcical and managed to those who reject liberalism and Jewish hegemony root and branch. Read more