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

Bill Kristol: Israel must save the West

It’s amazing to me that anyone with any brains takes neocons seriously. The Weekly Standard crowd shilled for a war with Syria by claiming that  the president must act “to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America” — as if Assad has a battery of ICBM’s ready to rain down terror on America.

Now Bill Kristol is  deeply concerned that peace might break out in the Middle East before the U.S. has destroyed every last enemy of Israel (“From Bad to Worse“). The piece is replete with comparisons to Hitler and  Mussolini, e.g.:

There will be no Rhineland this time. Iran isn’t 1930s Germany, and the United States is more formidable than Britain. For now, Iran will have to achieve its goals by stealth and diplomacy, while Hitler achieved his by bravado and force. But the accommodation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons lies ahead as surely as the accommodation of Nazi Germany’s expansionist dreams.

They’re going to be stealthy about it, but the next thing you know, the Iranians will be in Cleveland.

Western Civilization is under attack, and as we all know, the neocons are nothing if not devoted to preserving Western Civilization; after all Kristol is a disciple of neocon godfather Leo Strauss.

The only country that can save the West just happens to be Kristol’s favorite country: Israel.

As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons, undeterred by the West’s leading power, a 21st-century tragedy threatens to unfold. Unless. Unless a dramatis persona who didn’t exist in 1936 intervenes: Israel. Ariel Sharon once famously said that Israel would not play the role of Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Nor will it play the role of Poland. Despite imprecations from the Obama administration, Israel will act. One prays it will not be too late.

It is a strange course of events, heavy with historical irony, that has made the prime minister of Israel for now the leader of the West. But irony is better than tragedy.

Israel is a Western society? Nothing more than a proposition culture dedicated to democracy and human rights, as the neocons would have it? I think not. Kristol, like Strauss, is a hypocrite: a strong Jewish identity that informs everything he does, while being a leader in pushing the Republican Party to the anti-White left. As we all know, Israel is the Jewish ethnostate, dedicated to an ethnically-based immigration policy, and ethnic cleansing and apartheid for the Palestinians. Would that he advocated that for Western societies.

But like Strauss who reinterprets the past to convince conservatives that Western Civilization has no racial content, Kristol frames Israel as a Western society to convince conservatives that they have a duty to defend it, no matter how Israel behaves. After all, they’re just like us.

The only sense in which Israel is a Western society is that Israel Firsters like Kristol dominate the foreign policy of Western societies. They are the moving force behind the violence unleashed by the West on the  enemies of Israel — the wars that have become the face of the West to the rest of the world. And despite all the high-flown rhetoric about freedom and human rights, it is an ugly face indeed.

Paul Gottfried and Claes Ryn on Leo Strauss

The academic life is probably like many careers in that ultimately you have to find an audience. Professors spend months or years on a major project, then try to get it published in the best possible venue. Then they hope for positive reviews and, ultimately, acclaim and influence. I suspect that if one did a study based on exit interviews of academics as they retired from the profession, not a few of them would express the feeling that the game was somehow stacked against them—that their work did not get the attention it deserved, that it should have been discussed in all the elite intellectual venues—the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, and ultimately, perhaps, become assigned reading in college courses everywhere. They should have been somebody.

Lots of academics probably feel this way, but no one has so explicitly expressed it quite like Paul Gottfried has. In his recent piece, “Claes Ryn, Allan Bloom, Leo Strauss, and Me,” Gottfried is clearly frustrated. He managed to get his book, Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, published by an elite academic publisher, Cambridge University Press—no mean feat. But intellectual fame and fortune haven’t happened, and Gottfried is not pleased:

I shall lay my cards on the table. I am outraged at how the usual suspects kept my book from being discussed. Despite my well-known views on certain delicate subjects, I tried to produce a fair study of a difficult topic and bent backward in showing sympathy for the movement’s founder and at least some of his disciples. The successful attempt to white out my work has annoyed me no end.

In order to explain this lack of attention, Gottfried refers to Claes Ryn’s  “Allan Bloom and Straussian Alienation“:

The arguments marshaled by [Claes] Ryn indicate, as does my book, why Straussians reign in the NYT’s Sunday Book Review Section as well as in Conservatism, Inc. Although Ryn does not make this last point explicitly, perhaps for fear of reprisal, a fuller explanation is at least implicit in what he does tell us. His comments may also explain why my book, initially marketed by Cambridge with high hopes and considerable promo, received absolutely no attention in the national Main Stream Media.

For fear of the Straussians.

So how have the Straussians been able to dominate all the high ground of American culture? And in particular, how they have managed to completely co-opt what passes for conservatism? These questions are not really answered by either Gottfried and Ryn, but there are hints. Both emphasize that Straussian ideology has functioned to pave the way for a new elite with no ethnic or cultural ties to the old elite by conceptualizing America as a proposition nation without specific ethnic or religious roots. Given the very large role of Jewish intellectuals among the new elite, the motivation is obvious: If one doesn’t share the ethnic, religious, and historical roots of a society but wants to be accepted as the new intellectual elite, then define the society as having no ethnic, religious, or historical roots. Ryn notes that

the desire to have America be something different from its historical past and to make it perhaps also more palatable to an aspiring new elite is probably most evident and explicit in Bloom’s fellow Straussian Harry Jaffa. Jaffa has made a career of asserting that America must not, repeat, not, be understood as owing anything of importance to an old historical heritage. It must be seen as born out of a radical break with the past and as based on abstract principles of an essentially Lockean cast—Lockeanism understood concomitantly as a departure from earlier thought.

The subterfuge of the Straussians was to attempt to locate this proposition culture in the deep wellsprings of Western culture in order to make it more palatable to conservatives, a position that required them to completely disregard normal standards of scholarship. Thus Plato is presented as an ardent democrat. Ryn:

Allan Bloom contends that Plato, whose iconic status and authority he would like to invoke on behalf of his own beliefs, is markedly different from how a long tradition of classicist scholarship has understood him. Contrary to all appearances, Plato is not scornful of democracy and democratic man. He is a democrat in disguise.

Indeed, in the hands of the Straussians, all of Western philosophy comes down to alienation from society and from tradition—an odd proposal to say the least, and here Ryn also mentions the Frankfurt School as completely on board with the Straussians. The tension arises from the fact that rejection of society and tradition are usually considered to be of the left. As Ryn notes,  “in their disparagement of tradition [they] resemble the open, unqualified left.” In place of tradition and ethnic or cultural particularity, these philosophers opt for universalist abstractions in which the White race or Christianity are excluded as significant categories. Read more

Bombs for a Better World: Syria, Surveillance and the Neo-Crocs

In a sane world, the former “Chief Speechwriter for Tony Blair” would now be a fugitive from justice or serving a life sentence. But it’s not a sane world, so Philip Collins is receiving his thirty pieces of silver from the hostile elite. He has a well-paid post at the London School of Economics and writes for Rupert Murdoch’s London Times, where he displays all the intellectual power and anthropological expertise you would expect of a Blairite:

The most misunderstood book of recent times was lost in a play on words. When Francis Fukuyama called his book The End of History he was not making the foolish claim that history, as 1066 And All That nearly said, had come to a full stop. He was saying that no society better than liberal democracy would ever emerge.

With history unfolding all around us, it is a good moment to point out that Fukuyama was right. The people of Syria, like the people of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, do not wish to buy security at the cost of freedom. The Middle East will, in time, join the league of democratic nations, as Latin America has done since 1970. The fragile Government of Algeria cannot last. The limited reforms sponsored by the kings of Morocco and Jordan will buy a little time. But eventually the people there and the people in Iran will want some of what we have, they being people just like us. (Saving the people of Syria, reproduced in The Australian, 25th February, 2012)

It would be wrong to call those claims “half-witted.” No, “eighth-witted” is more like it. It took centuries for liberal democracy to evolve in Britain. Tony Blair went a long way towards destroying it in a decade. But Philip Collins thinks the Middle East will inevitably embrace it. After all, the Muslims there have no connection with their illiberal and undemocratic governments, which have presumably beamed in from Neptune or the Andromeda Galaxy. Collins thinks that Syrians, Tunisians, Libyans, Moroccans et al. are “people just like us.” Well, apart from a significantly lower average IQ and a long history of inbreeding, clannishness and corruption, that is. And a totalitarian religion that stands no nonsense about female rights and imposes the death penalty for offences like apostasy and blasphemy. Muslims in the Middle East wouldn’t have knighted Salman Rushdie the way Tony Blair did. No, they’d’ve quickly cut his head off. If he’d been lucky.

But apart from those details, Collins thinks that the Middle East is ready to “join the league of democratic nations” as “Latin America” did in 1970. He seems to be forgetting the dictatorships that flourished in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and so on. You’d expect him to remember Chile, because Spain tried to have General Pinochet extradited when Pinochet came here for medical treatment during Blair’s premiership. But Blairites don’t like history: as someone once pointed out, the only certainty in Blairism was the golden future. The past was always changing.

In this, Blairites faithfully reflected their neo-conservative confederates. The neo-cons know no history, just as they know no shame. In a sane world, what happened in Iraq would have discredited them for ever, if not placed them behind bars. But it’s not a sane world and they’re still with us, still lying, still gasbagging, still beating the drums for slaughter. One of the British neo-cons, Norman Geras, called the eighth-witted maunderings of Philip Collins a “thoughtful column.” The quality of Geras’ own thinking is apparent here:

Of course, the whole world is not a death camp, and what is happening in Syria falls far short of the Nazi genocide. Yet the brutal murder of innocent people by a state bears some kinship with all crimes against humanity, of which it is itself one. (“Adolescent” revulsion and moral shame (over Syria), NormBlog, 27th February, 2012)

The Nazis, of course, are the gold standard of evil. Comparing the Syrian government to the Nazis is designed to elicit a reflexive warrant for military action.

But it would be wrong to dismiss Geras as an eighth-witted gasbag. In fact, he’s a bloodthirsty eighth-witted gasbag:

Since it is urgent that we respond somehow, out of solidarity, of our “common human heritage” with the victims, action must be taken even if it means meeting chaos with chaos and (by implication) that the chaos we cause turns out to be worse than the chaos we’re trying to bring to an end. (NormBlog)

Neo-con Norman “Gasbag” Geras

Neo-con Norman “Gasbag” Geras

Read more

The Israel Lobby and the Organized Jewish Community Want Regime Change in Syria

President Obama is now saying his administration has decided to attack Syria but will seek Congressional approval before doing so. This sets up a really interesting situation if Congress doesn’t agree, as seems quite possible.

The idea of Obama ordering an act of war on Syria without significant international support and without a Congressional mandate always was a head scratcher. Here’s our far left president advocating yet another war in the Middle East after opposing the Iraq war when he was a senator. The same president who has a frosty relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu and has repeatedly fallen short of the demands of the Israel Lobby.

Of course the rationale is framed in moral terms—like all American wars, but there was more than a touch of that in the run-up to the Iraq war as well. Here the case for the hawks is made more difficult because the WMD story turned out to be false. Lest we forget, this story was manufactured by strongly identified ethnically Jewish, pro-Israel operatives linked to the Office of Special Plans in the Department of Defense, including Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Abraham Shulsky, Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, Michael Ledeen, David Schencker, and Michael Rubin, with the close cooperation of Israeli intelligence (see here, p. 47ff).

The Weekly Standard’s usual neocon suspects — including many of the same people who promoted for the Iraq war — are pressing for a very large U.S. involvement in Syria. It’s mind-boggling to read in the statement of these so-called “experts” that the president must act “to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America.” Shades of how Iraq under Saddam Hussein was going to destroy the U.S. with his WMD’s. How Assad is going to unleash his chemical weapons on America is anybody’s guess. Read more

Why Are Some Democracies More Equal Than Others?

Almost any time neoconservatism is discussed, whether in a positive or negative light, it is treated as a kind of hegemonic monolith that has not changed since the last generation of its adherents began gaining prestige in the 1970s — or even since it began taking form decades earlier. Obviously this is a mistake, but sorting out its various “waves” is a task for another time (and likely a task for Paul Gottfried).  In an attempt to eschew the complex pedigree of neoconservatives in the last half-century, I will, for the moment, only discuss the post-9/11 variety of neocons.

The terrorist attacks of September 11th proved to be a crystallizing moment for neocons. Since the end of the Cold War, they had lacked not only political power, but more importantly — a driving purpose. While vainly trying to unify under an “anti-Clinton” banner, they meandered into intellectual self-indulgence in an attempt to regain the drive they had possessed while battling the USSR. Not content to rest on their laurels, odd proposals to re-capture “national greatness” came about, similarly, bizarre calls to invade Africa popped out of thin air. Like their Trotskyite forbearers, they became a fairly insulated bunch that spoke to few people outside their own circles, and were happy to theorize and pontificate amongst one another, with their thoughts steadily drifting away from any tangible political reality.

In 2001, when Bush Jr. came to power, they did too, but they still lacked a unifying goal. When a new, seemingly existential, threat crashed its way to the crosshairs of global attention, all of this changed. Digressing slightly, I will admit that pinning down a precise program or doctrine to the neocons can prove somewhat difficult. Part of this comes from their willingness to shape shift — such as their jump from Democrat Scoop Jackson’s 1972 presidential bid to Ronald Reagan’s cabinet less than a decade later. Another more important difficulty comes from the fact that it has become somewhat fashionable for neoconservatives to deny their own existence. It reminds me of a Marxist adage I hear from time to time: “An ideology is hegemonic when its adherents deny its existence”. Jonah Goldberg penned a whole threepart series of articles shortly after the Iraq War began that claimed no such thing existed — this is hilariously disproven by how many neocons openly and proudly label themselves as such. Read more

If neo-cons were Indian…


June 30, 2013

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you because we have become certain that the United States must pursue a new policy in regards to Pakistan. We are certain that Pakistan now represents the greatest threat to American security since Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before the American led invasion. America’s relations with Pakistan must reflect this new reality. We stand firm in our belief that the Pakistani government’s inability to control terrorist elements within its borders coupled with its possession of hundreds of nuclear weapons has made the state as a whole a grave threat to American security and global peace. In reviewing past strategies to quell this and other similar threats, we have concluded that no solution aside from a ground invasion and subsequent occupation of Pakistan can sufficiently guarantee the regional stability necessary for global security. We write to you in order to encourage your administration to take immediate action in this regard.

Since 2008, the American strategy employed to weaken radical jihad in Pakistan has been a combination of limited air strikes, Black Ops missions, and large amounts of monetary foreign aid. Yet over the last five years, terrorist groups in Pakistan have grown stronger, while every form of an American-friendly government has weakened. The Taliban and similar groups periodically control large parts of Northwestern Pakistan, while the rest of the nation suffers from rampant poverty, inflation, and crime. Given that the median age of males in Pakistan is twenty-two years, and that the population as a whole is nearing two hundred million people, al Qaeda and similar groups inside Pakistan are in a comfortable position to recruit en masse for their global war against the West. America cannot allow this scenario to move beyond fiction, nor can it wait to see if it will by standing idly by until the next terrorist attack. Read more