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February 20, 2009

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"David Brooks tried to claim that there was, actually, no such thing as a neoconservative in the first place (just a crude form of anti-Semitic classification)."

The issue here is that "neo-conservative" is a conservative term, which conservatives understand to mean something specific: A movement of former liberals who became conservatives, (Hence "neo" conservatives) over foreign policy issues during the cold war. There aren't a lot of them still around, they've been dying off.

Whatever the heck liberals think the term signifies, you're not using it to mean the same thing conservatives mean by it, and they're having a hard time picking out any common thread between people liberals call "neo-conservatives", besides their usually being jewish.

It's as if liberals suddenly seized on the term "Galambosian" to describe a faction of libertarians, completely ignoring what libertarians understood it to mean. Or conservatives started calling any liberal they didn't like "Trotskists".

It's confusing as hell, if you're going to use the other side's words, you should take the time to understand what they mean.

Not to be all paranoid, but one of Leo Strauss's main ideas was that great thinkers do and should conceal their real views from the general audience. Concealing your true views is arguably an integral part of the neoconservative philisophy. Doesn't this fit the pattern?

Whatever the heck liberals think the term signifies, you're not using it to mean the same thing conservatives mean by it, and they're having a hard time picking out any common thread between people liberals call "neo-conservatives", besides their usually being jewish.

No, no, no!

NeoConservativism is a term coined by...people that call themselves neoconservatives!

Regardless of what conservatives and liberals mean when they say it, there are ACTUAL neoconservatives and an ACTUAL neoconservative school of thought. As defined by decades of writings outlining neoconservatist thought by participating neoconservatives.

See, ie, Irving Kristol and his intellectual lineage.

Regardless of whether or not they happen to be Jewish, neocons self-identify. Hence, the many links to books penned by neocons extolling the virtue of neocon ideology/political philosophy.

Also, again, regardless of what some liberals or conservatives mean when they use the term.

This historical revisionism by neocons reminds me of a somewhat similar effort by Reaganites a few years back. Some Reagan Administration hands, most importantly Martin Anderson, tried to rewrite history and erase the influence of loopy supply-side ideas (e.g., the Laffer Curve) on Reagan's economic policies.


There aren't a lot of them still around, they've been dying off.

Brett, if this is the case, why do they have so much influence on so-called conservative foreign policy ? Last time I checked the paleocons (e.g., like the folks at Pat Buchanan's American Conservative Magazine) are still in the wilderness politically. Has Larison replaced Kristol at the NYT? Have the paleocons seized the commanding heights of the conservative foreign policy establishment (i.e. the AEI and other think tanks) yet?

Or are we awaiting further developments on this score?

they're having a hard time picking out any common thread between people liberals call "neo-conservatives", besides their usually being jewish.

Neoconservatism: The belief that all foreign policy problems have military solutions and that any attempt to solve them via diplomacy merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual military solution.

Notice how I didn't use the word "Jew" even once?

John McCain pulled in a gaggle of neocons to offer him foreign policy advice - and in the case of Michael Goldfarb - to run campaign communications.

Here's a list of "dead" people McCain tagged as his foreign policy team during the campaign. All dead, none neoconservative and none with any influence.

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2008/03/17/mccain-advisers/

See, ie, Irving Kristol and his intellectual lineage.

Also his genetic lineage (about which the word "intellect" would be badly misplaced.)

This historical revisionism by neocons reminds me of a somewhat similar effort by Reaganites a few years back.

You're too kind. I was going to compare them to the post-Soviet Union communists.

A movement of former liberals who became conservatives, (Hence "neo" conservatives) over foreign policy issues during the cold war. There aren't a lot of them still around, they've been dying off.

Brett, you're conflating 1) a group of individuals, the first generation of neocons, with 2) the ideology of neoconservatism. Just as the deaths of Hayek and von Mises doesn't mean that Austrian economics is no more, the eventual deaths of Podhoretz and Kristol won't mean the disappearance of neoconservatism.

"Neoconservatism: The belief that all foreign policy problems have military solutions and that any attempt to solve them via diplomacy merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual military solution."

Ok, you see? There's the problem. Conservatives could define "Trotskist" as "The belief that all social problems have governmental solutions, and that any attemt to solve them via the private sector merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual governmental solution." And, by that definition, there are a heck of a lot of "Trotskists" in the Democratic party. But you'd still be puzzled if conservatives started calling every Democrat they disliked a "Trotskist".

It's not that "neo-con" doesn't have a meaning, and that there aren't neo-cons and their intellectual decendents around. It's that liberals don't really use the term very carefully, treating it as more of an all purpose epithet than a technical term.

Ledeen has a peculiar tic whereby he pens impassioned calls for military confrontation with Iran, but then claims- with a straight face - that he opposes any such use of force.

Hey, Jonah Goldberg never called liberals Nazis--he merely pointed out that, when you look at them a certain way, that's what they are.

It's as if liberals suddenly seized on the term "Galambosian" to describe a faction of libertarians, completely ignoring what libertarians understood it to mean. Or conservatives started calling any liberal they didn't like "Trotskists".

That's ridiculous. As of sometime last fall, liberals aren't "Troskists," they're socialists. Didn't you get the memo, Brett?

It's that liberals don't really use the term very carefully, treating it as more of an all purpose epithet than a technical term.

That's true in the sense that "some" liberals do that. Not all, however, as your statement heavily implies.

But then, that's kind of a tautology. Some of every group is prone to misuse terminology.

So?

Brett, name one Trotskist of any influence in the Democratic Party, utilizing your definition.

The connection--if you can call it that--between Judaism and Neoconservatism goes something like this:

1) Neoconservatism is largely defined by foreign policy, specifically a foreign policy which advocates indifference to world opinion, belligerence to bad actors, and eschewing diplomacy in favor of military solutions to conflicts of interest.
2) A similar approach to foreign policy is routinely practiced by Israel, particularly in the context of the I-P conflict.
3) Many of the most notable proponents of foreign policies like in (1) are also prominent supporters of Israel, and consequently apply their foreign policy preferences to their full-throated support of Israel.
4) These individuals receive disproportionate attention because of the increased controversy surrounding anything or anyone connected to the I-P issue, irrespective of the substance of their engagement.
5) Some neoconservatives thereby find it tactically useful to encourage the conflation of neoconservatism with support for Israel's policies, because among other benefits it allows them to use unfounded accusations of anti-semitism to deflect criticisms of substance.

The funny thing about this is that conflating neoconservatism with being Jewish is almost exclusively done by neocons or their fellow travelers, usually in aid of the goal in (5) of deflecting criticism. I have yet to meet a liberal who says "neocon" when they really mean "kike", and when I say I want to see neoconservatism crushed I'm not talking about making our government Judenfrei. For that matter, I have yet to personally meet a Jew--including my SO, my roommates, and my stepson--who is a neocon.

You're good at the Radiohead references Eric. Keep it up.

I thought the neocons were the Trotskyites, at least originally, and also in spirit. Revolution in every country sounds a lot like the neocon plan for the Middle East, except it would have been an American invasion in a lot of countries, with maybe some accompanying revolutions.

Irving Kristol was, originally, a Trotskyite as were some of the other founders of the movement.

It's not that "neo-con" doesn't have a meaning, and that there aren't neo-cons and their intellectual decendents around. It's that liberals don't really use the term very carefully, treating it as more of an all purpose epithet than a technical term.

If you wouldn't mind, then, please enlighten us as to the true meaning of the term, with examples of such individuals.


Irving Kristol was, originally, a Trotskyite as were some of the other founders of the movement.

They also have Trotskyite-like qualities in a more poetic sense, being bloodthirsty authoritarians who, when it comes down to brass tacks, are not actually any good at organization or planning (things that come in handy when you are an in a position of *ahem* authority). Massacres with clown shoes, as it were.

Historically speaking, perhaps that is for the best. I shudder to think what post-911 American history might be like if the Bush admin had actually been competent.

The issue here is that "neo-conservative" is a conservative term, which conservatives understand to mean something specific: A movement of former liberals who became conservatives, (Hence "neo" conservatives) over foreign policy issues during the cold war.

This is actually a not-bad definition. I'd extend it slightly to include younger folks who align themselves with the neo-conservative old guard.

"Align" here can either be due to ideological agreement, or merely because they inherited the family business.

And, if my extension is allowed, it pretty much covers the folks in Eric's post.

Personally, I've always thought the easiest way to find a neo-con was to go to Heritage or AEI and look for somebody wandering the halls muttering "Where was the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!"

That's your guy.

This is one of those situations where usage has overcome origin.

Originally--and by "originally" I mean between 20 and 80 years ago--the term "neoconservative" did in fact refer to someone who used to be a Democrat or liberal but has since gone over to the right.

That's simply not how the word is used anymore. It hasn't been for a long time, except perhaps among individuals on the right who were neocons back when that's actually what it meant. You may as well try to claim that "bully" is still equivalent to "awesome".

People are, of course, free to identify as whatever they like. This isn't a scientific term with a discrete and immutable meaning: pick any ten users off Dkos, then ask each of them what it means to be "liberal"; you'll get ten answers.

But ultimately communication of a concept is what matters, and if you pick another ten people at random off the street and ask them what neoconservatism is, chances are you'll get an answer that directly relates to foreign policy in the context of the Bush Administration.

I'm sorry if you don't like that usage of the term. But at this point neocons own it, and they own it precisely because of how closely they hitched their wagons to Bush & Cheney's Excellent Middle East Adventure.

It's as if liberals suddenly seized on the term "Galambosian" to describe a faction of libertarians, completely ignoring what libertarians understood it to mean. Or conservatives started calling any liberal they didn't like "Trotskists".

I think you mean Or conservatives started calling any liberal they didn't like "Socialist".

(I could add something about NeoCons being self-defined rahter than being a "Conservative term", but it's already been said.)

Since the neo-cons freely used the term in the 90s to describe themselves, why this nonsense to deny that the word is an appropriate label for their school of thought?

That is why Brett's nonsense about Trotskyists makes no sense -- no liberal uses the term to describe their thinking, so using the term as an alleged liberal label requires establishing that the liberal ideology matches Trosky's ideology. That cannot be done, so it is just a slur.

No such effort is necessary for neo-cons -- they created the label that is now used to describe them.

What seems apparent is that this is a fraudulent effort to deny ownership of that failed philosophy, which starts by claiming that the name they used to describe themselves is now an alleged misnomer.

Liars.

what teh beaster said.

Catsy: "You may as well try to claim that 'bully' is still equivalent to 'awesome'."

Ironically, one defining feature of neoconservative foreign policy is that "bully" in the current sense is an awesome thing to be.

When I first read Brooks conflating labeling someone a neo conservative with being anti semitic I stopped taking him seriously.

"How to Disappear Completely" is not to be confused with "How Not to Be Seen".

Conservatives could define "Trotskist" as "The belief that all social problems have governmental solutions, and that any attempt to solve them via the private sector merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual governmental solution." And, by that definition, there are a heck of a lot of "Trotskists" in the Democratic party.

Name five who are prominent, let alone as pre-eminent as Cheney, Bolton, Perle, Wolfowitz, and Podhoretz are among neocons.

Personally, I've always thought the easiest way to find a neo-con was to go to Heritage or AEI and look for somebody wandering the halls muttering "Where was the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!"

Radiohead references are all well and good, but working Marvin the Martian into a discussion of foreign policy--well, that's just teh awesome to the zillionth power.

Bless you, russell.

Indeed.

Another easy way to spot neo-cons: look for people who've signed on to various proclamations and schemes coming out of the Project for a New American Century.

I'd concede Brett at least half a point. If we are going to talk about neoconservatives, we really do need a good working definition of the term. I would give, not so much a definition, but an identification tag that neoconservatives correlate roughly with subscribers to Weekly Standard.

And call me cynical, but I suspect one reason liberals so often use "neoconservative" as an epithet is that there aren't enough of them to make a formidable voting block (although they exercise enormous influence as policy intellectuals). If you use a term like "redneck" or "Religious Right" as an epithet, you outrage white southerners, or white Evangelical Christians, who make up as much as a quarter of the population -- not a good idea! But use "neoconservative" as an epithet, and the only voters you offend are readers of the Weekly Standard.

The belief that all social problems have governmental solutions, and that any attempt to solve them via the private sector merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual governmental solution.

Brett, the belief you've laid out there is called 'statism'. Trotskyism means one hell of a lot more than that, and you know it, which is why no one but far-right ideologues would think of applying the term to Democrats in general.

----
Speaking of rewriting history on behalf of neoconservatives, Laura Rozen recently disappointed me by playing the 'brave iconoclast against liberal conventional wisdom' with respect to Elliott Abrams:

Because of a couple moderate statesmen-type sources who think highly of Abrams and who described him to me as a fairly pragmatic figure in Bush's second term NSC, I have never really bought the recent liberal conventional wisdom about Abrams as some sort of sinister hawk bogeyman

That would be one of the differences between Laura Rozen and me, then. I'm not a journalist who has to maintain access to "statesman-type sources" and is prepared to accept just about anyone into the permanent government on the word of those "statesman types".

I'm a citizen who has followed his career closely for the last thirty years, and has personally been on the receiving end of the policies he's directed as well as his advocacy of them.

Perhaps Rozen was elsewhere during the 1980s, and missed out on his conviction for lying to Congress, his direction of a terrorist war against Central American peasants, his literally hundreds of appearances on television lying about U.S. policy and smearing those who opposed it. There's nothing "recent" about liberals and progressives viewing Abrams as a warmonger, and it's not "conventional wisdom", it's the truth.

Even if it were the case that he had played a "pragmatic" (meaning moderating) role in the last few years of the Bush administration, which it is not, it wouldn't begin to make up for the blood on his hands.

How is it that the neoconservatives, after each new policy debacle, manage to maintain their ability to be taken seriously? Read Laura Rozen and watch it happen in real time.

Going by his Washington Post photo, Richard Perle has a long way to go before hs disappears completely.

"Brett, the belief you've laid out there is called 'statism'. Trotskyism means one hell of a lot more than that, and you know it,"

Yup, just as I know that neoconservatism means a hell of a lot more than "The belief that all foreign policy problems have military solutions and that any attempt to solve them via diplomacy merely delays and makes more expensive the eventual military solution." I was deliberately setting out an equally stupid definition.

Okay, Brett, so what does "neoconservatism" mean? First you tried to say that the term applied only to a particular cohort that's dying out; now you seem to be arguing that it's a nuanced philosophy others have reduced to a stupid caricature.

So please explain what "neconservatism" actually means.

Cheney, Bolton, Perle, Wolfowitz, and Podhoretz are among neocons

I'm not sure that all 5 of those would self-identify as neocons, but why concern ourselves with fine doctrinal distinctions among the crazies? The neocons were the ones with the theory that we could spend a few days kicking Iraq into a shape more to our liking, and the whole region would be intimidated into toeing our line. The neocons want to bomb Iran, give ultimatums to North Korean, and plant missiles in Poland. The tree is known by its fruits, and people (like the 5 mentioned) who support neocon policies can expect to be called neocons.

working Marvin the Martian into a discussion of foreign policy--well, that's just teh awesome

This might not work for everyone, but for me, thoughtful consideration of Marvin the Martian has yielded many helpful insights in understanding our foreign policy of the last few years.

So please explain what "neconservatism" actually means.

He would explain it, josefina, but if you're not a conservative, you wouldn't understand it anyway. So let's just accept that Brett's right, we're all wrong, and leave it at that.

A note: If one neocon during one period opposes one policy that is part of the neoconservative package, that does not mean that that person is no longer a neoconservative. Much less does it prove that neoconservatives don't exist, still less that they never existed.

Paul Wolfowitz was booed at a support-Israel rally in DC in 2002 for speaking in favor of a Palestinian state. Jeane Kirkpatrick actually quietly opposed the invasion of Iraq (younger readers: she was a major symbol and spokesperson for the tendency during their transition from "Scoop Jackson Democrats" to overt Republicans). There are hints that Elliott Abrams opposed certain neocon-promoted proposals in the last couple of years of serving in the Bush administration.

This kind of ideological impurity is most common when people are in positions of actual power and responsibility, as opposed to writing op ed columns or grinding out the latest think tank "study". In government, one desired policy is sometimes traded off to gain support for another, or the contradictions between different components of the big wish list become apparent in practice, or expected strong advocates of a policy are given the job of damping down expectations for it exactly because they have credibility with other enthusiasts.

Conversely, as in Jeane Kirkpatrick's case, apostasy it can occur when life nears its end and you're past worrying about the effect on your career.

Then there's also the occasional actual event of someone's thinking evolving under the pressures of evidence, resulting in their abandoning some of the broader principles of a school of thought. I'd say that Francis Fukuyama is the clearest example of that to date.

I have yet to see any evidence that this has happened or is likely to with Perle, Bill Kristol, John Bolton, Cheney (who came in late from a career of Bush I-Scowcroft foreign policy "realism", adopting neocon positions and arguments only after 1992), any of the Podhoretzes or Kagans, or for that matter with any of the rest of the crowd. We'll see what happens if the money that funds their haunts dries up. I'm not holding my breath.

Liberals are the most crazy people around what make them so stupid?

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