Category Archive 'Neocons'

12 Mar 2009

Not Just the Zionists

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Greg Pollowitz explains, at National Review Online, that it was not simply Neocon Zionists who torpedoed the Freeman nomination. It was his financial ties to foreign governments (the Saudis and China) and his own extreme statements, particularly those expressing contempt for human rights in China, that did him in.

Meanwhile, David Broder is shedding big, salty tears over the nation’s loss of the services of someone so “thoughtful and obviously smart as hell,” with a special gift for seeing “how situations look to the people on the other side,” particularly when those other people are lining his pockets.

Why, Freeman is so smart, Broder argues, that he would have been able to “explain” Chinese behavior in the recent incident in which Chinese vessels harassed a US intelligence ship in international waters.

I’m sure Freeman would have said that the Chinese were simply re-asserting their national pride after being so cruelly mistreated by the Western powers in the 19th century, and that their making innovative maximalist claims to territorial sovereignty over the South China Sea is a natural expression of their wounded dignity to which we should understandingly concede. Behaving otherwise on our part would be arrogant and provocative. See, Mr. Broder? The country doesn’t need Charles Freeman as head of NIC. I can tell you myself just what he would have said.

10 Apr 2008

A More Sophisticated Look at the Iraq War Debate

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Robert Kagan examines the wide-spread belief that “Neoconservatism” was responsible for an unjust and ill-considered war in Iraq, and finds today’s foreign policy quarrels to be part of a very ancient pattern of American arguments pro and con a more expansive, ambitious, idealistic foreign policy.

The idea that today’s policies represent a decisive break from the past would certainly come as a surprise to the many critics of American foreign policy across the generations, for there has not been a single criticism leveled at neoconservatism in recent years that was not leveled at American foreign policy hundreds of times over the past two centuries.

The oldest, and in some ways most potent, critique has always been that of genuine conservatism, a powerful counter-tradition that goes back at least as far as the debates over the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. The supporters of the new federal Constitution—George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison—insisted that the concentration of energy and power in the federal government was essential if the United States was to become a world power capable both of protecting itself and achieving its destined greatness on the world stage. “Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness!” Hamilton exhorted in the Federalist papers. But Patrick Henry, a leader of the anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution, accused Hamilton and his allies, not unfairly, of seeking to “convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire.” This, Henry insisted, was a betrayal of the nation’s true purpose. “When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: liberty, sir, was then the primary object.”

That quotation is a favorite chestnut of Patrick Buchanan and that ancient confrontation has recurred in almost every generation since the founding. At the core of this conservative critique has always been the fear that “empire,” however one might define it—in Henry’s day, it meant simply a wide expanse of land under a single, strong central government—is antithetical to, and ultimately destructive of, American democratic and republican virtues. A big, expansive foreign policy requires a big, powerful central government to advance it, and such a government imperils American liberties. It also imperils its democratic soul. As John Quincy Adams memorably put it in 1821, America might become “the dictatress of the world,” but she would “be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

In one way or another, all the major critiques of expansive, ambitious, idealistic American foreign policy have been shaped by this concern about overweening ambition and the temptations of power. It may not even be right to call this inclination “conservative” but rather, as Bernard Bailyn long ago suggested, a manifestation of American “republicanism”—a deep and abiding suspicion of centralized power and its corrupting effects on the people who wield it. Such fears have been expressed by conservatives, liberals, socialists, realists, and idealists alike over the past two centuries.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

12 Mar 2008

David Mamet: “No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal”

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In the Village Voice, no less, playwright David Mamet recounts finding himself responding to NPR’s liberal rants with profanity, and coming to the shocking realization that he had become conservative.

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. “?” she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

Read the whole thing.

11 Mar 2008

Another Liberal, Mugged by a Clinton

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The Wall Street Journal rejoices that the liberal Seth Grahame-Smith, writing in the Huffington Post, is showing signs of recognizing the fact that we were always dead right about the Clintons, the first step in the Recovery Program converting liberals into neocons.

She has no idea how many times I defended her. How many right-leaning friends and relatives I battled with. How many times I played down her shady business deals and penchant for scandals. . . . She has no idea how frequently I dismissed her husband’s serial adultery as an unfortunate trait of an otherwise brilliant man. For sixteen years, I was a proud soldier in the legion of ‘Clinton apologists’. . . . And then she ran for president. She’s proven that she cares more about ‘Hillary’ than ‘unity.’ More about defeating Obama than defeating the Republicans. She’s become a political suicide-bomber, happy to blow herself to bits — as long as she takes everyone else with her. On Friday, one of Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisors, Samantha Power, resigned after calling Senator Clinton ‘a monster’ during an off-the-record exchange. It was an unfortunate slip, but one that echoed the sentiments of many Clinton apologists like me — who’ve watched Hillary’s descent into pettiness and fear-mongering with the heartbreak of a child who grows up to realize that his beloved mother has been a terrible person all along. Are the conservatives right about the Clintons? Will they do and say anything to get elected? I don’t know. All I know is . . . I’m through apologizing.

12 Dec 2007

Alexander Hamilton, Idol of the Neocons

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The founding era figure dismissed contemptuously by John Adams as “the bastard brat of a Scots pedlar” has in recent years been adopted as a particular hero by the same Neocons who are typically currently supporting Rudolph Giuliani for many of the same reasons.

Hamilton’s championship of the interests of the financial community has a natural appeal to New Yorkers, and Hamilton’s enthusiasm for centralization and the activism and expansion of federal power accords comfortably with many of the basic views of former New Deal liberals, ousted from their once-comfortable home in the democrat party by the radical left.

William Hogeland, in Boston Review, discusses the Hamilton revival, reviews its literature in detail, and notes Hamilton’s Janet Reno-ish eagerness to resort to armed federal force as a key factor disqualifying the Nevis Creole from serving as an appropriate icon for American conservatism.

Hat tip to Karen Myers.


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