"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eulogy for Neo-conservatism

Like the Bush Administration itself, I mostly gave up defending the decision to go ahead and topple Saddam quite awhile back. There's simply no percentage in it. Fellows like this fellow are on about WMDs Bush lied people died blood for oil, whatever. Case closed, as the victors get to write the history.

I've admitted that I'm a neo-con, or at I least was one, if neo-conservatism isn't already dead and buried in an unmarked grave in Iraq. And our friends on the left throw dirt on the neo-conservative grave at every opportunity, as if somehow neo-conservatism was a brand new thing invented by Paul Wolfowitz, the Kristols père et fils, and of course, Leo Strauss.

And there are no small number on the right who have agreed, not in the least the late William F. Buckley, a "traditional" conservative, although his "traditional" conservatism actually dates back to only the mid-1950s.

So let's take a look at this mess---

Before Edmund Burke [1729-1797], a British parliamentarian, became the “First Conservative,” he was quite the liberal, supporting the American colonists, opposing slavery, and fighting for expanded rights for the Irish. It was his opposition to the Jacobins that led to his being trashed by the liberals [Whigs, his own party] of his day, most of whom thought the French Revolution was a great idea.

Burke supported war against revolutionary France, to quarantine what he saw as the contagion of a diseased ideology.

That the neo-cons were in favor of warring against both Caliphatism and its secular counterpart pan-Arabism [Ba'athism is one variety] seems quite consistent with the classical liberalism---or Burke's original conservatism---that favors both individual liberty and social order.

Although arguments from prudence against the Iraq war are worthy [too expensive, too much carnage], the neo-con scheme just might work. Pan-Arabism is quiet, and according to some, the book may be closing on bin Ladenism as a growth industry because of the tyranny and brutality it has already shown to be in its nature.

Are the neo-cons [R.I.P.?] conservative or liberal? The answer is yes. Will we go the way of the Whigs? As a political force, it sure looks like it. But neo-conservatism has actually been around for awhile now. Things---if they hold truth---have a way of coming back around, in different times and in different forms, when they are needed.



James F. Elliott said...

Burke as the original neo-conservative? How... provocative. Well, you'll be sure to have Andrew Sullivan spinning his wheels!

I actually think a large part of the neo-conservative domestic agenda, as originally expressed by the likes of Irving Kristol and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, may just live on in thinkers like Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat.

And I don't think we've seen the last of the Platonic neo-imperialism of their foreign affairs agenda, either. It's the sort of thinking that liberal interventionists can hold their noses and work alongside with.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As Michael Medved noted recently, nobody calls himself a "neo-conservative" anymore. What Ronald Reagan did making "liberal" a dirty word has been doubled for "neo-con."

[Funny thing is, neos are more liberal than paleos.]

So, I'm a liberal, as least as far as Edmund Burke was, and you confess that you're in the neighborhood, too, James. The coming election will not permit us common ground, but perhaps in December we can start over.

[And yes, Edmund Burke as neo-conservative is a radical interpretation. You caught me, hehe.]

James F. Elliott said...

Hey, I was a neo-conservative in college. Then I realized I just didn't have a bad enough opinion of other people to keep it up.

James F. Elliott said...

Hi Tom,

I thought you'd be interested in this essay by Robert Kagan in the latest World Affairs.

The Reality Show said...


The global virus of racist Arabism has claimed/claims millions of victims, it includes:

Kurds (under Saddam or Syria), Berbers, Jews (inside Israel - the genocide campaign since the massacre in 1929 by the Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini until today, or in the Arab world or on 'Arab street' in Europe, etc.), Africans (genocide in Sudan, oppression in Egypt, Slavery in Mauritania, etc.)...

Eric said...

For the record:
1. Explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
2. Saddam: What We Now Know (link) by Jim Lacey* draws from the Iraq Survey Group (re WMD) and Iraqi Perspectives Project (re terrorism). * Dr. Lacey was a researcher and author for the Iraqi Perspectives Project (link).
3. UN Recognizes 'Major Changes' In Iraq (link) by VP Joe Biden on behalf of the UN Security Council.
4. Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit (link) by OIF senior advisor Rick Brennan.
5. How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq (link) by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky.