Friday, October 5, 2007

A Brief Note on Neoconservatism

Roger Cohen—who is he and how did he become an op-ed columnist for the Times?—had an column yesterday wherein he lamented the fallen estate of neo-conservatism, and complained that liberal Iraq hawks are become marginalized in the current political debate.

This is perhaps a tad exaggerated, giving that, as Michael Tomasky points out, that most of the liberal hawks, with greater or lesser degrees of repentance, remain as visible as they were before the invasion of Iraq (lets say David Remnick, Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, or George Packer for example) and the current inhabitant of the White House and commander-in-chief of US forces remains in thrall to neo-conservatism.

And Cohen of course has to slur the anti-neo-conservatives, all of whom shown greater political prescience than he did, as Antisemites or at least wannabe Jew haters. “Neo-con,” he writes, “has become shorthand for neo-con-Zionist conspiracy.”

But Cohen is right in one important regard. Outside of a shrinking circle of true believers, neo-conservatism is no longer considered the “wave of the future” (a term first used in reference to fascism), the inevitable destiny of all right thinking people. Neoconservatism has undergone an intellectual collapse similar to that experienced by Communism, an ideology that also once hailed itself as being in the vanguard of history. But the Iraq War has been neo-conservatism’s Purge Trial, Hitler-Stalin Pact, and 20th Party Congress all combined, and its self-destruction, at least as a serious way of viewing the world, has been spectacular.

Whittaker Chambers knew a lot about getting on and off the bandwagon of history, and about dedicating your life to a failed ideology. When I read Cohen’s column, I thought of an article on neoconservatism that appeared in the Times a few years ago, by Chamber’s biographer, Sam Tanenhaus. With the help of Proquest I located this article (September 19, 2000), and let me quote its last paragraph:

“Neoconservatism has had a trickle-down effect on the political culture, and its influence on both major parties is evident even today, Mr. [Norman] Podhoretz says, with considerable satisfaction. Or perhaps, as David Brooks puts it, “We’re all neoconservatives now.”

Or not. Just as they spoke of post-Communist Europe, I hope soon we can start the rebuilding of a post-neoconservative America.

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