Re-Rethinking Neo-Conservatism

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It was the title of a pretty scary article that first caught our attention: Niall Ferguson’s The Origins of the Great War of 2007 — And how it could have been prevented (pdf) was written back in January of this year. It was a look backward through the eyes of a future historian about the “devasting nuclear exchange of August 2007” between Israel and Iran and the battles that followed.

Obviously, and sadly, the piece has only gotten scarier. Ferguson was on our show back in March with Francis Fukuyama. They talked about the course of empire and the last throes of conservatism, and it’s a converstion that resonates still. Chris is in New Orleans for the day, as it happens, so we figured this would be a good show to repeat.

We’ll be back live on Monday.

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  • fiddlesticks

    “It was the title of a pretty scary article that first caught our attention: Niall Ferguson’s The Origins of the Great War of 2007 — And how it could have been prevented (pdf) was written back in January of this year. It was a look backward through the eyes of a future historian about the “devasting nuclear exchange of August 2007″ between Israel and Iran and the battles that followed.”

    Science fiction? Why not actual history, that’s scary enough.

    The first nuclear war will be fought by India and Pakistan, or North Korea and the US and not by Israel and Iran.

  • jdyer

    Here is a counter to neoconservatism and to leftist totalitarianism:

    Paul Berman is one of a number of people on the left who see themselves as the “anti-totalitarians.”

    He is associated with Dissent a left wing Journal and has written eloquently about the war in Iraq and about the roots of Islamic radicalism.

    Here is a lecture he gave in England on his views:

    http://www.littleatoms.com/audio.htm

    Paul Berman. First broadcast 21st July 2006. Download

    I hope some people on the left will download the lecture and listen to it.

  • jdyer: OK… I will… I think I’m what I think Paul Bermer would call a “good hearted leftist” in his mmmm rather patronizing way. I heard most of it (cooking can be noisy) Berman claims to have been a hippy for a few months in the 60s – I still am a hippy but I’m 54 now and haven’t snuck into a rock concert using Marxism as my rationalization for a very long time.

    I found much of what he said of interest but felt he made a few gross mischaracterizations. Before the invasion of Iraq I participated in Peace Marches in Seattle, Washington DC and here in my own small town. Bermer said we “good hearted leftists” were marching side by side with radical Islamists, Bathist supporters, and supporters of Saddam. I NEVER saw militant Islamists, Bathist or Saddam supporters at any of the marches I went to. I saw peaceful Islamic people with concerns regarding racism and immigration. Some of these marches had many thousands of people so I could have missed something but I was a “Peace Keeper” at one of the biggest Seattle marches and it was very well organized. If violence were to have broken out the March organizers would have handled it. As a Peace Keeper the only people I even felt I maybe should keep an eye on were certain elements of the Black Block anarchists. But they were peaceful too.

    I see leftists today concerned with the erosion of workers rights, fair trade, the environment, and of course the runaway military industrial complex. The future of the left seems to coming from south of our border (probably the real reason the right-wingers want to build a wall).

    As for neo-conservatism I cannot imagine why anyone would want to be a mean ol’ stuffed shirt. It doesn’t sound like any fun to me.

  • jdyer

    “Before the invasion of Iraq I participated in Peace Marches in Seattle, Washington DC and here in my own small town. Bermer said we “good hearted leftistsâ€? were marching side by side with radical Islamists, Bathist supporters, and supporters of Saddam.”

    He wasn’t talking about your neck of the woods.

    Still, you have to admit that many ard core leftists have embraced pro Islamic groups. This is truer in Europe than here, but it’s true here too to some extent.

    In any case, I don’t think that you are predisposed to be sympathetic to his point of view, though I hope I am wrong.

  • Peregrinator

    From my very first exposure to the whole Neo-Con concept, I’ve been aghast at its hubris, that is, total lack of knowledge about other cultures, societies, and thoughts. It is the most John Waynesque approach to dealing with issues, and because the real world is not the movies, absolutely destined to fail. The War on Terror, War in Iraq etc is doomed because its very premise based on war and not peace is so flawed. With hindsight, ignorance excuses our actions, but what is happening is not excusable, rather most damnable. Paul E. Opheim

  • I was interested in what Bermer had to say I just thought he might be stretching things a bit to support his point. As for “you have to admit that many ard core leftists have embraced pro Islamic groups” If you mean Muslim groups working for peace and justice, yes! Of course. But if you mean Saddams Bathist Party or AlQiada I sure don’t know any leftists who are into that. It may be that I don’t really know very many real “hard core leftists”. I’ve always agreed with Emma Goldman’s, “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolutionâ€? if that makes her less than “hard coreâ€?. The hardest core leftists I know are atheists who think religious fundamentalists, be they Christians or jihadists are all dangerously insane. Mostly the harder core people I know are greens and peaceniks and maybe that’s a little different than say, Bolsheviks or Maoists. I do see sympathy for the Palestinian people and lately the Lebanese among all sorts of progressive folks hard core or not. A lot of lefties are concerned about civil rights and racism and will do things like after 9-11 go and stand outside Mosques to protect them from vandalism and take a stand against blind racism but that is very different from agreeing with Al Qiada or Saddam. Why on earth would I embrace an organization that kills women just to be macho? I will concede that some of us hate Bush so much that I think there is a common enemy thing and I confess that when I heard Saddam say that he would plow the desert with “The nose of the evil little Mr. Bush” I laughed and I started calling Bush “the evil little Mr. Bush” but that is not to say that I agree with Saddam about anything else, certainly not!

  • andrew wiggin

    Someone please tell Francis Fukuyama that the magazine The Public Interest was not founded by Irving Kristol (Willam’s father and the magazine’s first editor) but by a much shadowier and more interesting figure: Warren D. Manshel, Harvard PhD, onetime CiA analyst and (briefly) Wall Street broker. A few years later he founded (together with his university friend Sam Huntington, later orchestrator of ‘the clash of civilizations’) the magazine Foreign Policy. These two publications were fields where many of the seeds of neoliberalism and neoconservatism sprouted. (Richard Barnet of the Institute of Policy Studies once characterized Foreign Affairs (journal of the Council on Foreign Relations) as “the journal of the tired old warmongers” and Foreign Policy as that of “the vigorous young warmongers.”) Manshel, longtime publisher of both Public Interest and Foreign Policy, was a major figure in the intellectual history of the Cold War period but his name and history are unknown to the general public. It is time someone researched his life and his influence.

  • jdyer

    “I was interested in what Bermer had to say I just thought he might be stretching things a bit to support his point.”

    His name is Paul Berman!

    “As for “you have to admit that many ard core leftists have embraced pro Islamic groupsâ€? If you mean Muslim groups working for peace and justice, yes!”

    Oh, but all Muslims, by definition, work for “peace and justice,” didn’t you know.

    Islam means ‘peace.” It is the “peace and justice” of Islam they work for. Hence B in Laden, Nasrallah, Ahjmadijan, the Ayatollah Khameini and everyone in Mecca is working for “peace.

    “The hardest core leftists I know are atheists who think religious fundamentalists, be they Christians or jihadists are all dangerously insane. Mostly the harder core people I know are greens and peaceniks and maybe that’s a little different than say, Bolsheviks or Maoists.”

    Again, it’s not only about the people you know.

    The Socialist Workers Party in England are atheists too, but that didn’t stop them from embracing Jihadists as anti-Capitalist fellow revolutionaries.

    “I do see sympathy for the Palestinian people and lately the Lebanese among all sorts of progressive folks…”

    I know and their sympathies don’t seem to extend to Sudanese, to Kurds, to the oppressed in North Korea, to Tibetians, the victims of Mugabe, and never to the Jews.

    I don’t call such people “progressives,” I call them the totalitarian left.

    “I will concede that some of us hate Bush so much that I think there is a common enemy thing and I confess that when I heard Saddam say that he would plow the desert with “The nose of the evil little Mr. Bushâ€? I laughed and I started calling Bush “the evil little Mr. Bushâ€? but that is not to say that I agree with Saddam about anything else, certainly not!”

    That is too much agreement with a genocidal maniac who gassed Kurdish people.

    There is an intelligent way of opposing Bush and his policies and theire is a reprehensible way which “embraces all his enemies because they too hate Bush.”

  • I never said I “embraced” all of Bush’s enemies… I only agreed with one insult! And I have a great deal of sympathy for Tibetans as I am a practicing Tibetan Biddhist and have met and studied with refugee Lamas. You are twisting my words around to suit your own agenda.

  • Whoops, I mean Buddhist not Biddhist

  • jdyer

    “I never said I “embracedâ€? all of Bush’s enemies…”

    I never said you did. I said that embracing even one of Saddam’s views is one too many.

    “And I have a great deal of sympathy for Tibetans…”

    And why aren’t you posting about China’s oppression of Tibet rather than spending most of your time justifying Palestian and pro Palestinian terrorism.

  • rc21

    I watched some of the big anti war rallies on c-span. There were plenty of people wearing the colors of the PLO and other terrorist groups,along with your typical che tshirts and Fidel and Mao shirts. Many of the speakers railed against the USA for all kinds of reasons.They even had people giving speeches demanding the release of cop killer muma jamal or what ever his name is. The whole rally seemed to have more to do with bashing the USA and Isreal (who wernt even involved in this) than speaking out for peace.

  • rc21: Thanks for mentioning Mumia Abu Jamal. That gives us a means however slim to segue back to what was suppose to be the topic of this thread, Neo-Conservatism. Here is Jamal’s observation regarding US neo-conservatism in Iraq.

    “What we are witnessing in this hour is a new imperialism.

    Iraq is reduced to rubble, and American corporations make a mint by rebuilding it. All of this, we are assured, is to benefit ‘the People of Iraq.’

    Haven’t we heard this tale before?”

    Mumia Abu Jamal

    http://www.prisonradio.org/maj/maj_6_11_iraq.html

    Now, I’m outta here. I’ve got to go get my Che T-shirt out of the dryer…

  • rc21

    Why would you want to associate your self with a cold blooded murderer?

    As to Neocons I was told by an friend at work that neocon was a code word for Jew. The left does believe in being politically correct.

  • Folks,

    People like jdyer do not come here to have a discussion; they come to pick a fight. It’s what we’ve been treated to for the last six years: the Rove and O’Reillying of public discourse: attack, accuse, and smear by association. Have a problem with Israel knocking off a few hundred women and kids? You’re a Jew hater. Worse than that, you’re a terrorist sympathizer. Feel outraged about the US’s destrcution of Iraq? You’re a Saddamist!

    Oh why do we hate freedom!?

    No room for nuance. No room for complexity.

    And here are the lefties, justifying their behavior. “I have a great deal of sympathy for the Tibetans…” “I never said I embraced all of Bush’s enemies…” Guys! This is how the “Rovers” work! It’s not about the issues or coming to consensus! It’s about framing the debate and discrediting anyone who disagrees with you! It’s how a wealthy daddy’s boy from Andover, Yale and Harvard can subvert the electoral process, start a horrible war on false premises, tilt the economy even more in favor of the ultra wealthy, and accelerate the planet’s environmental degradation, and STILL get reelected!

    Don’t take the bait. Don’t engage these people. There ARE real honest to god conservatives out there who DO care about constructive dialogue and even honest debate. (I’m thinking of David Brooks for one.) Sadly, you won’t find them on the Fox shows. You won’t find them in power. And you won’t find them in jdyer’s posts or links.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Peggysue,

    I think your summary of Jdyer is dead on. However, I think it is important to engage all comers, even those who just seem to want to pick a fight. We on the left must be willing and able to defend ourselves, even to those who want to discredit us on their own grounds, which are hardly ever relevant or accurate.

  • JoelC

    Hello,

    I guess I would like to throw out a larger picture. That is no matter who wins in these pseudo presidential elections, half the country is going to be pissed. So since this current administration is a snapshot of a sad November day in ’04 and reflects the will of a few more percent than half the people what good is it? Where is the compromise? We are so polarized by gay marriage, abortion, stem cells and other moral issues that we cant see real flim-flam. The point is that we are all brothers and sisters in this “great democratic experiment.” And just like husbands and wives who disagree or neighbors with overgrown grass we can compromise and come to viable solutions. I think we all need to turn off the cable news propaganda machines for a while and then come back to the table and talk about real issues, not the moral ones. My wife and I got rid of our TV about 2 years ago and I cant remember ever having a more meaningful life.

    P.S. (Preemptive Script) Yes we do have children.

    Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.

    Emma Goldman

  • Old Nick

    Joshua Hendrickson: “However, I think it is important to engage all comers, even those who just seem to want to pick a fight.”

    I wish you’d do so! — Engage all comers, that is. Forgive me for a personal appreciation, but I always enjoy reading the posts beneath your byline, and wish you’d contribute more often. (Your back-to-back in Monday night’s Israel thread provided the welcome humor that depressing string of posts really needed. Thanks.) So give us more, dude. 🙂

    Sorry, everyone, for this unabashed tangent.

  • “As to Neocons I was told by an friend at work that neocon was a code word for Jew. The left does believe in being politically correct. ”

    Dick Cheney and Condi Rice are Jewish? Funny, they don’t LOOk Jewish . . .

    I’ve never uderstood what neo con, or paleo con or even liberal or socialist or any other ideological flags of convenince even have to DO with this topic!

    Concepts like “liberal” an “conservative” have to do with DOMESTIC policy and philosophy. They are about the role of the state, the role of institutions like corporations or the church in society, and the relationship to the individual and the state or other powerful institutions.

    There IS no intrinsically “liberal” or “conservative” foreign or military policy. Empirically, on a worldwide basis, it’s easy to find plenty of examples of of both left-oriented and right-oriented governments in NUMEROUS countries that have been either expansionist, aggressive, isolationist, pacifistic, or whatever. Furthermore, right-wing and left-wing governments often find themselves allies on various military or foreign-policy matters.

    The neocons may be conservatives, but it’s pure coincidence – there are no inherent principles of conservatism (or liberalism) that lead to a particular foreign or military policy.

  • “I think we all need to turn off the cable news propaganda machines for a while and then come back to the table and talk about real issues, not the moral ones.”

    ( BTW, we stopped watching TV back in the 80’s. )

    For some people the moral issues ARE the real issues.

    And that brings us back to labels like “liberal” and “conservative”. One thing they both have in common is a strong central government. The conservatives would use the government for police and security; the liberals would use it for various social programs. But either way they would use the government to enforce their vision of things on the population.

    An alternative to these two models is a more libertarian approach that basically has a small government with a much more limited role. That way we all get to decide for OURSELVES what the “real” issues are.

  • mediamagnet

    Just caught this podcast and was surprised that Christopher didn’t catch the cutting allusion in Ferguson’s parting comment, “When historians come to write the history of the Bush administration, there’ll be two volumes. Volume one will be entitled Hubris and volume two will be entitled Nemesis.” The nod is, of course, to Ian Kershaw’s exhaustive biography of Hitler.