The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives, Lecture 6 with David Gordon - Mises Academy


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The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives, Lecture 6 with David Gordon - Mises Academy

  1. 1. Betrayal of the Old Right, Lecture 6 The Neoconservatives, Part 2
  2. 2. The Later Neocons • Irving Kristol and his contemporaries emphasized domestic policy. But they didn’t ignore foreign policy. • They started out as pro-Cold War Democrats; many supported Scoop Jackson. • When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, a number of the neocons, led by Kristol supported him. Bell and Glazer didn’t. This brought them closer to the NR conservatives.
  3. 3. The Neocons and National Review • Buckley became friends with Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine. • In the 1950s, NR hadn’t been especially pro-Israel. Leo Strauss in fact wrote a letter to the editor (and also wrote to Willmoore Kendall) criticizing the magazine for lack of sympathy for Israel.
  4. 4. Neocons and NR Continued • Buckley had been very critical of the ADL for its investigations of rightwing groups. • After Podhoretz and his wife Midge Decter became friendly with Buckley, NR became much more pro-Israel. • Podhoretz and Decter strongly attacked Joe Sobran, a longtime NR contributor and friend of Buckley. Sobran was very anti-Israel. Buckley told Sobran to stop writing about Israel and he eventually was fired.
  5. 5. Russell Kirk • Russell Kirk was an important conservative theorist of the 1950s. His most famous book was The Conservative Mind. • He was a traditionalist and opposed an activist foreign policy, although he rarely wrote on foreign affairs. • In a speech in 1988, Kirk said, “Not seldom has it seemed as if some eminent neoconservatives mistook Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States”. Midge Decter said Kirk was anti-Semitic.
  6. 6. The Neocons and Their Conservative Enemies • Kirk wrote a foreword to an excellent critical book about the neocons by the pro- socialist theologian Gary Dorrien, The Neoconservative Mind. • Stephen Tonsor, an intellectual historian at the University of Michigan and an authority on Lord Acton, was also very critical of the neocon influence on the NR conservatives.
  7. 7. Neocons and Enemies Continued • Despite opposition from Kirk and Tonsor, the influence of the neocons at NR continued. • The neocons, in particular Kristol and the Richard Neuhaus, were very influential with foundations that gave money to conservative writers.
  8. 8. The Paleos • Kirk and Tonsor wrote from within the NR circle. • Another group of traditionalist conservatives also opposed the neocons. • A number of them were Southerners, including Mel Bradford, Sam Francis, and Clyde Wilson and Tom Fleming. Paul Gottfried was also a paleo. • Sam Francis was a leading disciple of James Burnham. He opposed the neocons fro their pro- Israel policies. Burnham was anti-Zionist.
  9. 9. The Paleos Continued • During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the paleos were allied with Murray Rothbard’s group of libertarians. • Rothbard hoped to revive the Old Right through an alliance with the paleos. A 1989 conference at the Rockford Institute helped set up this alliance. The John Randolph Club was established.
  10. 10. The Paleo Alliance • Pat Buchanan was associated with the paleo alliance. He respected Rothbard greatly. • After Rothbard’s death in January 1995, the alliance ended. • The paleos didn’t like libertarianism. Many supported protective tariffs. There were also personality conflicts, e.g., Fleming was hard to get along with.
  11. 11. The Neocons and the Cold War • During the late stages of the Cold War, the neocons urged a confrontational policy with the Russians. Podhoretz criticized Reagan for being too soft on the Russians. He opposed disarmament. • After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the neocons had a problem. The US won the Cold War. But the neocons favor an aggressive policy. They needed a new target for an attack.
  12. 12. The Neocons and War • It’s clear from Podhoretz’s book World War IV that Podhoretz liked the sense of unity present in the American people during WWII, when he grew up. This is also the case with many of the older neocons. • How could this sense of unity be recaptured? Podhoretz suggests a war against Islamofascism. This position didn’t originate with Podhoretz, but it has become very influential among the neocons.
  13. 13. Islamofascism • The view holds that there is a worldwide terror campaign against the US, based in large part on an interpretation of Islam that calls for world dominance by Islam. • The “fascism” side of the word stems from the Pro-Hitler policies of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. • The government of Iran is a principal target of the campaign against Islamofascism.
  14. 14. A Difficulty With the Theory • The Islamofascist theory ignores whether terrorism is a response to American policy. • It assumes an unremitting opposition to America because America is not under Islamic law. • Most terrorist acts happen among Islamic countries, and the extent of terrorism has been exaggerated.
  15. 15. Islamofascism and Iraq • A problem for the Islamofascism menace position is that people who supported it also supported the Iraq war of 2003. • The problem is that the Saddam Hussein regime was not a proponent of militant Islam but separated religion and state.
  16. 16. Anti-Iraq • Nevertheless, the Project for the New American Century, a group that lasted from 1997-2006, strongly favored overthrow of the Saddam Hussein government. • The group was founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, both leading neocons. • The group also called fro increased military spending, to maintain American world dominance.
  17. 17. Why War With Iraq? • A revealing presentation of the neocon position is a book published in 2003, shortly before the Iraq War broke out. This is Lawrence Kaplan and William Kristol, The War Over Iraq: Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission. • As the title suggests, the main reason we were supposed to overthrow Saddam was that he was a tyrant. They mention many atrocity stories.
  18. 18. The Case For War • But why does the fact that Saddam was a tyrant imply that the United States should overthrow him? And what does Saddam have to do with the threat from Islamofascism? • Kaplan and Kristol appeal to “democratic peace theory”. According to some political scientists, democracies never go to war with each other.
  19. 19. The Argument Continued • Bruce Russett, a Yale political scientist, is a main supporter of this view. (Russett earlier wrote a defense of American isolationism in WWII, No Clear and Present Danger,1972) • If democracies could be established in all the countries of the Middle East, then peace would be assured. Here is where Islamofascism comes in. If democracies were established, radical Islam would lose its popular appeal.
  20. 20. Problems With the Argument • Note that the neocons were proposing not just war with Iraq but a whole series of wars. This is really perpetual war for perpetual peace. • Is it true that democracies never go to war? What about the Civil War?
  21. 21. Problems Continued Are we dealing with an empirical generalization or a proposition that will support a counterfactual? That is, it doesn’t follow from, “democracies haven’t gone to war with each other” that “if democracies were to be established, they wouldn’t go to war with each other.”
  22. 22. More Problems • Supporters of the theory appealed to Kant, who argued that if a popularly elected legislature had to approve a war, wars would be less likely. • This isn’t true in modern democracies, where the executive starts wars without legislative approval. • What happens if the majority of the population favors an Islamic regime? The neocons assumed that the people they favored would win.
  23. 23. Problems Continued • The notion of revolutions “guided” to achieve a particular outcome is reminiscent of the wars of the French Revolution and also of the Communist revolutions in Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution. • The Trotskyite mindset of the early neocons continues here.