Saturday, August 23, 2003

IF THE FRENCH AND TNR AGREE, IT MUST BE TRUE: Well, not necessarily; but in this case, I'm inclined to say that &c.'s right.

COMING NOT TO BURY CAESARISM: Matt Yglesias has a couple of very interesting posts up, both of which have got me mulling. Writing about Iraq, Matt suggests that what we need is a Great Man (or woman), a hero who will arise from the Iraqi people to inspire and guide them towards embracing, and building, democracy -- an Iraqi George Washington, or Gandhi (or Nehru), or de Gaulle, or Lenin or Hitler (since Great Men, as someone once sagely observed, needn't be good men -- but in this case, I think Matt is hoping for someone who's both, and not, say, a charismatic fundamentalist Shi'ite cleric -- though that's a real possibility. Great men needn't be a good thing.) I think Matt's right, both that the success of democracy in Iraq will depend on being able to find leaders from among the Iraqis themselves, and that strong and inspirational leadership is necessary. I'm not sure about Matt's emphasis on a single individual, though. I do think such individuals are important, especially at decisive moments in history; but I think relying on them too much is a danger. After all, if America had ONLY had Washington, it wouldn't be the nation it is today -- it also took Franklin, Jefferson, the Adamses, Madison, et. al. to get the job done. An 'Iraqi George Washington' will need to be able to work with others, and will need to have others to work with. And, of course, there's always the danger of Caesarism -- of a popular, or demagogic, dictatorship, in which the personal magnetism of an individual leader, however well-intentioned and constructive, overwhelms, and thus endangers, legal norms, procedures, and institutions.
In another post, Matt suggests that Howard Dean's somewhat schizoid political image -- a raging liberal to most of the country, a moderate in his own state of Vermont -- reflects political savvy; and that "this — political skill — is a more important determinant of electability than a candidate's substantive views." I think that, again, there's a lot to this, though I don't think that should lead us to embrace (seemingly) politically canny politicians rather than ones with worthy substantive views (remember that whole nominating Clinton thing? Of course, a lot of liberals still think that was a good move. I really can't understand why.) However, I'm not sure if Dean really IS so politically savvy. A lot of people seem to find him so -- a lot of people seem to find him awfully appealing -- but I don't see it. I also don't know that being really appealing to the people I know who really like Dean is an indication that he will be able to appeal to, and win over, a large portion of the population outside the NE. Indeed, unless things go really, really bad at home and in Iraq (heaven forfend), I can't imagine Dean not getting creamed by Bush on foreign affairs and security -- not because he's actually worse on these matters than Bush, but because he'll be perceived as a peace-mongering Northeast liberal. And I just don't see that playing well in most of the country, however skillful Dean's delivery.

Friday, August 22, 2003

HEAR HEAR: Chris Bertram reports on the row between distinguished Canadian-British philosopher (and apologist for Palestinian suicide bombings) Ted Honderich and Micah Brumlik, the Director of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Study and Documentation Centre for the History of the Holocaust and Its Effects, who has demanded that Honderich's book After the Terror be withdrawn by its German publishers (Habermas, who recommended the book, has also gotten involved; his letter, to be found in unauthorized translation on Honderich's site, is the only reasonably self-critical and thoughtful document to be produced by any of the actors in this sad affair.)
Chris provides all the necessary details and links; and he also seems to me to take exactly the right position on the whole affair -- that Brumlik's charge of anti-semitism is unjust, or at any rate unwarranted, but that Honderich's defense of suicide bombers (it's people like this that give moral philosophy a bad name ...) and demand that Brumlik be fired from his academic post for his criticism of Honderich (a violation of the principles of academic freedom and discourse if ever I saw one) makes it impossible to sympathize with him very much. I'd only add one further point, in criticism of Brumlik. Even if Honderich's book were anti-semitic -- and the evidence that I've seen suggests that it isn't (it is certainly anti-Israel, and if you can't recognize any difference between the two EVER, then perhaps you'll find it anti-semitic. Then again, if that's the case, you'll also probably find this site anti-semitic. Which would surprise and distress my grandmothers no end, let me tell you.), I don't think that calling for its withdrawal by the publishers is the best or proper course of action. If one thinks a book is wrong, one should say so -- and prove it. This is what book reviews are for. We should seek to confound and condemn such contemptible arguments as Honderich's fairly and openly, in the proverbial 'marketplace of ideas' - not force such arguments underground, or allow their progenitors to claim the mantle of martyrdom.

TOWER OF BEEBLE TWO: I've now had a chance to read Josh's apologia regarding his attack on the BBC. Several thoughts:
1. It is shameful that Josh should be charged with conflict of interest, opportunism, or being a sellout or a partisan hack. Josh is quite capable of defending himself against such accusations -- though he shouldn't have to; but let me just add, as someone who knows Josh reasonably well (and often disagrees with him), that these charges are baseless, indeed grossly wide of the mark, and that those who make them have no idea what they're talking about, and should refrain from such underhanded attacks -- attacks which only make them, and not Josh, look bad, to any candid and reasonable observer.
2. Josh claims that the terms 'occupation' and 'liberation' are equally loaded, equally non-neutral. Perhaps so. However, I would note that, first, the definition of occupation that Josh gives -- 'Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces' -- seems to me a perfectly accurate description of what has happened in Iraq, regardless of whether you think this justified or not (note that the definiton of occupation does not implicitly or explicitly make any declaration about legitimacy or morality). 'Occupation' could be a good thing, in certain circumstances; and many people would have, and do have, no problem with it.
'Liberation', on the other hand, is, in today's political parlance, almost invariably viewed as a good thing. According to the American Heritage Dictionary (to use the same authority as Josh; gosh, I'm beginning to feel like Scalia here ...) liberation means 'The act of liberating or the state of being liberated'; 'liberate', in turn, means 'to set free, as from oppression, confinement, or foreign control'. (As for what 'free' means ... don't get me started.)
Now, I think that the toppling of Saddam Hussein has to be acknowledged to have been a liberation, whether one thinks it was the best thing to do, or not; it certainly set the people of Iraq free from the oppression of a brutal dictator. However, it has also led to foreign control, itself something that one needs to be liberated from. So I think one could say that, even if the toppling of Saddam was a liberation -- as I think any fair-minded observer would grant -- and even if it was the right thing to do -- which is rather more debatable -- it should be viewed as an incomplete liberation, or as a step towards a fuller, more complete and unmitigated liberation.
So, I can understand being a bit leery of calling the invasion of Iraq a liberation -- since, while it did liberate Iraq, it also has resulted in its occupation. Under the circumstances, 'occupation' seems a more fully accurate account of the present situation (you could also think of it temporally: the liberation of Iraq, that is the toppling of Saddam, has been succeeded by the occupation of Iraq. One can argue that the occupation is part of, and a necessary part of, the liberation; but that does seem to me a matter of opinion). It seems to me that neither term is completely neutral, and also that neither term is wrong -- both are descriptive of the current situation. But the term occupation seems to me less contentiously exact as a description of the current situation, and also less strongly normatively charged, than liberation; so I can understand why the BBC would use it instead.
3. The first point is in response to a nasty distraction, and the second point is really a quibble. The main point to be examined in looking at Josh's response is the accuracy of his account of the BBC's handling of the Lynch Resuce and 'sexed-up' dossier/Kelly story. I haven't followed either story closely enough to be very certain about this, and I think that none of us know enough at this point to say with great confidence exactly what happened in either case. But Josh's accounts of both strike me as careful and well-substantiated -- more so than Kevin's criticism, and more so than the BBC's own self-defense. So I'm inclined to take his side in this dispute.
A final note: this is no doubt horrendously, naively idealistic, but I like to believe that the BBC, like Caesar's wife, should be above suspicion. The BBC has a priviledged position, it is a tremendously important, valuable, and unique institution, which has for most of its history fulfilled its mission well. That it should now be so mired in scandal, that it should in effect have debased itself from being an institution that stands back from ideological and partisan struggles to unearth the truth -- or that at least tries to -- to being a belligerent in such struggles (and, of late, seemingly a rather ham-handed one), is a very sad disappointment.
(That said, I'll still take its coverage of most world news over most US networks anyday -- and its coverage of anything over Fox News.)

Sheesh. You know things are in a bad way when I actually break out the Hebrew prayers. Let's try not to let that happen again, shall we.
(I should also probably try to do something about my tendency to despairing yet preachy quietism, as well; but I think avoiding invoking the comforts of religious rituals in which I don't believe is a start.)

The story of the last few days, as I see it, is this (briefly and simplistically): a Hamas suicide bomber killed 20 Israelis in a bus-bombing. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, has broken off contact with Palestinian terrorist organizations, and has declared that he will try to crack down on them. The Israeli government has declared Abu Mazen's "grace period" (what would that be? The period when they were building a fence that enraged Abu Mazen's distrustful people?) over, and have, after two days of waiting in which they got fed up with Abu Mazen not doing enough, carried out a 'targeted assasination' against one of Hamas leaders. The PA leadership claims that this attack has undermined their own preparations to quelch the militants, by re-igniting widespread fury against Israel, and giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad a pretext for abandoning the cease fire to which they had agreed.
Now, the first thing to note is that this is a complicated, and tragic, situation. The Israelis are quite right to claim that they are faced with a choice between two bad options: either showing restraint, and giving Abu Mazen and the PA time to bring the militants under control -- which means trusting in both Abu Mazen's intentions (which I'm inclined to), and his ability to do so (about which I think one may be rather more dubious); or, deciding that the PA either can't or won't control the terrorists, and that the terrorists can never be convinced to abandon their violent methods, seek to fight back itself, crippling the terrorists to a great enough extent that they will be hindered from carrying out further attacks.
The second thing is to note that we who are watching all of this wretchedly from our perches outside of Israel and the PA aren't the ones who are very likely to be killed, or have our loved ones killed, in these attacks and probably counter-attacks. There is something very disturbing, not in the responses of grief, despair, moral outrage, compassion, anger, that are evoked in our hearts by these events; nor in our inclination to blame those involved for their mistakes and crimes, to feel frustration as we see people saying and doing things that we believe wrong or foolish, but in the certitude and righteous indignation with which so many of us demand one course of action or another, and the way that we turn this into a matter of politics.
It isn't disturbing because these events aren't political -- quite the opposite is true -- or because we have no right to judge the validity of different courses of action, or are incapable of doing so. Indeed, at some remove, we may be more capable of thinking rationally and realistically and humanely about these events, than those caught at the center of them -- those who feel themselves, because they are, under attack. And so expressions of grief, or anger, or despair, are appropriate; and discussion of the best course to pursue now -- including criticism and defense of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships' actions -- are quite appropriate, indeed urgent (what isn't appropriate, in my view, is any defense of the recent terrorist attack on Israel; and anyone who doesn't acknowledge it to be evil should, I think, simply be ignored on this matter.)
What I think is to be avoided is the use of this event as a chance to lift oneself up onto a moral high-horse. What is to be avoided is too much righteous indignation, too much ardour, in demanding sacrifices or dictating course of action for which one will not oneself have to pay. A certain humility and self-restraint are almost always, I think, admirable and desirable; but in this case, they are especially important -- and difficult to maintain.
My own view is that Israel is in an appalling situation. That situation is partly, perhaps largely, of the Israeli government's own making. But that doesn't change the facts of the situation, it doesn't make the choices that Israel must make and the risks it must take any the lesser. To demand that Israel trust the PA to police itself and put an end to Palestinian terrorist attacks, when it has repeatedly failed to do so, and when it is Israeli lives that are at stake, seems to me grossly arrogant and unfeeling.
At the same time, it does seem to me that in responding violently, Israel is playing into the hands of the terrorists – is, indeed, letting itself be played by them. These terrorists want to de-rail the peace process, and have acted in order to do so. And now it seems that Israel will, yet again, respond with force, which will give the terrorists an excuse for striking back even harder – and will re-confirm the distrust and hatred toward Israel on the part of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, and caught in the crossfire between Israel and the terrorists. We’ve seen it happen before, repeatedly; and so long as Israel always falls into the trap laid by the terrorists, it will continue going on and on. And, again, many lives will be lost on both sides – the lives of those who live there, who can’t escape. Not our lives – not the lives of observers throughout the rest of the world.
And so the cries to action – the calls to crush those Palestinian bastards, as I believe one fellow-blogger so sensitively and (self-)righteously called them – and the justifications in the name of justice and security of actions that will lead to the deaths of many innocents on both sides, from all of our brave Zionist warriors outside of Israel – all of these self-designated honorary members of the IDF, who live safely away from the real fighting and real sacrifice – as well as the self-righteously superior condemnations of Israeli policy and demands for Israeli passivity, fill me with unease, and indeed aversion, even with contempt.
On the other side, it seems to me equally wrong either to always excuse the Palestinian side, to deny that they have any responsibility for controlling, or ability to control, their own people, and to blame everything always on the Israelis; or to demand of the appallingly shaky, weak, and often mis-treated Palestinian Authority what is beyond their power, and what threatens their own survival no less than Israel’s. Clearly, Abu Mazen must act, and he must try to do a better job of clamping down on militants BEFORE, rather than after, they blow up buses. But he must also be given a chance to act – and that means allowing him a grace period of more than two days. It also means acting in such a way as gives him some political leverage, some room to maneuver, some reason for hope, some real power. The Israeli government’s repeated failure to follow through with promises to halt construction of settlements in the Occupied Territories, their building of a fence around parts of those territories that the Palestinians feel, rightly, by rights belong to them, and their passing of laws and pursuit of policies which discriminate against and oppress Palestinians within Israel – these are all inherently unjust, and put Abu Mazen in an impossible situation. We shouldn’t exempt him and the PA from all demands or criticism or harsh judgment; but we shouldn’t expect the super-human or politically impossible of him, and we shouldn’t jump to judge him and his people before we give them a fair chance – and from the safety and freedom of our own dens.
It is in such a safe den (figuratively speaking) that I now sit, and from which I imagine I’ll continue to watch the “road map” go up in flames, events spiral out of control into a succession of one bloodletting after another, from which I, and you, will no doubt watch further images of dead children and bereaved families, as both sides continue to blunder and kill and fail, and as those Angels of rectitude on both sides of the ideological aisle continue to scream out condemnations and cries for blood. It is a dismal prospect, a heart-rending one, in which it seems that all is cold and comfortless.
When faced with such a prospect, I don’t know what to do, and know that there’s not much, if anything, I can do that’ll be of a jot of good. The only thing left to do, at this point, seems to be to pray; and so, without having any Thing to pray to, I can only mouth the words of my ancestors, without their conviction, without their faith, but with a hope and desire equal to theirs:
Oseh shalom bimromav hu ya-aseh shalom aleinu ve'al kol yisrael veimru, amen.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

SMARM: The other day, on the drive down from New Haven to NJ, I was listening to the radio, briefly (my father wanted to hear the traffic report), and I was subjected to a god-awful ad by Verizon about how great an employer it was. Now, first of all, I have reason to doubt that the ad was true -- Verizon's labour actions don't strike me as following a very respectable pattern (and kudos to Brett Marston for his rant). But, mainly, the voiceover in the add was so BLOODY obnoxious -- sort of mawkishly 'sensitive' and sententious and self-righteous, so mealy-mouthed and pious, so plain smarmy, it was agony to listen to.
For that reason alone, though I don't know all of the details of the case and so don't feel competent to endorse their cause or position, I'm going to link to this anti-Verizon site (via Waldheim) -- just because Verizon's ad and their lawsuit make me that mad.

TOWER OF BEEBLE: To recap thus far: my friend David Adesnik has now jumped to the defense of our friend and his fellow OxBlogger Josh Chafetz's cover-slagging-off of the BBC in the Weekly Standard against Kevin Drum's criticism (TAPPED has endorsed Kevin's criticism, and has been kinda snarky to boot. You know, guys, every smart left-liberal blog is appreciated -- but nobody likes a smarty-pants. [Well, ok, actually, it seems many people do.])
My own view on this, for what it's worth, is this: I, predictably, think both Josh and Kevin make good points, and are partly in the right: the Beeb really is often arrogant and biased in some of its coverage, but Josh also at times confuses the issue and weakens his case by blurring the line between clearly biased reporting -- the BBC's frequent habit of interpreting disputed or uncertain reports in such a way as to make Israel or the US look as bad as possible -- and the BBC's attempts to do what journalists should, in my view, do: to get at, and state, the truth of the matter so far as it can be known, without taking sides -- without talking about 'our' side, and depicting it positively, and covering events from its point of view, as most US TV coverage of the war has seemed to me to do. Also, the BBC's coverage of events in much of the rest of the world -- Africa, much of Asia, Europe -- is so vastly superior to most of the US TV media coverage I've seen, it seems a bit unfair to just blast the entire institution, as Josh seems to, without remembering its virtues and accomplishments. That said, it does seem that the BBC has been acting, not as a rigourous and objective news source, but as an organization with its own ideological axe to grind, and Josh is right to point out that this is both wrong, and worrying. All of that said, I also don't think that David fairly or fully addresses or answers all of Kevin's points.
UPDATE: Josh has now responded with this thumping great big point-by-point response post, which I've yet to get through.

WE GOT HIM! NO, WAIT ... NOW WE GOT HIM! After thinking he had been killed in action, back in April, Coalition forces now say that they've taken Gen. 'Chemical Ali' Al-Majid.
This is great news (to find out why, check out Patrick's post at OxBlog). Still, it does raise sort of disturbing questions -- about the rapidity, indeed the recklessness, with which people concluded Chemical Ali had been offed in the first place (well, we really wanted to believe it), and more especially about the British and US authorities' misleading of journalists on this matter (I'm not suggesting they deliberately lied; I'm suggesting that, in their eagerness to get good publicity, they made the possibility that they had taken out al-Majid seem more like a conclusive reality than they should have until they were sure).
I'm also a bit uneasy about the fact that this announcement should come at this particular point, just when good news from Iraq seems very desperately needed. I certainly don't want to believe that this is just a PR ploy, and so far as I know, there's no reason to think it is. And I certainly hope we've really got him this time (if we have taken al-Majid into custody, it's even better than killing him outright: now he can be tried for genocide -- another small, important step in giving the UN genocide convention teeth). I'm just find the timing, and the fact that Chemical Ali has already been declared dead, less than conducive to confidence.

For anyone so strange as to be interested in what papers for the upcoming APSA convention are available online, Jacob Levy has the goods (in political theory, at least -- and that's the really important stuff, right? Right? [Note to political science graduate programs: I'm kidding. Really. I think there are parts of political science other than political theory that are valuable. Really I do. Honest.) (Sorry; it's been a day of packing up and moving)
Now, the question is: what're we going to see as far as an organized (or disorganized) bloggers presence at APSA?

FOR SHAME: What a bunch of callous, obnoxious, stupid jerks. Sentiments like these, and those who spout them, make me sick.
(This moment of contempt brought to you via Antidotal)
UPDATE: Tacitus delivers a whalloping smack-down at the end of this typically thought-provoking post. Well done, sir.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

HORRORS: This and this are both just awful.
Things are not going well.
UPDATE: My friends David and Patrick have great round-ups of news about and reflections on recent, horrible events in the Middle East.

BAITING BERKOWITZ, BASHING BUSH (OR VICE VERSA?): My friend Peter Berkowitz argues in this piece that George Bush isn't such a radical right-winger after all (when you put this beside Fred Barnes' portrait of Bush as a Progressive-style big government conservative, you begin to see a new consensus on the President emerging among intellectuals on the sane right; and indeed, on the insane Right as well, as Pat Buchanan shows.
In response, TAPPED has blasted Peter's article (generously declaring that he's neither stupid nor blind to begin with, which is good of them).
While I'm not all that happy with TAPPED's tone ("one of the most intellectually shallow articles Tapped has ever read"? Do they read National Review on a regular basis? And have they never looked at the Trotskyite press? Or most of the articles that've appeared on the Straussian connection?), I agree with the criticisms they make of Peter's arguments, which seem to me to largely amount to a claim that Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' rhetoric means something, whereas I think -- and what I've seen of his actual policies thus far suggest -- that it is just that -- rhetoric, designed to appeal to moderate voters, but belied by Bush's practice (Bush seems to have learnt the Clintonian skill of making promises without fulfilling them, and then getting credit for merely making the promises.)
But I'd go further. Peter claims that Bush shares the dedication to the principles of individual freedom and equality before the law of his liberal critics, but that he understands these principles differently. I'd reply that he seems to me either to not be very sincerely or consistently or forcefully committed to these principles, or his understanding of them is deeply deficient. Peter's article, in its focus on Bush's words, fails to take into account John Ashcroft and his Justice Department's actions. These do not seem to me to evince a great respect for the individual liberty or equality before the law of many Muslim-Americans. Nor does the Bush Administration's adoption of closed military tribunals as a way of dealing with suspected terrorists strike me as something staunch upholders of civil liberties and the rule of law would want to embrace (a view shared by some non-Leftist, non-Democrat friends of mine, so I don't think it's just a partisan point).
Peter notes that Bush DIDN'T say a lot about abortion or gay rights or affirmative action during the 2000 election. Well, of course not -- he was looking for independent votes. No one doubts that Bush is quite good at keeping quiet and presenting himself as a moderate. The question is, IS he a moderate? Thus far, the best that can be said for him on social issues is that, aside from his attempt to force his opposition to reproductive freedoms onto other people around the world through US foreign policy (which Peter notes, but discounts), he hasn't done as much to endanger women's reproductive freedom, or repeal affirmative action, or encourage the continued denial of gay rights, as he could conceivably have. So, ok, he's no Buchananite; I still wouldn't call him all that moderate on social issues. Peter's main point seems to be that Bush has embraced a tone of greater moderation when it comes to symbolic politics. This is certainly a welcome alternative to extremism when it comes to symbolic politics, whether from the Right or the Left. But we are still talking about symbolism and rhetoric here, and not the content or impact on people of actual policy. So, too, his appointment of African-Americans and women to prominent positions is admirable; but it's still largely a matter of symbolism. Such symbolism is far from worthless -- it counts. But Bush's commitment to civil rights would be a lot more impressive if he were doing something to address the suffering and pathologies that infest inner cities across the US, if his education policy had much more content than a push towards vouchers, if his faith-based initiative was having more of an effect, and if his commitment to moving the GOP away from the heritage of the Dixiecrats it's absorbed and now depends on went beyond jettisoning Trent Lott when Lott became too much of an embarasment to ignore.
As for Bush being "less moralistic, more live-and-let-live", it's true that Bush presents himself as much less intolerant than the Gingrich (or Delay) Republicans (I think we have his PR advisors to thank for that). But the man's pronouncements strike me as profoundly moralistic, nay, supremely self-righteous. This is by no means an indication that he's ideologically radical or extreme -- moderates can be as insufferably morally superior as anyone else (as this page sometimes shows). But I do think that, again, Peter is giving an overly sympathetic, gee-isn't-he-a-nice-guy picture of Bush. This is a view of Bush that most of the country apparently accepts; and I remain utterly bewildered as to why they (and Peter) do -- other than that they, in the goodness of their heart, really want to believe that the man who is guiding the country through these difficult and dangerous times is a decent, kind, responsible, even noble person.
I'd like to think that too; and as a committed New Deal liberal, I'd like to believe that Bush is as unthreatening to the welfare state and civil liberties as Peter claims. And, when I see any real evidence that I find convincing to that effect, I'll be very happy to relax.
Thing is, I've been looking for that evidence, because I don't really like believing that the country is being led down a dangerous road by an ideologically extreme, personally feckless and morally complaisant man and his more sinister advisors and confederates. But thus far, that's the way it looks to me. I sort of envy Peter his optimism.

I've just been reading Matt Yglesias' response to Irving Kristol's declaration of the nature of neoconservatism in the Weekly Standard (note: the Standard, edited by Irving's son Bill, currently has, in addition to Irving's article, a book review titled 'Two Cheers for Nepotism'. Indeed.)
Now, I've made mention of the phenomenon of neo-conservatism on this page in the past (comments which have often been influenced by, and have influenced, my ongoing conversation with my neo-con friends, especially the estimable Mr. Chafetz), but I don't think I've confronted neo-conservatism as an ideology/movement head-on up to now. So, here's my chance.
What follows, over the several posts below, is my response to Kristol's piece -- and an attempt to give my own impression of neo-conservatism. Whether it'll actually clarify or educate as to the actual meaning or content of neo-conservatism, I don't know; it's doubtful. But it should at least clarify how I understand neo-conservatism, and thus what I'm talking about, or think I'm talking about, when I refer to neoconservatism or the neo-cons.

TANGENT ON DEAN: A comment about the opening quote of the article first, though. Kristol opens the piece with the following, from Howard Dean:
"[President Bush is] an engaging person, but I think for some reason he's been captured by the neoconservatives around him."
President Bush an engaging person? Hello? The schmuck-in-chief? The man who inherited a thriving economy [though, as reader DW points out, the economy was already showing signs of weakening before Bush took office), was faced with a war on terrorism, undertook audacious efforts in foreign intervention and nation-building -- and thus far seems to be screwing it all, and doing so with an unvarying, unflinching, and ever-more-nauseating moral complacency, arrogance, and obtuseness? What the HELL was Dean thinking?
(This, by the way, goes on the already too-long list of stupid things Dean has said. Not as stupid as most of the utterances that come out of Dubya's mouth, but still ...)
[ADDENDUM: in an e-mail my friend RS has taken me to task for being too hard on Dean, pointing out that Dean was not praising Bush's policies, but merely noting that Bush is engaging, or likable. And, as RS points out, this is fairly politically astute -- Dean's criticizing Bush's policies, without looking personally vindictive or unfriendly.
Anyway, I certainly did a bad job explaining what annoys me about Dean's statement, so let's try again. First, Bush isn't an 'engaging person'. He's an arrogant, irresponsible, smug, mean-spirited, secretive, power-hungry jerk, from what I can see. I know a lot of people like him, for reasons I (like RS) can't begin to fathom, and that it's probably a really, really bad idea for rival politicians to engage in the sort of ad hominem attack I'm launching (it's also unproductive, petty, and demeaning to the person engaging in such attacks -- but, hey, I don't mind). I just don't see why Dean has to go out of his way to utter positive comments about Bush that are as undeserved as they are, really, assinine.
The other problem is Dean's blaming Bush's bad policies on the neo-cons. Now, first of all, I think this isn't fair or accurate, and I think it absolves Bush of too much as far as his policies go. There's also the whole issue of most neo-cons being Jewish, which raises the whole decent but misguided goy ruler being manipulated by his evil Jewish advisors spectre. Which Dean, being a decent man, no doubt never intended; but it still bugs me. Mainly, though, I think it both lets Bush off too easy, and is too hard on the neo-cons -- who, for all their faults (some of which I discuss below), are a good deal better than Bush. If Bush really were just doing the neo-cons bidding, I still think he'd be doing a lot of bad things, but I think he'd be doing a much better job than the one he's actually doing.]
[FURTHER UPDATE: Jacob also takes issue with my criticism of Dean's comment on Bush. I fully acknowledge Jacob's main point, that Bush is really good at winning people over and convincing them that he's a nice guy; Dean was correct in noting this, and if he's able to figure out how to combat Bush's affability, more power to him. Still, I don't know what, when Bush's ability to win people over is an obvious fact, Dean's acknowledging of that fact in an interview is supposed to accomplish; and I remain irritated by Dean's attempt to sidestep having to appear to attack Bush by bashing the neo-cons, and portraying Bush as a nice guy who's fallen into the hands of an evil cabal. Also, I'm not sure why Jacob thinks that he dislikes Bush more than I do, other than that he's generally less generous towards people further to the Right than I. But I don't think that's the case here.]

Ok, glad I've gotten that out of the way. Now, the neo-cons.

KRISTOLS ACCOUNT: SOME MAIN FLAWS. Kristol makes a good point, I think, in holding that neo-conservatism is a "persuasion". However, his contention that, as a persuasion, it's not a movement strikes me as unconvincing. The neo-cons have their own publications (the Standard, for instance, among many), they are in general agreement (albeit with all the individual dissents and internecine quarrels typical among all politically engaged intellectuals and activists) both about the importance of certain issues, and the way to deal with those issues -- and, as such, they work, in conjunction with one another, to achieve certain results, to remake the Republican Party -- and indeed the country, and indeed the world -- in a particular way.
I also think that Kristol's account is flawed in glossing over historical developments and disjunctions in neo-conservatism (something he's emphasized more in the past). Kristol seeks to identify an essence to neo-conservatism, both as a mood, and as a program or political philosophy. This is probably both a valuable and valid way to go about discussing neo-conservatism. But this presents Kristol with the age-old difficulty of discussing any human thing: to both identify it's essence, and recognize and explain its development over time. (This is a problem that anyone who dabbles in intellectual history will be very familiar with, whether it's a matter of discussing a movement, such as liberalism [to take the ideological strain or political philosophy I'm most involved in studying], or indeed the thought of an individual thinker or group of thinkers with a common project -- this is, for example, at the heart of many scholarly debates about the nature of the Enlightenment [or, for some, Enlightenments], another topic I'm particularly interested in).
Kristol is both uniquely placed to chart neo-conservatism's alteration over time, and inhibited from doing so, because to a very great extent neo-conservatism is tied up with -- even, indeed, synonomous with -- the intellectual and ideological career of Irving Kristol (hence the his titling of his intellectual autobiography Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea). Now, Irving Kristol's ideological identity seems to me to have changed quite a bit over the years, and I'm not sure to what extent he's now able to recognize, or willing to admit, that; then again, he may have changed much less than I tend to think -- and he's far better placed to know the nature of his own thinking than I. However, one major change is clear from the beginning of Kristol's piece: he associates neoconservatism with the Republican party -- and, more specifically, with attempts to reform the Republican Party. Neo-conservatism is presented as a form of internal dissent and criticism from within the GOP. Yet the neo-cons nearly all started out as liberal Democrats (when they didn't start out as Trostkyites), many of them were still identified with the Democratic Party when they first identified themselves, or were identified, as neo-conservatives, and some of the other founders of neo-conservatism -- Daniel Bell, Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- have remained Democrats (and, indeed, are still viewed by some as liberals).

However, let's turn to what Kristol actually says about the movement he's helped to define. He notes that, first, neoconservatism (I won't, throughout this post, be very particular about how I spell the word) is distinctly, characteristically American. Among other things, this comes out in the neo-cons optimism, cheerfulness, forward-looking-ness, which distinguishes them from the gloomy conservatism of, say, Burkeans (or the conservatism of the Straussians, which I've discussed in relation to neo-conservatism -- and distinguished from neo-conservatism on precisely this ground, as well as others -- previously) (I'll note, incidentally, that the pessimism -- or, let us say, the skepticism, the sense of limitation and consequent moderation and humility -- of these other, less 'American' conservatisms, is precisely what I find most congenial in conservative thought. Ah well.)
Now, there are a couple of problems here. First, not all of the original neo-cons were so very optimistic philosophically, though they may have been, like Kristol himself, a personally cheerful (as well as combative and self-assured) bunch. Also, when I think about the current Republican Party/American Right, the most cheerful, optimistic, indeed hubristic bunch strike me as the libertarian-conservatives (as distinct from actual, consistent libertarians, for whom I have somewhat greater respect) -- the mad market-meisters, the eager little Friedmanites who are convinced that, if only the market is allowed to kick in and take over, and taxes for the wealthy are adequately scaled back, everything will be hunky-dorry (a caricature? Of course. Then again, look at the current administration's economic policy, which is beyond caricature).
It is also important to note -- again, returning to the movement's (or persuasion's) early history, that neo-conservatism first grew out of doubts about the optimistic ambitions of interventionist liberals, as embodied in Johnson's Great Society, and out of anxiety inspired by the exuberant, forward-looking, cheerful counter-culture of the 1960s.

NEO-CON DOMESTIC POLICY: The defining issues of neo-conservatism in its early days, as I see it, were threefold. First, there was the matter of domestic policy. The neo-cons broadly supported the project of a limited welfare state, but they were increasingly wary, and critical, of the ambitious liberal welfare policies of the '60s. Many of them began to predict (in the pages of the Public Interest, which Mr. Kristol helped to found and edit) that the expanded welfare state would have grave social consequences -- that it would lead to a clogged and inefficient bureacracy and a culture of dependency, thus ultimately hurting, demeaning, and limiting the prospects of those it was intended to help. Over time, the neo-cons became increasingly concerned, as well, with economic growth, though most of them were able to resist the temptation to make economic growth the be-all and end-all of policy (in contrast to the disciples of supply-side economics who densely populated the Reagan administration).
Also, as Kristol notes -- and here he describes his movement very well -- neo-cons are not as opposed to state intervention in social policy or the economy to the same extent that Hayekian classical liberals or libertarians are. As Matt notes, many neo-cons remain Keynsians, of a sort. Nor are they 'fiscal conservatives', in terms of wanting to limit government spending, and thus government debt, as a priority in itself; again, as Kristol notes, their vision is less cautious, more optimistic and venturesome (it strikes me that, with his economic conservatism and attacks on ambitious US interventionism, the most philosophically conservative politician currently striding about the national political stage is -- Howard Dean.)
However, the neo-cons remain divided, or inconsistent, or ambivalent, or perhaps all three, about the issue of the state: sometimes they sound an awful lot like traditional anti-state classical liberals, and sometimes they sound like pro-state, Bull-Moose style progressives. (A cynic might suggest that which strain or tendency dominates depends on whether the Democrats or the Republicans happen to be controlling the state at the time. This, again, is a more recent development; as noted, the neo-cons weren't initially so heavily identified with the Republican party -- indeed, part of their identity was an attempt to transcend partisan interests and assumptions in order to advocate the policies that were best and most realistic for the country. This seems to me to have fallen by the wayside, as the neo-cons have become an intellectual pressure group within the GOP -- and, at the same time, intellectual servants of, or warriors for, the GOP. And this transformation of the neoconservative movement seems to me to have owed most to one man -- Irving Kristol [though the Dem's nomination of McGovern and Scoop Jackson's running as an independent were the events that alienated many neo-cons from the Democratic Party). It is interesting, for instance, that Kristol claims that the neo-cons are closer to de Tocqueville than to the nostalgic (and Burkean) Toryism of Russel Kirk -- in the context of discussing their affirmative, activist view of the state. After all, it was Tocqueville who constatly warned about the tendency towards centralization and dependency on the government as the greatest dangers facing modern democracy, and repeatedly declared that he feared anarchy less than too much centralization and state power. (On a personal note, it was first reading Tocqueville that did the most to make me question my social-democratic assumptions and move closer towards -- though not all the way to -- classical liberalism).

NEO-CON CULTURAL POLITICS: The second defining issue for the neo-cons was cultural. Here, again, Kristol (and his wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb) are exemplary of the trend in neo-conservative thought -- or the position among the array of positions within neo-conservatism -- that has won out and come to define the movement; and also of the problems with that position.
At the risk of being sociologically reductive, it's important to note that the original neo-cons shared a common background, for the most part. Most of them had been born in the 1920s; most of them came from urban backgrounds; most were the children of immigrants (mainly, but always, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe). The early political lives and imaginations of most had been dominated by the Great Depression and the attraction of, and conflicts over, the Soviet Union (on which more later); most had come, either during or after WWII, to embrace America and American culture and life, and, in the heady, optimistic, idealistic, prosperous mood of the 1950s, to celebrate these. Most were also fairly conservative in their personal values and lifestyles, even while being intellectually highly sophisticated.
So, culturally, we're not talking about people out of 'middle America'; we're not talking about religious conservatives, and we're not talking about people with a very narrow experience of the world. But we are talking about people who are committed to certain basic cultural and moral values -- what we might call good liberal-bourgeois values: hard work, sense of responsibility and public duty, devotion to family (defined as the good old 1950s nuclear family), love of (though not uncritical love of) country, respect for religion (at least in its more moderate and humane forms), but not religious fundamentalism or excessive enthusiasm.
All of which made the neo-cons -- well, not all that conservative, by the standards of the day; it made them conventional, middle-of-the-road, American liberals.
And then the 1960s happened.
Well, actually, first the Beat movement happened, and the neo-cons were disgusted by the personal irresponsibility and decadence, and disturbed by the embrace of irrationality as philosophical position, by exponents of that movement. This marked the initial engagement in cultural or moral polemics on the part of many future neo-cons in which they started to look, well, conservative.
But then the '60s really happened. You know, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And a general lack of respect for authority, and rejection of convention, rationality, the work ethic, patriotism, deference towards government, deference towards any sort of cultural authority, responsible and self-denying dedication to work or family, etc. And also -- a key point -- increased militancy, an embrace of the romance of resistance, rebellion, and violence, by student radicals -- and especially by black radicals. And, related to and following on that, the riots that swept through and gutted the inner-cities as the decade wore on -- and the culture, or perceived culture, of drug-abuse, violence, criminality, and nihilism among blacks in the inner-cities (in sharp contrast to the morally rigourous and hopeful culture in the Jewish or Irish inner-city neighbourhoods in which the neo-cons had grown up).
The neo-cons were appalled -- just appalled. And they made this opposition to cultural disintegration and decadence, to permissiveness and nihilism, irresponsibility and hysterical anarchy, a major part of their thought and program (which led them to also look negatively on certain other social movements of the time -- like, for instance, feminism, and the nascent gay rights movement).
And this is where the strange story of the rapprochement between secular, urban, Jewish neo-cons and Christian Conservatives begins -- a story which would culminate in Irving Kristol declaring himself 'neo-Orthodox' and in neo-cons like Kristol and Norman Podhoretz making common cause with Christian reactionaries. (it should, again, be noted that not all of the original neo-cons followed Kristol's, or the movement's, path; many of them, such as Daniel Bell, while remaining deeply critical of the cultural radicallism of the later '60s, also turned sharply against the cultural conservatism of the '80s and '90s.)
This has, at times, led neo-cons to have some pretty strange bedfellows indeed; and has led them to accept, and even embrace and provide a certain facade of intellectual respectability, to the worst, nastiest, most intolerant and ignominious aspects of the Republican Party's demagogic attempts to provoke and exploit a 'culture war'. Neo-con warnings about the decline of the black family, for instance (which, at the time they were first voiced by Pat Moynihan, were constructive and prescient) gave way to, and helped to make respectable, mean-spirited and often racist attacks on 'welfare queens'. The neo-cons, who had overcome poverty and prejudice, seemed to lose their sympathy with, or understanding for, underdogs, minorities, victims. Acutely sensitive to anything that could be construed as anti-semitism, they not only tolerated, but in some cases embraced and made acceptable, sexism, racism, and homophobia -- attacking the early, moderate women's movement, joining with Christian fundamentalists to oppose threats to the traditional family, and, the case of Charles Murray, seeking to give a 'scientific' demonstration of black intellectual inferiority.
(Is this a hostile simplification? Of course. But hostile simplification is something else that the neo-cons came to embrace in the '70s and '80s.)
At the same time, although not market fanatics themselves, the neo-cons increasingly close and binding ties to the GOP led some -- though by no means all -- of them to ignore or under-estimate the role of the market in undermining the traditional family and traditional values, thus skewing their analysis. This was particularly unfortunate, since, whatever their exaggerations, the neo-cons were right: the decline of the family, and the failure of society to effectively nurture and socialize people in its place, has been a major problem, indeed a crisis, in American society over the past several decades (a crisis closely inter-related with the failures of our ailing public education system). However, the neo-cons, by engaging in one-sided, unsympathetic, and simplistic polemics against social 'deviancy', did much to degrade and distort the very conversation - a highly urgent conversation -- about the crisis of the family and of social cohesion that they were trying to provoke. (It was thus left to liberals, and even the Christian neo-Marxist Cornel West, to give a genuinely balanced, nuanced, variegated, and thus convincing account of the crisis of meaning and morality in the inner-cities, for example. And West has, from day one, been lampooned and scorned by the neo-cons [something that West's more recent behaviour has made all too easy to do]).

NEO-CON FOREIGN POLICY: Thirdly and finally, there's the issue of foreign policy. Before they became neo-cons, the original neo-cons were liberal anti-communists. Many of them (including Kristol) had once been Communists themselves -- mostly anti-Stalinist Trotskyites, who came to reject all forms of Marxism during or after WWII (the story of Kristol's, and others', ideoligical journey is brilliantly captured in Joseph Dorman's documentary masterpiece, Arguing the World -- which in addition to Kristol profiles moderate neo-con Nathan Glazer, socialist-turned-liberal-turned-neocon-turned-liberal-again Daniel Bell, and unyielding democratic-socialist standard-bearer Irving Howe [note: Howe and Bell are heroes of mine, and I like and respect Glazer very much. As for Kristol ... well ... he was partly responsible for Encounter, one of the greatest cultural/political journals ever, so he deserves some reverence.])
The original neo-cons were all staunch, even militant, anti-Communists, who were committed to waging, and winning, the Cold War, which they saw as a moral struggle against totalitarianism. In the '50s and throughout most of the '60s, many of them combined this anti-Communism with a devotion to liberal values (though some future neo-cons, including Kristol and Sidney Hook, were criticized for not being too indulgent towards, or too quiet about, the abuses and evils of McCarthyism). Many of them initially supported the Vietnam war; some of them continued to support it to the bitter end -- and most of them were appalled by the militancy, and the pro-Communism, of the New Left critics of the war (on whom they tended to focus their polemics, rather than the moderate, liberal opponents of the war. Hmm. Come to think of it, some things never change ...) In the '80s, neo-cons embraced Reagan for his anti-Communism, and Reagan appointed many neo-cons to important positions in foreign policy-making (most prominently, Jeanne Kirpatrick)
And then the Cold War ended. What were neo-cons to do?
It took a while, but the neo-cons have managed to return to the foreign-policy center-stage -- and indeed are now discussed, by many, purely in terms of their foreign policy views. But these views are somewhat difficult to classify, exactly. The neo-cons believe, first of all, in the deployment of US power -- that much is clear. They are interventionist, rather than isolationist; and they have little time or patience for multilateralism and the UN. Beyond that, it's worth looking more closely at what Kristol has to say:
"The favorite neoconservative text on foreign affairs, thanks to professors Leo Strauss of Chicago and Donald Kagan of Yale, is Thucydides on the Peloponnesian War.) These attitudes can be summarized in the following "theses" (as a Marxist would say): First, patriotism is a natural and healthy sentiment and should be encouraged by both private and public institutions. Precisely because we are a nation of immigrants, this is a powerful American sentiment. Second, world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion. Third, statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the history of the Cold War revealed. The number of intelligent men who could not count the Soviet Union as an enemy, even though this was its own self-definition, was absolutely astonishing. "
Now, note the anti-Communist orientation, first off. Then note the invocation of Strauss; while many Straussians (though themselves sympathetic, in most cases, to neo-conservative policy positions) deny that neo-conservatism and Straussianism are the same, many neo-cons appeal to Strauss for intellectual credibility (note Kristol's constant emphasis on the historical orientation, and thus superior erudition, of the neo-cons, and his invocation of authorities from Chicago and Yale. Am I outrageously prejudiced and unfair in detecting a certain intellectual insecurity here?) . I think that they're wrong, and I suspect that Kristol hasn't read Strauss all that deeply (Strauss, incidentally, wrote one essay on Thucydides, in his book The City and Man -- and essay I've been meaning to read, but haven't; so I can't say how accurate Kristol's understanding of Strauss's interpretation of Thucydides' message is. All that I can say, from what I know of Strauss's thought, and of Thucydides, is that Kristol's account of the neo-con debt to Strauss and Thucydides (and Donald Kagan) is rather, to say the least, flat and simplistic and facile.) (UPDATE: Reder DW reminds me that Strauss actually wrote two essays on Thucydides, the other in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism -- a book I actually have, and have read much of, though not the chapter on Thucydides. Whoops.)
Also note that the emphasis on distinguishing between friends and enemies. Now, is Kristol here channeling Thucydides (whose own views of the events he impassively narrates are hard to discern, but who is often identified as the forefather of 'realist' IR theory), or Strauss, or Strauss' Thucydides, or Kagan's Thucydides -- or is he channeling Carl Schmitt, the Nazi jurist who argued that politics is, at bottom, dominated and defined by the distinction between friends and enemies? (And was Schmitt a Thucydidean, and was Strauss a Schmittian ... etc. all along the philosophical hall of mirrors.)
All in all, I don't find this particularl geneology of the neo-con philosophy of foreign policy, or enunciation of neo-con theses (by the way, I'm pretty sure some non-Marxists use the term 'theses' every now and again), all that reassuring.
But wait, there's more -- and it gets both much more concrete and interesting, and weirder. For Kristol writes that the neo-cons, like the 'realists', conceptualize foreign policy in terms of 'national interest'. But national interest for a large nation -- again, the emphasis on American power, largeness, greatness (this is indeed a neo-classical notion -- though in embracing a classical notion of glory, Kristol seems to have forgotten to also bring aboard a classical notion of humility, and the dangers of hubris) -- is about more than defense, be it economic or military (though defense is surely also still important -- right?).
Now, Kristol goes on:
"A larger nation has more extensive interests. And large nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns. Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from nondemocratic forces, external or internal. That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defense of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary."
Ok, now first of all, note the comparison -- nay, the analogy, even the equivalence -- between the USSR and the US. And this from a critic of Cold War moral equivalence! This sort of talk tends to confirm the critical suspicion that many neo-cons are as ideological as their former Soviet antagonists. Of course, their ideology is much better -- I think only a loon of the Chomskyian persuasion would deny it (and I won't bother to engage with such a view at present). But even if they're essentially right in the values that their ideology embraces -- I think we can for the moment take it for granted that liberal democracy is a good thing -- there's something worrying about their willingness to define the US and US foreign policy in such ideological terms, without also addressing the limits and dangers of ideological thinking. As Benjamin Constant said, more or less, it isn't that the hand bearing the sword is evil, it's that some swords are too heavy for the human hand: while foreign policy should be informed by morality, too ardent a commitment to the furtherance of an ideological mission or blueprint is blinding, and leads to abuses of power and disastrous over-stepping. And an abundance of power brings with a responsibility to be self-restrained -- a responsibility many neo-cons seem to under-appreciate.
Now, I'm all for defending democratic nations under attack from undemocratic ones -- and I'm also for defending human rights when they're grossly violated, whether by democratic or undemocratic regimes. But, first of all, I think that there should be limits in terms of how we employ our power. Not because stepping up to defend democracy and human rights shouldn't be our goal, but because direct intervention isn't always the best way to do it (despite the respect for the classics, where, in Kristol's account, is an emphasis on the importance of statesmanship, of diplomacy, of practical or political judgment?)
Also, the neo-cons' track record isn't so great on this. Many neo-cons supported, and many more haven't adequately acknowledged and condemned, ANTI-DEMOCRATIC US interventionism -- which has often been carried out in the name of promoting democracy, or fighting Communism (much the same things, at one point, in the neo-con lexicon). What would Kristol say about our treatment of Allende, for example -- or Pinochet?
One of the good things about neo-conservatism's vision of foreign policy is that it draws on both 'realist' and idealist or moral views, while avoiding the one-sidedness and excess of either position. It condemns isolationism, pointing out that isolationism at this point is both irresponsible and impossible at this point; but it sets priorities and principles for US intervention.
At the same time, neo-conservatism also suffers from, and is flawed by, its attempt to mix idealism and realpolitik. On the one hand, neo-cons often strike me as lacking, on the one hand the scruples about using power and the scrupulous avoidance of unjust actions and hypocritical justifications for injustice that is a virtue and strength of the idealist camp; and their devotion to principle is often compromised or restrained by considerations of self-interest. On the other hand, they lack the sense of tragedy and limitation, and the ability to confront ugly realities and deal with them in an honest way, that characterizes the best in realist thought (think Kennan and Morgenthau -- and Weber, and indeed Thucydides -- here, not Kissinger or Baker).

To conclude: Kristol's account of neo-conservatism, both in its largely accurate depiction, so far as I can tell, of the mood or spirit of contemporary neo-conservatism, and in its skimming over of important historical developments and disjunctions, is deeply revealing, and deeply personal - indeed, one of the things it reveals is how much neo-conservatism is marked by Kristol's own personality and experience. And it reveals both the strengths, and weaknesses, of that personality and the lessons that have been derived from that experience. On the one hand, there's an intellectual sophistication, of sorts -- an avoidance of the more simplistic and exaggerated variants of conservatism, an understanding of the demands of the modern world. On the other hand, there is both an optimism and self-confidence, and a moral self-assurance, lack of self-questioning, complacence and intolerance towards others, that I find extremely disturbing. And, unfortunately, it is this more disturbing side of neo-conservatism that seems to me to have the most in common with, and thus to have been embraced by, our current Commander-in-Chief.
That, at least, is my impression of neo-conservatism. But, it is just an impression -- and one derived from outside of the neo-conservative movement or 'persuasion', from a perspective not wholly unsympathetic, but also far from sympathetic, towards it, and based only on a very cursory and selective study of its history; and I'd welcome corrections of this picture from far better informed observers.

Monday, August 18, 2003

I'm not sure whether to be amused or frightened by this site. Probably being amused is the better reaction. I think.
Anyway, they very kindly include me on their blogroll. Thanks, guys. If there's ever a pogrom against bloggers, I'll now be on the hit list. [Ok, ok, I know, it's in bad taste to joke about pogroms and such given the resurgence of anti-semitism in so many parts of the world. So what about calling a website Protocols? This you call tasteful? Pheh!)

MORE DEFERED BUSINESS: You should go read Norman Geras' posts on Crimes against Humanity (see here.) I hope to have my response to Norm's posts up shortly.

MORE CONFERENCE STUFF: Oh, man. Why do sociologists have so much more fun than political scientists?

WELCOME to the blogosphere to my Oxford friend, the delightfuland intellectually perfervid Newman Nahas. Newman's just started blogging, but so far he seems to be filling a niche in the blogosphere with deeply thoughtful and informed commentary on religious/theological issues. I'm sure we can look forward to lots more interesting stuff from him; check his blog out.

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