December 30, 2002

MINDMELD ON THE RIGHT:

What the Heck Is a 'Neocon'? : Neoconservatives believe in using American might to promote American ideals abroad. (MAX BOOT, December 30, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
I have been called many names in my career--few of them printable--but the most mystifying has to be "neocon." I suppose I get labeled thus because I am associated, in a small way, with the Weekly Standard, which is known as a redoubt of "neoconservatism."

But what the heck is a neocon anyway in 2003? A friend of mine suggests it means the kind of right-winger a liberal wouldn't be embarrassed to have over for cocktails. That's as good a definition as any, since the term has clearly come unmoored from its original meaning.

[S]o is "neoconservatism" worthless as a political label? Not entirely. In social policy, it stands for a broad sympathy with a traditionalist agenda and a rejection of extreme libertarianism. Neocons have led the charge to combat some of the wilder excesses of academia and the arts. But there is hardly an orthodoxy laid down by Neocon Central. I, for one, am not eager to ban either abortion or cloning, two hot-button issues on the religious right. […]

But it is not really domestic policy that defines neoconservatism. This was a movement founded on foreign policy, and it is still here that neoconservatism carries the greatest meaning, even if its original raison d'être--opposition to communism--has disappeared.


One wonders if we aren’t approaching the moment of the "neo-conservative crack-up". There’s always seemed to be something of a divide, on issues other than foreign policy, between the two fathers of neo-conservatism, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, with Mr. Kristol more traditionally conservative and Mr. Podhoretz really only interested in affirmative action on the domestic front.

As Mr. Boot says, he doesn’t much care about abortion or cloning, which is precisely why he’s welcome at liberal cocktail parties. We might consider him part of the Podhoretz wing. On the other hand, with their outspoken opposition to cloning, Bill Kristol (son of Irving), Charles Krauthammer, and Francis Fukuyama have begun the inevitable drift towards an anti-abortion position (it’s impossible to come up with a coherent rationale for treating a natural fetus like dung but protecting a cloned one) which will eventually unite them with folks like Bill Bennett, John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, etc. in what will be a rather traditional conservatism.

Another, less discussed, factor driving many "neocons" to the Right on social issues will be the disappearance of Judaism. Declining Jewish birthrates, rising intermarriage, secularization, etc., are all trends that presage an eventual utter marginalization of Jews in the world, in America, and eventually even in Israel. The steps necessary to combat this will include things like restrictions on divorce and abortion, education vouchers, faith-based social services, reduction of government, etc.. In effect, the future of much of neoconservatism may not look much different than the present of paleoconservatism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 30, 2002 10:23 AM
Comments

I wonder why it is OK to advocate prohibition of intermarriage and de facto segregation where Jews are concerned. The Bush administration contains a man, Elliott Abrams, who denounces intermarriage of Jews with others. If, say, John Ashcroft were to advocate That white Protestants should not intermarry with other religions or races, he would be tarred and feathered like Lott was.

Posted by: Dennis at December 30, 2002 9:44 AM

I wonder why it is OK to advocate prohibition of intermarriage and de facto segregation where Jews are concerned. The Bush administration contains a man, Elliott Abrams, who denounces intermarriage of Jews with others. If, say, John Ashcroft were to advocate That white Protestants should not intermarry with other religions or races, he would be tarred and feathered like Lott was.

Posted by: Dennis at December 30, 2002 9:44 AM

Wow, for once Boot and I agree. Our definition of "neocon" coincides.



Methinks he writes off Buchanan and his mag a bit quick, though. Like it or not, Buchanan does effect the debate. The evidence for this in the continual sniping writers such as Mr. Boot feel they still need to engage in. If he's so irrelevant, why bother?

Posted by: Derek Copold at December 30, 2002 11:33 AM

C'mon, Derek, it's an Oedipal thing.

Posted by: oj at December 30, 2002 7:14 PM

What Elliot Abrams does out of religious principle hardly is important legally. I've not heard that his animous about pork has the swineherds of America upset to any great degree.



BTW, if you are a good Jew who reads Deuteronomy, this intermarriage proscription is very obvious and right up there behind the 10 commandments. Of course, there are more than a few counterexamples in the OT, with Ruth and Boaz being probably the most famous.

Posted by: Tom Roberts at December 30, 2002 9:02 PM

You may ultimately be right that the logic of Fukuyama and Krauthammer's opposition to human cloning will move them toward an anti-abortion position, but they are fighting like the dickens to avoid it. Both of their positions expressly disavow the idea that the embryo is a human being, Krauthammer's to the point where Ramesh Ponnuru - one of the most articulate young opponents of both abortion and cloning on the right today - says his anti-cloning arguments make no sense.



(Bill Kristol is actually opposed to abortion and as far as I am aware he has not deviated from the standard right-to-life position anymore than Bill Bennett.)



My definition of a neocon is a self-described conservative who is happy with liberal policies enacted up to about 1965 but opposed to the left's agenda thereafter. Some of the more socially liberal neocons seem to be moving the 1965 guidepost up a few years.

Posted by: W. James Antle III at December 30, 2002 10:35 PM

If Jews are analogous to whites, how do you convert to being white?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at December 31, 2002 10:53 PM
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