December 6, 2003


Strategy and the Idea of Freedom (Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, November 24, 2003, Heritage Lecture)

That was a time when we neo-cons, of which I was a junior member, and the folks we called the paleo-cons, made common cause:

To support beleaguered democracies,
To beleaguer the Soviet Empire, and
To advocate a US foreign policy of peace through strength.

The Heritage Foundation helped create the alliance of the neo-cons, those of us who started our political lives as Democrats, and the old-fashioned conservatives. It was an alliance of the profoundest type, anchored in philosophical principles. It was not tactical, not a political marriage of convenience.

The realignment of US politics that joined William Buckley with Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz – that bound together supporters of Barry Goldwater with supporters of Scoop Jackson and Hubert Humphrey – has helped change our country and the world. At home, it made the conservative slice of the political spectrum a lively place, intellectually scintillating, creative, ambitious to transform government, attractive to young people, and decidedly non-stodgy.

Abroad, the makers of the Reagan Revolution – with the Heritage Foundation as a key node in the network – elevated the status of ideas as weapons in the arsenal of democracy. The Reaganites understood Realpolitik; they grasped the importance of guns and money and the other “hard” realities of world affairs. But they appreciated also the potency of the human desire of freedom.

They saw the Cold War not as a balance-of-power exercise between two “superpowers” – much less an arms race between “two apes on a treadmill” – but as a noble fight of western liberal democracy against Soviet communist tyranny. They abraded conventional sensibilities by speaking of an “evil empire” and insisting that the truly representative voices in that empire were those of Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Andrei Sakharov, Anatoly Sharansky and their fellow dissidents.

This engagement in philosophical warfare, I need hardly remind folks at the Heritage Foundation, created no small controversy in the politics and diplomacy of the western world. President Reagan’s talk of democracy and good-versus-evil and his exhortation to tear down the Berlin Wall were widely criticized, even ridiculed, as unsophisticated and de-stabilizing. But it’s now widely understood as having contributed importantly to the greatest victory in world history: the collapse of Soviet communism and the liberation of the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe without a war.

Which is why it's so disturbing to see the palecons (Pat Buchanan and his Buchananeers in particular) on the opposite side of history at this time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 6, 2003 12:40 PM

The modern conservative movement encompasses the entire scope of mid-18th through mid-19th century anglo-American politics. The only reason we all make common cause together is that the left has gone insane. Once we save those who can be saved and exile those who can't, the Whigs can go back to fighting the Tories.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 6, 2003 1:30 PM

Oh, thanks, by the way.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 6, 2003 1:31 PM

Pat's problem is that he forgot what he was fighting about but he just kept swinging anyway.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 6, 2003 1:42 PM

Time to open a can of worms and ask the following:

How much of the paleo-neo chasm is due to the perception by the former that "the movement" has been hijacked by Jews whose "so-called" support for America is "compromised" by its (even greater?) support for Israel? And its foreign policy "adventures" informed solely by such support, at the expense of America's true interests.

(And should I have said "former Trotskyite Jews"?)

Which perception, in fact, questions the patriotism of the neo-cons and essentially accuses them of betrayal.

As well as places their allegiance to a Christian-based US in doubt (which is, of course, another can of worms).

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 7, 2003 2:45 AM

Mr. Feith's problem is that he doesn't really believe in history. He thinks basic patterns of human history can be wished away. Thus, his absolutely negligent performance in planning for the occupation of Iraq.

The history books, however, will be written by people who understand history, and they will have the last word on Mr. Feith. If there was a stock market for investing in historical reputations, I would short Mr. Feith with all I had.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at December 7, 2003 3:51 AM


We won, so the historioes will be just as self-congratulatory as those on WWII, which was handled far worse.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2003 9:12 AM