January 22, 2005

NO NEW GOD (via Tom Morin)

Idealism and Its Discontents: Thinking on the neoconservative slur. (Victor Davis Hanson, 1/21/05, National Review)

Neo- is a prefix that derives from the Greek adjective veos — "new" or "fresh" — and in theory it is used inexactly for those conservatives who once were not — or for those who have reinterpreted conservatism in terms of a more idealistic foreign policy that eschewed both Cold War realpolitik and the hallowed traditions of American republican isolationism.

But the accepted definition has given way in practice to refer to the more particular proponents of the use of military action to remove threatening governments, and to replace them with democratic systems — hence the occasional sobriquets of "neo-Wilsonian." But for a number of detractors, "neoconservative" is also little more than generic disparagement, and (off-the-record) it is synonymous with American Jews who seek to alter American foreign policy to the wishes of the right-wing Likud party of Israel.

Yet note the misinformation about its meaning and usage. The five most prominent makers of American foreign policy at the moment — George Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld — are (1) not Jewish, (2) hard-headed and not easily bamboozled by any supposed cabal, and (3) were mostly in the past identified with the "realist" school and especially skeptical of using the military frequently for anything resembling Clintonian peace-keeping.

There's one too many names on that list and it makes all the difference--George W. Bush can't really be associated with either the Realists or the neocons. He's a theocon--the source of his idealism is Biblical, not rational--and the other four serve him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2005 5:54 PM

"--and the other four serve him."

Some day, every neo shall bow.

Posted by: Noel at January 22, 2005 11:55 PM

To me its the folks who would be Democrats, if there were anyone in the Democrat party who would follow John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech and the logic of his tax cut policies. Bush is a Kennedy Democrat.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2005 1:37 AM

I've been arguing forever that the term neocon has lost almost all meaning during the Bush administration, instead becoming a largely meaningless slur.

Still, whatever meaning it has acquired, surely the definition does largely exclude our President, who belongs firmly in the theocon (Founding?) camp where Orrin places him. Happy as I am to see some folks advancing my notion of a largely meaningless term "neoconservatism," it will be even better a year or so from now when those same smart people catch on to what Orrin means when he deems the President a theocon.

Posted by: kevin whited at January 23, 2005 11:59 AM