May 24, 2006


For Neocons, the Irony of Iraq (Harold Meyerson, May 24, 2006, Washington Post)

In the beginning, neoconservatism was a movement of onetime liberals enraged at the wave of violence and disorder that overtook the cities in the 1960s. Riots convulsed urban America in that stormy decade, crime rates soared, student radicals seized campuses. How could anyone see all this, the first generation of neocons inquired, and still remain a liberal?

For it was all the liberals' fault. Wafted along by their vaporous good intentions, indifferent to any unintended consequences those intentions might engender, wrapped up in their dizzy notions of the perfectibility of humankind, the liberals (at least, as the neos caricatured them) crafted criminal codes devoid of punishment, welfare programs requiring no work. In the world the liberals made, civic order took a back seat to individual rights, and as order vanished, the urban middle class vanished with it, abandoning once-vibrant neighborhoods for the safety of the suburbs. A neoconservative, the movement's founding father, Irving Kristol, famously observed, was a liberal who'd been mugged by reality. While liberals dithered, neoconservatives argued first and foremost for more cops.

Fast-forward four decades and we've come full circle. The neocons have refocused their attention on foreign policy and, in championing the Iraq war, have come to embody everything they once mocked and despised in '60s liberals.

Bolsheviks in the cause of their vaporous intentions, so bent on ignoring reality that they dismissed and suppressed all intelligence that prophesied the bloody complexities of the post-Hussein landscape, they conjured from nowhere and guaranteed the world an idealized postwar Iraq.

The sharpest irony was their stunning indifference to the need for civic order.

While neocons were concerned about some domestic issues -- though chiefly affirmative action, which they were afraid would give the Jewish slots at Ivy League schools to black kids -- their primary cause was to destabilize the Cold War stalemate and defeat the USSR, which they correctly perceived as a threat to both Russian Jews and to Israel. Student riots on campus were a problem not because of thedisorder they brought to American society but because they threatened the cause of defeating Communism. Of course, George Bush is a theocon, not a neocon, but you can hardly expect Mr. Meyerson, who's previously accused the President of being everything from a Klansman to a Confederate to a Nixonian, to pass up a chance to accuse him of being a Bolshevik.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2006 3:15 PM

Myerson's just another perfectionist fool, whose glib, selective sophistication boils down to the plea, "Mug me again. And again. Please!"

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 24, 2006 3:52 PM

Part of the big lie the left is telling on the "neocon" approach to the World Government is that we did not know or understand that Saddam Hussein was holding together the fiction of Iraq, and that the present friction was unforeseen.

"No, Lisa," Homer Simpson once said, "It's not that Daddy doesn't notice--Daddy doesn't care."

Of course, the rival gangster cliques and various fanatics were going to boil over. We all knew that, and like the donkey in Zarathrustra, said "Ja-a-a-a."

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 24, 2006 3:57 PM

Whoa, I see you've been reading up on your Walt & Mearsheimer. The chief domestic concern of the neocons in the sixties was to prevent blacks from taking jewish slots in the Ivy League? They only wanted to defeat the USSR to protect Russian Jews and Israel?

Please, take some meds, OJ.

Posted by: Thom at May 24, 2006 4:31 PM


Walt & Mearsheimer aren't wrong about what motivates Jews, but about whether the matter. The neocons are useful tools of the conservative movement not leaders of it. If neocons had any power John McCain would have won in 2000, not the theocon.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2006 5:16 PM

Yes, but your parroting the anti-semitic kooks by suggesting that the neocons' only concern was Israel and Jews is over the line. The neocons were perfectly able to believe that the USSR was a threat to the US and, by believing that the US could defeat that threat, they were ahead of everyone except Reagan.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 24, 2006 5:45 PM


Norman Podhoretz isn't an antisemitic kook and I'm just parroting him. The Right was always anti-Communist. The neocons joined them rather late in the game over specifically Jewish questions. It's no coincidence that many of them worked for or with Scoop Jackson and his signal achievement was Jackson-Vanik.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2006 7:39 PM

Where does Podhoretz say that the neocons were concerned only about Israel and Russian Jews? And even if he does say it, how does that make it any less anti-semitic kookery?

Posted by: David Cohen at May 24, 2006 8:16 PM

In his various memoirs he talks about the issues that drove the neoconservatives, but it's not even particularly controversial to say that they were affirmative action at home and anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism abroad:

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2006 8:23 PM

Affirmative action, yes, but also moral degeneration and the perverse incentives of the welfare system. In foreign policy, concern with the Soviet Union as a threat to both the U.S. and Israel. Podhoretz has always said he feels his true home is America, and in the unlikely event he was ever forced to leave, he would feel like a foreigner in Israel.

Meanwhile, OJ, you yourself once pointed out that the neocons were repelled by the student movements because of the disorder they caused.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 24, 2006 10:03 PM

The Pope is a theocon, not a neocon.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2006 10:10 PM


Yes, obviously he is, but you were specifically talking about the neocons in this comment:

Most of the neocons were repelled by the rabble and that hastened their switch to conservatism.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 25, 2006 12:10 AM

The Pope is a progressive. It is only that he understands what it is that constitutes progress.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 25, 2006 6:28 AM

Most of the neocons were repelled by the rabble and that hastened their switch to conservatism.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 25, 2006 4:49 PM


The above is your direct quote.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 25, 2006 7:49 PM


Posted by: oj at May 25, 2006 8:07 PM