August 7, 2008


Neocon Resurgence (ADAM KIRSCH, August 7, 2008, NY Sun) it so hard for respectable foreign-policy thinkers to discard the basic principles of neoconservatism? The best answer I have found comes in the Spring issue of World Affairs, in Robert Kagan's essay "Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776." Mr. Kagan lays out a powerful case that neoconservative innovations in foreign policy are as old as America.

If we define neoconservatism, in Mr. Kagan's words, as "potent moralism and idealism in world affairs, a belief in America's exceptional role as a promoter of the principles of liberty and democracy," then it was a doctrine held by Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, and Theodore Roosevelt. "The effort to explain the [Iraq] war as the product of manipulation by a handful of 'neoconservatives,'" Mr. Kagan writes, "is an effort to escape what for many may be a more troubling reality: that there is something in the American character which leads it in this direction."

Reading World Affairs underscores the truth of Mr. Kagan's observation. The magazine, edited by Lawrence Kaplan, is not open to the extremes of left or right — neither Noam Chomsky nor Pat Buchanan. But that still leaves a pretty broad swath of opinion, from Mr. Kagan on the right to Todd Gitlin on the left. And the remarkable thing is that almost none of its contributors can or would challenge the "belief in America's exceptional role as a promoter of the principles of liberty and democracy."

What is defined there is instead America's traditional theoconservatism. The "neo" was a function of urban intellectuals, mainly leftwing Jews, hitching their wagons to that tradition, even though they didn't ground their adherence in the Judeo-Christianity that has historically been the basis for our Crusading.

The neocons also had some objections to the social engineering that was occurring most extravagantly in American cities so they continued to drift Right. The Decent Left, on the other hand, while it too accepts America's role as the leader of the march of liberty abroad, stayed more socialist on domestic policy. Because both of these groups are secular they have only a tenuous grasp of the principles in question, so it's little wonder they quarrel so much amongst themselves. They know they believe in the principles but don't understand why and object to the guys who they disagree with about so much else believing in that one same thing. It's kind of cute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 7, 2008 4:26 PM

If we define 'neoconservatism' and 'manifest destiny' the terms are virtually synonomous.
Put it another way, Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary in the Navy Department, to the more hidebound Secretary Long was the 'Wolfowitz'
of the late 19th and early 20th Century. As
accounts of Mckinley indicate, the 'old warhorse'
of Antietam was reluctant to intervene in what seemed to be another quagmire. The Maine crisis
was the tipping point for what Mahan already thought should be done. Ironically, the McKinley tariff, had no small role in destabilizing the
Cuban economy; that would lead to the uprising and the sending the Maine to Havana Harbor. Call it the Project for the Old Century. The Phillipines were more important, because they were the stepping stones to China; as Iraq is to the fields of Felix Arabia in the current day.

Posted by: narciso at August 7, 2008 8:23 PM

The war on neoconservatism is the war on idealism, to say that America is no more than an imperial nation.

"There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
--Franklin D. Roosevelt

We are still working to destiny.

Posted by: Mikey at August 7, 2008 9:49 PM

Narciso got there first, event to reminding us that McKinley's "save the Cubans" gambit was a realization of Mahanian geopolitics. We liberatd the poor Cubans and just coincidentially picked up a world empire of strategiclly placed advanced naval bases and coaling stations, thus giving McKinley place with James Knox Polk, George W. Bush and the other great Presidents who led us into the wars which were just beause the were necessary.

Posted by: Lou Gots at August 9, 2008 6:34 AM
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