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Is Neoconservatism a "Jewish" Movement? II:

I argued "no" last Fall. Peter Berkowitz chimes in, noting that many prominent neocons are not Jewish, and, more important, "neoconservatism does not rest on Jewish premises. Nor does it seek to advance specifically Jewish goals."

Justin (mail):
Since I almost never say this on a DB post,

I agree.
4.14.2008 8:12pm
Hoosier:
The big "However": The presumption made by many, many people is that "neoconservatism" is a primarily Jewish movement, serving primarily, or at lest significantly, the interests of Israel. This seems to be unshakable conventional wisdom now.

Allied with that CW, and related to it, is the rather bizarre idea that neoconservatism is an offshoot of "Straussianism." I've seen stated this again and again on the 9/11 "conspiracy" blogs that I monitor from time to time. Not that any of them have a sense of what Strauss was about, or have ever read a page written by him. What we know, it appears, is that he is a Jew.

I am not a Straussian. And I would be hard-pressed to summarize Straussiansm. It appears to me to be a sort of gnosticism with regard to Classical texts, and I never got one of the decoder rings. But the idea that the Bush II Admin is guided by Strauss's thought is about as ridiculous as the idea that Bush I was guided by Burke's.
4.14.2008 9:02pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Jack Ross (a proponent of the Jewish Renewal, fond of Tikkun but still a Kirkian conservative) discusses whether Judaism inclines toward any ideology here. He earlier discussed neoconservatism as a Jewish movement here.

Jim Antle says the paleoconservative analogue to Moynihan is Jim Webb.

A number of former members of the Bush administration studied under Strauss. Bush himself did not, but it would not be quite correct to consider him (or Cheney or Rumsfeld) neocons. All of that started out conservative and did come from the neocon tradition (as children of neocons that started out conservative may be said to have done). They are instead partners or fellow-travelers with the neocons, though to a perhaps lesser extent now that many of them are no longer in the White House. The Washington Post has a diagram showing the links among neo-conservatives and where Strauss fits in here.
4.14.2008 9:37pm
lostmycookies (mail):
War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
4.14.2008 9:40pm
kadet (mail):
almost any -ISM is a Jewish movement.
With the exception of anti-semitism.
Jewish people are dominant in any other philosophical or science field. Just the quick browsing through Jewish encyclopedia and Nobel prize listings will confirm that statement.
4.14.2008 9:51pm
Bryan Price (mail) (www):
An old friend of mine has become a neconservative, and THEN he decided to be Jewish. I still wondering if he'll ever claim his dad's heritage of American Indian.
4.14.2008 10:27pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
At this point, "neoconservativism" is close to meaningless. I always associated it with the intellectual tradition of former Trotskyites, and their intellectual descendants, who became conservatives over issues of race and foreign policy in the Cold War.

But now, it is used so often to mean "anyone Jewish and conservative" or "anyone who supports the Bush Administration's foreign policy". And at that point, it is no longer describing a specific intellectual tradition.
4.14.2008 10:32pm
Fearless:
I personally wish that there was less linking of ideas with ethnicities.

Let's just say, for the purposes of argument, that as an empirical matter, most neoconservatives were Jews? So what? That information does not help us determine the merits of neoconservative arguments.

On the other hand, if someone is from the AEI and they make an argument against global warming, you probably can discount it out of hand.

The difference? Ethnicity != ideology.
4.14.2008 10:44pm
Hoosier:
"almost any -ISM is a Jewish movement"

I KNEW that 'THOSE PEOPLE' were behind Islamism!

What?
4.14.2008 11:48pm
kadet (mail):
hoosier.
ALMOST.
WE let muslims to have their own -ism, no resentment here
4.15.2008 12:03am
Elliot123 (mail):
"War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing."

Unless, maybe, you don't choose to be ruled by Hitler.
4.15.2008 12:05am
lostmycookies (mail):
Elliot123: you must be a neocon. You see, a neocon is someone who believes it's always ok to wage war as long as it is for a "just cause." And "just cause" is always what a neocon says it is. So, for example, Hitler was an early neocon, albeit not exactly a pro-israelite. And so was Stalin. And FDR. All three sold lies to wage war.

You can be sure all three of these gents are personally experiencing whether there really is a hell, and will soon enough be partying it up with Cheney and the rest of the gang. Cue party music.
4.15.2008 12:37am
PeteRR (mail):
It may not be about the Jews, but it is all about the Joooos! Ask any Thruther or Ron Paul supporter.
4.15.2008 1:16am
TGGP (mail) (www):
Being Jewish and conservative is not sufficient to make one a neo-conservative. The aforementioned Jack Ross is a Jewish Kirkian conservative (and calls himself a paleo). Paul Gottfried is a Jewish paleoconservative. Jacob Heilbrunn is a Jewish former neoconservative who has drifted over to the "realist" camp (Kissinger is probably the most prominent Jewish "realist"). There are some libertarians that incline toward neoconservatism, but most aren't and a good many are paleolibertarians (there seem to be more Jews in that camp than paleoconservatives, though the boundaries aren't well-defined).

I KNEW that 'THOSE PEOPLE' were behind Islamism!
Spengler has claimed that. I think he's a lying buffoon.
4.15.2008 1:34am
U.Va. 3L:
almost any -ISM is a Jewish movement.
With the exception of anti-semitism.


What an odd statement. Off the top of my head, heroism, botulism, pacifism, Mormonism, cubism, and voyeurism aren't "Jewish movements." I'm sure there are plenty more.
4.15.2008 3:28am
Arkady:

A number of former members of the Bush administration studied under Strauss. Bush himself did not...


The mind boggles at the thought of Bush studying under Strauss, carefully working his way through, say, Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy.
4.15.2008 8:41am
JC:
"A number of former members of the Bush administration studied under Strauss."

But this statement is false. The Washington Post diagram, to the extent I can follow it, only shows two connections with Strauss, Wolfowitz and Shulsky. I suppose if by "a number" you mean two, then you would be technically correct, but "a number" suggests, well, a number.
4.15.2008 9:42am
Lonetown (mail):
I need to take issue with lostmycookies.



"always ok to wage war as long as you believe it is for a "just cause."

When the other does not believe, that is where the problem arises but both are believers.
4.15.2008 10:00am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Elliot123: you must be a neocon. You see, a neocon is someone who believes it's always ok to wage war as long as it is for a "just cause." And "just cause" is always what a neocon says it is. So, for example, Hitler was an early neocon, albeit not exactly a pro-israelite. And so was Stalin. And FDR. All three sold lies to wage war.
Hmm. So Thomas Aquinas was a neocon. Interesting.
4.15.2008 11:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
David.
To be correct, Thomas Aquinas and his buddy Augustine, unindicted coconspirators in a millenium of warcrimes, each share the same first name. "Saint". I generally give somebody who's survived, at least intellectually, for a thousand years or more, a bit more credit than somebody pitching the latest screed from Code Pink.
But that's just me.
4.15.2008 12:18pm
SIG357:
"Neoconservatism's founding premise is that liberal democracy in America is a great good."



Do neoconservatives really think that this is a neoconservative idea? I'm reminded of the rooster who thinks his crowing causes the sun to rise. Of course, perhaps they have some novel interpetation of what "liberal democracy" means.
4.15.2008 12:37pm
SIG357:
I'm always fascinated by the Jewish fascination with themselves. Can you say "solipsistic"?
4.15.2008 1:04pm
neurodoc:
kadet: almost any -ISM is a Jewish movement. With the exception of anti-semitism.
Alas, that is not true, or at least it is a singular pecularity of Jews as an ethnic group that among are a not insignificant number of those who hate others because they identify as Jews. Norman Finkelstein might be cited as an exemplar of the antisemitic Jew. And if you doubt my assertion as a general proposition, and not just a matter of a rare few outliers, I would refer you to Henry Miller, who in Tropic of Cancer (or was it Tropic of Capricorn) wrote something like, "No one hates a Jew like a Jew."

Now, this Jewish antisemitism thing is a complex phenomenon, one no doubt attributable to more than a millenium's collective experience in the Diaspora, which we cannot really get into here. And I fully expect certain naysayers, who almost never agree with the thrust of a DB post, to show up any minute and deny the phenomenon, arguably giving proof to it. (Let's see how long it takes.)

Re Straussians: William Kristol can be counted as one, can't he? And Dick Cheney, our behind the scenes VP, what ideologic box, if any, do people think he bests fits into?
4.15.2008 1:07pm
JC:
"Re Straussians: William Kristol can be counted as one, can't he? And Dick Cheney, our behind the scenes VP, what ideologic box, if any, do people think he bests fits into?"

Bill Kristol could be called a Straussian, but he is not a former member of the current Bush administration. There is no connection between Dick Cheney and Leo Strauss regardless of whatever box you want to squeeze him into.

Sorry, but the Straussian influence claim is a total fabrication. The only interesting questions apropos of the topic at hand is why so many people believe it to be case (when it obviously isn't) and whether there's an anti-semitic dimension to it. The two, of course, may be related.
4.15.2008 3:42pm
kelvin mccabe:
PeterRR - I am a Ron Paul supporter. So i find it kinda funny that you would lump all Ron Paul supporters into some anti-semitic grouping on a thread bemoaning the fact that other people lump all neo-cons into a group: Jews.

But I suppose you already know the good doctor's intellectual disdain for 'collectivist' thought and were just being an ass. And no, Ron Paul didnt write those F-in newsletters in the 80's so I don't care. Even if he did, it has nothing to do with the ideas he stands for now and he is still a better candidate for this specific election than the remaining three. His platform is, as far as I can tell, the complete opposite of what the neo-cons would do if they had there way.

As to the merits of the neo-con political view- well, they to me have simply forfeited all credibility on anything related to foreign affairs - a topic very dear to their hearts and intellectual pursuits. If they can't get that right, I do not hold out much hope for anything else they might get their hands on.

On a related point: The zionist christian movement is growing at an alarming rate. John Hagee (of McCain endorsement fame) for example is a big reason why (his books on the topic have sold millions) and a solid contributer to settlement expansion so that all the jews return to Isreal in preparation for Armageddon. These christian zionists seem to get along with the neo-cons, not theologically of course, but in their concern for Isreal. This confuses some people into thinking christian zionists are neo-cons, when in fact, they are just religous Republicans with rapture fever. The sooner this unholy alliance breaks, the better off America will be.
4.15.2008 5:48pm
Bleepless (mail):
Sigh. All these years, I thought I was one, but it turns out that I can't be 'cause I'm not Jewish. Erin go bragh, paisan!
4.15.2008 8:02pm
Hoosier:
JC--"Sorry, but the Straussian influence claim is a total fabrication."

I don't even understand what the claim amounts to in terms of policy. Leo Strauss was not a "policy guy" by any stretch of the imagination. A close friend of mine who teaches philosophy calls himself a Straussian, and he has told me that Strauss wrote only one article on a policy issue current during his (Leo's) lifetime. I don't know if this is the correct number, but the number must be low.

In addition, I used to teach at a college with a distinctly--really "exclusively"-- West-Coast-Straussian political science department. I had never seen anything of the sort: political scientists who had no interest in politics or policy. It was all Greeks, Augustine, Aquinas, and literature. Morgenthau wasn't on anyone's reading list, as far as I could tell. And the interest in IR was overwhelmingly an interest in rhetoric, not policy.

My experiences do not constitute a deep immersion in Straussianism. But they are more than most people will ever have. And the claim that Bush and Strauss are somehow connected is just plain loopy, as far as I can see.

Did some of this come from Saul Bellow's novel about Alan Bloom? (What was it called? "Ravelstein" I think.) Much was made in the reviews about the phone call Ravelstein takes from one of his former students, who is a slightly-fictionalized Wolfowitz.

But the point of this episode in the novel seemed to me to be Bloom's personal warmth toward people whom he'd become fond of. The scene illustrates that these are two men who are *not* in a close, mentor-disciple relationship. AND YET Bloom still cares if, say, Wolfie's daughter has caught cold. (Again, making this last part up, since I don't remember much detail.)

In any event, Wolfowitz is not a Straussian. I feel safe in asserting that no Straussian has ever written a doctoral dissertation on water desalinization policy. It's not clear what Plato's position on such things would have been, so why bother? And Wolfowitz's mentor at Chicago was not even Strauss, but Wohlstetter.

Not a small point: Wohlstetter had what are sometimes called "quantoid" tendencies. If you meet a self-professed Straussian, ask him or her for an opinion on quantitative political science. On that note, check out "Review of Politics." It must be the least quantoid of all major (academic)politics journals, and also the one with the strongest Straussian influence. It almost never does policy articles.
4.16.2008 2:29pm