Even though it has come to dominate the movement, modern (neo) conservatism has very little, if anything at all, to do with the American conservative tradition. Well then, how did neoconservative thought take over? Simple. Because rather than observing politics for what it's really about, governing philosophy, we turned it into a "team sport" instead, and thereby in the name of electoral expediency, conservatives bought into the "noble lie." Hook, line, and sinker.
The sad result is that, conservatives have adopted leftwing ideology in the name of bumper sticker slogans, while unknowingly ("[T]he historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills ...") rejecting the classical liberal roots of our once great nation.
The most fundamental theme is the distinction between the ancients and the moderns - a distinction that informs all his work. According to Strauss, ancient philosophers (such as Plato) were wise and wily, but modern philosophers (such as Locke and other liberals) were foolish and vulgar. The wise ancients thought that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty; and giving them these sublime treasures was like throwing pearls before swine. Accordingly, they believed that society needs an elite of philosophers or intellectuals to manufacture "noble lies" for the consumption of the masses.
In his book On Tyranny, Strauss referred to the right of the superior to rule as "the tyrannical teaching" of the ancients which must be kept secret ... to spare the people's feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals. After all, the people are not likely to be favourably disposed to the fact that they are intended for subordination.
Like their progressive brethren, neoconservatives hate liberty, believing it to be the root of all evil. They also stress the need for a Ruling Elite.
Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition is not one of freedom, but of subordination. And in Strauss's estimation, [Plato was] right in thinking that there is only one natural right - the right of the superior to rule over the inferior - the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. As to the pursuit of happiness - what could the vulgar do with happiness except drink, gamble, and fornicate?
[The Elite] would give the people just what was commensurate with their needs and capacities. But what exactly is that? Certainly, giving them freedom, happiness, and prosperity is not the point. In Strauss's estimation, that would turn them into animals.
Just as the Wilsonian progressives thought war was good for the "collective," so do neoconservatives, who also share the progressive Utopian vision of remaking not just man, but the world in their own image.
The goal of the wise is to ennoble the vulgar. But what could possibly ennoble the vulgar? Only weeping, worshipping, and sacrificing could ennoble the masses. Religion and war - perpetual war - would lift the masses from the animality of bourgeois consumption and the pre-occupation with "creature comforts." Instead of personal happiness, they would live their lives in perpetual sacrifice to God and the nation.
Irving Kristol, a devoted follower of Strauss and father of neoconservatism, was delighted with the popularity of the film Rambo. He thought it was an indication that the people still love war; and that means that it will not be too difficult to lure them away from the animalistic pleasures that liberal society offers.
War of course, has become the Great Divider between traditional and "neo" conservatives. Today, war is considered the ultimate litmus test, the end all be all of the modern "conservative" movement. Christian Just War Theory be damned!
Nation-building, no matter how many lives are lost, or how much treasure spent, is the promise of the future - the Sword of God that will bring forth the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. There will be no debate. You're either with us or against us!
[Neoconservatives] are ill-equipped to handle philosophical debate ... [Strauss] was convinced that there can be no disagreement among the wise. They instinctively recognise the truth. And those who deny it are unfit for the company of the wise. This explains why his students are a cultish clique, which is comfortable only when preaching to the converted and consorting with the like-minded. All the while they fool themselves into thinking that they are the exclusive few who see the unadulterated truth, which is concealed from the eyes of the uninitiated.
Thus why, when confronted by an opposing view, neoconservatives resort to cheap smears and character assassination ... Which brings us to Russell Kirk, the undisputed godfather of the conservative movement - the genuine article - who held war in deep disdain.
Young conservatives, take note: what you are about to encounter is the voice of the real thing, whose opinions are worth more than those of a million talk-show ignoramuses put together. That these views would never, ever get published in the typical "conservative" magazine today tells you all you need to know about the state of the "conservative movement": so remote is it from the genuine article that Kirk himself would be unwelcome.
[T]his is 1991, so Kirk is speaking of George H.W. Bush ... for whom these remarks could be amplified many times over.
"Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson were enthusiasts for American domination of the world," Kirk said in his speech. "Now George Bush appears to be emulating those eminent Democrats. When the Republicans, once upon a time, nominated for the presidency a ‘One World' candidate, Wendell Willkie, they were sadly trounced. In general, Republicans throughout the twentieth century have been advocates of prudence and restraint in the conduct of foreign affairs."
President Bush, Kirk said, had embarked upon "a radical course of intervention in the region of the Persian Gulf. After carpet-bombing the Cradle of Civilization as no country ever had been bombed before, Mr. Bush sent in hundreds of thousands of soldiers to overrun the Iraqi bunkers — that were garrisoned by dead men, asphyxiated."
Kirk then recalled Edmund Burke's rebuke to the Pitt ministry in 1795, when the British government seemed to be on the verge of going to war with France over the issue of navigation on the River Scheldt in the Netherlands. "A war for the Scheldt? A war for a chamber-pot!" Burke said. Today, said Kirk, one may as well say, "A war for Kuwait? A war for an oilcan!"
Those of you today, not up on your conservative heritage and philosophy, would probably consider Russell Kirk to be a "liberal/progressive." A logical fallacy if there ever was one.
You probably think only Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) talks of "blowback" and/or "imperialism" too, but Paul's warnings are merely the echoes of conservative legend Russell Kirk.
"We must expect to suffer during a very long period of widespread hostility toward the United States — even, or perhaps especially, from the people of certain states that America bribed or bullied into combining against Iraq. In Egypt, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in Morocco, in all of the world of Islam, the masses now regard the United States as their arrogant adversary; while the Soviet Union, by virtue of its endeavors to mediate the quarrel in its later stages, may pose again as the friend of Moslem lands. Nor is this all: for now, in every continent, the United States is resented increasingly as the last and most formidable of imperial systems."
Well, away with Russell Kirk, then: he "blames America" for terrorism! To be sure, anyone who is both 1) truthful, and 2) has an IQ above 50, knows he's done no such thing, but since our politicians and journalists do not distinguish themselves in either of these qualities, we can imagine their pretense of shock at the outrageous Kirk.
What else did this "unpatriotic" godfather of conservatism say about war?
"Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace comes to pass in an era of Righteousness -- that is, national or ideological self-righteousness in which the public is persuaded that ‘God is on our side,' and that those who disagree should be brought here before the bar as war criminals."
Prophetic words ... "Why Isn't Jonah Goldberg Dead?"
The differences between Jonah Goldberg and Julian Assange are legion. Assange is a courageous iconoclast, brilliant, angry, driven and effective. Goldberg is an idiotic, chicken-hearted coward with limited talent in his chosen field. When he calls for the assassination by those employed by or ostensibly on the side of the US government, as he did publicly a few days ago, it tells us more about Goldberg's own concerns and lack of character than Assange's alleged "crimes" against the corporate state.
Perhaps, in the name of national security, honor and justice, we should determine which of the two, Assange or Goldberg, deserves the label of treason. As we try these men, let us determine which of the two cares more for human life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Which of the two has demonstrated a real commitment to the cause of truth, of rule of law, and of that fundamental requirement of a republican society, that the people understand what is happening on their dime and in their name. Before sentencing, let us determine which man has been most honest about what they are about, and most careful about whom they may harm. Line them both up, and let the light shine.
Ouch! Truth hurts.
Philosophy matters folks. A lot. And as you can see, neoconservative philosophy is foreign to that of both the conservative tradition, and the founding of our nation.
Which of the 2, traditional (paleo) conservatism or neoconservatism, "cares more for human life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, [and] has demonstrated a real commitment to the cause of truth, of rule of law, and of that fundamental requirement of a republican society, that the people understand what is happening on their dime and in their name"?