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Posted: 2/23/2006 6:45:59 PM EST
Michael Savage was babbling about this today so I googled it, kind of interesting

February 19, 2006

After Neoconservatism

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly. By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at. The United States still has a chance of creating a Shiite-dominated democratic Iraq, but the new government will be very weak for years to come; the resulting power vacuum will invite outside influence from all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran. There are clear benefits to the Iraqi people from the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and perhaps some positive spillover effects in Lebanon and Syria. But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point.

The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles. The doctrine (elaborated, among other places, in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States) argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary; and that it would work to democratize the greater Middle East as a long-term solution to the terrorist problem. But successful pre-emption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies and is in the process of rewriting the National Security Strategy document.

But it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy "realists" in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's naïve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world. The administration's second-term efforts to push for greater Middle Eastern democracy, introduced with the soaring rhetoric of Bush's second Inaugural Address, have borne very problematic fruits. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in Egypt's parliamentary elections in November and December. While the holding of elections in Iraq this past December was an achievement in itself, the vote led to the ascendance of a Shiite bloc with close ties to Iran (following on the election of the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran in June). But the clincher was the decisive Hamas victory in the Palestinian election last month, which brought to power a movement overtly dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In his second inaugural, Bush said that "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one," but the charge will be made with increasing frequency that the Bush administration made a big mistake when it stirred the pot, and that the United States would have done better to stick by its traditional authoritarian friends in the Middle East. Indeed, the effort to promote democracy around the world has been attacked as an illegitimate activity both by people on the left like Jeffrey Sachs and by traditional conservatives like Pat Buchanan.

The reaction against democracy promotion and an activist foreign policy may not end there. Those whom Walter Russell Mead labels Jacksonian conservatives — red-state Americans whose sons and daughters are fighting and dying in the Middle East — supported the Iraq war because they believed that their children were fighting to defend the United States against nuclear terrorism, not to promote democracy. They don't want to abandon the president in the middle of a vicious war, but down the road the perceived failure of the Iraq intervention may push them to favor a more isolationist foreign policy, which is a more natural political position for them. A recent Pew poll indicates a swing in public opinion toward isolationism; the percentage of Americans saying that the United States "should mind its own business" has never been higher since the end of the Vietnam War.

More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives both inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratizing Iraq and the broader Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that in the coming months and years will be the most directly threatened. Were the United States to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would in my view be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends.

The Neoconservative Legacy

How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals? The Bush administration's first-term foreign policy did not flow ineluctably from the views of earlier generations of people who considered themselves neoconservatives, since those views were themselves complex and subject to differing interpretations. Four common principles or threads ran through much of this thought up through the end of the cold war: a concern with democracy, human rights and, more generally, the internal politics of states; a belief that American power can be used for moral purposes; a skepticism about the ability of international law and institutions to solve serious security problems; and finally, a view that ambitious social engineering often leads to unexpected consequences and thereby undermines its own ends.

The problem was that two of these principles were in potential collision. The skeptical stance toward ambitious social engineering — which in earlier years had been applied mostly to domestic policies like affirmative action, busing and welfare — suggested a cautious approach toward remaking the world and an awareness that ambitious initiatives always have unanticipated consequences. The belief in the potential moral uses of American power, on the other hand, implied that American activism could reshape the structure of global politics. By the time of the Iraq war, the belief in the transformational uses of power had prevailed over the doubts about social engineering.

In retrospect, things did not have to develop this way. The roots of neoconservatism lie in a remarkable group of largely Jewish intellectuals who attended City College of New York (C.C.N.Y.) in the mid- to late 1930's and early 1940's, a group that included Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer and, a bit later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The story of this group has been told in a number of places, most notably in a documentary film by Joseph Dorman called "Arguing the World." The most important inheritance from the C.C.N.Y. group was an idealistic belief in social progress and the universality of rights, coupled with intense anti-Communism.

It is not an accident that many in the C.C.N.Y. group started out as Trotskyites. Leon Trotsky was, of course, himself a Communist, but his supporters came to understand better than most people the utter cynicism and brutality of the Stalinist regime. The anti-Communist left, in contrast to the traditional American right, sympathized with the social and economic aims of Communism, but in the course of the 1930's and 1940's came to realize that "real existing socialism" had become a monstrosity of unintended consequences that completely undermined the idealistic goals it espoused. While not all of the C.C.N.Y. thinkers became neoconservatives, the danger of good intentions carried to extremes was a theme that would underlie the life work of many members of this group.

If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell in 1965, it was the limits of social engineering. Writers like Glazer, Moynihan and, later, Glenn Loury argued that ambitious efforts to seek social justice often left societies worse off than before because they either required massive state intervention that disrupted pre-existing social relations (for example, forced busing) or else produced unanticipated consequences (like an increase in single-parent families as a result of welfare). A major theme running through James Q. Wilson's extensive writings on crime was the idea that you could not lower crime rates by trying to solve deep underlying problems like poverty and racism; effective policies needed to focus on shorter-term measures that went after symptoms of social distress (like subway graffiti or panhandling) rather than root causes.

How, then, did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way that the cold war ended.

Ronald Reagan was ridiculed by sophisticated people on the American left and in Europe for labeling the Soviet Union and its allies an "evil empire" and for challenging Mikhail Gorbachev not just to reform his system but also to "tear down this wall." His assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, Richard Perle, was denounced as the "prince of darkness" for this uncompromising, hard-line position; his proposal for a double-zero in the intermediate-range nuclear arms negotiations (that is, the complete elimination of medium-range missiles) was attacked as hopelessly out of touch by the bien-pensant centrist foreign-policy experts at places like the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department. That community felt that the Reaganites were dangerously utopian in their hopes for actually winning, as opposed to managing, the cold war.

And yet total victory in the cold war is exactly what happened in 1989-91. Gorbachev accepted not only the double zero but also deep cuts in conventional forces, and then failed to stop the Polish, Hungarian and East German defections from the empire. Communism collapsed within a couple of years because of its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions, and with regime change in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact threat to the West evaporated.

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war, including younger neoconservatives like William Kristol and Robert Kagan, in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside. The model for this was Romania under the Ceausescus: once the wicked witch was dead, the munchkins would rise up and start singing joyously about their liberation. As Kristol and Kagan put it in their 2000 book "Present Dangers": "To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic. There is something perverse in declaring the impossibility of promoting democratic change abroad in light of the record of the past three decades."

This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer's recent book on Iraq, "The Assassins' Gate," the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.

By the 1990's, neoconservatism had been fed by several other intellectual streams. One came from the students of the German Jewish political theorist Leo Strauss, who, contrary to much of the nonsense written about him by people like Anne Norton and Shadia Drury, was a serious reader of philosophical texts who did not express opinions on contemporary politics or policy issues. Rather, he was concerned with the "crisis of modernity" brought on by the relativism of Nietzsche and Heidegger, as well as the fact that neither the claims of religion nor deeply-held opinions about the nature of the good life could be banished from politics, as the thinkers of the European Enlightenment had hoped. Another stream came from Albert Wohlstetter, a Rand Corporation strategist who was the teacher of Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad (the current American ambassador to Iraq) and Paul Wolfowitz (the former deputy secretary of defense), among other people. Wohlstetter was intensely concerned with the problem of nuclear proliferation and the way that the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty left loopholes, in its support for "peaceful" nuclear energy, large enough for countries like Iraq and Iran to walk through.

I have numerous affiliations with the different strands of the neoconservative movement. I was a student of Strauss's protégé Allan Bloom, who wrote the bestseller "The Closing of the American Mind"; worked at Rand and with Wohlstetter on Persian Gulf issues; and worked also on two occasions for Wolfowitz. Many people have also interpreted my book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992) as a neoconservative tract, one that argued in favor of the view that there is a universal hunger for liberty in all people that will inevitably lead them to liberal democracy, and that we are living in the midst of an accelerating, transnational movement in favor of that liberal democracy. This is a misreading of the argument. "The End of History" is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

The Failure of Benevolent Hegemony

The Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters did not simply underestimate the difficulty of bringing about congenial political outcomes in places like Iraq; they also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. Of course, the cold war was replete with instances of what the foreign policy analyst Stephen Sestanovich calls American maximalism, wherein Washington acted first and sought legitimacy and support from its allies only after the fact. But in the post-cold-war period, the structural situation of world politics changed in ways that made this kind of exercise of power much more problematic in the eyes of even close allies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors like Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol and Robert Kagan suggested that the United States would use its margin of power to exert a kind of "benevolent hegemony" over the rest of the world, fixing problems like rogue states with W.M.D., human rights abuses and terrorist threats as they came up. Writing before the Iraq war, Kristol and Kagan considered whether this posture would provoke resistance from the rest of the world, and concluded, "It is precisely because American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality that other nations find they have less to fear from its otherwise daunting power." (Italics added.)

It is hard to read these lines without irony in the wake of the global reaction to the Iraq war, which succeeded in uniting much of the world in a frenzy of anti-Americanism. The idea that the United States is a hegemon more benevolent than most is not an absurd one, but there were warning signs that things had changed in America's relationship to the world long before the start of the Iraq war. The structural imbalance in global power had grown enormous. America surpassed the rest of the world in every dimension of power by an unprecedented margin, with its defense spending nearly equal to that of the rest of the world combined. Already during the Clinton years, American economic hegemony had generated enormous hostility to an American-dominated process of globalization, frequently on the part of close democratic allies who thought the United States was seeking to impose its antistatist social model on them.

There were other reasons as well why the world did not accept American benevolent hegemony. In the first place, it was premised on American exceptionalism, the idea that America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries. The doctrine of pre-emption against terrorist threats contained in the 2002 National Security Strategy was one that could not safely be generalized through the international system; America would be the first country to object if Russia, China, India or France declared a similar right of unilateral action. The United States was seeking to pass judgment on others while being unwilling to have its own conduct questioned in places like the International Criminal Court.

Another problem with benevolent hegemony was domestic. There are sharp limits to the American people's attention to foreign affairs and willingness to finance projects overseas that do not have clear benefits to American interests. Sept. 11 changed that calculus in many ways, providing popular support for two wars in the Middle East and large increases in defense spending. But the durability of the support is uncertain: although most Americans want to do what is necessary to make the project of rebuilding Iraq succeed, the aftermath of the invasion did not increase the public appetite for further costly interventions. Americans are not, at heart, an imperial people. Even benevolent hegemons sometimes have to act ruthlessly, and they need a staying power that does not come easily to people who are reasonably content with their own lives and society.

Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed that the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent as well. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case that the United States was not getting authorization from the United Nations Security Council, but rather on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading Iraq in the first place and didn't know what it was doing in trying to democratize Iraq. In this, the critics were unfortunately quite prescient.

The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally. The misjudgment was based in part on the massive failure of the American intelligence community to correctly assess the state of Iraq's W.M.D. programs before the war. But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war's supporters did. Overestimation of this threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping.

What to Do

Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the United States needs to reconceptualize its foreign policy in several fundamental ways. In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground in this fight.

The United States needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries. The world today lacks effective international institutions that can confer legitimacy on collective action; creating new organizations that will better balance the dual requirements of legitimacy and effectiveness will be the primary task for the coming generation. As a result of more than 200 years of political evolution, we have a relatively good understanding of how to create institutions that are rulebound, accountable and reasonably effective in the vertical silos we call states. What we do not have are adequate mechanisms of horizontal accountability among states.

The conservative critique of the United Nations is all too cogent: while useful for certain peacekeeping and nation-building operations, the United Nations lacks both democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues. The solution is not to strengthen a single global body, but rather to promote what has been emerging in any event, a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions that are organized on regional or functional lines. Kosovo in 1999 was a model: when the Russian veto prevented the Security Council from acting, the United States and its NATO allies simply shifted the venue to NATO, where the Russians could not block action.

The final area that needs rethinking, and the one that will be the most contested in the coming months and years, is the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. The worst legacy that could come from the Iraq war would be an anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the United States with friendly authoritarians. Good governance, which involves not just democracy but also the rule of law and economic development, is critical to a host of outcomes we desire, from alleviating poverty to dealing with pandemics to controlling violent conflicts. A Wilsonian policy that pays attention to how rulers treat their citizens is therefore right, but it needs to be informed by a certain realism that was missing from the thinking of the Bush administration in its first term and of its neoconservative allies.

We need in the first instance to understand that promoting democracy and modernization in the Middle East is not a solution to the problem of jihadist terrorism; in all likelihood it will make the short-term problem worse, as we have seen in the case of the Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power. Radical Islamism is a byproduct of modernization itself, arising from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. It is no accident that so many recent terrorists, from Sept. 11's Mohamed Atta to the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to the London subway bombers, were radicalized in democratic Europe and intimately familiar with all of democracy's blessings. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalization and — yes, unfortunately — terrorism.

But greater political participation by Islamist groups is very likely to occur whatever we do, and it will be the only way that the poison of radical Islamism can ultimately work its way through the body politic of Muslim communities around the world. The age is long since gone when friendly authoritarians could rule over passive populations and produce stability indefinitely. New social actors are mobilizing everywhere, from Bolivia and Venezuela to South Africa and the Persian Gulf. A durable Israeli-Palestinian peace could not be built upon a corrupt, illegitimate Fatah that constantly had to worry about Hamas challenging its authority. Peace might emerge, sometime down the road, from a Palestine run by a formerly radical terrorist group that had been forced to deal with the realities of governing.

If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like. The United States has played an often decisive role in helping along many recent democratic transitions, including in the Philippines in 1986; South Korea and Taiwan in 1987; Chile in 1988; Poland and Hungary in 1989; Serbia in 2000; Georgia in 2003; and Ukraine in 2004-5. But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.

The Bush administration has been walking — indeed, sprinting — away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Condoleezza Rice gave a serious speech in January about "transformational diplomacy" and has begun an effort to reorganize the nonmilitary side of the foreign-policy establishment, and the National Security Strategy document is being rewritten. All of these are welcome changes, but the legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years. The reaction against a flawed policy can be as damaging as the policy itself, and such a reaction is an indulgence we cannot afford, given the critical moment we have arrived at in global politics.

Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony. What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world — ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

Francis Fukuyama teaches at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. This essay is adapted from his book "America at the Crossroads," which will be published this month by Yale University Press.
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 6:48:17 PM EST

Francis Fukuyama (born October 27, 1952 in Chicago) is an influential American political economist and author. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science, and is currently Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.


Fukuyama is best known as the author of the controversial book The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argues that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War and when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Fukuyama's prophecy declares the eventual triumph of political and economic liberalism. He has written a number of other books, among them Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity and Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. In the latter, he qualifies his original "end of history" thesis, arguing that since biotechnology increasingly allows humans to control their own evolution, it may allow humans to become fundamentally unequal, and thus spell the end of liberal democracy as a workable system.

Fukuyama is sometimes criticized as being a bio-luddite because of his critiques of the political ramifications of transhumanism, though to others Fukuyama is considered more of a bioconservative because of his cautious support for genetically modified organism technologies.

Politically, Fukuyama has in the past been considered neoconservative. He was active in the Project for the New American Century think tank starting in 1997, and signed the organization's letter recommending that President Bill Clinton overthrow the then-President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. [1] He also joined in its similar letter to President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks, a letter that called for removing Saddam Hussein from power "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack". [2] Thereafter, however, he did not approve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq as it was executed, and called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense [3]. He also said that he would vote against Bush in the 2004 election. [4] In an essay in the New York Times Magazine in 2006 that was strongly critical of the invasion [5], he wrote, "Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support."

In August 2005 Fukuyama, together with a number of other prominent political thinkers, co-founded The American Interest [6], a quarterly magazine devoted to the broad theme of "America in the World".

Fukuyama was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001-2005.

Fukuyama is on the steering committee for the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust [7].


* The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press, 1992. ISBN 0029109752
* Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. Free Press, 1995. ISBN 0029109760
* The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order. Free Press, 1999. ISBN 068484530X
* Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. ISBN 0374236437
* State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century. Cornell University Press, 2004. ISBN 0801442923
* After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads (forthcoming)


* The Neoconservative Moment, The National Interest, Summer 2004
* After Neoconservatism, The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, 19 February 2006
Link Posted: 2/23/2006 6:54:08 PM EST

Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University, and the director of SAIS' International Development program. He is also chairman of the editorial board of a new magazine, The American Interest.

Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues relating to questions concerning political and economic development. His book, The End of History and the Last Man, was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over twenty foreign editions. It made the bestseller lists in the United States, France, Japan, and Chile, and has been awarded the Los Angeles Times' Book Critics Award in the Current Interest category, as well as the Premio Capri for the Italian edition. He is also the author of Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995), The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order (1999), Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (2002). His most recent book is State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, published by Cornell University Press in the spring of 2004. America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy will be published by Yale University Press in the spring of 2006.

Francis Fukuyama was born on October 27, 1952, in Chicago. He received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation from 1979-1980, then again from 1983-89, and from 1995-96. In 1981-82 and in 1989 he was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State, the first time as a regular member specializing in Middle East affairs, and then as Deputy Director for European political-military affairs. In 1981-82 he was also a member of the US delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy. From 1996-2000 he was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Dr. Fukuyama was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001-2005. He holds an honorary doctorate from Connecticut College and Doane College, and is a member of advisory boards for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Journal of Democracy, and The New America Foundation. As an NED board member, he is responsible for oversight of the Endowment’s Middle East programs. He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.

December 2005
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 7:43:58 AM EST
Too much reading.
If it doesn't bash the libruls, it's gunna get any real mileage.

Although it's interesting to see one of the signatories to the PNAC agenda saying that this is not what he envisioned.

I'd suggest some time spent at these places instead of gun boards:


From these sites, a virtual 360 of other sites are linked and referrenced.
Link Posted: 2/24/2006 9:44:11 AM EST
political economist and author.

In other words.... he doesn't know what the heck he's talking about when it comes to geopolitics, history, sociology, the role and influence of religion and culture in nations and blocs of nations.... he has no personal, practical experience of the Middle East, specifically the fractions and forces at work in Afghanistan and Iraq, the human interactions between Muslims and Westerners.... the enourmous impact the experience of gentlemanly Christian soldiers who wave at kids and toss candy to them has on 500 million Muslim women whose general experience of men is of the neanderthal variety.....

If he stuck to "political economy" I'd be awed. But he makes alot of assertions that themselves need some backing up.

Case in point in the first paragraph: "the resulting power vacuum will invite outside influence from all of Iraq's neighbors..." He ASSUMES there is a power vaccum in Iraq and that all the spill over effects in Lebanon, etc. doesn't actually PROVE the opposite - that the vaccume being pulled isn't in Iraq but in the SURROUNDING COUNTRIES!

In other words, the poor economist sees data and assumes something that can't be supported by the data. It's the substitution of wishful thinking for factual analysis.

"while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. "

Really? Like with whom? France? "perceived unilateralism" - perceived by whom? The LEFT! We didn't invade Afghanistan on our own. We didn't invade Iraq on our own. Name ONE action that we did "unilaterally".

"But perception is reality"... for idiots. We, as in "The United States" aren't "isolated". The Left despises Bush and assumes fellow socialists despise him too - rather they seek to ASSURE that fellow socialists despise him. But that doesn't translate into EU countries despising the USA - as many of them are moving to the RIGHT (yeeeee hawwww).

His whole article repeats the "perceived" line again and again... as though the reality of what is occuring doesn't matter, what matters are opinions of pundits, politicians, partisan NGOs.... and not say, whether we win a battle, secure a city, promote a new constitutional REPUBLIC (NOT DEMOCRACTIC) government....

In other words, because all the "authorities" he quotes or points to base their own arguments on each other's perceptions" and not on realities on the ground, they doom themselves to mistakes.

Sure economists take into consideration a given systems' perception...but if the bricks and mortar is solid, if sales are up, costs are down, and demand continues to be high for a product, the perception in some quarters that bad news is inevitable isn't going to stop current investment and hope today. But this is what he's trying to foist on geo-political arguments; base it all on perceptions of talking heads and not on the facts on the ground.

Having a master's degree myself I'm not awed by Ph.Ds. You still have to prove your point and not merely quote OTHER opinions from others who themselves don't prove their assertions.

Link Posted: 2/24/2006 9:55:56 AM EST
Just in case you miss a crucial point....

Iraq (and Afghanistan) have CONSTITUTIONS NOW. They're not pure Democracies.... in other words, for the first time in their histories the mere majority doesn't have carte blanche power.

We don't see Iraq imploding into civil war - despite the Left's breathless hope for this.

No, we see both Sunni and Shiite religious leaders, shieks and politicians calling for national unity and calm - obviously they're savvy enough to know outside forces are trying to get them to kill each other.

And when was the last time you heard anything about Afghanistan? No news means there's only good news to report - which is why it's not reported by the Left run media.

Link Posted: 2/24/2006 3:40:07 PM EST

Originally Posted By JusAdBellum:
political economist and author.

Are you familiar with the neoconservative movement at all ??

Link Posted: 2/25/2006 3:59:03 AM EST

Originally Posted By JusAdBellum:
Just in case you miss a crucial point....

Iraq (and Afghanistan) have CONSTITUTIONS NOW. They're not pure Democracies.... in other words, for the first time in their histories the mere majority doesn't have carte blanche power.

We don't see Iraq imploding into civil war - despite the Left's breathless hope for this.

No, we see both Sunni and Shiite religious leaders, shieks and politicians calling for national unity and calm - obviously they're savvy enough to know outside forces are trying to get them to kill each other.

And when was the last time you heard anything about Afghanistan? No news means there's only good news to report - which is why it's not reported by the Left run media.

They can fake freedom all they want, but until America gets out of there and they allow their citizens to have guns, they are all slaves. We dont submit to their government, and dont have to support it. Bush said we would be there for at least 100 years.
Link Posted: 2/25/2006 4:00:04 AM EST

Originally Posted By BoogerSnax:

I'd suggest some time spent at these places instead of gun boards:


From these sites, a virtual 360 of other sites are linked and referrenced.

a giant +1
Link Posted: 2/25/2006 4:24:44 PM EST
I hate to tell you but.... their citizens DO own guns... fully automatic AK 47s. The black market for weapons of all types and calibers is insanely huge. They can get RPGs for $20.

Secondly, we're still in Germany and Korea...does this mean we "occupy" Germany and Korea and neither country has been free?

We occupied Japan for 10 years, wrote their constitution, mandated lots of things.... and then pulled out and let them run the country. The only difference between then and now is, our media was censored then so we only got good news....whereas nowadays all we get is bad news. Even good news is reported with a bad spin.

But I keep looking at the big picture: even in the midst of "insurgency" there are fewer Iraqis dying than were killed every year under Saddam's "peacetime regime". The difference here is that all deaths are reported now, whereas before under tyranny none were reported.... which makes dipsticks like Michael Moore-on idiots - they take for granted that the ministry of propaganda is 100% truth, ergo all is utopia under Saddam, and then take for granted the assumption that 100% of Iraqis killed these days are killed either by a) intentional US efforts or b) the result of US presence rather than vendetta killings, plain old murders for personal reasons, crime, or the result of foreign terrorists (non-Iraqis) KILLING IRAQI CIVILIANS in order to pave the way to their terror goal of a new Caliphate.

By us pulling out, we'll have handed Al Qaeda what they're seeking - a base of operations.

They won't stop until they're killed, converted, or achieve their goals. I'm in favor of the first two options, what's your end game?
Link Posted: 2/26/2006 3:25:11 AM EST
I fully understand your line of reasnoing and where you come from. I'm a 39 year old guy from the middle of nowhere Missouri. MY "conservative" beliefs run about as deep as they can. Granted, my Libertarian side outshines my "Republican" side. The basic idea of your right ending at my property line, and those types of things.
However, I've always had a healthy dose of "this is bullshit" about the politicians I've agreed with, along with total didtrust of the "rest of them". Different things about 9-11 struck me a s odd, and the still do. But when the President made his "with us or with the terrorists" speech, I'll admit that I was pulled along for a bit. When the war started, in hindsight, I can see what happened. If the ever-skeptic that I am can get pulled along, imagine what the onslaught of "war drumming" did for the people who actually, fully, believed the 9-11 story.
Anyway. What I'm trying to say, in regards to your previous post talking of the Iraq dead and Moore-on, and the like. The war is a false debate. A false precept, based on a staged event. Once people cross over their own personal guard rails, and see the events for what they really are, it makes the never ending dabte over the "details" seem rathr pointless.
Link Posted: 2/27/2006 9:54:50 AM EST
I don't know where you go to base your idea that 9/11 was a 'staged' event...but...

I've ridden in a car pool with a gal who was on 110 the morning of 9/11, commuting to work and saw the plane come in and nail the Pentagon. I have no reason to think she's lying or making things up.

As for the claims that the towers came down due to set charges...my highschool physics class toothpick bridge building contest proved to me what happens when structural materials get fatigued... steel need not melt in order to lose strength and thus lead to a collapse and pancaking...

I think there's a lot to be said about conspiracies and small groups of people doing things for their advantage - that's the story of DC writ large after all - but the claims that Al Qaeda is a figment of imagination.... again, not according to the Marines I know who met them on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq.... not according to the good guys I know in the intelligence community that have no reason to lie to me.

Or the claim that connections = control.... i.e. Bush family has ties to Saudi Arabian families, ergo every last action by every single Saudi is completely controlled by Bush sr and junior.... that's nuts.

Or the claim that Osama was trained by the CIA...again, even if proven true what does that prove? That people once training in how to ambush Soviet tank columns are incapable of free actions? The CIA removes free will from its agents or contractors?

A large part of what we see in politics today is wishful thinking that somehow there aren't bad guys out there who want to kill us, convert us, or rule us.... that they haven't got an international network that there aren't dozens of countries that are helping them and that there aren't major countries who probably would like to see the US hit and otherwise bogged down...

The attraction of conspiracy theories which claim that all the troubles and threats in the world are REALLY cooked up schemes from our home turf, some small minority pushing buttons and pulling strings... is that the conspiracy actually makes the world much nicer and safer.... not as chaotic and deadly since "if only" the small conspiracy were found out and taken out suddenly all peace and tranquility would break out and halcyon days of peace and joy would bloom.

Conspiracies linking all the world's disasters and problems to the Bush family makes the world innocent and inert, unthinking tools and unthinking countries...just doing their bidding... who otherwise would love us, trade with us, and give us a break.... and not ever you know, press their advantage....

Alas, the world IS dangerous and there ARE EVIL MEN inspired by ideology, religion, ambition, insanity....to do mischief and mayhem on the local and global level and nothing Bush or the GOP or the DEMS or any of us do or think we do is going to change this. They will only be stopped by death or some divine inspired metanoia (like the near miss of a hell fire missile).

Naturally, it's true that war time powers to government have always led to a centralization of power and this in turn has led to soft and then hard tyrannies of bureaucrats and then revolutions.... so sure, be skeptical of government and politicians. by all means! But don't make the mistake of assuming that since politicians are scheming !@#$%^ that NOTHING they say is true.
Link Posted: 2/27/2006 10:03:24 AM EST
I would settle for A republican who hates FDR and LBJ and the policies they embedded. Clearly this one does not.
Link Posted: 2/27/2006 12:59:36 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/27/2006 4:19:51 PM EST by cnatra]

Originally Posted By cnatra:

Originally Posted By JusAdBellum:
political economist and author.

Are you familiar with the neoconservative movement at all ??

Neoconservatism refers to the political movement, ideology, and public policy goals of "new conservatives" in the United States, who are mainly characterized by their relatively interventionist and hawkish views on foreign policy, and their lack of support for the "small government" principles and restrictions on social spending, when compared with other American conservatives such as traditional or paleoconservatives.

In the context of U.S. foreign policy, neoconservative has another, narrower definition: one who advocates the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones. This view competes with liberal internationalism, realism, and non-interventionism.

The prefix "neo" can denote that many of the movement's founders, originally liberals, Democrats or from socialist backgrounds, were new to conservatism, but can also refer to the comparatively recent emergence of this "new wave" of conservative thought, which coalesced in the early 1970s from a variety of intellectual roots in the decades following World War II. It also serves to distinguish the ideology from the viewpoints of "old" or traditional American conservatism.

Modern neoconservatism is associated with periodicals such as Commentary and The Weekly Standard and some of the foreign policy initiatives of think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Neoconservative journalists, pundits, policy analysts, and politicians, often dubbed "neocons" by supporters and critics alike, have been credited with (or blamed for) their influence on U.S. foreign policy, especially under the administrations of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) and George W. Bush (2001-present), and are particularly noted for their association with and support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The term "neocon," while increasingly popular in recent years, is somewhat controversial and is rejected by many to whom the label is applied, who claim it lacks a coherent definition.

Neoconservative: Definition and views

Usage and general views

The meaning of the term has changed over time. It was possibly first used circa 1970 by socialist author and activist Michael Harrington to characterize former leftists who had moved significantly to the right – people he derided as "socialists for Nixon." The "neoconservatives" thus described in this original sense tended to remain supporters of the welfare state, but had distinguished themselves from others on the left by allying with the Nixon administration over foreign policy, especially in their anti-communism, their support for the Vietnam War, and strident opposition to the Soviet Union.

This support for the welfare state is not implied by the contemporary use of the term, which critics suggest implies support for an aggressive worldwide foreign policy, especially one supportive of unilateralism and less concerned with international consensus through organizations such as the United Nations. However, neoconservatives describe their shared view as a belief that national security is best attained by promoting freedom and democracy abroad through the support of pro-democracy movements, foreign aid and in certain cases military intervention. This is a departure from the classic conservative tendency to support friendly regimes in matters of trade and anti-communism even at the expense of undermining existing democratic systems. Author Paul Berman in his book Terror and Liberalism describes it as, "Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for freedom for others."

In academia, the term "neoconservative" refers more to journalists, pundits, policy analysts, and institutions affiliated with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and with Commentary and The Weekly Standard than to more traditional conservative policy think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation or periodicals such as Policy Review or National Review.

According to Irving Kristol, former managing editor of Commentary and now a Senior Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington and the Publisher of the hawkish magazine The National Interest, a neoconservative is a "liberal mugged by reality," meaning someone who has become more conservative after seeing the practical impact of liberal foreign and domestic policies.

Overview of Neoconservative views

Historically, neoconservatives supported a militant anticommunism, tolerated more social welfare spending than was sometimes acceptable to libertarians and mainstream conservatives, supported civil equality for blacks and other minorities, and sympathized with a non-traditional foreign policy agenda that was less deferential to traditional conceptions of diplomacy and international law and less inclined to compromise principles even if that meant unilateral action. Indeed, domestic policy does not define neoconservatism — it is a movement founded on, and perpetuated by an aggressive approach to foreign policy, free trade, opposition to communism during the Cold War, support for Israel and Taiwan and opposition to Middle Eastern and other states that are perceived to support terrorism.

Broadly sympathetic to Woodrow Wilson's idealistic goals to spread American ideals of government, economics, and culture abroad, they grew to reject his reliance on international organizations and treaties to accomplish these objectives.

Compared to other U.S. conservatives, neoconservatives may be characterized by an aggressive moralist stance on foreign policy, a lesser social conservatism, and a much weaker dedication to a policy of minimal government, and, in the past, a greater acceptance of the welfare state, though none of these qualities are necessarily requisite.

Distinctions from other Conservative movements

Most people currently described as "neoconservatives" are members of the Republican Party, but while neoconservatives have generally been in electoral alignment with other conservatives, have served in the same Presidential Administrations, and have often ignored intra-conservative ideological differences in alliance against those to their left, there are notable differences between neoconservative and traditional or "paleoconservative" views. In particular, neoconservatives disagree with the nativist, protectionist, and isolationist strain of American conservatism once exemplified by the ex-Republican "paleoconservative" Pat Buchanan, and the traditional "pragmatic" approach to foreign policy often associated with Richard Nixon, which emphasized pragmatic accommodation with dictators; peace through negotiations, diplomacy, and arms control; détente and containment — rather than rollback — of the Soviet Union; and the initiation of the process that led to ties between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the United States.

Neoconservative writers have frequently expressed admiration for the "big stick" interventionist foreign policy of Theodore Roosevelt. Neoconservative foreign policy came to be defined by advocacy of a "rollback" of Communism, (an idea touted under the Eisenhower administration by John Foster Dulles), as against mere containment, the dominant U.S. policy from the beginning of the Cold War through the Carter administration. Influential periodicals such as Commentary, The New Republic, The Public Interest, and The American Spectator, and later The Weekly Standard have been established by prominent neoconservatives or regularly host the writings of neoconservative writers.

In foreign policy, critics argue that neoconservatives tend to view the world in 1939 terms, comparing the threat from adversaries as diverse as the Soviet Union, Osama bin Laden (and, more broadly, Islamofascism), and China to the threat then-posed by Nazi Germany and Japan, while American leaders such as Reagan and Bush stand in for Winston Churchill. In this analogy, leftists and others who oppose them, are cast either as Neville Chamberlain-style appeasers or as an Anti-American fifth column. For example, Donald and Frederick Kagan's book While America Sleeps argues, at book length, an analogy between the post-cold war United States and Britain's post-World War I reduction in its military and avoidance of confrontation with other major powers.

As compared with traditional conservatism and libertarianism, which sometimes exhibit an isolationist strain, neoconservatism is characterized by an increased emphasis on defense capability, a willingness to challenge regimes deemed hostile to the values and interests of the United States, pressing for free-market policies abroad, and promoting democracy and freedom. Neoconservatives are strong believers in democratic peace theory. Critics have charged that, while paying lip service to such American values, neoconservatives have supported undemocratic regimes for realpolitik reasons.

The newly aggressive support for democracies and nation building is founded on a belief that, over the long term, it will reduce the extremism that is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. Neoconservatives have often postulated that democratic regimes are, on aggregate, less likely to instigate a war than a country with an authoritarian form of government. In support, they argue that there has been no war between genuine democracies anywhere in the world since the War of 1812. Further, they argue that the lack of freedoms, lack of economic opportunities, and the lack of secular general education in authoritarian regimes promotes radicalism and extremism. Consequently, the Administration has advocated spreading democracy to regions of the world where it currently does not prevail, most notably the Arab nations of the Middle East.

In addition, the neoconservative-influenced Project for the New American Century has called for an Israel no longer dependent on American aid through the removal of major threats in the region.

Neoconservatives also have a very strong belief in the ability to install democracy after a conflict - comparisons with denazification in Germany and Japan starting in 1945 are often made, and they have a principled belief in defending democracies against aggression. Despite the distance and practical difficulties and dangers involved, neoconservatives would generally support Taiwan against an attack from mainland China.

Shortcomings and criticism of the term "Neoconservative"

Relatively few of those identified as neoconservatives embrace the term.

Critics of the term argue that it lacks coherent definition, or that it is coherent only in a Cold War context.

The fact that the use of the term "neoconservative" has rapidly risen since the 2003 Iraq War is cited by conservatives as proof that the term is largely irrelevant in the long term. David Horowitz, a purported leading neo-con thinker offered this critique in a recent interview with an Italian newspaper:

Neo-conservatism is a term almost exclusively used by the enemies of America's liberation of Iraq. There is no "neo-conservative" movement in the United States. When there was one, it was made up of former Democrats who embraced the welfare state but supported Ronald Reagan's Cold War policies against the Soviet bloc. Today neo-conservatism identifies those who believe in an aggressive policy against radical Islam and the global terrorists.

Similarly, many other supposed neoconservatives believe that the term has been adopted by the political left to stereotype supporters of U.S. foreign policy under the George W. Bush administration. Others have similarly likened descriptions of neoconservatism to a conspiracy theory and attribute the term to anti-Semitism. Paul Wolfowitz has denounced the term as meaningless label, saying:

[If] you read the Middle Eastern press, it seems to be a euphemism for some kind of nefarious Zionist conspiracy. But I think that, in my view it's very important to approach [foreign policy] not from a doctrinal point of view. I think almost every case I know is different. Indonesia is different from the Philippines. Iraq is different from Indonesia. I think there are certain principles that I believe are American principles – both realism and idealism. I guess I'd like to call myself a democratic realist. I don't know if that makes me a neo-conservative or not.

Jonah Goldberg and others have rejected the label as trite and over-used, arguing "There's nothing 'neo' about me: I was never anything other than conservative." Other critics have similarly argued the term has been rendered meaningless through excessive and inconsistent use. For example, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are often identified as leading "neocons" despite the fact that both men have ostensibly been life-long conservative Republicans (though Cheney has been vocally supportive of the ideas of Irving Kristol). Such critics thus largely reject the claim that there is a neoconservative movement separate from traditional American conservatism.

Other traditional conservatives are likewise skeptical of the contemporary usage term, and may dislike being associated with the stereotypes, or even the supposed agendas of the "neocons." Conservative columnist David Harsanyi wrote, "These days, it seems that even temperate support for military action against dictators and terrorists qualifies you a neocon."

During the 1970s, for example in a book on the movement by Peter Steinfels, the use of the term neoconservative was never identified with the writings of Leo Strauss. The near synonymity, in some quarters, of neoconservatism and Straussianism is a much more recent phenomenon, which suggests that perhaps two quite distinct movements have become merged into one, either in fact or in the eyes of certain beholders.

Pejorative use

The term is frequently used pejoratively, both by self-described paleoconservatives, who oppose neoconservatism from the right, and by Democratic politicians opposing neoconservatives from the left. Recently, Democratic politicians have used the term to criticize the Republican policies and leaders of the current Bush administration.

History and origins of neoconservatism

Great Depression and World War II

"New" conservatives initially approached this view from the political left, especially in reponse to key developments in modern American history.

The forerunners of neoconservativism were generally liberals or socialists who strongly supported the Second World War, and who were influenced by the Depression-era ideas of former New Dealers, trade unionists, and Trotskyists, particularly those who followed the political ideas of Max Shachtman (A number of future neoconservatives such as Jeane Kirkpatrick and Ken Adelman were Shachtmanites in their youth, while others were later involved with Social Democrats USA. Most neoconservatives, however, including those who have been close to SDUSA, will strenuously deny, even contrary to evidence, that they were ever Shachtmanites.

Opposition to Détente with the Soviet Union and the views of the anti-Soviet and anti-capitalist New Left, which emerged in response to the Soviet Union's break with Stalinism in the 1950s, would cause the Neoconservatives to split with the "liberal consensus" of the early postwar years. The original "neoconservative" theorists, such as Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, were often associated with the magazine Commentary, and their intellectual evolution is quite evident in that magazine over the course of these years. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s the early neoconservatives were anti-Communist socialists strongly supportive of the American Civil Rights Movement, integration, and Martin Luther King.

Drift away from New Left and Great Society

While initially, the views of the New Left became very popular among the children of hardline Communists, often Jewish immigrant families on the edge of poverty and including those of some of today's most famous neoconservative thinkers, some neoconservatives also came to despise the counterculture of the 1960s and what they felt was a growing "anti-Americanism" among many baby boomers, exemplified in the emerging New Left by the movement against the Vietnam War.

As the radicalization of the New Left pushed these intellectuals farther to the right, they moved toward a more aggressive militarism, while also becoming disillusioned with the Johnson Administration's Great Society.

Academics in these circles, many of whom were still Democrats, rebelled against the Democratic Party's leftward drift on defense issues in the 1970s, especially after the nomination of George McGovern in 1972. Many clustered around Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, a Democrat derisively known as the "Senator from Boeing," but then they aligned themselves with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, who promised to confront charges of Soviet "expansionism."

Michael Lind, a self-described former neoconservative, wrote that neoconservatism "originated in the 1970s as a movement of anti-Soviet liberals and social democrats in the tradition of Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey and Henry ("Scoop") Jackson, many of whom preferred to call themselves 'paleoliberals.' When the Cold War ended, "many 'paleoliberals' drifted back to the Democratic center... Today's neocons are a shrunken remnant of the original broad neocon coalition. Nevertheless, the origins of their ideology on the left are still apparent. The fact that most of the younger neocons were never on the left is irrelevant; they are the intellectual (and, in the case of William Kristol and John Podhoretz, the literal) heirs of older ex-leftists."[1]

In his semi-autobiographical book, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography Of An Idea, Irving Kristol cites a number of influences on his own thought, including not only Max Shachtman and Leo Strauss but also the skeptical liberal literary critic Lionel Trilling. The influence of Leo Strauss and his disciples on some neoconservatives has generated some controversy. Some argue that Strauss's influence has left some neoconservatives adopting a Machiavellian view of politics. See Leo Strauss for a discussion of this controversy.

Left-wing roots of Neoconservative organizations

Many believe that the neoconservative desire to spread democracy abroad, often by force, parallels the Trotskyist dream of permanent revolution. Author Michael Lind argues that the neoconservatives are influenced by the thought of Trotskyists such as James Burnham and Max Shachtman, who argued that "the United States and similar societies are dominated by a decadent, postbourgeois 'new class'". He sees the neoconservative concept of "global democratic revolution" as deriving from the Trotskyist Fourth International's "vision of permanent revolution". He also points to what he sees as the Marxist origin of "the economic determinist idea that liberal democracy is an epiphenomenon of capitalism", which he describes as "Marxism with entrepreneurs substituted for proletarians as the heroic subjects of history." However, few leading neoconservatives cite James Burnham as a major influence, as he differed with them on many issues.[2]

Critics of Lind contend that there is no theoretical connection between Trotsky's "permanent revolution", which is concerned with the pace of radical social change in the third world, and neoconservative support for a "global democratic revolution", with its Wilsonian roots.[3] But Wilsonianism does share with the theory of permanent revolution very similar concerns about the democratization of ostensibly backward parts of the world.

Lind argues furthermore that "The organization as well as the ideology of the neoconservative movement has left-liberal origins". He draws a line from the center-left anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom to the Committee on the Present Danger to the Project for the New American Century and adds that "European social democratic models inspired the quintessential neocon institution, the National Endowment for Democracy."

Another author who has focused extensively on this phenomenon is Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com. He explains the left-wing roots of neoconservatism thus:

Shachtman split off from the main body of Trotskyism in 1940, forming the Workers Party, of which Burnham was briefly a member. He stubbornly maintained his devotion to the cause of socialism, but alongside it began to develop a strategic orientation that involved less revolutionary means to achieve it. As the Workers Party began to move into the 1950s and beyond, they changed their name to the Independent Socialist League and buried themselves in the old Socialist Party. They became a major force in the AFL-CIO on account of their hold on union offices, and the militant anti-Stalinism of the Trotskyist left, in the end, translated into a militant anti-Communism that owed more to Senator "Scoop" Jackson, of Washington, the hardline cold warrior Democrat, than to an orthodox interpretation of the Communist classics. Shachtman and his followers soon latched on to the senator as the exemplar of their foreign policy views, and it was through this connection – Shachtman supported Jackson's abortive presidential bid and planted his followers on staff – that the neocons made their first appearance in Washington. The Jackson connection was the first beachhead established by Shachtman and his followers in Washington, when they were still in the Democratic Party. Their party loyalties, however, as we have seen, were less than rock solid, and they readily moved into the Republican Party when both necessity and opportunity required it.

As Raimondo and others see it, the Shachtmanites, from Social Democrats USA and into the Reagan Administration onward, were acting on a totally orthodox Leninist trajectory of entryism, and a massively successful one at that. The vintage Leninist staple of the front group was particularly evident, from the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger in the 1970s to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies today. Any intellectual inconsistency in a merger with the Straussians - after all, both Trotsky and Strauss were firm believers in the power of an elite with esoteric knowledge to lead the masses - would therefore seem superfluous. Raimondo has therefore seconded the view of Seymour Hersh that neoconservatism is best understood as a cult.[4]

Some observers believe furthermore that there is a fundamental continuity of ideas from Trotsky to the present neoconservative movement. They point in particular to the French Turn, by which Trotsky advocated the belief in social democracy as a Leninist vanguard. This was indeed essentially the position for which Shachtman broke with Trotsky, and that position has remained throughout the essence of neoconservatism. Indeed, this view has only been embraced by neocon thinkers such as
Paul Berman, Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Schwartz.

Reagan and the Neoconservatives

During the 1970s political scientist Jeane Kirkpatrick increasingly criticized the Democratic Party, of which she was still a member, since the nomination of the antiwar George McGovern. Kirkpatrick became a convert to the ideas of the new conservatism of once-liberal Democratic academics.

During Ronald Reagan's successful 1980 campaign, he hired her as his foreign policy advisor and later nominated her as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a position she held for four years. Known for her anti-communist stance and for her tolerance of right-wing dictatorships (her criticism of which was often tempered, calling them simply "moderately repressive regimes"), she argued that U.S. policy should not aid the overthrow of right-wing regimes if these were only to be replaced by even less democratic left-wing regimes. The overthrow of leftist governments was acceptable and at times essential because they served as a bulwark against the expansion of Soviet interests.

Under this doctrine, known as the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, the Reagan administration initially tolerated leaders such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. As the 1980's wore on, however, younger, second-generation neoconservatives, such as Elliot Abrams, pushed for a clear policy of supporting democracy against both left and right wing dictators. Thus, while U.S. support for Marcos continued until and even after the fraudulent Philippine election of February 7, 1986, there was debate within the administration regarding how and when to oppose Marcos.

In the days that followed, with the widespread popular refusal to accept Marcos as the purported winner, turmoil in the Philippines grew. The Reagan administration then urged Marcos to accept defeat and leave the country, which he did. The Reagan team, and particularly the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Elliot Abrams, also supported the 1988 Chilean plebiscite that resulted in the restoration of democratic rule and Pinochet's eventual removal from office. Through the National Endowment for Democracy, led by another neoconservative, Carl Gershman, funds were directed to the anti-Pinochet opposition in order to ensure a fair election.

In this sense, the neoconservative foreign policy makers of the Reagan era were different from some of their more traditionalist conservative predecessors, and from the older generation of neoconservatives as well. While many of the latter believed that America's allies should be unquestionably defended at all costs, no matter what the nature of their regime, many younger neocons were more supportive of the idea of changing regimes to make them more compatible and reflective of U.S. values.

The belief in the universality of democracy would be a key neoconservative value which would go on to play a larger role in the post-Cold War period. Some critics would say however, that their emphasis on the need for externally-imposed "regime change" for "rogue" nations such as Iraq conflicted with the democratic value of national self-determination. Most neocons view this argument as invalid until a country has a democratic government to express the actual determination of its people.

For his own part, President Reagan largely did not move towards the sort of protracted, long-term interventions to stem social revolution in the Third World that many of his advisors would have favored. Instead, he mostly favored quick campaigns to attack or overthrow terrorist groups or leftist governments, favoring small, quick interventions that heightened a sense of post-Vietnam triumphalism among Americans, such as the attacks on Grenada and Libya, and arming right-wing militias in Central America, including backing the Contras seeking to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

Most importantly, Reagan took the opposite course from the neocons in relation to the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, pursuing a conciliatory strategy toward disarmament and eventual liberalization as opposed to one of confrontation and rearmament. Reagan had made his most decisive break with the neocons in 1983 when he refused to remain engaged in the civil war in Lebanon and was at the same time generally indifferent to Israel. Many neocons became furious with Reagan for all of these reasons, most infamously, Norman Podhoretz came to liken him to Neville Chamberlain.

In general, many neocons see the collapse of the Soviet Union as having occurred directly due to Reagan's hard-line stance, and the bankruptcy that resulted from the Soviet Union trying to keep up the arms race. They therefore see this as a strong confirmation of their worldview, in spite of the great extent to which it is rewritten history.

Neoconservativism under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton

During the 1990s, neoconservatives were once again in the opposition side of the foreign policy establishment, both under the Republican Administration of President George H. W. Bush and that of his Democratic successor, President Bill Clinton. Many critics charged that the neoconservatives lost their raison d'être and influence following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Others argue that they lost their status due to their association with the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan Administration.

Neoconservative writers were critical of the post-Cold War foreign policy of both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, which they criticized for reducing military expenditures and lacking a sense of idealism in the promotion of American interests. They accused these Administrations of lacking both "moral clarity" and the conviction to pursue unilaterally America's international strategic interests.

Particularly galvanizing to the movement was the decision of George H. W. Bush and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War in 1991. Some neoconservatives viewed this policy, and the decision not to support indigenous dissident groups such as the Kurds and Shiites in their 1991-1992 resistance to Hussein, as a betrayal of democratic principles.

Within a few years of the Gulf War in Iraq, many associated with neoconservatism were pushing for the ouster of Saddam Hussein. On February 19, 1998, an open letter to President Clinton was signed by dozens of pundits, many identified with both neoconservatism and, later, related groups such as the PNAC, urging decisive action to remove Saddam from power. [5]

Neoconservatives were also members of the blue team, which argued for a confrontational policy toward the People's Republic of China and strong military and diplomatic support for Taiwan.

Administration of George W. Bush

Thus, neoconservative thinkers were eager to implement a new foreign policy with the change in Administrations from Clinton to George W. Bush. Despite this, the Bush campaign and then the early Bush Administration did not appear to exhibit strong support for neoconservative principles, as candidate Bush stated his opposition to the idea of "nation-building" and an early foreign policy confrontation with China was handled without the vociferous confrontation suggested by some neoconservative thinkers. Also early in the Administration, some neoconservatives criticized Bush's Administration as insufficiently supportive of the State of Israel, and suggested Bush's foreign policies were not substantially different from those of President Clinton.

China spy plane incident

The Bush Administration was criticized by some neoconservatives for their non-confrontational reaction during the U.S.-China spy plane incident. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E spy plane collided with a Chinese J-8 fighter over the South China Sea, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan, where the twenty-four members of the American crew were held and interrogated for eleven days while their plane was searched and photographed by the Chinese. The Bush Administration conducted diplomacy and then issued a statement of regret to the Chinese Foreign Ministry[6]. President Reagan's former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Frank Gaffney, wrote in an article in National Review Online that President Bush "should use this occasion to make clear to the American people that the PRC is acting in an increasingly belligerent manner. Mr. Bush needs to talk about these threats as well as his commitment to defend the American people, their forces overseas and their allies."[7].

September 11, 2001

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, however, the influence of neoconservatism—at least as it is understood to mean a muscular stance toward foreign policy threats—in the Bush administration appears to have found its purpose in the shift from the threat of Communism to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

Neoconservative identification with the State of Israel's struggle against terrorism was furthered by the September 11 terrorist attacks, which served to create a perceived parallel between the United States and Israel as democratic nations under the threat of terrorist attack. Moreover, some neoconservatives have long advocated that the United States should emulate Israel's tactics of pre-emptive attacks, especially Israel's strikes in the 1980s on nuclear facilities in Libya and Osirak, Iraq.

"Bush Doctrine"

The Bush Doctrine, promulgated after September 11th, incorporates both the idea of considering nations that harbor terrorists as enemies of the United States, as well as the view that pre-emptive military action, unilateral if necessary, is justified to protect the United States from the threat of terrorism or attack. The doctrine also states that the United States "will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equalling, the power of the United States."

This doctrine can be seen as the abandonment of a focus on the doctrine of deterrence (in the Cold War through Mutually Assured Destruction) as the primary means of self-defense, although some note that preemptive strikes have long been a part of international and American foreign policy, as exemplified by the unilateral U.S. blockade and boarding of Cuban shipping during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (See preemptive war.)

Neoconservatives won a landmark victory with the Bush Doctrine after September 11th. Thomas Donnelly, a resident fellow at the influential conservative thinktank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which has been under neoconservative influence since the Reagan Administration, argued in "The Underpinnings of the Bush doctrine" that

"the fundamental premise of the Bush Doctrine is true: The United States possesses the means—economic, military, diplomatic—to realize its expansive geopolitical purposes. Further, and especially in light of the domestic political reaction to the attacks of September 11, the victory in Afghanistan and the remarkable skill demonstrated by President Bush in focusing national attention, it is equally true that Americans possess the requisite political willpower to pursue an expansive strategy."

In his well-publicized piece "The Case for American Empire" in the conservative Weekly Standard, Max Boot argued that "The most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role." He countered sentiments that the "United States must become a kinder, gentler nation, must eschew quixotic missions abroad, must become, in Pat Buchanan's phrase, 'a republic, not an empire'," arguing that "In fact this analysis is exactly backward: The September 11 attack was a result of insufficient American involvement and ambition; the solution is to be more expansive in our goals and more assertive in their implementation."

As of 2005, the most prominent supporters of the neoconservative stance inside the Administration are Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

At the same time, there have been limits in the power of neoconservatives in the Bush administration. The former Secretary of State Colin Powell (as well as the State department as a whole) was largely seen as being an opponent of neoconservative ideas. However, with the resignation of Colin Powell and the promotion of Condoleezza Rice, along with widespread resignations within the State department, the neoconservative point of view within the Bush administration has been solidified. While the neoconservative notion of tough and decisive action has been apparent in U.S. policy toward the Middle East, it has not been seen in U.S. policy toward China and Russia or in the handling of the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Impact of 2003 Iraq War on Neoconservative philosophy and influence

Neoconservatism and charges of Appeasement

Neoconservative proponents of the 2003 Iraq War likened the conflict to Churchill's stand against Hitler. In a major turnaround within the conservative movement, some prior practitioners of realpolitik such as United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld[9], who had supported Saddam Hussein as part of the Reagan Administration's opposition to the Iranian Revolution (much like President Roosevelt's support of Stalin during WWII), now employed idealistic rhetoric that likened Hussein to Stalin and Hitler. President George W. Bush singled out Iraq's dictator as the "great evil" who "by his search for terrible weapons, by his ties to terrorist groups, threatens the security of every free nation, including the free nations of Europe."

In the writings of Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhoretz, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Max Boot, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, William Bennett, Peter Rodman, and others influential in forging the foreign policy doctrines of the Bush administration, there are frequent references to the appeasement of Hitler at Munich in 1938, to which are compared the Cold War's policies of détente and containment (rather than rollback) with the Soviet Union and the PRC.

While more conventional foreign policy experts argued that Iraq could be restrained by enforcing No-Fly Zones and by a policy of inspection by United Nations inspectors to restrict its ability to possess chemical or nuclear weapons, neoconservatives considered this policy direction ineffectual and labeled it appeasement of Saddam Hussein.

Practical impact of the 2003 Iraq War on Neoconservative influence

The war that the Bush administration continues to fight in Iraq can be considered a fair test of the practical validity of neoconservative thinking and principles. If the war in Iraq is successful in stabilizing Iraq and the Middle East, then the neoconservative ideas will have achieved a victory. If, however, the war in Iraq further destabilizes the Middle East or leads to a new regime which funnels oil revenues to terrorists then the neoconservative ideas will have been dealt a serious blow.

Furthermore, if the Iraq War is successful in establishing a robust and self-sustaining liberal democracy in Iraq, then the influence of neoconservative thinking on the Republican party will likely solidify or possibly even increase. But if the war in Iraq is drawn-out, requiring an excessive expenditure of American lives and money, and establishes a weak or ineffective Iraqi government unable to control terrorism, then the influence of neoconservatives within the Republican party will likely be greatly diminished in the future.

Neoconservatives are perhaps closer to the mainstream of the Republican Party today since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon than any competing faction, especially considering the nature of the Bush Doctrine and the preemptive war against Iraq.

Criticism of neoconservatism

Neoconservatives have often been singled out for criticism by opponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, many of whom see this invasion as a neoconservative initiative.

Jacobinism, Bolshevism

The "traditional" conservative Claes Ryn has argued that neoconservatives are "a variety of neo-Jacobins." Ryn asserts that true conservatives deny the existence of a universal political and economic philosophy and model that is suitable for all societies and cultures, and believe that a society's institutions should be adjusted to suit its culture, while Neo-Jacobins

"are attached in the end to ahistorical, supranational principles that they believe should supplant the traditions of particular societies. The new Jacobins see themselves as on the side of right and fighting evil and are not prone to respecting or looking for common ground with countries that do not share their democratic preferences. (Ryn 2003: 387)"

Further examining the relationship between Neoconservatism and moral rhetoric, Ryn argues that

" [Neo-Jacobinism] regards America as founded on universal principles and assigns to the United States the role of supervising the remaking of the world. Its adherents have the intense dogmatic commitment of true believers and are highly prone to moralistic rhetoric. They demand, among other things, "moral clarity" in dealing with regimes that stand in the way of America's universal purpose. They see themselves as champions of "virtue." (p. 384)."

Thus, according to Ryn, neoconservatism is analogous to Bolshevism: in the same way that the Bolsheviks wanted to destroy established ways of life throughout the world to replace them with communism, the neoconservatives want to do the same, only imposing free-market capitalism and American-style "liberal democracy" instead of socialism.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, had the following to say in a December, 2005 interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel: "They are not new conservatives. They're Jacobins. Their predecessor is French Revolution leader Maximilien Robespierre."[10]

Conflict with Libertarian Conservatives

There is also conflict between neoconservatives and libertarian conservatives. Libertarian conservatives are ideologically opposed to large government and regard neoconservative foreign policy ambitions with considerable distrust. Rep Ron Paul a Republican libertarian who holds a Texas district, has spoken out consistently against the Bush Administration's foreign wars on both a fiscal point and as a moral point on non-intervention.

Disagreement with Business Lobby, fiscal conservatives

There has been considerable conflict between neoconservatives and business conservatives in some areas. Neoconservatives tend to see China as a looming threat to the United States and argue for harsh policies to contain that threat. Business conservatives see China as a business opportunity and see a tough policy against China as opposed to their desires for trade and economic progress. Business conservatives also appear much less distrustful of international institutions. In fact, where China is concerned neoconservatives tend to find themselves more often in agreement with liberal Democrats than with business conservatives. Indeed, Americans for Democratic Action - widely regarded as an "authority" of sorts on liberalism by both the American left and right alike - credit Senators and members of the House of Representatives with casting a "liberal" vote if they oppose legislation that would treat China favorably in the realm of foreign trade and many other matters.

Friction with "Paleoconservatism"

The disputes over Israel and domestic policies have contributed to a sharp conflict over the years with "paleoconservatives," whose very name was taken as a rebuke to their "neo" brethren. There are many personal issues but effectively the paleoconservatives view the neoconservatives as interlopers who deviate from the traditional conservative agenda on issues as diverse as states' rights, free trade, immigration, isolationism, the welfare state, and in some cases abortion and homosexuality. All of this leads to their conservative label being questioned.

Neoconservatism, Judaism, and "Dual Loyalty"

Some opponents of neoconservatives have sought to emphasize their interest in Israel and the relatively large proportion of Jewish neoconservatives, and have raised the question of "dual loyalty". A number of critics, such as Pat Buchanan, have accused them of putting Israeli interests above those of America. In turn these critics have been labeled as anti-Semites by many neoconservatives (which in turn has led to accusations of professional smearing, and then paranoia, and so on).

Some neo-nazi conspiracy theorists such as David Duke have attacked neoconservatism as advancing 'Jewish interests.' Classic anti-Semitic tropes have often been used when elaborating this view, such as the idea that Jews achieve influence through the intellectual domination of national leaders. Similarly, during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, left-wing magazine AdBusters published a list of the "50 most influential neocons in the United States", noting that half of these were Jewish. [11]

Many prominent neoconservatives are not Jewish, among them Michael Novak, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Gaffney, and Max Boot. Neoconservatives in the 1960s were much less interested in Israel before the June 1967 Six Day War. It was only after this conflict, which raised the specter of unopposed Soviet influence in the Middle East, that the neoconservatives became preoccupied by Israel's security interests. They promote the view that Israel is the United States' strongest ally in the Middle East as the sole Western-style democracy in the region, aside from Turkey (George W. Bush has also supported Turkey in its efforts to join the European Union).

Commenting on the alleged overtones of this view in more mainstream discourse, David Brooks, in his January 6, 2004 New York Times column wrote, "To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles." In a similar vein, Michael Lind, a self-described 'former neoconservative,' wrote in 2004, "It is true, and unfortunate, that some journalists tend to use 'neoconservative' to refer only to Jewish neoconservatives, a practice that forces them to invent categories like 'nationalist conservative' or 'Western conservative' for Rumsfeld and Cheney. But neoconservatism is an ideology, like paleoconservatism and libertarianism, and Rumsfeld and Dick and Lynne Cheney are full-fledged neocons, as distinct from paleocons or libertarians, even though they are not Jewish and were never liberals or leftists." [12] Lind argues that, while "there were, and are, very few Northeastern WASP mandarins in the neoconservative movement", its origins are not specifically Jewish. "...[N]eoconservatism recruited from diverse 'farm teams,' including liberal Catholics (William Bennett and Michael Novak..) and populists, socialists and New Deal liberals in the South and Southwest (the pool from which Jeane Kirkpatrick, James Woolsey and I [that is, Lind himself] were drawn)." [13]

Related Publications and Institutions


* American Enterprise Institute
* Bradley Foundation
* Project for the New American Century
* Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

* Commentary
* Weekly Standard

Conservative magazines that regularly feature neoconservative ideas.

* Front Page Magazine
* The National Interest
* National Review
* Policy Review
* The Public Interest

Link Posted: 2/27/2006 4:26:36 PM EST

Originally Posted By JusAdBellum:
political economist and author.

In other words.... he doesn't know what the heck he's talking about when it comes to geopolitics, history, sociology, the role and influence of religion and culture in nations and blocs of nations.... he has no personal, practical experience of the Middle East, specifically the fractions and forces at work in Afghanistan and Iraq, the human interactions between Muslims and Westerners.... the enourmous impact the experience of gentlemanly Christian soldiers who wave at kids and toss candy to them has on 500 million Muslim women whose general experience of men is of the neanderthal variety.....

Leo Strauss (September 20, 1899 – October 18, 1973), was an American political philosopher of German-Jewish extraction, who specialized in the revitalization of classical philosophy at the University of Chicago.

He is widely considered to be one of the leading intellectual sources of neoconservatism.


Leo Strauss was born in Kirchhain (near Marburg), Hessen, in Germany to Hugo Strauss (a salesman of farming supplies) and Jennie David. He was enrolled at the famous Gymnasium Philippinum (from which Johannes Althusius and Carl J. Friedrich also graduated) in Easter 1912 and graduated in 1917. During his student years, his positions towards religion as well as political Zionism changed frequently. He served in the German army during the last stage of World War One from 5 July 1917 to December 1918. Strauss subsequently enrolled in the University of Hamburg, where he received his docorate in 1921 with a thesis entitled "On Epistemology in the Philosophical Doctrine of F. H. Jacobi", which was supervised by Ernst Cassirer. He also attended courses at the Universities of Freiburg and Marburg, including some by Edmund Husserl and his pupil Martin Heidegger.

In 1932, Strauss married Marie (Miriam) Bernsohn in Paris, France. In 1934, he moved to England where, in 1935, he was able to gain a temporary position at Cambridge University. In 1937, Strauss moved to the United States, where he became a Research Fellow in the Department of History at Columbia University. Between 1938 and 1948, he lectured in political science at the New School for Social Research. In 1944, he became a US citizen and from 1949 until 1968, Strauss served as a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago, as a professor of political philosophy.


Strauss called his field Political Philosophy. But for him political philosophy and philosophy were necessarily intertwined at their roots.

Like many philosophers in the twentieth century, Stauss felt that positivism, and more generally, the attempt to distinguish facts and values, science and morality, etc, had been wrong and also harmful. He considered one of the most important moments in the history of philosophy to be the argument by Socrates and his students that philosophers or scientists could not study nature without considering their own human nature, which, in the famous phrase of Aristotle, is "political".

Strauss made the distinction between "scholars" and "philosophers" and called himself a scholar, not a philosopher. He wrote that today, most who call themselves philosophers are, at best, mere scholars. Scholars are cautious and methodical; not bold. Still, he argued that while the great thinkers are bold, they also see pitfalls whereas the scholar sees sure ground. Finally, scholars become possible because the great thinkers disagree on fundamental points, and these disagreements create the possibility for scholars to reason.

In Natural Right and History, his most famous and most accesible work, Strauss begins with a critique of the epistemology of Max Weber, following by a brief engagement with the relativism of Heidegger (who goes unnamed), continuing with a discussion of the evolution of Natural Right with an analysis of the thought of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. He ends with a critique of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke. At the heart of the book are the sections of classical political philosophy, the work of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. A selection of Strauss's essays published under the title, The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism offers an introduction to his thinking: "Social Science and Humanism", "An Introduction to Heideggerian Existentialism", "On Classical Political Philosophy", "Thucydides and the Meaning of Political History", and "How to Begin to Study Medieval Philosophy" are among his topics. Much of his philosophy is a reaction to the works of Martin Heidegger, as Strauss and his friend Jacob Klein had numerous encounters with Heidegger when they were young men. Indeed, Strauss wrote that Heidegger's thinking must be understood and confronted before any complete formulation of modern political theory is possible. For Strauss and Klein, Plato was the definition of what other sort of philosopher could match a Heidegger.

Strauss approached the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard from his understanding of the work of Heidegger which he placed under the general rubric of "existentialism"--a movement with a "flabby periphery" but a "hard center" (see his 1961 essay, Relativism and the Study of Man). He wrote that Nietzsche was the first philosopher to properly understand relativism, an idea grounded in a general acceptance of Hegelian historicism. Hegel postulated an end of history. Nietzsche, for his part, saw that "our own principles, including the belief in progress, will become as relative as all earlier principles had shown themselves to be." In fine, "the only way out seems to be that one turn one's back on this lesson of history, that one voluntarily choose life-giving delusion instead of deadly truth, that one fabricate a myth."

Strauss on Reading

Strauss and his friend Jacob Klein believed that they had re-discovered a lost type of reading.

Strauss believed that Philosophers offered both an 'exoteric' or salutary teaching, and an 'esoteric' or true teaching, which was concealed from the general reader. By maintaining this distinction, Strauss is often accused of having written dishonestly himself. This opinion is perhaps encouraged because:

1. Many of Strauss' works are difficult and sometimes mysterious.

2. The example of Socrates' execution at the hands of a democracy is mentioned by Straussians as important with respect to understanding this exoteric-esoteric distinction; roughly until the time of Kant Philosophers could still be persecuted for their writings, particularly on the subject of religion. While Socrates never wrote anything, he did often come dangerously close to impiety in public, if we are to take Plato's depiction seriously. There is no reason to believe Strauss concealed his views on these grounds, although that point is sometimes argued.

On the other hand a careful reading of Strauss will show that he also emphasized that writers using this lost form of writing often left contradictions and other excuses to examine the writing more carefully.

It was therefore also a teaching tool, and even a filter to help prevent the creation of Alcibiades-like students. One of the political dangers Strauss pointed to was the danger of students leaping to dangerous ideas too quickly. This was indeed also relevent in the trial of Socrates, where his having influenced Alcibiades was used against him.

Stemming from his study of Maimonides and Al Farabi, and then extended to his reading of Plato (he mentions particularly the discussion of writing in the Phaedrus) Strauss thought that an esoteric text was the proper type for philosophic learning. Rather than simply outlining the philosopher's thoughts, the esoteric text forces readers to do their own thinking and learning. As Socrates says in the Phaedrus writing does not respond when questioned, but this type of writing invites a kind of dialogue with the reader, thereby reducing the problems of the written word.

There therefore exists a controversy surrounding Strauss's interpretation of the existing philosophical canon. Strauss believed that the writings of many philosophers contained both an exoteric (public) and esoteric (private or hidden) teaching which is often not perceived by modern academics. For instance, in Natural Right and History he contrasts the views of Locke both from a traditional perspective wherein the idea of Natural Law within a Christian theological ground is presumed, and another more radical view contrary to this usual interpretation. To support his contention he mentions Lessing's commentary on Leibniz, and Schleiermacher's Platonic studies. But, according to Strauss, generally this kind of exoteric/esoteric dichotomy became unused by the time of Kant.

Strauss on politics

According to Strauss, modern Social Science Positivism (the heir to the traditions of both Auguste Comte and Max Weber), in making purportedly value-free judgements, fails the ultimate test of justifying its own existence (which would require a value-judgement, of sorts) and ultimately leads to nihilism. Strauss taught that Liberalism, strictly speaking, contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards relativism, which in turn led to a sort of nihilism--a kind of decadence, value-free aimlessness, and hedonism which he believed he saw permeating through the very fabric of contemporary American society. In the belief that 20th century relativism, scientism, historicism, and nihilism were all implicated in the deterioration of modern society and philosophy, Strauss sought to revive Classical Political Philosophy (essentially the Socratic-Platonic-Aristotelian corpus, but one freed from the Scholastic hermeneutic).

While modern liberalism had stressed the pursuit of individual liberty as its highest goal, Strauss was interested in governments taking a greater interest in the problem of human excellence and political virtue. Through his writings, Strauss constantly raised the question of how, and to what extent, freedom and excellence can coexist. Without deciding this issue, Strauss refused to make do with any simplistic or one-sided resolutions of the Socratic question, What is the good for the city and man?

Strauss noted that thinkers of the first rank, going back to Plato, had raised the problem of whether good and effective politicians could be completely truthful and still achieve the necessary ends of their society. By implication, Strauss asks his readers to consider whether "noble lies" (Plato) have any role at all to play in uniting and guiding the cities of man. Are certain, unprovable "myths" taught by wise leaders needed to give most people meaning and purpose and to ensure a stable society? Or can society flourish on a foundation of those "deadly truths" (Nietzsche) limited to what we can know absolutely?

According to Strauss, Karl Popper had mistaken the city-in-speech described in Plato's Republic for a blueprint for regime reform--which it was not. Though very skeptical of "progress", Strauss was equally skeptical about political agendas of "return" (which is the term he used in contrast to progress). In fact, he was consistently suspicious of anything claiming to be a solution to an old political or philosophical problem. He spoke of the danger in trying to ever finally resolve the debate between rationalism and traditionalism in politics. In particular, along with many in the pre-World War 2 German Right, he feared people trying to force a "world state" to come into being in the future, thinking that it would inevitably become a tyranny.

Strauss constantly stressed the importance of two dichotomies in Political Philosophy: Athens and Jerusalem (Reason vs. Revelation) and Ancient versus Modern Political Philosophy. The "Ancients" were the Socratic philosophers and their intellectual heirs, and the "Moderns" start with Niccolo Machiavelli. The contrast between Ancients and Moderns was understood to be related to the public presentation of the possibly unresolvable tension between Reason and Revelation. The Socratics, reacting to the first Greek philosophers, brought philosophy back to earth, and hence back to the market place, making it more political. The Moderns reacted to the dominance of revelation in medieval society by promoting the possibilities of Reason very strongly--which in turn leads to problems in modern politics and society. In particular, Thomas Hobbes, under the influence of Machiavelli, re-oriented Political Science to what was most solid, but most low, in man, setting a precedent for John Locke, and the later economic approach to political thought (such as initially in David Hume, Adam Smith etc).

Strauss in the Public View

As mentioned above, Strauss is a controversial and much caricatured figure in some academic and journalistic circles. This has been both for his criticisms of various modern movements and thinkers (including many conservatives), and because some of his students, such as Allan Bloom and Harry V. Jaffa, and his students' students, are themselves controversial public figures.

Paul Wolfowitz was a student of Strauss; Wolfowitz attended two courses which Strauss taught on Plato and Montesquieu's spirit of the laws. Indeed James Mann claims that Wolfowitz chose that University because Strauss taught there and believed him to be 'a unique figure, an irreplaceable asset'. Wolfowitz himself has claimed to be more of a student of Albert Wohlstetter. Thomas DiLorenzo also claims intellectual links to Allan Bloom.

Not unlike Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Thomas Jefferson, Leo Strauss believed that the vices of democratic regime must be known (and not left unquestioned) so that its virtues might triumph. However, insofar as his teaching suggested that the argument for the pre-eminence of democracy is not an apodeictic principle (i.e. not self evident or beyond contradiction), he has gained the reputation for being an enemy to democracy.

In Saul Bellow's quasi-biographical novel Ravelstein, (2001) the minor character Davarr is based on Strauss, while the central character of Ravelstein represents Strauss' protegé Allan Bloom.

In 2004 the BBC produced a controversial three-part documentary on the threat from organised terrorism called the Power of Nightmares. This documentary attempts to show how Leo Strauss's teachings, among others, played a formative role in current US foreign policy, in particular the later years of the Cold War and the War on Terror. The connection to Strauss is established via his students, as Strauss himself, of course, wrote hardly a word on foreign policy, let alone anything related to current US foreign policy.

Leading critical scholars of Strauss include Anne Norton and Shadia Drury.

Recommended Readings

For a good introduction to Strauss read What Is Political Philosophy from University of Chicago Press, and for a good introduction to the Straussian approach to political philosophy read History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (an anthology with contributions by various Straussian academics).


* "...no bloody or unbloody change of society can eradicate the evil in man: as long as there will be men, there will be malice, envy and hatred, and hence there cannot be a society which does not have to employ coercive restraint." (The City and Man, page 5)

* "It is safer to try to understand the low in the light of the high than the high in the light of the low. In doing the latter one necessarily distorts the high, whereas in doing the former one does not deprive the low of the freedom to reveal itself as fully as what it is." (Liberalism Ancient and Modern, page 225)

* "Only a great fool would call the new political science diabolic: it has no attributes peculiar to fallen angels. It is not even Machiavellian, for Machiavelli's teaching was graceful, subtle, and colorful. Nor is it Neroian. Nevertheless one may say of it that it fiddles while Rome burns. It is excused by two facts: it does not know that it fiddles, and it does not know that Rome burns." (Liberalism Ancient and Modern, page 223)

* "Liberal relativism has its roots in the . . . tradition of tolerance . . . ; but in itself it is a seminary of intolerance." (Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 6.)

Bibliography (of Published texts)

* The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Genesis
* On Tyranny: An Interpretation of Xenophon's Hiero
* Persecution and the Art of Writing
* Natural Right and History
* Thoughts on Machiavelli
* What is Political Philosophy?
* History of Political Philosophy, co-editor
* The City and Man
* Socrates and Aristophanes
* Liberalism Ancient and Modern
* Xenophon's Socratic Discourse: An Interpretation of the "Oeconomicus"
* Xenophon's Socrates
* The Argument and the Action of Plato's Laws
* Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy
* Philosophy and Law
* Spinoza's Critique of Religion
* The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism
* On Plato's Symposium
Link Posted: 2/27/2006 5:56:57 PM EST
Hey Sinatra, I appreciate your delvings.

But really, I've seen the light. It's easier to believe that 2 towers came down within a couple of hours of each other, even if no other tower has ever came down from the same type of fire beofre, or since. That a building, owned or leased, and insured by the same entity, with several buildings in between, that weren't owned or leased by the same entity, also came down. That a person who never trained on how to land a jumbo jet was able to fly it into a building, at 400 or so miles an hour, a few feet off of the ground, without wrecking before hitting said building. That paper passports were able to survive, from some individuals, in the same inferno that melted steel. That FEMA was in NYC the day before 9-11, for a terrorism "drill". there are a few more details that aren't worth mentioning also, because I've come to appreciate that the Gorelick "wall" is what caused this disaster and nothing more.
Link Posted: 2/28/2006 7:27:46 AM EST
Sinatra, what's your point in cut and pasting these biographies? I'm reacting to 'end of history' nonsense, not the definition or extent of influence of so-called neoconservatives.
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