Kristol Confesses: Neoconservatism Is Not Conservative
It tells us a
great deal about what is known as "neoconservatism" that
more than 30 years after the term became fashionable,
those who adhere to it still need to explain it. The
latest explanation appears in the Aug. 25 Weekly
Standard in an article entitled
"The Neoconservative Persuasion: What it was and what it
is" by neoconservative elder Irving Kristol.
called the "godfather of neoconservatism,"
Mr. Kristol virtually invented both the term and the
movement it represents, and given the bad press
neoconservatism has enjoyed in recent months, yet
another attempt to explain it was probably a good idea.
his explanation doesn`t help very much.
claim they`re really plain old vanilla conservatives
and that conservatives who disagree with them (like
Chronicles Magazine, etc.) are really
"unpatriotic," Mr. Kristol makes it perfectly clear
that neoconservatism and the old version are quite
different. Indeed, he goes to some pains to describe
what the differences are.
is the first variant of American conservatism in the
past century that is in the `American grain,`"
he writes (thereby ignoring most of the American
conservatism that flourished in the 1950s and later).
"Its 20th-century heroes tend to be TR, FDR, and Ronald
Reagan. Such Republican and conservative worthies as
Dwight Eisenhower, and
Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked."
That too ought
to tell you something. Since the vast majority of
Americans who have called themselves conservatives for
the last 70 years regard
Goldwater as a hero and
Roosevelt as a
villain, what it should tell you is that whatever
else Mr. Kristol says neoconservatism is, it`s not
Mr. Kristol also
informs us that the Republican Party, for all its
dimness and distaste for neo-con brilliance, must know
that "neoconservative policies" have "helped
make the very idea of political conservatism more
acceptable to a majority of American voters," and
"it is the neoconservative public policies, not the
traditional Republican ones, that result in popular
This should tell
you something yet again—that Mr. Kristol needs to take a
night school course in American Politics 101.
Richard Nixon and
Ronald Reagan won massive popular majorities in the
1970s and `80s, and whatever else they were, they
The closest to a
national political victory the neocons have ever come is
2000 election of George W. Bush—who lost the
popular vote, would have
lost the election without the help of Ralph Nader
and may have lost the electoral vote.
Yet if Mr.
Kristol is a little weak on history, he gets a
full-blown F on what he knows about political thought.
Indeed, it`s impossible to tell what neoconservatives
really believe about much of anything from his article.
Neocons don`t like "the concentration of services in
welfare state" but, unlike Old Right thinker F.A.
Hayek, don`t think "we are on
`the road to serfdom`" and feel little "alarm
about the growth of the state in the past century,
seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable." They seek
"intellectual guidance in the democratic wisdom of
Tocqueville, rather than in the Tory nostalgia of,
Russell Kirk" (a
major conservative figure who was a good bit more
than an apologist for "Tory nostalgia" and who praised
de Tocqueville in his classic
The Conservative Mind. Mr. Kristol should read
foreign policy. The neocons are for "patriotism,"
against "world government," and believe statesmen
should be able to tell "friends from enemies." Hooray. I
bet they`re also for motherhood. But most of all, they
believe "national interest" is more than
geography. It`s also ideology, because "large
nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet
Union of yesteryear and the United States of today,
inevitably have ideological interests in addition to
more material concerns."
Mr. Kristol thinks the USSR and the United States are
the same kinds of nations—"proposition
countries" or "credal
nations." They aren`t, because that`s not what the
United States is, as every real conservative knows. The
was, which is why it was a
But Mr. Kristol
insists they are, which is "why we feel it necessary
to defend Israel"—which for many neoconservatives is
the ultimate bottom line and helps explain why they are
so insistent that America is an ideological state.
We owe a tip of
the hat to Mr. Kristol for spilling the beans about
After years of
pretense that it`s the real conservatism in a new
package, he has now acknowledged that all along it was
something else entirely—which is exactly what its
paleoconservative critics have always said.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
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