February 27, 2006

Leo Strauss - Father of Neoconservatism

But the problem with the neoconservative version of liberalism is that it is not really liberal at all. Classical Anglo-American liberalism was emphatically not a "fighting faith." It was sceptical of all extreme faiths, religious and political. And although it fought when it had to, against aggressors such as Napoleon and Hitler, its preferred means of promulgation were trade, enlightenment and international law. The new liberalism is quite different. It is no longer cosmopolitan, but nationalist; no longer pacific, but warlike; no longer sceptical, but zealous. Its model is Israel, that artefact of political and military will. What this new liberalism offers is not peace or prosperity, but redemption from the banality of commercial civilisation. Writing recently in the Telegraph, the Conservative researcher Danny Kruger—initially a supporter of the Iraq war, now a sceptic—found his former motives well expressed in a passage from Evelyn Waugh's Unconditional Surrender: "Even good men thought their private honour would be satisfied by war. They could assert their manhood by killing and being killed. They would accept hardships to recompense for having been selfish and lazy."

The spiritual elite Strauss refered to is better known today as American patriots and the military core of values.

Classical Anglo-American liberalism was dominated by an ethnic group called the Scots and Irish. They formed the backbone of what is now known as Jacksonianism, and they were very very violent.

If cosmopolitan means a greater understanding of cultures, then neoconservatism is very cosmopolitan. If cosmopolitanism means a defunct ideology centered around adolescent multilateralism, then no, neoconservatism is not very cosmopolitan.

People that believe Israel is warlike does not know what war is. Their bias and ignorance is starting to show with such remarks.

But the Bush administration's patriotic and martial tone, and its apparent indifference to the fate of nations touched by its democratising zeal, speaks strongly in its favour.

It is a deep cynicism to believe that neoconservatism cares so little for the martial military that we would sacrifice thousands of our own in Iraq, for domestic purposes of unity. Iraq has not unified America, it has divided her, as chaos theory would have foretold. The more freedom, the greater the chaos and the greater the chance of disunity and entropy.

The author is correct to say that neoconservative's liberalism isn't really liberal. Not in the Jeffersonian or Wilsonian sense. To American patriots and tough Marines on the front lines, liberty comes from sacrifices of blood and treasure. To us, it is the pure distillation of the 2nd Ammendment. For liberty to survive, one must have military force and violence to ensure the survival of freedom. Or else a few Arab street demonstrations will witness your prostration to their demands.

It is two sides of the same coin. Leo Strauss wrote about the decadent morality that democracies breed, producing such effects as the voting of Socrates' suicide and the Athenian's gross incompetence and delays. Leo Strauss knew Chaos Theory and entropy before the physicists found out themselves. Because Leo Strauss had studied human nature, and realized that human nature could either decay into destruction or grow to become a beautiful crystaline structure unrivaled in the creation of man.

There are many different aspects and variables occuring here. The Cartoon Riots, Islamic Jihad, the weakness of Western civilization, and the evidence that the veneer of Western freedoms are pulled away so easily.

Strauss's own response to this predicament was, as we have seen, to cultivate pockets of wisdom in the interstices of mass society, hoping that they would, over time, impart their "tone" to the republic as a whole. But his solution was too subtle, too elitist for modern tastes. His neoconservative descendants realised that the goal of awakening civic virtue could more easily be achieved by transforming liberal democracy itself into a fighting faith, into an object of worldwide struggle and sacrifice. They sought to pull outwards, not upwards. The collapse of the Soviet Union gave them their chance. Many became fierce champions of the same liberal democracy that Strauss himself had viewed with such scepticism.

The American military is the transformation of liberal democracy into a Spartan State with a Roman citizenry. Every patriot educated by the internet is the "pocket of wisdom". Leo Strauss strived to find the solution to our culture wars even before he realized that there would be a war.

It is the military virtues that sustain civilization and protect it from the ravages of barbarian hordes. It is the civic virtues that grow a civilization into greatness and power.

Those two dichotomies, the military and the civilian, are necessary to keep each other alive in a symbiotic relationship. Strauss saw the decay that liberty would bring. Where would there be the discipline necessary to protect America? The discipline comes from the military. It comes from the liberty Americans have in volunteering or not volunteering for the military. It creates a select few, an elite, called "veterans" that are upheld as honest, brave, and intelligent.

It was not the neoconservatives that made America what they were. But the people, which when given liberty, used it to fullfill their greatest potential. Engineers became engineers, killers became Marines, and thus we have the sheepdog and the sheep.

There is no moral connotation to killer, sheep, sheepdog, engineer, doctor, lawyer (ok, skip lawyer), or judge. It takes all kinds of people to make a world work, and there is a place for everyone.

But Strauss's most important bequest to neoconservatism was his revival of moral language. He wrote robust, classical English, full of epithets such as "honourable," "noble," "mercenary" and "vulgar." One word he did not use was "evil." No doubt he considered it unsuited to the secular discourse of politics. But that has not stopped his successors. The routine attribution of evil to political enemies is one of the less pleasant traits of today's neoconservatism.

I would ask that the author not remind us that it is the Democrats that yelled that Bush was Hitler, Evil, and so were the Republikkans.

The worst that the Republicans can be said to say, is that Democrats support evil.

Atheism is a religion all on its own, and so is Leftism. That bears to be said, given that evil and good are religious vocabulary and not political vocabulary.

When Dick Durbin says that GitMo is a Gulag, he believes that GitMo is Evil. When Ted Kennedy says you are a racist, he believes that you are an evil person. (Link goes to how Ted murdered a woman he wanted to have sex with)

I take issue with the fact that the author did not mention President Bush using the word "honor" in his speech blitz last winter.

But the neoconservative cure is, alas, worse than the disease. For the sad fact is that historical guilt is now all that remains of the political conscience of the west. In unburdening ourselves of it, we are in danger of unburdening ourselves of any inhibition whatsoever. The Victorians were restrained in their imperial zeal by a long tradition of prudent statesmanship, as well as by a Christian sense of the corrupting effects of power. Strauss himself, if not a believer, had a sincere respect for religious faith. He understood the sacred awe before the limits of human power that the Bible calls "fear of God" and the Greeks expressed in the concept of dike, or cosmic justice. What restraints now remain? What is to prevent Strauss's heirs, inheritors of a vulgarised version of their master's teaching and confronted by no internal or external obstacles, from inflicting their fierce love upon the whole of humanity?

What are the neoconservatives and America constrained by? That is easy to answer.

We are constrained by the virtues of honor, duty, sacrifice, loyalty, compassion, independence, patriotism, courage, and determination.

Discipline and loyalty from the military. Compassion from all. And independence, courage, and sacrifice by the civilians backing our military to the hilt.

You ask us what contrains us in our human endeavours, and I say, the nobility of the human spirit. You ask what obstacles stops us from inflicting the tough love of honor and liberty, and we say the vices of corruption, hate, and superstition.

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