There Are No Neocons in Foxholes
by Amir Butler
December 31, 2003
It is said that there are no atheists in foxholes. It is also clear from the collective wartime contribution of the War Party that there are no neoconservatives in foxholes either. Fighting the wars they agitate for is a task for the "great unwashed," not the Philosopher-Kings of neoconservatism. Perhaps this is why the neoconservatives are more concerned about the porous borders in Iraq than in the United States. Perpetual wars need perpetual sources of men, and is there any better source of cannon fodder for America's wars than her own porous borders?
Whilst neoconservatism may owe its neo-Jacobin impulses of "global democratic revolution" to the Trotskyite pedigree of many of its principal ideologues, it owes much of its core political philosophy to Professor Leo Strauss. Strauss moved to America from Germany in 1938 on the suggestion of the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt, taking up residence at the University of Chicago and developing a political philosophy that drew heavily on the writings of Plato, as well as the ideas of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schmitt.
Strauss believed, like Plato, that the ideal society was one guided by the wise and not by the masses. Whereas Plato had recognized the impracticality of such a solution and instead settled for a rule of law, Strauss believed that the "wise" could indeed rule by implementing a policy of "perpetual deception" where the "populist" masses would be continually deceived for their own good and to protect the ruling elites from popular reprisals.
Although Strauss remained relatively unknown outside academic circles until recent years, a cult formed around the Professor and today some 60 members of the Bush Administration are identified as Straussians. Many of the key ideologues of neoconservatism studied under Strauss or his students. Amongst them was Paul Wolfowitz, the hawkish Deputy Secretary of Defense who studied under Strauss and completed his PhD under Straussian professor, Albert Wohlstetter. Wohlstetter also taught Richard Perle and Ahmad Chalabi (the American bought-and-paid-for Iraqi Quisling). Strauss' acolyte Allan Bloom, author of Closing of the American Mind, taught Francis Fukuyama. William, Irving Kristol, and Gary Schmitt, the director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) have all admitted to being heavily influenced by Straussian thinking.
Like the neoconservatives of today, Strauss was not himself a religious man, yet espoused religion as a means of ensuring order for the people who would, without religion, be uncontrollable. Irving Kristol, describing the Straussian contribution to neoconservative thought, remarked that neoconservatives are "pro-religion even though they themselves may not be believers." They are pro-religion only because they believe religion is a useful tool for maintaining order and control over a society.
Strauss wrote that "mankind is intrinsically wicked" and therefore has to be governed. Before man can be governed, he opined, men must be united; and the only way in which humans can be united is when they are united against other people. The neoconservative's demonization of Muslims and Arabs should be understood in this context. The constant series of security alerts and warnings of impending attack by terrorists is merely an instrument to unite the people behind an easily visualized enemy.
Although Strauss lifted his idea of the "noble lie" from Plato, this is not what Plato intended. When Plato spoke of the noble lie, he spoke of fables and stories that, although false, carried a central truth from which the reader or listener could benefit. Plato warned of the corrosive effect that the type of lies told by the neoconservatives would have on the human soul: "false words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil."
Their contemptuous attitude towards the "populist" masses is reflected in the countless lies told to the American people by the neoconservatives. The argument that Iraq had a connection to September 11 is now admitted to have been spurious. The claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction has been proven to have been almost certainly false. The claim that Saddam was capable of launching an almost immediate attack on America and Europe was untrue. The idea that the entire Iraqi invasion and occupation could be retrospectively justified by Saddam's past human rights violations insults the intelligence of every American and provides a textbook example of Straussian contempt for the easily-duped and manipulated public.
Put simply: the neoconservatives, their press, and their think-tanks are liars. They lie not because it is merely politically expedient, but because the "noble lie" is an intrinsic part of Straussian political philosophy and is needed to hoodwink the American people into supporting a war that is against both the national interest and the foreign policy trajectory established by America's Founding Fathers.
So we were told lies about Afghanistan and we were told lies about Iraq. Today, we are being told lies about Saudi Arabia and the threat that America's long-standing ally in the region poses to the American people. Tomorrow, we will be told more lies to justify "regime change" or "nation building" in yet another Middle Eastern society.
There are no neoconservatives in foxholes because those foxes are holed up in Washington. And unless the neoconservatives are exorcised from the White House, we can expect more American and allied troops to be sent to kill and be killed on the wings of a Straussian lie.
Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC).
Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us