When pondering the intellectual decline of political movements, it is hard not to call to mind the former flagship publication of the Buckleyite wing of conservatism called National Review. Where once learned men (and women) made their case from the heights of argumentation and erudition — a force to be reckoned with, like it or not — the publication has over the years accelerated to absurdity, devolved to inanity, shrunk into a whiny club of simpering sycophants screaming full force in an empty echo chamber. An exercise in intellectual onanism, today’s NRO has nothing to say about the future because it remembers nothing of the past. It is conservatism not only without a conscience, but without understanding of that which it purports to conserve.
It may be debatable whether there was ever a Buckleyite movement wholly separate from the neoconservative impulse, or at what point the worms began eating into the flesh of the magazine. But that the neocons hijacked the magazine, silenced any conservative vein of thought not in harmony with their heterodox and revolutionary views (can one be at the same time a conservative and a revolutionary?), and proceeded to redefine what passes as modern conservatism to suit their alien agenda cannot be denied.
So now that the neoconservatives have successfully burrowed themselves so deeply into what was once the conservative movement that they have killed the host, they look around at the destruction they have wrought and scream, “don’t blame us!”
Thus we find ourselves faced with chief whiner of the National Review universe Jonah Goldberg, a man absolutely fearless at the thought of sending others to die in disastrous wars overseas but cowering at the thought of placing himself in harm’s way, arguing that we must not call him and his cohorts what they actually are. In his latest little bitch session in some corner of NRO, he tells us that, “The Term ‘Neocon’ Has Run It’s Course.”
Don’t call us neocons, he says, because the word has no meaning, it never had meaning, and you’re all just a bunch of anti-Semites if you continue to use it. Here is a summary of Jonah Goldberg’s argument for why we should not call the neocons neocons:
1) Neocons were never that interested in foreign policy at first. The neocon was merely, in the words of Neocon Godfather Irving Kristol, “a liberal who was mugged by reality and wants to press charges.”
2) Neoconservatism is not even an ideology at all, but rather, as Kristol averred, a “persuasion.”
3) Neocons like Jeane Kirkpatrick did not advocate rapid liberalization in authoritarian countries, but preferred gradual change. In other words, regime change through the National Endowment for Democracy rather than a US invasion.
4) Neocons were not that radical in their anti-communism, in fact they were more dovish even than the standard National Review writer during the Cold War.
5) Democrats like Bill Clinton also wanted regime change so you can’t just blame the neocons.
6) It’s not fair that neocons get the blame for the disastrous 2003 Iraq war. Lots of others joined them in advocating for the war but they all turned against it while the neocons held steadfast in support.
7) Critics of neoconservatism are actually just anti-Semites. Their criticism of neoconservatism as an intellectual movement is just cover for their hatred of, as Jonah indelicately puts it, “Hebraic super-hawk[s].”
8) We’re all neocons now, so stop calling us neocons. Every Republican is a super hawk, we won, history has ended, so let’s bury those old Cold War terms and just accept that the neocons are the masters. Move along, nothing to see here.
“Meanwhile,” Goldberg concludes, “the Right is having a long overdue, and valuable, argument about how to conduct foreign policy. Keep it going, just leave neoconservatism out of it.”
Ah yes, let’s have a debate about foreign policy with a pre-condition that everyone agree with the neocon view of foreign policy — pre-emptive war, American exceptionalism at the barrel of a gun, military Keynesianism, national security state at home, NSA surveillance of Americans, gunboat diplomacy without the diplomacy, and so on.
Sorry Jonah. Not going to happen. Sorry that history is a cruel judge of your disastrous movement, but don’t count on the rest of us to pretend something isn’t what it is. Neocon.
Daniel McAdams is director of the The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity. Reprinted from The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity.