Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Irving Kristol and Nathan Glazer -- actual neo-conservatives -- write about the history of that intellectual movement in their respective articles here and here. Notably, as Kristol says in discussing the history of The Public Interest:
We made one easy editorial decision at the outset: no discussion of foreign policy or foreign affairs. Vietnam was arousing a storm of controversy at the time, and we knew that our group had a wide spectrum of opinion on the issue. We did not want any of the space in our modest-sized quarterly to be swallowed up by Vietnam. The simplest solution was to ban foreign affairs and foreign policy from our pages.
And as Glazer points out:
How the term "neoconservatism" morphed from a political tendency that dealt almost entirely with domestic social policy to one that deals almost entirely -- indeed, entirely --with foreign policy is an interesting question, which I will not explore further here. There is very little overlap between those who promoted the neoconservatism of the 1970s and those committed to its latter-day manifestation.
It is an interesting question how a term comes to mean something nearly the opposite of what it originally stood for.


Blogger P. G. said...

Why are conservatives getting in such a tizzy over semantics lately? Reference the Sunstein-what'shisname debate over at Legal Affairs. Who cares whether we call it "Constitution in Exile" or "Lost Constitution" or "Originalism" or whatever? It's not as if we're calling it "Stupid Constitutional Myopia" -- or at least not formally.

Likewise, who cares if we call Paul Wolfowitz or Condie Rice "neoconservatives" or "Bush Conservatives" or "Hawks" or whatever. We're not calling them "Rabid Imperialists" (well, ok, I am, but most of us aren't) so who cares?

You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of the political correctness that conservatives have been scorning over the years, all the Chicano versus Latino versus Hispanic-American versus whatever stuff.

Congratulations to the conservatives on being politically correct. That's a sign that y'all are truly in power, I guess.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Roger Sweeny said...

It is an interesting question how a term comes to mean something nearly the opposite of what it originally stood for.

I suspect the answer lies in the other major neo-conservative journal Commentary.

While Kristol and Glaser at the Public Interest deliberately avoided foreign policy, Norman Podhoretz at Commentary made it a major part of his editorial mission.

During the Cold War, he relentlessly attacked the Soviet Union and "totalitarianism." After the fall of the Soviet Union, the magazine continued to insist that there were bad ideologies in the world and bad people with power--and that the US had to resist them intellectually and militarily.

Commentary is affiliated with the American Jewish Committee and so has a special interest in Israel and the Middle East. Under Podhoretz, the magazine argued that trying to make nice with Yassir Arafat and various dictators in the neighborhood wouldn't work and that only two things could actually make Israel secure: overwhelming military superiority and/or democratization of the area. The latter tied in nicely with the magazine's general support for democratization throughout the world.

This brand of neoconservatism is indeed a large part of the justification for going to war in Iraq and generally trying to make life more difficult for the dictators out there (which, of course, makes it very unconserving).

9:41 AM  

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