NEOCONSERVATISM: WHAT IT IS. WHAT IS NEOCONSERVATISM. IS NEOCONSERVATISM WHAT
Gibbis detritus/ zero attention span version
it fucking sucks brosef. Feel free to reply with goonsay or frogout or whatever you white noise people do.
Pro-poster, unlikely to respond with “lookit all them words”, version
Neoconservatism is a strange fucking beast. It began as a bunch of North Eastern high society intellectual Democrats hanging out together and complaining about the Great Society and those damn longhairs what don’t bathe nearly enough and how radicalism was better in the fifties. By 1968, a platform recognizably separate from “mainstream” liberal thought coalesced:
* MORALITY – Morality and politics were joined totally. Realist power balancing was abhorrent. Everything, and that’s damn near literally everything, was an existential crisis. There’s a fun drinking game where you get a stack of neocon columns from the sixties-seventies and take a shot every time a writer invokes Munich. Last person to die from alcohol poisoning wins.
* THE USSR – Absolute, unquestionable hatred of the Reds was a prerequisite for joining the club. And not in some Kissengerian “let’s outmaneuver them, they’re just a status quo power” way. The Ruskies were The Evil Empire, and if you weren’t with us you were agin’ us.
* SOCIAL POLICY – Entitlements bad. Welfare = Marxism. The Great Society was a stepping stone on the path towards Bolshevism and if those icky poor people didn’t like starving maybe they should… get a job?!?!?! ;smug: Really infuriating shit that’s unfortunately well trod these days and therefore kinda dull.
* VIETNAM – Early on, the neocons were against the war! weird i kno rite. They didn’t like the strident tone of the New Left, however, and viewed all the “two four six eight organize to smash the state” stuff as aggressive and disgusting. Later on, cognitive dissonance set in and they mutated from being Humphrey-esque “prudence is necessary” milquetoasts to Agnew-esque “kill the hippies!” lunatics.
One thing that a lot of the early neocons had in common was that they were radicals in the 1950s. Many of them were products of YPSL (“Yipsel”) or similar student movements. In articles explaining their split with the Democrats, some neocons claim that the governmental stagnation of the 50’s and resultant frustration imbued them with a distrust of big government. Craig Unger, in The Fall of the House of Bush points out that much of the neocons’ skill at political skulduggery probably came from time spent in Trotskyite organizations like YPSL. The former Yipselites mostly claim to have become good capitalists due to the rude shock of Soviet expansionism and aggression.
And now, because this is LF, here is a picture of a dog.
Lookit that fukkin dog. He’s happy because he’s not a neocon. He hopes you’re not one either. If you are, you should get out before you upset him.
THE BASTARDS EVOLVE
Prior to the mid-70’s, the neocons resided in a political backwater with both parties treating them like Appalachian rednecks: crazy and best left alone lest they take drunken pot shots at you while screaming to git awf mah laaaaaahnd. The neocons consequently huddled up around sympathetic ideological outlets. One of the biggest of these was Commentary magazine, a foreign affairs rag with an emphasis on Jewish concerns. Its editor, Norman Podhoretz, was heavily vested in the neoconservative struggle and used his magazine as a pedestal to kvetch about things he viewed as hostile to the movement. Things like Earth Day, because only filthy fucking hippies and communists care about not paving the planet.
Commentary became increasingly involved with neoconservatism as time went on, serving as a jumping off point for many careers. It has published articles from such shining stars as Kirkpatrick, Max Boot, Francis Fukuyama, and Irving Kristol (who has his own neocon rag, Public Interest. However, we’re getting waaay ahead of ourselves here. Remember Norman Podhoretz, however. He’s a big player.
The “proto” neocon stuff printed before 1976 is weird but mostly inconsequential and written by people who would soon fade into obscurity. This is probably due to the insular ideological-cousin-fucking environment the neocons existed in. A lot of the weird stuff comes from them reading authors like Chomsky, they were still technically “intellectual Democrats” at this point after all, and then writing columns deriving a conservative point from them and really just freaking the fuck out like a bunch of whiny chumps. This produced such great shit like “The Black Panthers are trying to cause a Marxist-Leninist revolution by destroying society, just like I read in Fanon.” Then there’s a lot of writing about how the New Left is terrible and destroying America and so forth. They thought Nixon was a prick who palled around with that German fucker, but hey he’s promising to end the war so maybe we should just wait and see.
Anyway this is getting kinda wall of texty and starting to feel like my thesis, so I’ll write more in a little while.
DISCO OF EVIL: NEOCONSERVATISM IN THE 70s
You might have noticed the neoconservatives’ obsession with this nebulous bogeyman of the New Left. They were immensely disturbed by radicals, primarily because of their tendency to get all angry and break things in a most unbecoming matter. So of course the neocons reacted by fist pumping a little every time some thickneck cop lost his shit and gunned down a college student or twelve. Obviously, so the neoconservative argument went, the solution to this unrest was to just turn SWAT teams loose on campuses every time Jerry Rubin was seen nearby. Instead, a bipartisan commission, headed by… George McGovern(!), was created to attempt to reconcile progressives with law enforcement. Then, in a showing of tremendous chutzpah, the McGovern Commission dared to suggest that both the students and the police involved in clashes were at fault. Infuriated by McGovern’s involvement, the neocons drew their katanas and swore eternal vengeance.
“By the blood of Strauss, you will fall by my hand” intoned Podhoretz as his Hanzo steel glinted in the light of a hundred candles.
The 1972 election was the beginning of the neconservative split with the Democrats. The previous four years had not been good ones: the war was going badly, the New Left seemed to be getting stronger, and Henry Kissenger had totally failed to die in a car accident. The neocons reacted by backing Henry “Scoop” Jackson for the presidency. He was a good, git tuff type Democrat that was sure to revitalize the military and show the Communists what for where it really mattered. He was also, according to Sydney Blumenthal, a “black hole of charisma”. So of course he was roundly beaten by just about every other candidate. What truly grated the neocons was the fact that George “Motherfucker” McGovern of all people was in line for nomination. This was proof positive to the neocons that the New Left had seized control of the party. It was literally Munich all over again. Literally. After a brief bout of hysterics and clothes-ripping, the neocons realized that McGovern had about fuck-all chance of beating Nixon and watched gleefully as he got his shit kicked in. Then they went back to throwing darts at pictures of Kissenger and masturbating to news footage of Kent State.
Over the next few years, the neoconservatives went progressively crazier in their isolation. They became well and truly convinced that America was losing Vietnam because people weren’t saluting the flag hard enough, possibly due to the malign influence of radicals. Irving Kristol was said to be unable to sleep unless his wife looked under the bed and in the closet to make sure there were no Communists waiting to seize his means of production. It wasn’t until 1976 where they went completely insane. Once again, they backed Jackson. But instead, the nomination went to Jimmy Carter, whose mere name echoed with the tapping of a thousand Chamberlains’ canes in a thousand Munichs. Literally. Worse still, the peanut farmer actually beat Ford. Munich. Munich Munich Munich. Munich Munich. I actually had to fucking read the articles so you’re damn wwell going to see the word as much as I did.
At this point, most of the neocons completely gave up on the Democratic party. They hadn’t yet changed sides, but they realized they were going to need to work against their old comrades to realize their goals. And if they couldn’t get into power by backing the right horse, by cracky they’d insinuate themselves into the power structure. I know I said I’d get up to 1979 this time but fuck I need a drink and a smoke now as this is where it starts getting disgusting.
A NOTE ON WHERE MY SHIT COMES FROM
Most of this crap comes from histories of either neoconservatism itself or of the republican party, particularly as it is realized under G. W. Bush. The actual focus of my research is mostly around the REagan administration, although it may eventually cover Dubya as well. A lot comes from JSTOR and other academic databases (IPA, WorldCat [pbuh], etc). Still more is from actually reading the articles in Commentary Magazine, which is a goddamn chore in and of itself. Citations are available if your are going to be all D&D about it. Some good books for further reading are:
Sydney Blumenthal: The Rise of the Counter-Establishment
Craig Unger: The Fall of the House of Bush
John Ehrman: Neoconservatism: Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs 1945-1994
The learnins will continue as soon as I can get it written
NEOCONS ASCENDANT, BY LAHAYE AND JENKINS
Neo-conservatism in the mid-to-late 1970s was a movement in flux. In 1976, the neocons threw their support behind Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a “black hole of charisma”, but a believer in strong opposition to the Soviet Union. Carter’s election that year hit them hard, freezing them out of politics and placing the government in the hands of what they saw as New Leftist, McGovernite elements (Blumenthal, 1986; Unger, 2007). This was what ultimately convinced them of the need to not only cut their ties with the Democratic party, but to work in opposition to adfhadsjf
fuck this I’m not going to fucking waste good writing on these shits.
So when we last left our dauntless heroes, they had decided to insinuate themselves into power, scuttling sideways into government like unto a fucking ghost crab
The dogs of the sea
To accomplish this aim, they formed a bunch of obnoxiously loud little think-tank groups like Team B and The Committee on the Present Danger (which had Paul Nitze on its board, if you’re a Cold War history geek). The goal of these groups was to generally make the American public scared as hell about the Soviet Union and to subvert governmental intelligence agencies. BTW we’re up to about 1978-1979 at this point. I’d talk about the years between the election and here, but there’s not a lot going on unfortunately.
So anyway, Group B and the Committee were also dedicated to shutting down the renewal of SALT talks, because arms limitation was tantamount to letting the Bolshies rape our daughters or something. Needless to say, they were hugely successful. By 1980, the gov’t was riddled with neoconservatives. There was little actual public recognition of the movement, however. This would change with the election, primarily thanks to the efforts of one Mr. Norman Podhoretz.
NORMAN PODHORETZ: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A TOTAL JACKASS
So. Norman Podhoretz.
Norman Fucking Podhoretz. Where to begin?
Dude tried to put some moves on Jackie Kennedy. She rebuked him. Sydney Blumenthal reports that she responded with “Norman, who do you think you are?”.
Dude went to dinner with George McGovern. He sat down at the table, and George said to him “Norman, I’m jealous. You get to look at all the lovely women behind me and I’m stuck watching that one at the bar.” Norman turned around to look at said undesirable woman, turned back to McGovern and replied “George, that’s my wife.”
His wife, incidentally, was Midge Dechter, founder of another annoying neocon think-tank, the Committee For the Free World. Their son in law was Elliot Abrams. Allow me to reiterate that teh neocons are an incestuous bunch.
MOVING THE HELL ON Podhoretz wrote a book. This book was called The Present Danger, taking its name from the group. This little tome really sums up the neoconservative movement as it would appear under the Reagan administration. Podhoretz, Bee-tee-dubleyew, is this jerk:
Look up the word “asshole” and you won’t find anything, because M-W is classy like that. But Podhoretz is an asshole.
Albeit several years older and a lot more tubby by this point. He also wrote a book. A book that I read and will now summarize. For this deed you fuckers had damn well better hang effigies of me in your places of worship and revere me as a saint because holy hell is it a stinker.
* The Carter Administration has re-evaluated the Cold War to be less about an ideological struggle between East and West, and more about an economic struggle between North and South. This is wrong.
* Why it is wrong #1: “in its conflicts with the ‘South,’ the United States always had to worry about the possibility of a confrontation with the military might of the ‘East.’”
* Why it is wrong #2: The Soviets are actively working to absorb the South into the East. Ergo struggles with the South are by necessity struggles with the East. He cites the overthrow of the Iranian Shah as an example of the consequences of a North-South worldview. Somehow, he gets published anyway.
* While the West has been disarming itself, or at least stagnating its arms production, the Soviets have been ramping their production up. As such the arms “race” that liberals whine about is more some kind of running thing where only one person runs. This person being the Rooskies.
* Contrary to Brzezinski’s assumptions, the Soviets were not a status-quo power. Instead, they were rabidly expansionist. This was especially true in the face of an America that was unwilling to stop them directly.
* Carter’s policy of “mature restraint” only encourages the spread of Communism.
* The Vietnam War had sufficiently poisoned the American populace against major military action, that the only kind of intervention the country could perform was in the form of proxy war. Used in the Kissengerian form of “disengagement”, this was bad. However, if the government were to use proxies to open new fronts against the Soviets, it could be a good thing. This was “the highest degree of containment compatible with the post-Vietnam political climate”.
* Said climate was produced by the efforts of a hostile media and radicals inhabiting the defense department.
* If the USA does not act decisively against Soviet influence, especially in Central America (CUUUUBA!!!) it will become a “red Vichy”. He terms the process of American surrender to the Soviets “Finlandization”.
* Additionally, blah blah blah radicals made us lose Vietnam. We need Neoconservatism to bring America back into strength. Etc. Fuck it.
One important thing to note is that The Present Danger was apparently required reading amongst Reagan’s campaign staff during the 1980 run. Additionally, Reagan’s foreign policy advisor during the campaign was none other than Jeane Kirkpatrick. Mrs. Kirkpatrick wrote a piece in 1980 in Commentary describing the necessity of the United States’ intervention in Central America. She also wrote an article establishing a distinction between authoritarian and totalitarian governments that would get adopted by the Reagan administration:
* Authoritarians respect traditional societal structures such as capitalism and the church, and are content to leave them intact as long as they don’t get in the way too much
* Totalitarians eat children
Ergo we should always back anti-Communist authoritarians because LESSER OF TWO EVILS BLUUUUUUURF.
By the way Reagan personally called Podhoretz on several occasions. Motherfuckas was tight.
NEXT TIME ON DRAGON BALL Z
A FALSE PROPHET?!
INTERLUDE: NEOCONSERVATISM AS IT EXISTED IN THE EARLY 1980s
come to the snack bar, da da da da daaaah
So. Much like AIDS, neonservatism mutated over time. By 1980, it had taken on the following characteristics, primarily derived from Podhoretz’s writings.
* The belief that democracy was the key to global peace. Sorta Kantian at its roots, but with some Wilson thrown in when it came to extolling the virtues of the democratic process. Also, hatred of darkies.
* An Eisenhowerian emphasis on pushing back against Communism as a kind of psychological warfare. However, where Eisenhower wanted pressure on weaker Eastern European Communists, the neocons wanted action against Central American Communists. The primary goal of such actions was to show that the spread of Soviet influence could be reversed. This will be important later.
* Like Nixon and Kissenger, the neocons favored the use of proxy combatants. However, where Kissenger planned to use this as a method of disengagement, pulling American forces out, the neocons wanted to open new fronts against Communism. The use of proxies would allow rollback without the commitment of American soldiers, who were more urgently needed as speedbumps in the Fulda Gap.
* Finally, there was also a Carterian emphasis on human rights. This was, admittedly, more of a sap to use against totalitarian “Soviet” regimes. The USA could kick up a fuss over political repression in Country X, using it as a carte blanche to fund reactionary guerrillas to fuck shit up in response. Cynical at best.
NEOCONS AND REAGAN
So Norman Podhoretz wrote a book and Reagan really liked it, making it required reading amongst his campaign people. When Ronnie went on to completely blow the doors off Carter in the election, it seemed like the neocons were going to finally get a foot in the door of official public policy. A whole bunch of their number got named to governmental positions, including big names like Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, and Jeane Kirkpatrick. Additionally, the administration began putting neocon ideas to work in the form of the Reagan Doctrine. The Doctrine was a lovely little “fuck you” to the rest of the world, essentially acting as a pinnacle of American exceptionalism and show the USA’s willingness to muck about in other countries’ politics. Reagan was hell of good for the neocons: he agreed with their fucked-up worldview, and lent an amiable folksy face to a movement that was peopled largely by unlikable schmendricks that could talk a good game but no one would want to have a beer with.
His belt buckle is embossed with a big middle finger
The USA’s involvement in Nicaragua is a really good example of this bullshit. The administration was “officially” engaging in talks with the Sandinista government in Managua, while simultaneously funding the Contras to overthrow said government. The combined actions of the Contras and the CIA got to be so heinous that Congress cut off funding for the program, to which Reagan replied by flipping off the laws of the country and funding his guerrillas through an assortment of backdoor arms deals that would become the subject of the Iran-Contra scandal. The man simply had no shit to give; he was choking a country to death and it felt gooood. Illegal? Yeah of course. But this was a man’s foreign policy, no room for nuance or context here. Communists were Communists: lapdogs of the Soviets no matter the reasons for the revolution. And as such they needed overthrowing. Encore performances of the Doctrine would later be held in Lebanon and Grenada.
The pyrotechnics for the Neocon world tour were totally boss
Yet this wasn’t good enough for some people. Podhoretz in particular though Reagan was a failure. Sure, he had gotten neocons into office and was showing willing to completely ruin other countries in the name of *mutter mutter cough*, but the man was simply not the savior that the neocons had thought he would be. While he did seem to run a good ground game, nonetheless he had entered into negotiations with the Sandinistas whereas a good neocon, Podhoretz wrote, would have simply crushed the Bolshies and been done with it. Additionally, he kept trade open with the USSR even after the repression of Polish Solidarity. Obviously, his will was lacking. Podhoretz laid all these complaints out in a tremendously whiny piece in the New York Times Magazine, after which Reagan is said to have called him personally to hash out their differences.
It seems there was a distinct split between the neoconservative ideologues, used to writing for audiences completely in agreement with their views, and the neoconservative politicians, who actually needed to put policy into effect. The Reagan Administration wasn’t quite up to snuff to reconcile the two. Even the mild successes he achieved seemed small in the face of decreasing American influence in the Middle East. Future concerns, the neocon elders believed, would be in such places as, oh let me just point at the map totally randomly here, this patch of land right here between the Tigris and Eurphrates. But these would be problems for another administration, staffed by strong-chinned men of purpose or something. Such an administration would need to wait for a later time. They needed some kind of… event that would allow them to manipulate public opinion more thoroughly. Some kind of big thing falling over that would change everything forever.
Okay now you sign my yearbook! BFF forever, right? ^_^”
NEXT: CLOSING THOUGHTS OR MAYBE JUST A DOG OR SOMETHING I DUNNO ANYMORE
SOME MORE BULLSHIT THAT DOESN’T REALLY FIT ANYWHERE
The Neocon “Cabal”
During the Reagan Administration, some people were vaguely aware that there was a new, strange element at play in the formation of policy. The paleocons in particular were alarmed by the Neocons. The upstart zealots were distinctly “unconservative” and threatened to overextend America’s resources fighting tin pot communists. A lot of the early outcry against the Neocons came from the Right, who viewed them as turncoats and fucking nuts besides.
Having gotten their claws into intelligence and defense departments, they took advantage of the expanding role of think-tanks in the nineties to spread through larger parts of the government. Their influence was significant to the point where they commonly believed in their own instrumentality in pushing welfare reform and the general deconstruction of social programs in America. After Clinton obligingly signed the filth into law, having triangulated himself right up the Neocons’ collective ass, Irving Kristol declared the movement “dead by success”. The great satan of the Great Society was dead, and there was much rejoicing.
Giving their willingness to crow about their own successes, one would think that the Neocons would be unable to do anything by smile knowingly when accused of pulling strings. Ah, but not so. Many neocon authors, Joshua Muravchik in particular, are quick to deny that any such fifth column exists. At one point in the eighties, the canned response was a very CIA spook-ish “no such agency exists” deal. More recently however, accusations of anti-Semitism are frequently leveled at detractors. Muravchik puts it: “as so many of the accused are jewish, one might as well read exposes of supposed ‘Neoconservative’ cabals as attempts to flush out some kind of Jewish financier network”. Classy guy.