Deconstructing Neo-Conservative Ideology and Constructing a Faith-Based Future Based on “A Common Word”
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Now that the NeoConservatives’ favorite friend has left the White House, people are asking where have all the Neocons gone. Perhaps the answer lies in the new Neo-Conservative think-tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, which has been formed to back President Barack Obama.
This allegedly phoenix-like rising of the NeoCons should be no surprise. Two years ago, some of the NeoCon leaders said that they could function perhaps even better through a Democratic Administration. This makes sense because their preference for big-government in everything follows naturally from their ideological paradigm that government is a source of power and big government is a source of bigger power, the acquisition of which is their ultimate purpose in life.
They shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans when President Lyndon Johnson admitted that there was no chance of “winning” in Vietnam and refused to run again. The resurrected NeoCons are returning to their natural fold because they think they can harness President Obama to their ideology and thereby overcome his alleged naivete in thinking that America can ever withdraw from its essential role as the keeper of the peace through military might. Since President Obama does not have the word justice in his vocabulary, the NeoCons are convinced that Obama is not so naive as to think that peace can benefit from justice, though they do admit that once the world is pacified one might then try justice and even religion as tools to maintain power.
My estimate is that they misjudge Barack Obama and will shift back again in 2011 to McCain again, who was their choice in 2000 and again in 2008, though in their dreams they might prefer someone far to the right of McCain or far to the left of Obama, since many of the NeoCon founders were Trotskyite revolutionaries and their second and third-generation followers still are. Trotsky, who put Stalin to shame, had no sheeps clothes. His followers today are a lot smarter.
The specific event that has attracted media attention is the “coming-out party” of the Foreign Policy Initiative, as best reported by Justin Raimondo in his article of March 31, 2009, “Neoconservatism: The Return.” He writes: “It was a neocon moment: While John McCain was ostensibly the main attraction, the real focus of the conference was a celebration of the man who defeated him. As David Weigel put it, the FPI conference turned into a “Neocons for Obama” festival, as super-hawkish foreign policy maven Fred Kagen hailed President Obama’s Af-Pak offensive as the best thing since the Iraqi ‘surge’: ‘He’s definitely saying no to pulling back. It was a gutsy and correct decision’. Yet all is not rosy: ‘Kagan worried/predicted that Obama’s base would bristle at the plan, so ‘he will be counting on some significant amount of support from his political opponents’.”
“Not to worry,” writes Raimondo, “The brain-dead Obamaites are shamelessly eager to grant their Glorious Leader a pass, no matter what he does. So far, there is not a peep out of Obama’s liberal supporters, except a few voices raised at the Nation, even as the president mounts a major escalation of the Long War. Not only that, but his supporters are rallying around their commander in chief, now that we’re fighting the ‘right’ war in the ‘right’ way.”
“It doesn’t matter to these people that the nation is sick of war and near bankruptcy: they live inside the Washington bubble, the Imperial City, where hubris permeates the air. It doesn’t matter how many times the neocons have been repelled, they just keep bouncing back. This is a crew of respected ‘analysts’ and policy wonks that has never been right, not about anything. From their gross overestimation of Soviet military power in the Cold War era, to the ‘domino theory’ that kept us in Vietnam, to their willfully erroneous assumption that Iraq possessed ‘weapons of mass destruction, their foreign policy prognostications leave behind them a trail of uninterrupted error. It is a record unequaled in the history of ideas, yet the neocons’ influence, while it is currently waning, never disappears altogether. The neocons always make a comeback, and a well-funded one to be sure.”
“The innocuous-sounding Foreign Policy Initiative is just the sort of camouflage the neocons need in the age of Obama: no more proclamations of a ‘New American Century,’ but rather more sober-sounding, ‘pragmatic’ slogans. Together with their newfound liberal and ‘progressive’ allies, they beat the drums for more military spending, a rising confrontation with Russia, and, of course, a showdown with Iran.”
The NeoConservatives have a long history tracing back in substantive but not organizational terms more than a hundred years. The real god-fathers of the NeoConservative movement in the modern era were Leo Strauss and Robert Strausz in the late 1950s. Their academic leadership at the University of Chicago and University of Pennsylvania, respectively, led during the Vietnam War a decade later to a politically de facto obsession for global conquest as the only alternative to universal chaos.
The genesis of NeoConservatism was the failure of the Weimar government during the 1920s and early 30s to appreciate the threat of Nazism and deal with it forcefully. Both Leo Strauss and Strausz-Hupe, who were exiles from Nazi Germany, foresaw similar totalitarian ideologies in the future, eventually worse than Communism, and also foresaw the possibility that the United States might be the only force in the world with the power to deal with the totalitarian threat the way the Weimar Republic should have done but did not. The tragedy is that pursuit of global American power as a solution morphed into a movement similar to what it was designed to overcome. It came to represent a “Lord of the Flies” scenario that threatened the total destruction of the very civilization it was designed to protect.
Although I have published many lengthy articles and book chapters over the years on the NeoConservative movement, the best account by far of the history, theory, and aims of NeoConservatism is available in Wikipedia, dated March 2009, with a note that this may be redacted, i.e. eliminated, so it should be recorded by historians before it drops into the black hole of the internet.
Like the Illuminati, about whom Kissinger wrote both his M.A. and PhD dissertations at Harvard, NeoConservatism is not and has never been really a defined organization but rather has been a paradigm of thought that appears and disappears throughout history as the occasion demands. It is therefore not an organized conspiracy but rather reflects the temptations of organized human collectivity.
The guru of the Illuminati for almost sixty years has always been Henry Kissinger, who was hired for the position by Governor Nelson Rockefeller right out of graduate school at a salary equivalent now to $500,000 a year. Although the Illuminati-type foreign policy establishment is quite separate from NeoConservatism, it shares with it many of the same premises and goals, albeit it much more pragmatically and not with the same obsession.
Future historians studying the premises of twentieth century thought may recognize the NeoConservative movement as one of the twentieth century’s most influential ideologies, defined as an intellectual construct that is self-contained and closed to outside thought. It is also classically utopian, and for this reason it poses one of the major threats to every civilization and even to the concept of civilization itself.
When we look back from the perspective of the 21st century, we can see that Neo-Conservatism, Nazism, Communism, Likudnik Zionism, and Al Qa’ida, have been in practice utopian perversions of reality. NeoConservatism is the precise opposite of the paleo-conservatism or “traditionalism” of the late 18th century which warned against French utopianism and inspired the Great American Experiment in self-government. The American Founders borrowed the best of the faith-based Scottish Enlightenment, which was the opposite of the militantly secularistic European Enlightenment. The Americans, following their mentor in Edmund Burke, leader of the minority Whig Party in the English Parliament, created a union to be based on justice as the source of freedom not as its product. This founding premise, principle, and purpose was enshrined in the Preamble to the American Constitution.
What then is the nature of the traditionalist movement that forms the perfect opposite of NeoConservatism. Often one can understand something by comparison. In this case, we can compare the triumphalist ideology of NeoConservatism with the humbly faith-based Muslim-Vatican dialogue that has been developing over the past three years under the concept of the Common Word or Logos in a search for Common Ground as the basis for cooperation in transforming truth into compassionate justice.
The basic traditonalist premise of the Common Word, which is found in all the world religions, is that we are created in the image of God, Whose essential nature is love, mercy, and justice. We, however, are also powerful to the extent that we have limited freedom to pursue hatred, revenge, and injustice. Without this freedom we would not be created in the image of God.
Our necessary free will permits us to be the opposite of what we are intended to be. This is ironic, because God cannot be what He is not, but we can. The identity of every human being is the person he or she was created to be, but we can seek a false identity, which is why the angels at the creation of man asked God how can You bring into being creatures who will pursue falsehood instead of truth.
The answer has been given better than I have ever seen it before in the daily homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, entitled Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, 2006, which are a marvelous statement of everything in the essentials of classical Islam and would make inspired daily reading for every sincere Muslim in order better to understand both Islam and Christianity as models of the search for truth and justice. The Holy Father writes for March 13th, “I was not thrown into the world from some operation of chance, as Heidigger says, and now have to do my best to swim around in the ocean of life, but I am preceded by a perception of me. They are present in the ground of my being. What is important for all people, what makes their life significant is the knowledge that they are loved.”
For March 8th he writes, using the metaphor of the imagio dei: “Liberation without truth would be a lie; it would not be freedom but deception and thus man’s enslavement, man’s ruin. Freedom without truth can not be true freedom, so, without truth, freedom is not even freedom. If man is to be free, he must be ‘like God’. Wanting to be like God is the inner motive of all mankind’s programs of liberation. Since the yearning for freedom is rooted in man’s being, right from the outset he is trying to become ‘like God’. Indeed anything less is ultimately too little for him.” This is why the Holy Father writes for the previous day, March 7, ‘Morality is not man’s prison but rather the divine element in him. ... It is the defense of man against the attempt to abolish him.”
He warns on January 12th against turning a path into an ideology: “Belief is never simply there, in a way that would enable me to say at a certain point in time: I have it, and others do not have it. It is something living, which is inclusive of the whole person in all his dimensions - understanding, will, and feelings. ... But for all that it is never just a possession. ... Faith is always a path. As long as we live we are on the way, and on that account faith is always under pressure and under threat. And it is healthy that it can never turn into a convenient ideology.”
On January 10th he writes, “In a criticism of the modern period, which has long been going on, one must not reproach its confidence in reason as such but only the narrowing of the concept of reason, which has opened the door to irrational ideologies. The mysterium, as faith sees it, is not the irrational but rather the uttermost depths of divine reason, which our weak eyes are no longer able to penetrate. It is the creative reason, the power of the divine knowledge that imparts meaning. It is only from this beginning that one can correctly understand the mystery of Christ, in which reason can then be seen to be the same as love.”
The Holy Father concludes his March 7th homily with the statement that, “Faith is the advance post of human freedom.” He explains in the homily for March 3, “Faith responds to the primordial question of man regarding his origin and goal. It bears on those basic problems which Kant characterized as the essential core of philosophy: What can I know? What may I hope for? What is man? In other words, faith has to do with truth, and only if man is capable of truth can it also be said that he is called to freedom. The first item in the alphabet of faith is the statement: In the beginning was the Word. Faith reveals to us that eternal reason is the ground of all things or, put in other terms, that things are reasonable from the ground up. Faith does not aim to offer man some sort of psychotherapy; its psychotherapy is the truth. This is what makes it universal. “
For January 30th, he writes, “God is not simply infinite distance; he is also infinite nearness. ... Man is the being who is capable of expressing God in himself. Man is so made that God can enter into union with him. The human person, who seems at first sight to be a kind of unfortunate monster produced by evolution, at the same time represents the highest possibility the created order can attain.” The next day, January 31st, he follows up with a homily entitled “Breakthrough to the New Man,” in which he writes: “It is not for nothing that we talk of following Christ, of entering on his way. It is a matter of inner identification with Christ - just as he identified himself with us. That is really what man is moving toward. It is in the great stories of discipleship, which extend across the centuries, that we first see unfolding what is hidden in the figure of Jesus. It is not the case then, that a schematic pattern is imposed, but that every potential development of true human existence is contained therein. ... But above all and in all is the One Who comes to meet us and who gives us a hope that is stronger than all the devastation that men can bring to pass.”
The Pope forecasts the future in terms of its inner designs: “We can indeed recognize something of God’s plan. This knowledge goes beyond that of my personal fate and my individual path. By its light we can look back on history as a whole and see that it is not a random process but a road that leads to a particular goal. We can come to know an inner logic of God, within apparently chance happenings. Even if this does not enable us to predict what is going to happen at this or that point, nonetheless we may develop a certain sensitivity for the dangers contained in certain things - and for the hopes that are in others. A sense of the human future develops, in that I see what destroys the future - because it is contrary to the inner logic of the road - and what, on the other hand, leads onward - because it opens the positive doors and corresponds to the inner design of the whole.”
The true threat to humanity and the only counter to it, he says, is to change interfaith understanding into interfaith cooperation. “We have fallen prey to a progressive barbarization of our spiritual vision. Even from a purely human standpoint there is abundant evidence for the thesis that without conversion, without a radical inner change in our thinking and being, we cannot draw closer to one another. For even the simplest intelligence must realize that barbarization can not be the path to humanization. But where man is barred from every path that leads within, from every means of purification, where, instead only his envy and greed are being rekindled, there barbarism becomes method. ... For it is only when men are united inwardly that they can really be united outwardly. But if they are inwardly impenetrable to one another, their outward encounters will serve only to increase their potential for aggressiveness. The Bible portrays this graphically in the story of the tower of Babel: the most advanced union in terms of technical skill turns suddenly into a total incapacity for human communication. This is the logical outcome: where each person wants to be a god, that is, to be so adult and independent that he owes himself to no one but determines his own destiny simply and solely for himself, then every other person becomes for him an anti-god, and communication between them becomes a contradiction in itself.”
Above all, the Holy Father warns against turning faith into mere morality or into an ideology on the assumption that we can transform the world. Instead, he writes, “Love has the capacity to transform the world. It spurs our love and, in this communion of the two wills, one can go on. Christian holiness and rectitude do not consist in any superhuman greatness or in some superior talent. Christian faith is properly the religion of ordinary people. It comes about in a state of obedience that places us at God’s disposition wherever He calls. It is the same obedience that does not trust to one’s own power or one’s own greatness but is founded on the greatness of the God of Jesus Christ.”