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Neoconservatives and Altruism

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I just received the Summer 2007 issue of The Objective Standard and read the essay on Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy. I recommend the essay to those who want to get a fundamental understanding of the moral basis of the foreign policy positions of the Bush administration.

[all quotes are from above essay]

It has been mentioned several times in previous threads on The Forum that Bush has no ability to think in philosophic principles. This is shown as Bush went from proclaiming "I don't think our troops out to be used for what's called nation-building" before becoming president in 2000 and then establishing "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by the year 2003. The event triggering the change was, of course, 9/11. But the philosophy guiding him was neoconservativism, the only ideology that seemed to offer a defense of America.

Who are the neoconservatives? "A group of disillusioned leftist-socialists intellectuals" who were disillusioned with "the massive failure of socialism worldwide, which had become undeniable by the 1960s" and the growth of the New Left. The old leftists changed an element of their strategy for world collectivism.

Crucially, though, they did not renounce socialism’s collectivist moral ideal. They still believed that the individual should be subjugated for the “greater good” of “society” and the state. They just decided that the ideal was best approximated through the American political system rather than by overthrowing it.

How were they to collectivize an individualistic America? By embracing the statist post-New Deal policies. (I remember in the 1980's Ronald Reagan saying that FDR was one of his favorite presidents. I felt like puking.) As one neoconservative intellectual was quoted in the article, " 'Wishing to be left alone isn't a governing doctrine.' " For those who have read Ominous Parallels, the following Nazi-like quote was stated a week after 9/11:

Consider the following passage from the lead editorial of the neoconservative Weekly Standard the week after 9/11, the deadliest foreign attack ever on American soil. Remember how you felt at that time, and how much you wished you could return to the seemingly peaceful state of 9/10, when you read this:

We have been called out of our trivial concerns. We have resigned our parts in the casual comedy of everyday existence. We live, for the first time since World War II, with a horizon once again. . . . [There now exists] the potential of Americans to join in common purpose—the potential that is the definition of a nation. . . . There is a task to which President Bush should call us . . . [a] long, expensive, and arduous war. . . . It will prove long and difficult. American soldiers will lose their lives in the course of it, and American civilians will suffer hardships. But that . . . is what real war looks like.

"America must lead, they say, because it is both militarily and morally the preeminent nation in the world." But how should America lead? By altruistic sacrifice of money, resources, and especially troops until the world is free of terrorism. The neocons hold "It is morally right and practically necessary for America to sacrifice for the international collective."

The authors (Brook and Epstein) conclude that after so many years of fighting, the neocon policy of sacrifice has failed to provide security to America. Terrorist groups are entrenching throughout the Middle East (Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, in Syria, Iran,) including Iraq where an Islamic Repbulic sympathetic to Iran is being democratically formed. The authors conclude that neoconservatives has fallen from grace in American politics.

The antidote to ... these disastrous options is to truly embrace the virtues that the neoconservatives claim to embrace—such as thinking long range, wide range, and morally about America’s interests—but to make our moral standard American self-interest—that is, the individual rights of Americans. If America is to have a future of freedom and security, this must be the supreme and ruling goal of American defense. (What such a standard means and why it is morally correct was a major theme of our essay “‘Just War Theory’ vs. American Self-Defense.”) This is the moral perspective needed to defeat Islamic Totalitarianism—a moral perspective that truly values American lives and liberty.

So long as we evaluate the question of where to go in foreign policy by the standards of the two leading altruist foreign policies—in terms of how many more troops, or whom to hold talks with, or how many U.N. Resolutions to pass—we will continue to lose. We need to jettison the corrupt moral framework of “realism” and neoconservatism, and adopt one in which American self-defense is the sole concern and standard of value—in which we take a long-range, principled, selfish approach to our self-defense.

In the wake of neoconservatism’s fall from grace, we must make clear that there is another alternative. Our true national interest, our lives and our freedom, depend on it.

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It has been mentioned several times in previous threads on The Forum that Bush has no ability to think in philosophic principles. This is shown as Bush went from proclaiming "I don't think our troops out to be used for what's called nation-building" before becoming president in 2000 and then establishing "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by the year 2003. The event triggering the change was, of course, 9/11. But the philosophy guiding him was neoconservativism, the only ideology that seemed to offer a defense of America.

I didn't get my TOS yet, but when I do I'd be interested in seeing how someone with no ability to think in philosophic principles can be guided by any particular philosophy other than, perhaps, pragmatism

Who are the neoconservatives? "A group of disillusioned leftist-socialists intellectuals" who were disillusioned with "the massive failure of socialism worldwide, which had become undeniable by the 1960s" and the growth of the New Left.

Is there a definition of what a neocon is? Every time I hear someone use the term, they are referring to someone who is (1) an intellectual, (2) on the political right, and (3) Jewish and/or a supporter of Israel.

Using that implicit definition -- which they don't dare make explicit -- Leftists and many libertarians put down Ayn Rand and ARI as "neocons."

See this

Statists in the Ayn Rand Institute

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Have you guys noticed that the supposedly-Objectivist organization founded in the name of Ayn Rand apparently has its policies set by neocon nazis?

They not only support the insanely coercive foreign policies of the Bush administration, and the brutality of the Israeli government, but they even officially support torture and wars of prevention.

or this

What is a NeoCON?

Ayn Rand is probably one of the largest inspirations for the Neo-con movement and Thatcher, Raygun and the Christian right carried (and still carry in the case of the fundamentalists) it on their shoulders.

Funnily enough, Rand basis her whole philosophy (if you can call it that) on the rationality of mankind. Well...if that doesn't blow your theory out of the water, nothin' can.

The saddest irony of all is that the neo-cons (the "leaders" of the neo-con movement) are all arms traders and supporters of outragious regimes all over the planet; directly opposite of that which christianity professes to be the champion of.

or this.

I like that Thomm interviews wingnut mouthpieces, not just taking calls from the general public.

Posted by: Liberal-at-large at May 10, 2006 07:29 PM

Yeah, I listened one night while he locked horns with a neocon Phd from the Ayn Rand Institute...and held his own.

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Who are the neoconservatives? "A group of disillusioned leftist-socialists intellectuals" who were disillusioned with "the massive failure of socialism worldwide, which had become undeniable by the 1960s" and the growth of the New Left.

Is there a definition of what a neocon is? Every time I hear someone use the term, they are referring to someone who is (1) an intellectual, (2) on the political right, and (3) Jewish and/or a supporter of Israel.

Using that implicit definition -- which they don't dare make explicit -- Leftists and many libertarians put down Ayn Rand and ARI as "neocons."

See this ...

I have been incoherently accused by "progressives" of being a "Neocon", too. I don't think they know what it means, it's just the latest buzz word to dismiss their enemies, similar to the way communists used to call anyone on the "right" who opposed them a "fascist". There is a distinct group of former liberal "neo-conservative" intellectuals, but it does not include all individualists or conservatives, and most Republican politicians have little to do with them. Those who analyze the writings of neoconservatives would provide more value if they would trace the influence of the ideas to practice in terms of particular connections. That was my reaction to the previous article by John Lewis; I haven't read the latest one referred to by Paul.

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Those who analyze the writings of neoconservatives would provide more value if they would trace the influence of the ideas to practice in terms of particular connections. That was my reaction to the previous article by John Lewis; I haven't read the latest one referred to by Paul.

The fourth issue of TOS includes a brief list of forthcoming articles at the end; one of these is described as "C. Bradley Thompson on neo-conservatism: an obituary for an idea". I'm hoping Thompson is going to do the same type of analysis on neo-conservatism that he did on the conservative movement generally in his earlier article on "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism".

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It has been mentioned several times in previous threads on The Forum that Bush has no ability to think in philosophic principles. This is shown as Bush went from proclaiming "I don't think our troops out to be used for what's called nation-building" before becoming president in 2000 and then establishing "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by the year 2003. The event triggering the change was, of course, 9/11. But the philosophy guiding him was neoconservativism, the only ideology that seemed to offer a defense of America.

I didn't get my TOS yet, but when I do I'd be interested in seeing how someone with no ability to think in philosophic principles can be guided by any particular philosophy other than, perhaps, pragmatism

Well, after 9/11, something had to be done to protect America and neocons were there to provide a rationale for defending America. Pre- 9/11 foreign policy (staying out of foreign problems) had failed. The State Department's policy of negotiating with everyone and anyone was obviously not the policy to follow. So, Bush grabbed onto the neocon ideas. "President Bush’s profound shift in foreign policy views reflected the profound impact that September 11 had on him and on the American public at large."

Who are the neoconservatives? "A group of disillusioned leftist-socialists intellectuals" who were disillusioned with "the massive failure of socialism worldwide, which had become undeniable by the 1960s" and the growth of the New Left.

Is there a definition of what a neocon is? Every time I hear someone use the term, they are referring to someone who is (1) an intellectual, (2) on the political right, and (3) Jewish and/or a supporter of Israel.

I didn't see a formal definition, but the quote above is a good beginning and this might be the best description with respect to policy.

"[N]eoconservatives advocated a policy often called “interventionism,” one component of which calls for America to work assertively to overthrow threatening regimes and to replace them with peaceful “democracies.” " Or perhaps a neocon is a Leftist who changed his collectivist ideals to accomplish them through the United States foreign policy rather than overthrowing the US from outside.

Hard to tell from names but of those mentioned in the article, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Bell, William Kristol, David Brooks, Robert Kagan, Max Boot, Joshua Muravchik, and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, several have names that sound Jewish. But the important ideological point is that they were socialists, not that they were Jewish. Neocons were actually socialists in their origin.

Using that implicit definition -- which they don't dare make explicit -- Leftists and many libertarians put down Ayn Rand and ARI as "neocons."

----------

I wouldn't worry to much about that label. It's just another false alternative by those who engage in smear tactics. In a way, it implies that 'neocon' is a derogatory term, which, from an Objectivist perspective, it very well should be.

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Recommended Sources on NeoConservatism and the Roll They Have Played in the War On Terror and Middle East Policy

C. Bradley Thompson, The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism, Fall 2006 issue of The Objective Standard

Consult the Index in the following books. Paul Wolfowitz' roll is of particular interest, dating back to the Reagan Administration.

Special Trust by Robert C. McFarlane and Zofia Smardz

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

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There is a distinct group of former liberal "neo-conservative" intellectuals, but it does not include all individualists or conservatives, and most Republican politicians have little to do with them. Those who analyze the writings of neoconservatives would provide more value if they would trace the influence of the ideas to practice in terms of particular connections. That was my reaction to the previous article by John Lewis; I haven't read the latest one referred to by Paul.

A good place to start is Chapter 10: On The Ship of State from Special Trust by Robert C. McFarlane and Zofia Smardz

When Ronald Reagan arrived in the White House in January 1981, he was blessed with the fortuitous opportunity for greater accomplishment in foreign affairs than any other President in the post-war period. He had a strong mandate from the American people for a more activist foreign policy, a rare willingness on the public's part to spend the money to underwrite such a policy, and an adversary, the Soviet Union, whose economy was nearing the limit of its ability to sustain the burden of a huge defense establishment and still meet minimal social demands. (p. 171)
Faced with the reality that we had no system in place for bringing government experts together, Haig set about establishing foreign policy options for the President as best he could. He had attracted a first-rate team of professionals to the State Department and elevated a number of especially qualified career foreign service officers. Walt Stoessel and Larry Eagleburger, both career professionals, had worked with Al in years past and fit in extremely well as the number three officer in the department and the Assistant Secretary for European and Soviet Affairs, respectively. Tom Enders was a professional who had proven highly effective in the field as charge' during the last days of the Vietnam War and the fall of Cambodia and was also a first-rate economist. Nick Veliotes, another professional, was put in charge of the Middle East bureau, while Chet Croker, a distinguished professor from Georgetown University and acknowledged expert on Africa, was placed at the head of the Africa bureau.

Two other key jobs--head of the policy planning staff and director of political-military affairs--were reserved for outsiders, Paul

Wolfowitz and Rick Burt. (p.175-176)

Once you recoginize the fact that the Republican Party has been corrupted with altruistic pragmatists, tracing the influence of their ideas put into practice is fairly easy. Starting with Robert C. McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz during the Reagan Adminstration would be a good place to start.

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Once you recoginize the fact that the Republican Party has been corrupted with altruistic pragmatists, tracing the influence of their ideas put into practice is fairly easy.

The Republican Party did not invent or reintroduce altruism. The fact is that everyone throughout history has been an ethical altruist of one kind or another except for Objectivists.

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Once you recoginize the fact that the Republican Party has been corrupted with altruistic pragmatists, tracing the influence of their ideas put into practice is fairly easy. Starting with Robert C. McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz during the Reagan Adminstration would be a good place to start.

All politics is "corrupted with altruistic pragmatists". How does this distinguish the Republican Party or make it worse than Democrats?

McFarlane and Wolfowitz were not the only ones in the Reagan administration, were not running it, and may not have even been the worst. To trace the influence of ideas in government policy it is not enough to point to some person in a high position without regard for what else was going on. You have to know what they actually did and why. I think it was a libertarian who was responsible for Reagan's policy of economically burying the Soviet Union with an expensive arms race they couldn't keep up with.

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McFarlane and Wolfowitz were not the only ones in the Reagan administration, were not running it, and may not have even been the worst. To trace the influence of ideas in government policy it is not enough to point to some person in a high position without regard for what else was going on. You have to know what they actually did and why. I think it was a libertarian who was responsible for Reagan's policy of economically burying the Soviet Union with an expensive arms race they couldn't keep up with.

This is why I provided sources for reference before I started my discussion. Anyone interested in this thread might want to familiarize themselves with the sources that I have provided.

From Special Trust by Robert C. McFarlane and Zofia Smardz

Chapter 11: Making Things Work

It was year two of the Reagan administration, and the men gathered for lunch in the Cabinet room were concerned about appearances. The first year had been devoted successfully to domestic concerns and the economy. Now attention was needed on foreign policy.

The popular judgment on Ronald Reagan’s approach to foreign affairs was not favorable: it was being said that he had none. The first year had been one of drift, of reacting to events–generally with success, as luck would have it–instead of planning and directing them wherever possible.

“We have to do something. We’re perceived as not having a foreign policy,” someone said as the President came in to join us. A murmur of agreement went around the table. I was sitting in the back row of chairs, behind Judge Clark, the President’s new National Security Adviser. I was annoyed at the naysaying coming from the principals at the table. Mike Deaver, Jim Baker, Ed Meese, Larry Speakes, communications director Dave Gergen, Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman–to a man, they were all projecting gloom over a field of endeavor to which none of them had given much thought. Nor were any of them aware of the work that had been going on at State to put in place the broad outlines of policy.

I seized the moment. “But you do have a foreign policy, Mr. President,” I spoke up. The attention in the room shifted to me in a solid wave.

I took a deep breath. “It has five components,” I began. “The first is to strengthen our economic base so as to provide the resources essential to underwriting our foreign aid program and to restore the defense foundation of your policy. And to show that America is once more capable of solving problems.

“Number two is to restore our defense so as to deter attack, renew confidence among allies and underwrite our diplomacy. This will also provide key leverage with which to engage the Soviet Union during the second term.

“Number three is to restore the strength of alliances with key allies in Europe and the Far East by setting forth a sound global policy and bringing them into closer consultation.

“Number four is to advance the peace process in the Middle East by mediating between Israel and her Arab neighbors the execution of the Camp David accords.

“And number five is to foster accelerated growth in developing countries through a north-south dialogue that would be keyed less toward foreign aid and more toward a combination of trade, aid and investment.”

I finished and waited uncertainly for a reaction. For a long moment there was only silence.

“I’ll be damned,” Mike Deaver said at last. “I think we just got a foreign policy.” (P. 193-194)

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-------------

From Special Trust by Robert C. McFarlane and Zofia Smardz

Chapter 11: Making Things Work

It was year two of the Reagan administration, and the men gathered for lunch in the Cabinet room were concerned about appearances. The first year had been devoted successfully to domestic concerns and the economy. Now attention was needed on foreign policy.

The popular judgment on Ronald Reagan’s approach to foreign affairs was not favorable: it was being said that he had none. The first year had been one of drift, of reacting to events–generally with success, as luck would have it–instead of planning and directing them wherever possible.

“We have to do something. We’re perceived as not having a foreign policy,” someone said as the President came in to join us. A murmur of agreement went around the table. I was sitting in the back row of chairs, behind Judge Clark, the President’s new National Security Adviser. I was annoyed at the naysaying coming from the principals at the table. Mike Deaver, Jim Baker, Ed Meese, Larry Speakes, communications director Dave Gergen, Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman–to a man, they were all projecting gloom over a field of endeavor to which none of them had given much thought. Nor were any of them aware of the work that had been going on at State to put in place the broad outlines of policy.

I seized the moment. “But you do have a foreign policy, Mr. President,” I spoke up. The attention in the room shifted to me in a solid wave.

I took a deep breath. “It has five components,” I began. “The first is to strengthen our economic base so as to provide the resources essential to underwriting our foreign aid program and to restore the defense foundation of your policy. And to show that America is once more capable of solving problems.

“Number two is to restore our defense so as to deter attack, renew confidence among allies and underwrite our diplomacy. This will also provide key leverage with which to engage the Soviet Union during the second term.

“Number three is to restore the strength of alliances with key allies in Europe and the Far East by setting forth a sound global policy and bringing them into closer consultation.

“Number four is to advance the peace process in the Middle East by mediating between Israel and her Arab neighbors the execution of the Camp David accords.

“And number five is to foster accelerated growth in developing countries through a north-south dialogue that would be keyed less toward foreign aid and more toward a combination of trade, aid and investment.”

I finished and waited uncertainly for a reaction. For a long moment there was only silence.

“I’ll be damned,” Mike Deaver said at last. “I think we just got a foreign policy.” (P. 193-194)

How does McFarlane's ideas indicate a neoconservative connection, or at least a neoconservative connection to the ideas discussed by Brook and Epstein in relation to Bush's foreign policy?

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Recommended Sources on NeoConservatism and the Roll They Have Played in the War On Terror and Middle East Policy

C. Bradley Thompson, The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism, Fall 2006 issue of The Objective Standard

Consult the Index in the following books. Paul Wolfowitz' roll is of particular interest, dating back to the Reagan Administration.

Special Trust by Robert C. McFarlane and Zofia Smardz

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

Why are these, in particular, recommended -- especially with regard to accuracy and objectivity? The first is autobiographical, which would be of interest in a broader context of knowledge and source material. Gordon and Ricks are liberals from the NYT and the WP.

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Couldn't Neocon almost be considered an Anti-Concept? Because the only time I've ever even heard of the term is from snarling hateful Leftists who use it as some kind of infinitely damning smear-word with no specific meaning. I'm skeptical that a significant amount of people who would identify themselves as Neoconservatives exist, or that a "Neoconservative movement" even exists.

And personally, I've become pretty burned out on hearing the same bit from Objectivists about the Republican Party being incontrovertably and irreparably invaded and corrupted by Platonic, Altruistic, Pragmatic and/or Christian ideas and values... I think there is more bitterness than reality to these views.

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Couldn't Neocon almost be considered an Anti-Concept? Because the only time I've ever even heard of the term is from snarling hateful Leftists who use it as some kind of infinitely damning smear-word with no specific meaning. I'm skeptical that a significant amount of people who would identify themselves as Neoconservatives exist, or that a "Neoconservative movement" even exists.

I don't see how it could be an anti-concept when the intellectual leaders identify themselves that way.

And personally, I've become pretty burned out on hearing the same bit from Objectivists about the Republican Party being incontrovertably and irreparably invaded and corrupted by Platonic, Altruistic, Pragmatic and/or Christian ideas and values... I think there is more bitterness than reality to these views.

Perhaps what you need to do is look at the ideas of the Republican Party and the origin of those ideas, and not worry about who is saying what.

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And personally, I've become pretty burned out on hearing the same bit from Objectivists about the Republican Party being incontrovertably and irreparably invaded and corrupted by Platonic, Altruistic, Pragmatic and/or Christian ideas and values... I think there is more bitterness than reality to these views.

Well some Objectivists have some of those views and some other Objectivists do not. It is not the first time Objectivists have disagreed about evaluations and applications of principles and it will not be the last.

Who is right? Reality will eventually tell.

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Perhaps what you need to do is look at the ideas of the Republican Party and the origin of those ideas, and not worry about who is saying what.

The Republican Party is not really an entity with ideas. Both the Republican Party and Democrat Party are loose coalitions of local organizations that exist for the purpose of getting their members elected to political office, not for the purpose of defining or spreading ideas.

Observe that the particular ideas enunciated by political candidates are almost always determined by what the local electorate wants them to be. That is why the average Blue State Republican's ideology is much closer to that of a Blue State Democrat than it is to that of a Red State Republican. Also observe the priority of getting elected over ideology. Bloomberg changed from being a Democrat to a Republican in order to get elected Mayor of New York and now has resigned from the Republican Party without ever once changing a single one of his ideas.

Because of the Electoral College, the local parties do have to get together every four years to elect a Presidential candidate, but the candidate is chosen first and the party platform (that nobody reads anyway) is written to suit him afterwards. It's a pretty good bet that if Guiliani is the Republican candidate there won't be any platform planks against abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage.

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Perhaps what you need to do is look at the ideas of the Republican Party and the origin of those ideas, and not worry about who is saying what.

The Republican Party is not really an entity with ideas. Both the Republican Party and Democrat Party are loose coalitions of local organizations that exist for the purpose of getting their members elected to political office, not for the purpose of defining or spreading ideas.

Then what determines which party a particular coalition associates itself with? Are you implying that all that has to happen is for the Democratic National Committee to come out against abortion, stem cell research, and gun control then they would get 80 - 90% of the vote? The national organization supports local coalitions based upon the ideas they have in common.

Observe that the particular ideas enunciated by political candidates are almost always determined by what the local electorate wants them to be.

I don't recall the first several US presidents having that problem. Unfortunately, today's politicians are not statesmen; they are second rate shysters.

That is why the average Blue State Republican's ideology is much closer to that of a Blue State Democrat than it is to that of a Red State Republican. Also observe the priority of getting elected over ideology. Bloomberg changed from being a Democrat to a Republican in order to get elected Mayor of New York and now has resigned from the Republican Party without ever once changing a single one of his ideas.

Because of the Electoral College, the local parties do have to get together every four years to elect a Presidential candidate, but the candidate is chosen first and the party platform (that nobody reads anyway) is written to suit him afterwards. It's a pretty good bet that if Guiliani is the Republican candidate there won't be any platform planks against abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage.

That sounds reasonable. Who would run with a platform they disagreed with?

I didn't mean to imply that any party is an entity with ideas. They are organizations that represent ideas that are within the culture. And when those ideas are advocated by the spokesman for the Party, one can properly say those ideas are the Party's ideas.

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Who would run with a platform they disagreed with?

Why, the Libertarians, of course!

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Because of the Electoral College, the local parties do have to get together every four years to elect a Presidential candidate, but the candidate is chosen first and the party platform (that nobody reads anyway) is written to suit him afterwards. It's a pretty good bet that if Guiliani is the Republican candidate there won't be any platform planks against abortion, stem cell research, and gay marriage.

This is not quite accurate. The platform is drafted during the candidate selection process. In Iowa, all neighborhoods have input to the county caucus, then the counties' input to the state is reconciled, then the states' input is formed into the party's national platform. A big enough clique of supporters can force an issue onto the platform, regardless of the presidential candidate's views. Other than the Libertarians and their pro-abortion plank, I am not sure of any other party's candidate not agreeing with all of their platform planks, but I would not be at all surprised if it has happened in the Democratic or Republican parties, too.

Having participated in the Iowa Caucuses while in college, I got to see some of the process. At the local levels, certainly, a small, but dedicated, group of weirdos could get some amazing planks added to what was sent up the chain. Also from what I saw, this is how the religious-types permeated the Republican party.

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--------

Is there a definition of what a neocon is? Every time I hear someone use the term, they are referring to someone who is (1) an intellectual, (2) on the political right, and (3) Jewish and/or a supporter of Israel.

--------

I was perusing the Objectivism Research CD and came across these quotes by Dr. Peikoff.

A specter is haunting America—the specter of religion. This, borrowing Karl Marx's literary style, is my theme tonight.

Where do I see religion? The outstanding political fact of the 1980s is the rise of the New Right, and its penetration of the Republican party under President Reagan. The bulk of the New Right consists of Protestant Fundamentalists, typified by the Moral Majority. These men are frequently allied on basic issues with other religiously oriented groups, including conservative Catholics of the William F. Buckley ilk and neoconservative Jewish intellectuals of the Commentary magazine variety.

(my bold)
Historically, from the Sherman Act to Herbert Hoover to the Bush Administration, it is the conservatives, not the leftists, who have always been the major destroyers of the United States.

"Conservative" here must be construed in philosophic terms. It subsumes any "rightist" who attempts to tie the politics of the Founding Fathers to unreason in any form—whether he is a Protestant fundamentalist, a Catholic invoking Papal dogma, a neoconservative invoking Judaic dogma, a Republican invoking "states rights" (i.e., a man seeking fifty tyrannies instead of one), a libertarian invoking anarchism, or a Southerner invoking racism.

(my bold)

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A big enough clique of supporters can force an issue onto the platform, regardless of the presidential candidate's views.

That's possible, but unlikely.

Other than the Libertarians and their pro-abortion plank, I am not sure of any other party's candidate not agreeing with all of their platform planks, but I would not be at all surprised if it has happened in the Democratic or Republican parties, too.

If it ever did happen that a Presidential candidate didn't agree with the platform, I can't see what difference it would make to voters. The voters at least know who they are voting for but who, outside of some party insiders, knows or cares what is in the platform of a major party? (Third parties are a different story.)

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"Conservative" here must be construed in philosophic terms. It subsumes any "rightist" who attempts to tie the politics of the Founding Fathers to unreason in any form—whether he is a Protestant fundamentalist, a Catholic invoking Papal dogma, a neoconservative invoking Judaic dogma, a Republican invoking "states rights" (i.e., a man seeking fifty tyrannies instead of one), a libertarian invoking anarchism, or a Southerner invoking racism.
(my bold)

"Invoking Judaic dogma?" To my knowledge, the neoconservatives, many of them former Democrats, Liberals, Marxists, and even Trotskyites, tend to be the most secular and the least religious members of an ethnic/cultural community noted for its secularism and lack of religious observance.

Also, "conservatism," as Dr. Peikoff defines it, requires "unreason." By that definition, what would you call a non-Objectivist "rightist" who doesn't tie politics to any form of unreason, such as religion, but makes political arguments based on facts and logic? Wouldn't you call him a conservative?

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How does McFarlane's ideas indicate a neoconservative connection, or at least a neoconservative connection to the ideas discussed by Brook and Epstein in relation to Bush's foreign policy?

Some background on McFarlane.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Noble Cause Redux

On first meeting the president of Syria, Hafez al-Assad, Bud McFarlane detected an avuncular quality that brought to mind the old character actor Walter Brennan. To retain his focus, McFarlane reminded himself that a year earlier Assad had presided over the massacre of at least ten thousand of his own people in Hama, Syria's fourth-largest city. Walter Brennan, crusty but harmless, did a fast fade.

McFarlane, at President Reagan's direction, had journeyed to Damascus for secret consultations with Assad about Lebanon. The meeting was not going well. Twenty minutes of chitchat was standard practice in Arab countries. Assad's icebreaker that July day in 1983 did not involve the usual pleasantries about family, travel, or weather, but, as McFarlane described it, "cosmic phenomena, the influence of extraterrestrial forces on earthly events."

The Bermuda Triangle, how do you explain that? Assad asked Mcfarlane.

McFarlane's head was swimming. The twenty-minute mark had long since passed and here he was embroiled in a rambling discussion about the secrets of the universe and extraterrestrial civilizations. Was Assad talking about the supernatural? The occult? Two hours into the conversation, McFarlane had a chilling thought. Is the guy going to get up, slap me on the ass, and thank me for dropping by before we even get around to Lebanon?

Assad finally turned to temporal matters. The meeting lasted another four hours. Through it all, Assad fixed McFarlane with an intent gaze, behind him an enormous painting that portrayed Saladin expelling the Crusaders from the Holy Land. There were no breaks. No rest calls either. McFarlane began to view the dialogue as a test of bladder capacities. I'm not going to go to the head if he doesn't, he remembers telling himself. And he didn't.

When it was over a weary McFarlane decided that two elements of possible promise had emerged in the six hours of talks. First, Assad seemed open to a renewed dialogue with the United States on Lebanon as long as it did not involve Philip Habib, the presidential envoy whom Assad had decreed persona non grata. Second, aware that inducing the occupying armies of Syria and Israel to return home was a primary American policy goal, he proffered a formula, a murky one, for pulling his troops out of Lebanon. Syrian forces would withdraw, said Assad, "in light of Israeli withdrawal." McFarlane pressed him. What does that mean? At the same time? A week later? Whenever you feel like it? Assad refused to clarify his statement. You can be confident we will do the right thing, the fair thing, he said.

Back at the White House, McFarlane briefed the President and senior officials. Assad is willing to talk. In fact, he seems to want to reengage with us. But it won't be easy, and who knows what he's up to. He says he can imagine withdrawing. Whatever that means. Maybe nothing. The Saudis are committed to help. We don't have much leverage, but we have some. The Saudis and their money for starters. Riyal diplomacy, a straight cash deal, buy off Assad. The Marines. Maybe some allied support. Not a lot to go on. Plus we've wasted a lot of time.

National security adviser Bill Clark knew that Habib had been asked to come home for months. He was also aware that McFarlane, frustrated by the infighting between George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger, wanted to leave government, had already offered his resignation. At the very least he wanted out of Washington.

Why don't you succeed Phil? Clark said to McFarlane. Go out there, see what you can do.

And so he did. Like Ollie North and Jim Webb shipping out to Vietnam after the Tet Offensive of 1968, Bud McFarlane in the summer of 1983 readied himself to march off in pursuit of another lost, if arguably noble, cause.

As he prepared to mount the next rung on the Reagan administration's creaky foreign policy ladder, McFarlane was best known, to the extent that he was known at all, as a behind-the scenes mover and shaker with an apparent passion for anonymity. He broke cover on July 22, 1983, when Reagan named him to replace Habib as his special Middle East envoy.(p. 318-319, The Nightingale's Song by Robert Timberg)

In Special Trust, McFarlane discusses the influence and ideas Wolfowitz had on foreign policy during the Reagan administration.

Paul, the son of an eminent mathematician at Cornell, was one of the most thoughtful and best-read appointees of the Reagan or Bush years. He has an extraordinary grasp of how leaders from other cultures view their own interests, and consistently displayed uncommon imagination as to how we might both play upon their vulnerabilities and exploit their strengths. (p. 176)

With some exceptions, Haig tended to look to the regional bureaus and to the career foreign service to manage day-to-day affairs and prevent him from being blindsided by surprises. For new ideas and policy initiatives, however, he tended to look to Burt and Wolfowitz. At the beginning, this did not sit well with the career professionals. After several instances when their memoranda to the Secretary were short circuited, delayed and bureaucratized, Burt and Wolfowitz came to me seeking help in getting their thoughts into Haig’s office. I was more than glad to help, since I believed that their imagination and the experience of the career foreign service were equally essential to serve both the Secretary and the President properly.(p. 176)

For more information about Wolfowitz and his interaction and influence he had on McFarlane, I direct you to the index of Special Trust.

Moving forward to the war in Afghanistan.

It was the CIA that introduced the unorthodox warfare approach that President George W. Bush approved. The Defense Department never developed a strategy to fight this “new and different” type of war. Moreover, the president commented to Vice President Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that he found the military options offered by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs “unimaginative.”(p.91, Afghanistan & The Troubled Future of Unconventional Warfare by Hy S. Rothstein)

(Bold is Mine)

Brook's and Epstein's article "Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy" is about the rise and fall of Neoconservative Foreign Policy. McFarlane was a 'behind the scenes mover and shaker" in the Reagan Administration when Wolfowitz was considered an "outsider." Special Trust provides a first hand account of the Reagan Administration's Foreign Policy and gives us an indication of when the Neoconservative Foreign Policy started its rise.

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Also, "conservatism," as Dr. Peikoff defines it, requires "unreason." By that definition, what would you call a non-Objectivist "rightist" who doesn't tie politics to any form of unreason, such as religion, but makes political arguments based on facts and logic? Wouldn't you call him a conservative?

A “conservative” is someone who believes in returning to the traditional or older values of their country. Since most Americans don’t understand and can’t agree on what those values are, the term is nebulous when applied to American politics and can refer to a broad group with different ideas. Objectivists could themselves be called “conservative” in that Objectivism advocates the principles of Reason and Individualism that America was founded on. You could also refer to members of the KKK as "conservative", since they advocate racial segregation and slavery, which were ideas accepted here in the past. "Conservatism" names a nonessential characteristic that may group together contradictory ideas. I prefer to refer to a person's political alignment by what they advocate, rather than by their relationship to the undefined.

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Couldn't Neocon almost be considered an Anti-Concept? Because the only time I've ever even heard of the term is from snarling hateful Leftists who use it as some kind of infinitely damning smear-word with no specific meaning. I'm skeptical that a significant amount of people who would identify themselves as Neoconservatives exist, or that a "Neoconservative movement" even exists.

I'm inclined to agree with this. "Neo" meaning new, a "neoconservative" should mean some new breed of conservative distinct from the old. But new, how? As you said, there is no "neoconservative movement". Instead, the way it's used it seems to be more a pejorative term meaning "worse than your usual conservatives". So an Objectivist may use it to refer to the religious right, while liberals may use it to refer to staunch free market advocates.

And personally, I've become pretty burned out on hearing the same bit from Objectivists about the Republican Party being incontrovertably and irreparably invaded and corrupted by Platonic, Altruistic, Pragmatic and/or Christian ideas and values... I think there is more bitterness than reality to these views.

I agree with Betsy that ultimately we're just going to have to wait until one side is proven right. I happen to be one of the Objectivists who sees little hope in the Republican Party. In a compromise between the rational and the irrational, the irrational will always win, as the altruists, pragmatists and Christians have. They will continue to win until the party regains (or gains) its principles, which doesn't seem to be happening. I would be happy to be wrong, but I have yet to see a single candidate of merit within the party, and I think that's reality rather than just bitterness.

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