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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 18, 2005 / 9 Nisan, 5765

The Evolution of the Neocons

By Michael Kinsley


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The term "neoconservative" started out as an insult, and it is still used that way. When people say that the selection of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank marks the triumph of neocons in Bush administration foreign policy, they are generally not indicating pleasure. Some cynics even say the "neocon" label is anti-Semitic: Doesn't it just refer to a Jewish intellectual you disagree with?

That's way too harsh. But what does neoconservative actually mean? Rich Lowry, a conservative of the non-neo variety writing in the current issue of the National Interest, defines a neocon as someone with a "messianic vision" of using American power to spread democracy, an indifference to the crucial distinction between what would be nice and what is essential to national security, and excessive optimism that we can arrange things according to our own values in strange and faraway lands.

Wow. It was not always thus. When the word first surfaced in the 1970s, its sting was in calling people conservatives five or 10 minutes before they were prepared to admit it. The core group had famously been Trotskyites at City College in the 1930s. By the 1950s and 1960s, they had become anti-Communist liberals and supporters of the Vietnam War. The antiwar movement and the '60s counterculture alienated them and pushed them even further to the right. Affirmative action was another sore point. Finally, Irving Kristol, dubbed the neocon godfather, decided to take the name as a compliment. He defined a neoconservative as "a liberal mugged by reality." (That phrase also summarizes the plot of the Great Neocon Novel, "Mr. Sammler's Planet," by Saul Bellow. Bellow's last novel, "Ravelstein," actually has a character modeled after Wolfowitz.)

The great neocon theme throughout this period was tough-minded pragmatism in the face of liberal naiveté. Liberals were sentimental. They believed that people were basically good or could easily be made so. Domestically, liberal social programs were no match for the intractable underclass or even made the situation worse. Internationally, liberals were too hung up on democracy and human rights, refusing to recognize that the only important question about other countries is: friend or foe.

Somewhere I still have a souvenir of neoconservatism's previous high point. It's a baseball cap from the 1988 Republican convention that says, "Jeanne Kirkpatrick for vice president." This was serious. Kirkpatrick, an austere academic with a crooked scowl, was about as unlikely a politician as you can imagine. But give the Republican Party credit: It does sometimes swoon over ideas. (When was the last time the Democrats did that?) Ronald Reagan had swooned over a 1979 article by Kirkpatrick in Commentary, the neocon house organ, and he made her his U.N. ambassador when he became president. She gave the big speech at the 1984 GOP convention, leading the massed Republicans in a chant of: "They always blame America first."

Kirkpatrick's article, "Dictatorship and Double Standards," was a ferocious attack on President Carter for trying to "impose liberalization and democratization" on other countries. She mocked "the belief that it is possible to democratize governments anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances." Democracy, she said, depends "on complex social, cultural and economic conditions." It "normally" takes "decades, if not centuries." Kirkpatrick thought that American power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, like Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Her complaint was that Carter sat on his hands.

Now we have an administration that — wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically — claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it.

This is quite a reversal by the most influential group of American intellectuals, yet it has received surprisingly little comment or explanation. The chief theoretician of the new neoconservatism is political scientist Robert Kagan. Writing in Commentary (where else?) in 1997, Kagan noted the difference between his notions and Kirkpatrick's, and had some fun at the expense of opponents who had been all for a high-minded foreign policy until the neocons started calling for one. But he had little to say about the reversal of the neocons themselves.

Plenty of explanations are available. The collapse of the Soviet Union (which the neocons did not predict — their theme had been that the Soviet Union was getting stronger and stronger while the U.S. diddled) surely changed the calculus. The seemingly easy spread of democracy over the last couple of decades may have disproved Kirkpatrick's pessimism. But all these explanations require an admission of error, something the neocons are not very good at. They are selling certainty.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Michael Kinsley is Los Angeles Times Editorial and Opinion editor and former editor of Slate.com. Comment by clicking here.



04/11/05: Two Doofuses, Too Adorable
04/04/05: Democratic Superiority, by the Numbers
03/28/05: Life as we don't know it
03/21/05: Girl problems in Op-Ed Land



© 2005 Los Angeles Times Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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