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Patrick Buchanan
Pat Buchanan
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Behind the Crack-up of the Right


In introducing his new book, "Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America," Paul Gottfried identifies a fundamental divide between neoconservatives and the traditional right. The divide is over the question: What is this nation, America?

Straussians, writes Gottfried, "wish to present the construction of government as an open-ended rationalist process. All children of the Enlightenment, once properly instructed, should be able to carry out this ... task."

For traditional conservatives, before the nation is born, "ethnic and cultural preconditions" must exist. All "successful constitutional orders," he writes, "are the expressions of already formed nations and cultures."

To the old right, America as a nation and a people already existed by 1789. The Constitution was the birth certificate the nation wrote for itself, the charter by which it chose to govern itself. The real America had been born in men's hearts by the time of Lexington and Concord in 1775.

In a recent issue of Modern Age, Jack Kerwick deals with this divide.

Irving Kristol, he writes, and quotes that founding father of modern neoconservatism, saw America as "a 'creedal' nation, a nation to which anyone can belong irrespective of 'ethnicity or blood ties of any kind, or lineage, or length of residence even.'"

"For Kristol and his ilk," Kerwick goes on, "one's identity as an American is established by nothing more than an intellectual exercise whereby one rationally assents to the propositions encapsulated in the Declaration."

"Given this unqualified quasi-religious commitment to 'the Rights of Man,' (for a neoconservative) America must be future-oriented, for as long as human rights are threatened, and regardless of where they are imperiled, her work in the world will never be complete."

Here one arrives at a root cause of the conflict between neocons and the right — a conflict that did not mature until the end of the Cold War.

Given their belief in America as an ideological nation and their fear that the party of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter was failing to wage the Cold War effectively against our ideological foe, communism, it was natural that the neocons would defect from their party to align with the party of Ronald Reagan.

By the 1980s, they were allies of the Old Right for the last decade of the Cold War.

It was when that Cold War ended that the chasm came into full view.

Some conservatives began to argue that now that the Soviet Union was history and Mao's China had given up on world revolution, our war was over and we should bring our troops home and become again "a normal country in a normal time."

Neoconservatives cried that this was "isolationism," and backed U.S.

interventions in Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Kuwait and Iraq.

While a Republican House opposed war on Serbia, neocons cheered Bill Clinton's 78 days of bombing that tore Kosovo from the mother country.

When some on the right opposed the invasion of Iraq as an unwise and unnecessary war, National Review denounced them as "unpatriotic."

On reflection, the neoconservative rage made sense.

If one believes America is not a normal nation with definable interests, but a creedal nation dedicated to democracy, equality and human rights, one has converted to what Kristol called a "civic religion." And the mission of that faith is to advance the work begun in 1776, to make America — then the entire world — free, democratic and egalitarian.

Either our ideology triumphs or another shall, neocons believe. We are in a world historic struggle for the hearts and souls of mankind.

This ideology, this political religion, causes neocons, as Gottfried and Russell Kirk observed — the latter in his 1988 Heritage Foundation lecture on the species — to see opponents on the right as heretics and enemies of the true faith.

Yet, in the final analysis, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol, writes Kerwick, future-oriented and utopian, "is not ... a form of conservatism at all."

Decades ago, when Irving called for a "Republican ideology," the scholar Gerhart Niemeyer upbraided him: "All modern ideologies have the same irrational root: the permeation of politics with millenarian ideas of pseudo-religious character. The result is a dream world."

Like 19th-century Marxists, neocons envision a future that is utopian — i.e., it is unattainable. For in the real world, history, faith and culture shape peoples, and peoples shape countries to reflect who and what they are.

Nations constructed from ideological blueprints like the Soviet Union of Vladimir Lenin and the China of Mao Zedong eventually collapse when their ruling ideas collide fatally with reality and human nature.

The one great success of the neocons came about by accident. In the shock of 9/11, George W. Bush was converted to global democratic revolution "to end tyranny in our world." And off we marched.

And after decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we reaped the harvest: 6,500 dead, 40,000 wounded, trillions in debt, a nation divided and pandemic hatred of America across the Islamic world.

Perhaps the new wars for which our neocons clamor in Syria and Iran will prove at last the great leap forward into the brave new world of their dreams.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... Have you considered the possibility that both sides may in part be correct, and both wrong... Nations traditonally are one people springing from a common Natal connection, an alma mater, a soul mother... Justice should serve in this land as our mother, and liberty is our father...What many have believed in regard to revolutions in Europe, and tacitly in England, is that the constitution of the people exists before constitutions are written, and that the old constitution is more salient than any that can be contrived out of reason or innovation...Unquestionably, if the reactionaries in France had written their consititution, many of the old Feudal relationships would have continued on as privilages, and church power would have continue on with the protection of civil authority...
We can see from our constitution, and the privilages that have come to dominate our political process that many ideas of former times, and of the age of reason were enshrined and protected in our constitution...The contempt of the democratic rabble also came through loud and clear, and democracy was made only a element of one department of the government...Even while democracy, and the equality upon which democracy depends was denied to this people, the fact that rights and democracy played any part at all gave us an advantage moral and physical against disolute and declining economies and governments in Europe...The first advocate of the export of revolution was not Lenin, but Jefferson... The conclusion is correct, that tyranny anywhere is an enemy of liberty everywhere...
Here is the snag... We began relatively democratic, and have lost a great deal of our democracy because the house was not allowed to grow with the population... In regard to civil rights the privilages granted by the constitution remain strong, too strong, even treasonously strong in regard to the idea of democracy...We could export what we have, but since our constitution is anti democratic, and anti civil rights, and anti equality; what are we trying to export that anyone can actually use???...
If it is the idea that freedom can be put in a jar, kept constrained, not speechless, but powerless where it can alert the ruling class to unreast and mutiny in the crew in time for it to be squashed or de-fused; then get rid of it cheap because it is not change, and not revolution, nor innovation, or progress... If the object is to have lords without the expense of kings, then we have them...If the object is to make a cruel joke of democracy and load the expense on to the common people for an institution enjoyed only by the rich, then we have it... If we want something worthy of export, we need to find our common thread, our soul mother and great father... We cannot be the bastard children of a stilborn democracy, and have the respect of the world...
Tribal Division was the greatest weapon the whites ever had against native Americans, and we have many divisions, and only a few reasons to unite... We need to find our unity, and not so we can suffer more limited democracy, more failed democracy... The privilages our written constitution allows are incompatible with the constitution of the people, and it is destructive of our nation, and is piting one person against another... If madness were a commodity we could all be rich by the export of it...There are no natural limits on democracy, and to limit it is to destroy it... There is but one limit on freedom and that is justice...
If you look closely at the Kristol kinder, you will see that they want to to export capital and import tyranny... If you look at the natural propensity of human kind for democracy, there is no reason we cannot export liberty and justice for all without want for ourselves...But we should never export what is in too short a supply already...We need all we have and more, and we need more than a bunch of empty ideas to export to societies stuffed full of failed ideas...Sell them something they can use, or stay home...
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Jun 22, 2012 5:36 AM
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