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Sunday, December 05, 2004


There Are Neo-Conservatives, and There Are Neo-Conservatives
From a book review:


[Stefan] Halper and [Jonathan] Clarke draw a sharp distinction between the first and second generations of neoconservatives. The first generation was quite a heterogenous lot, ranging from sociologists Daniel Bell and Seymour Martin Lipset to historians Gertrude Himmelfarb and Donald Kagan. "Generally speaking," the authors write "the older neo-conservatives were not a force in the Republican Party ... Even though the majority of older neoconservatives twice voted for Reagan and a number worked for him, most had avoided becoming Republicans." Not so with the second generation. Halper and Clarke point to William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas J. Feith, David Brooks, John Podhoretz, and Robert Kagan as neoconservatives who have jumped into the political fray, either as journalists or administration officials, and sometimes both....Halper and Clarke's most important point is that Kristol and others had replaced the Soviet threat with a broad idea of "American global leadership," not in the form of multilateralism, as the Clinton administration had worked for, but with the United States as numero uno, acting unilaterally whenever and wherever it saw fit. The authors unsparingly portray the younger generation as impetuous and naive.


So articles such as this one (James O. Goldsborough, July 26, 2004) are apparently focusing on second generation neo-conservatives:


It's wrong to see the Iraq war in a traditional liberal-conservative context. Although Republicans like to cast war opponents as misguided liberals, there are mainstream conservatives who never liked Bush's war and are lobbying for an early retreat of U.S. forces from Iraq.

In launching this war, Bush not only went against his 2000 campaign criticism of Bill Clinton's "nation-building," but went against the conservative grain of not fighting unnecessary wars. Following an early bipartisan rallying around the flag based on Bush charges of growing danger to America from Iraq, support for the war faded, including among conservatives.

The war created a rift between conservatives and neoconservatives that just goes on growing....

The Cato Institute, William F. Buckley and Pat Buchanan are all authentic conservative voices criticizing Bush's actions in Iraq. Buchanan has been consistent in his criticism, but Buckley, a conservative icon who initially supported Bush in Iraq, now says, "If I knew then what I know now about what kind of a situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."

Conservative criticism of Bush's war gets to the heart of what conservativism means and why it is at odds with neoconservatism, which has nothing to do with bedrock conservative principles. The one thing conservatives like Buckley, Buchanan and Cato all agree on is that government is too big and therefore taxes too high.

If neoconservatism has a bedrock principle, it is support for Israel....

Opposition from stalwarts like Buckley, Cato and Buchanan should make all conservatives stop and think. In being co-opted by neoconservatives, the Bush administration's agenda has become anti-conservative. Even its tax cuts have proven anti-conservative, for they have led to bigger deficits, not smaller government....

[Bush's] re-election campaign's emphasis on social values – anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-religion, for example – issues many conservatives believe the government should stay out of, comes by default....

Conflicts within the conservative movement are nothing new, but the split with neoconservatives is dramatic. From an isolationist movement under Bob Taft, conservatism evolved into interventionist with Barry Goldwater. Goldwater's narrow political base required Richard Nixon to reach into the South to attract Southerners whose main interest was social conservatism. To that soon was added religious conservatism of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

Lastly came the neoconservatives, not really conservatives at all, but who borrowed the name.

Under that very big tent, some of the animals have grown restless....



The book review above classified Donald Kagan as generation one and Robert Kagan, Donald's son, as generation two. Well, let's take a look at the father:


[Donald] Kagan was born in Lithuania in 1932. His father died soon thereafter, and when he was 2 his family emigrated to New York City, settling in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood was largely Jewish, but the surroundings were less welcoming to Jews. "When I walked to school, I had to worry over whether I'd be attacked," he says. "And I sometimes was."

But the situation had improved by the time he entered Thomas Jefferson High School, "a real ethnically mixed, All-American melting pot where my enemies were now my teammates." In this environment, Kagan became an "old-fashioned, Roosevelt, New Deal liberal." However, his early experiences and the Second World War would temper his beliefs. "Seeing what Hitler and the Nazis had done, I knew there was real evil in the world," he says, "and after that, I couldn't take pacifists seriously."

As he began to study history, first at Brooklyn College, from which he graduated in 1954, and later at Brown University, where he received his master's in classics in 1955, and Ohio State, where he earned a doctorate in history in 1958, Kagan gravitated towards scholars who summarized the planet's situation in stark terms: It's a jungle out there, and why? Because there are no cops.

"My life made me see the truth of this observation," he said, "and if you look at the past, especially at the 20th century, how often do you have to get hit on the head before you face up to reality? But we don't get the message."

To Kagan, the message that comes through loud and clear in his study of history ranging from ancient Greece to modern Europe is simply this: War is the default state of the human species....

Kagan began finding answers in graduate school when he read the accounts of the Greek historian Thucydides, the chronicler of the Peloponnesian War, the conflict that raged between Athens and Sparta from 431 to 404 BC. "Thucydides was a great student of human nature, and he explained that nations fought for three reasons: fear, self-interest, and honor," Kagan says.

The Yale historian describes how this trio of behaviors played out in Greece in his classic four-volume investigation of the Peloponnesian War, as well as in On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace -- a book published in 1995 that had its beginnings in a course he taught -- and in While America Sleeps, his most recent of 12 books. Kagan, who turns 70 next month, has also had plenty of opportunities to see how Thucydides' behavioral triad has played out in academia. And though he may be a lion in winter, he has lost none of his bite. Or irreverence.

So it has been since he came to Yale 33 years ago from Cornell. He had remained a liberal there, once even speaking for the left in a debate with William F. Buckley Jr. '50 over the welfare state. But what he saw as the capitulation of the Cornell administration to black student activists during their takeover of university buildings in 1969 was, Kagan recalls, "a disillusioning experience. Watching administrators demonstrate all the courage of Neville Chamberlain had a great impact on me, and I became much more conservative."

Kagan brought that principled, and, some would say, uncompromising, even autocratic, turn-to-the-right to Yale....

[I]t was an issue about teaching that caused Kagan the most trouble he ever experienced during his Yale tenure....

[T]he controversy...came to a head in 1995, when Yale decided to return the $20-million gift that had been given to the University in 1991 by Lee Bass '79 to set up an interdisciplinary program for the study of Western civilization.

The program's centerpiece was to have been a four-credit sequence modeled on Directed Studies and on a course called "Periclean Athens," both of which Kagan had a role in shaping and teaching....

While left-of-center critics pointed out that Yale hardly needed any new offerings in the area, Kagan contends that they missed the point..."[I]n the humanities at Yale, there's a cafeteria-style approach to learning in which individuals take a bunch of courses and put information together as best as they can. We wanted to provide an alternative, which we thought would have been an extraordinary and unusual learning experience -- we weren't planning to be uncritical cheerleaders."

The motivation for Bass's $20-million gift was a speech Kagan had given to freshmen in 1991 in which the then-dean called for putting Western civ "at the center of our studies."

It is a viewpoint he continues to hold. "We are the product of Western civilization, so it's necessary to understand yourself before you can understand anyone else," says Kagan.

But in the early 1990s, a "culture war" was raging, and, following the departure of Schmidt and Kagan from the administration, the Bass program no longer had a strong advocate. It went dormant, resurfacing with a vengeance late in 1994 when allegations...appeared that accused the University of attempting to use the gift for something other than its intended purposes. Although President Levin denied the charge and attempted to engage in some behind-the-scenes fence-mending, the damage was done. In March 1995, Lee Bass asked for, and later received, his money back.

Kagan still regrets the loss of the Bass program...."Students rarely get to observe an important truth firsthand: that learned people can and do disagree," he says. "But when that happens, they can explore their differences in a civilized manner."

These days, however, there is scant opportunity for such essential conversations, he claims. "Too many students move only in the realm of politically correct opinion," says Kagan, adding that too few professors hold off-the-beaten-track beliefs to break through this complacency....



Debate? In a university? The Economist laughs in our general direction:




Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it.

Evidence of the atypical uniformity of American universities grows by the week. The Centre for Responsive Politics notes that this year two universities—the University of California and Harvard—occupied first and second place in the list of donations to the Kerry campaign by employee groups, ahead of Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft et al. Employees at both universities gave 19 times as much to John Kerry as to George Bush. Meanwhile, a new national survey of more than 1,000 academics by Daniel Klein, of Santa Clara University, shows that Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. And things are likely to get less balanced, because younger professors are more liberal. For instance, at Berkeley and Stanford, where Democrats overall outnumber Republicans by a mere nine to one, the ratio rises above 30 to one among assistant and associate professors.

“So what”, you might say, particularly if you happen to be an American liberal academic. Yet the current situation makes a mockery of the very legal opinion that underpins the diversity fad. In 1978, Justice Lewis Powell argued that diversity is vital to a university's educational mission, to promote the atmosphere of “speculation, experiment and creation” that is essential to their identities. The more diverse the body, the more robust the exchange of ideas. Why apply that argument so rigorously to, say, sexual orientation, where you have campus groups that proudly call themselves GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning), but ignore it when it comes to political beliefs?

This is profoundly unhealthy per se. Debating chambers are becoming echo chambers. Students hear only one side of the story on everything from abortion (good) to the rise of the West (bad). It is notable that the surveys show far more conservatives in the more rigorous disciplines such as economics than in the vaguer 1960s “ologies”. Yet, as George Will pointed out in the Washington Post this week, this monotheism is also limiting universities' ability to influence the wider intellectual culture. In John Kennedy's day, there were so many profs in Washington that it was said the waters of the Charles flowed into the Potomac. These days, academia is marginalised in the capital—unless, of course, you count all the Straussian conservative intellectuals in think-tanks who left academia because they thought it was rigged against them....

The most radical solution comes from David Horowitz, a conservative provocateur: force universities to endorse an Academic Bill of Rights, guaranteeing conservatives a fairer deal. Bills modelled on this idea are working their way through Republican state legislatures, most notably Colorado's. But even some conservatives are nervous about politicians interfering in self-governing institutions.

Mr Balch prefers...a voluntary system of checks and balances to preserve the influence of minorities and promote intellectual competition. This might include a system of proportional voting that would give dissenters on a faculty more power, or the establishment of special programmes to promote views that are under-represented by the faculties....


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