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.”
Here we come to the great battlefield upon which Western civilization has been fighting for several centuries now. On one side sits the almost
unanimously triumphant proponents of the Enlightenment, while on the other sits those of us who have clung to values held dear since time immemorial.
Those who are instructed within the Enlightenment school believe, not only in ideals and values which those of us in opposition do not hold, but
conceptualize the world in an entirely different way. As noted above in the quoted text, that is one critical difference between our two sides. Those
who cling to the Enlightenment believe in government more along the lines of an academic exercise; grounded in abstractions and justified by (largely)
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.
A nation never has a birth date. It springs forth from the blood of those who fought for and toiled upon the soil. Our nation would exist with or
without the Constitution, for that is but a document upon which man gathered to deliberate and put into writing the greatest collection of our
traditions, desires, and beliefs. To base America solely upon the document and the ideals held within would make us a propositional nation, one which
does not exist outside of the world of abstractions. To be an American would mean nothing more than to affirm particular principles. This, however,
does not make one an American anymore than liking swimming makes you a fish. To be a fish one must have been born a fish, and as a fish you will be
born one of many diverse types of fish in existence - all the result of events which are outside of your control.
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.”
For the reasons quoted above I do not count Neoconservatives as 'Right'. If considering political philosophy from both its academic view and
historical view we find ourselves at the simple conclusion of Neoconservatism being an ideology bred out of Liberalism, which itself may count among
its ranks nearly all of modern political thought. Neoconservatives share the basic foundational principles of Liberalism, names; a belief in
civilizational/societal progress, universalism of values (human rights, democracy, etc...), egalitarianism, emphasis upon economic theories, and many
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
A true Conservative is more so in a philosophical or sentimental way rather than ideological. An ideological Conservative would then be a
contradiction of terms, much as saying a 'square triangle'. Take for example a brief discussion which has been quoted between the noted British
politician Enoch Powell and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:
: No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.
: Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.
: No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed."
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.
Our great country shall also join the dustbin of history alongside the Soviet Union because of our complicity in subscribing to this ridiculous
assertion. It is my belief that the Soviet Union did not fall from economic calamity, Reagan's strong-man approach, or social degradation; rather
these were symptoms and problems which were permitted to topple the ideological nation only because the tree of reality begun to bear its fruits.
Ideologies have one inherent intention and that is to create a world which fits their beliefs, but like Eric Voegelin said, "The problem of an eidos
in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton,
however, is a theoretical fallacy."
The American Conservative - Patrick J. Buchanan
edit on 6/26/2012 by Misoir because: (no reason given)