November 06, 2007
John Ross, in his labyrinthine commentary on Ron Paul and his neo-hippy (or is it neo-Bolshevik followers?), introduces himself as a “Kirkian” and a “Burkean,” and in view of this stated pedigree, I”m not at all surprised that he is annoyed with me. Although a self-described “man of the Right” who profoundly admires Burke and various nineteenth-century European conservatives, I have asserted that the quest for conservative roots among post-World War Two intellectuals, an enterprise that was then centered in Midtown Manhattan, was a kind of play-acting. This “conservatism” was an attempt to confer on the Cold War a French Revolutionary setting, with appropriate rhetorical flourishes. All of this, I have argued, was a bit like a ballo mascherato, and I say this with due respect to Ross’s “Burkean hopes” and expectations of a new “Kronstadt uprising” against the present order We are a predominantly Protestant people, who used to have a basically classical liberal constitution and bourgeois social character, both of which have been now shamelessly disfigured. Mr. Ross is entitled to call himself anything he wants but unless his self-description has some historical relevance, he is merely striking a pose.
Unlike my friends at the Mises Institute, I am not a philosophical libertarian, but given the current options for the improvement of our derailed republic, Ron Paul seems to be a candidate worthy of my support. Dr. Paul advocates radically cutting back our runaway public administration, and he seems to have no interest in imposing the government or cultural standards of the Big Apple on Arab tribes. Although he and his followers are not self-proclaimed Burkeans, I do not find that a shortcoming. After all, we”re not living in eighteenth-century England, and if Ron takes as his model Bob Taft as opposed to an Anglo-Irish critic of the French Revolution, he is only acting like an American, trying to revive our tradition of limited, responsible government.
As for Mr. Ross’s swipes at me, I have no idea what they prove, except for his ineffectual exasperation. Exactly how did my remarks delivered at an August meeting of the Robert Taft Club in Washington “play to the prejudices of the crowd, which consisted of aspiring young men and women of the Beltway Right”? I”m not sure which “prejudices” Mr. Ross has in mind or why he would even think that my listeners, who were disgusted with the Beltway Right, were “aspiring” to something in it. Quite a few of those who spoke to me and Jim Antle after what is earlier described as our efforts to “be more sober about the future of the right,” are without professional prospect, precisely because they have criticized the neoconservative dominance of the “Beltway Right.”
I”m not sure that Ross can find in this “journal” the 1053 rants “about how the left needs the neocons” that he asserts I have posted here. But from all evidence, these rants have not helped him to understand my purport. What I have stressed is not so much that the left needs the neocons as that the neocons took over the conservative movement while enjoying the favor of the liberal establishment. The fact that they could steer the establishment Right while continuing to appear in the liberal national press and having access to the liberal media aided the neocons in their consolidation of power. My mocking comments about how the neocons have taken on the liberal establishment are intended to underline the lack of substantive difference between the present neocon-controlled conservative movement and its liberal debating partners.
The one cited piece of evidence designed to refute my statements about this ignored friendship is my failure to note that one of Ross’s friends assures him that “Mearsheimer voted straight Republican until 2004.” Assuming arguendo that this unidentified source is correct, I am puzzled as to how this relates to the supposed emptiness of my “rant.” How does Mearsheimer’s possible voting record in Chicago (which is where he lives) disprove that the liberal establishment helped to create and then sustain the neocons as a kind of preferred opposition? Concerning my suspicion that Mearsheimer was somewhat on the left (though clearly a Council of Foreign Relations type) were remarks that I heard him deliver two years ago at Swarthmore, in which he blamed the war in Iraq on “the radical Right” and the heirs of McCarthyism. Needless to say, the war has nothing to do with the “radical Right” and is a liberal internationalist enterprise that Republicans have bought into. But if I were a liberal democratic critic of the war, I would have sounded like Mearsheimer at Swarthmore. Moreover, the book on AIPAC, which he coauthored with Stephen Walt, cites predominantly leftist and liberal critics of Bush’s Middle Eastern politics and the bullying tactics of AIPAC. By now there is a vast literature on the right that addresses the same concerns, albeit one that Mearsheimer and Walt hardly bring up. For the aforementioned reasons, I quite understandably associated Mearsheimer, who is a highly successful academic in an overwhelmingly leftist profession, with mainstream American liberalism. But whether this assumption is true or not has nothing to do with my argument about the special relation between neocons and liberals.