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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

On The Neoconservative View of “Ideological Interests”

Irving Kristol, in his essay, “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” (Page 190-194; The Neo Conservative Persuasion: Selected Essays 1942—2009, by Irving Kristol), says: 



“for a great power, the “national interest” is not a geographical term, except for fairly prosaic matters like trade and environmental regulation. A smaller nation might appropriately feel that its national interest begins and ends at its borders, so that its foreign policy is almost always in a defensive mode. A larger nation has more extensive interests. And large nations, whose identity is ideological, like the Soviet Union of yesteryear and the United States of today, inevitably have ideological interests in addition to more material concerns.”

But how does one define the ideological interests of a country as culturally diverse as the United States? Every political party will have a different view of the ideological interests—there will also be a wide difference of opinion within the political parties. People in the academia, bureaucracy, religious institutions, trade unions, business community, and mainstream media will be as divided about the nation’s “ideological interests” as the members of the political community. Kristol does not offer in his article his view of what the nation’s ideological interests are, but he suggests that it is worth going to war to defend such interests.

He notes that “the incredible military superiority of the United States vis-à-vis the nations of the rest of the world, in any imaginable combination,” is a present day reality. He thinks that this strength can be put to use to promote ideological interests. “No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary,” he says. The nation can go to war over whenever it perceives a threat to its ideological interests. He criticizes the older, traditional elements in the conservative Republican party who “have difficulty coming to terms with this new reality in foreign affairs, just as they cannot reconcile economic conservatism with social and cultural conservatism.”

I think this is a very warmongering kind of foreign policy that Kristol is advocating. There will be no peace in the world if the nations start fighting with each other over “ideological differences.” Such differences are meant to be settled by arguments, diplomacy, and politics, and not by military means.

Kristol was a Marxist and Troskyist during the 1930s and 1940s. In his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, he says, “Is there such a thing as a “neo” gene? I ask that question because, looking back over a lifetime of my opinions, I am struck by the fact that they all qualify as “neo.” I have been a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-socialist, a neoliberal, and finally a neoconservative. It seems that no ideology or philosophy has ever been able to encompass all of reality to my satisfaction. There was always a degree of detachment qualifying my commitment.”

If Kristol is the godfather of neoconservatism, then it is clear that neoconservatism does not stand for a  free society. The prefix “neo,” it seems, is a proxy for Marxism, Trotskyism, and socialism.

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