Jacob Heilbrunns essay, "Winston Churchill, Neocon?," will appear in tomorrows New York Times Book Review brings up all the pap about neocons in an unsurprising way. Are we not used to the so-called neocons being attacked, their motives questioned, some of their teachers panned? Is it getting boring yet? Have we learned anything from the Lefts inability to understand serious thinking, and real statesmanship? Are we not yet tired of the Lefts arrogant presumption of superiority?
Has the Left learned anything in this? Not yet, as far as I can tell.
It would seem that anyone (Strauss, Churchill, et al) talking about the possibility of excellence and human greatness is suspect. They must be talking about Platonic guardians, or at least to elites of some kind. And then, and here Heilbrunn reveals his contempt even more, there are those--Bill Kristol, Steve Hayward, Larry Arnn, are mentioned, among others--who really take seriously the possibility that human beings act in history and actually make history, contrary to what Marxists have been preaching for a century or more. This focus of human beings acting in the world and understanding their purposes and means, and making judgements about both, seems to especially rile folks on the Left. And there is utter contempt from the Left if one should compare a Churchill to Reagan, as Hayward does (never mind bringing W. into it). Hierarchy and comparison and judgement are the things that they have been trying to cut out of the heart and mind of the Western world. They have failed. And the anger becomes rage.
Add to this the emphasis on the possibility that some ways of life, constitutions we might say, might be better than others, and the rage of the contemporary Left is comprehensive and permanent. These neocons must be talking about empire, and they should admit it!
The short of it is that Heilbrunn (who is working on a book on neoconservatism!) is not amused, that, as he puts it, neoconservatives "are inventing a new interventionist tradition for the Republican Party." We will continue to see such polemics for many years to come, and aside from the reasons noted above, there is one massive reason (as Winston might say): The Left is lost and they have nothing to add to our current conversation about politics, especially the politics of security and war. So they pout and pant and reveal that they are in the midst of a deep intellectual malaise and they see no way out save to criticize and
jabber. The parrots are jabbering, it turns out, even as the eagles act and talk. But the parrots are not being heard.