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Neocon as insult

Roger Cohen has forgotten--or never knew--the orignal meaning of "neoconservative," but he certainly objects to it as an all-purpose term of abuse hurled at anyone who believes "in the bond between American power and freedom’s progress." His last line: "When Michnik and Kouchner are neocons and MoveOn.org is the Petraeus-insulting face of never-set-foot-in-a-war-zone liberalism, I’m with the Polish-French brigade against the right-thinking American left."

Discussions - 6 Comments

There's definitely some truth in the idea that the denotative accuracy of the term "neconservative" has been blurred, watered down over the last several years, yes. There is often a discrepancy between what people call themselves and what others consider them to be. Surely there are many liberals who could fairly be described as such who have sought to avoid that appellation as the real and imagined ideas of liberals became unpopular, and liberal became a dirty word.

Mr. Knippenberg, do you consider yourself to be a neoconservative, in any sense? You are almost certainly, I would think, a Straussian to some degree, no? Are all Straussians neoconservatives? Would Strauss have encouraged his followers/fans to be evasive about their particular views in designating themselves this way?

Even if the definition of neocon had not been blurred and muddied in recent years as it has arguably become an all-purpose insult (myself, I try to make more careful distinctions - not everyone on the right that I disagree with about current policies is a neocon), my guess is that many of those who might have proudly taken the title of a neoconservative as a badge of honor in, say, late 2002-early 2003, would now be more reluctant about it, more nuanced in describing themselves with that word.

I should have finished that first paragraph with "...just as there are many who really could only fairly be described as centrists (on the whole) or fairly conservative Democrats get labeled as "unhinged liberals" or "leftist lunatics," socialists, Communists, etc."

If you think neocon is an all-purpose insult used to label those who aren't even neocons, consider the way the terms socialist and Communist are chucked around, even today. I always get a chuckle when I hear people like Hillary Clinton or John Edwards being described as socialists or communists.


Neocons are just radical left-wingers in disguise. They support a sort of double standard (blood and soil patriotism for Israel, but propositionalism for all Western countries) and otherwise are products of the Left. Leo Strauss and Bloom were left-wing fanatics, both wallpapering over the real West, with its real people and traditions, with left-wing Jacobin abstractions. And those today are just mindless Zionists and globalists.

Why should the fact that one was once a liberal, but now is a conservative be considered an insult?

Oh yeah, I forgot, evil people like Saddam should be appeased no matter the intel of the day and, the most important, ... Isreal should be allowed to be vanquished by the Arabs and others of the Middle East.

That is the argument of those that hurl neocon as an insult ... right?

Dale/TexasDude - as one who doesn't "hurl neocon as an insult" I can't be sure what those who do are thinking but still I highly doubt that their arguments typically fit your straw man characterization of "evil people like Saddam should be appeased no matter what the intel of the day and...Isreal (sic) should be allowed to be vanquished by the Arabs..."

Bede's claim that neocons are "left-wingers in disguise" strikes me as fairly preposterous. If this is so, then their disguise is thorough and convincing. Exactly what policy positions do they take that match up with those of liberals and leftists? Having read a fair amount about Leo Strauss, I can't say I see how he could reasonably be described as a "left-wing fanatic." Bede, would you care to elaborate a bit?

I would love to hear from Mr. Knippenberg as well, but I guess any thread older than 24 hrs. here at NLT is all but consigned to the dustbin of history, eh?

Craig, Strauss was a left-wing fanatic, and a dangerous one at that. Just read the essays by Paul Gottfried and Claes G. Ryn on him. See: http://www.nhinet.org/gottfried18-1&2.pdf And: http://www.nhinet.org/ryn18-1&2.pdf -- -

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