Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Another parrot jabbering

Jacob Heilbrunn’s essay, "Winston Churchill, Neocon?," will appear in tomorrow’s 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 Left’s inability to understand serious thinking, and real statesmanship? Are we not yet tired of the Left’s 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.

Discussions - 6 Comments


In the very same post we get "Are we not yet tired of the Left’s arrogant presumption of superiority?" - another variant of the-left-are-elitists 1000-mile-wide brush stroke - AND we get "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." So, leftists simultaneously abhor hierarchy and comparison, but they presume themselves superior to others? As far as those skills go, I’ve heard a lot from the left that implemented hierarchy, utilized comparison and made judgments, but they just didn’t agree with yours.

You whimper that the (currently fully dominant) neocons are "being attacked," but simultaneously - in what I can only guess you see as a defensive gesture - assert the "Left’s inability to understand serious thinking." (in other words, the left is dim - Rush Limbaugh says that too) You ever so humbly suggest (haha) that the Left has "nothing to add to our current conversation about politics," and then proceed to call them jabbering parrots. arrogance here at No Left Turns!

The post was self-contradictory, smug, and childishly insulting (Parrots vs. Eagles...please!). Further, it was completely unconstructive, unless of course it was addressed strictly to your disciples and fellow travellers.

Well done Peter! I can see from the above comment that we have another happy customer.

May I suggest "jackdaws?" Parrots imitate; this man is attempting rather to drown out.

Good. Used parrots and eagles because Sir Winston does.

Sir Winston "DOES"????

I think that’s Sir Winston DID. Like Elvis, he’s dead. Accept this.

If the Republicans are "inventing a new interventionist tradition" (as Heilbrunn charges--at least I think he thinks that’s an accusation of some kind), perhaps it’s because the Democrats since 1968 have invented a new isolationist/defeatist tradition that needs responding to for the sake of both American interests and American ideals. While neither tradition is without its risks, I think that Americans have quite reasonably judged the Democrats’ fairly newly invented tradition of isolationism and defeatism to be on balance substantially more dangerous than GOP policies, especially in the world as revealed by the harsh light of 9/11. Surely many expert students of the question agree that voters’ predominantly negative appraisals of the Democrats in this area--usually euphemized somewhat as "the Democrats’ perceived relative weakness on national-security issues"--is a major reason why the GOP has won 7 of the 10 presidential elections held since (and including) the one in 1968.

Though I can’t claim to speak for Peter I might hazard a guess that he uses the present verb tense to express his impression that Churchill’s writings and other recorded words still speak to him in a lively way, as if possessing a vital spark of the sort that relatively few writers can claim to kindle for very long--whether they are physically alive or have shuffled off this mortal coil and gone the way of all flesh. For instance, people still read Homer and Virgil and Saint Paul and find their works "alive," powerful, even life-changing, thousands of years after they lived. Of how many writers living today or in the recent past can we honestly say that we think they’ll be read and have a deep influence centuries or even millennia from now? Of course I can’t say for sure, but Churchill might actually be one of them (James Joyce would be another I’d suggest from among English-speaking writers, maybe Emerson, Yeats, and Eliot too). Certainly Churchill has a better claim to this estimate than many.

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