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  On the Subject of Neoconservatism
by Brian S. Wise
18 October 2002

Examining resentment to neoconservatism, and why that resentment shouldn't exist.


Here I present two distinct definitions of neoconservatism for consideration.

One: “[Neoconservatism] describes the erosion of liberal faith among a relatively small but talented and articulate group of scholars and intellectuals, and the movement of this group (which gradually gained many new recruits) toward a more conservative point of view: conservative, but different in certain important respects from the traditional conservatism of the Republican party."

Two: “[Neoconservatives] erroneously call themselves conservative, which they are not in the true sense of the word. These individuals are part of the mysterious Babylonian deception of latter days in which they hate everything they perceive as leftist oriented, because essentially, in part, that is where they come from. In other words, they hate to see in others what they hate the most within themselves, and if they find themselves in opposition to anyone, the opposition is instantly labeled as a lefty and veracity has nothing to do with the incongruous conclusion, it’s just the facts.”

The first definition was written by Irving Kristol, from his collection of essays entitled Neoconservatism. The second definition was written by one of those Internet columnists who take so much glory from anonymity they choose not to use their own names, and so will not be credited here, as to help him achieve the ultimate anonymity. Now, I’m fully aware that to contrast Irving Kristol and a bad Internet columnist is unfair; it was done here not for esthetic reasons, but for ideological ones. Many of those who had the pleasure of being born conservative (so to speak) take it upon themselves to despise four groups of people: Communists, liberals, socialists and neoconservatives. All right, the first three are understandable, but why the fourth?

Because neoconservatives have arrived late to the party, and many on the Original Right (for lack of a more convenient term) see neoconservatism as possessing too many latent Leftist qualities for it to help the Right’s various causes. Too many neoconservatives still support abortion rights, too many don’t believe in God, too many don’t see the point in fighting otherwise morally justified wars against America’s enemies, et cetera. I don’t know who these neoconservatives are personally, but I do know they exist, and I do know that they are, by and large, as wrong as the liberals who take the same positions. Those of the Original Right who are confused (or ignorant) as to the neoconservative philosophy should know two things.

One: Escaping liberalism is a very, very tough piece of business (I did it in 1993). Being an active part of the Left is a lot like constantly hitting life’s snooze bar, and getting up and around isn’t the easiest thing. For one thing, being a Leftist is intellectually easy and reflexive: Whatever man cannot provide himself should be provided by a large central Government; those who succeed monetarily should – obviously! – be taxed to whatever extent as to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves; there is nothing so wrong with our enemies that we cannot settle it by smiling and shaking hands; that there is no problem so large and besides the point it cannot be eventually be blamed on white settlers (and because they’re not around to chastise, today’s white folks will do just fine); that the Constitution is essentially a self-service document, et cetera, ad infinitum.

Learning that those things are incorrect, whether one does it in one swoop or over a period of years, is a mammoth shock to the system. If neoconservatives are to progress in their knowledge, they have absolutely no choice but to continue forward in the tracks left by those who came before, even if they have this belief or that standard different from any single member of the Original Right. No conservative, no matter his dedication to the core philosophy, can be so married to it that he refuses to allow those who are slightly different to stand beside him in common causes, or else damage is done to the cause, which if, after all, the proper cause. (There! I said it!)

Two: There is no ownership of conservatism. Our anonymous columnist friend would have us believe that those who, to continue the analogy, arrive late to the party are practicing hypocrites and unfit to advance whatever parts of actual conservatism reside inside them. (As a function of logic I cannot bear to reprint the section here, just please trust me.) The argument is that a neoconservative cannot, for example, find dislike in liberalism for he has come from there himself, and is therefore a hypocrite. Well, no. The hypocrite would be the neoconservative who emphatically states his opposition to abortion, then insists his wife gets one because he doesn’t want to be a father. The difference is: “Do as I say, not as I do” is hypocrisy; “Do as I say, not as I have done” is teaching.

As my career rounds the third turn, I’ll be doing more to advance right-minded conservatism than the clear majority of Republican politicians we elect next month; certainly more than our anonymous columnist friend, and that matters. Whether or not it differs slightly from the next conservative simply doesn’t count as much as the advancement of what are ideals and standards basically to the contrary of our society at large.

The Original Right may continue to manage an objection to neoconservatism because of where it came from, but remember: In the end, we chose the correct side, and we came to you. In those things that matter the most, we’re standing next to you, not in front or behind you. That also matters.

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