Norman Podhoretz: Origins Of Neoconservative

Although archeologists are credited with archiving the past, it is really historians who grasp the significance of events for posterity.  The archeologist is most often ignorant of placing distinct artifacts within a native cultural matrix that brings alive to listeners and readers alike the distinct vitality and significance of the quotidian.  Not so with great historians like John Luckas, Robert Conquest, Irving Kristol, Isaiah Berlin, or even the great Norman Podhoretz who recently wrote a treatise on the wests engagement with Islam titled ‘World War IV’.  He recently spoke on a topic concerning ‘fin de siecle’ (pronounced ‘finn day say-kell’; meaning ‘end of an era’) New York and Paris 1930’s and the rise of the neoconservative.

Norman Podhoretz claims that most neocon’s were Marxian Jews from European heritage that were repulsed from the countercultural ’60’s radicalism that came to dominate American media and educational establishments.  Most deserted the political left immediately after Washington lost its political nerve in Vietnam under Nixon.  Podhoretz claims that hatred for Nixon was political deceit masking righteous adolescent rage. How else does one examine the slaughter that became the McGovernite wing of the liberal democratic party.  Those on the American political left that wanted a strong military presence in response to an aggressive Soviet expansionism had no where to go but right.  The neoconservative movement was born of failed resolve of progressive liberalism.  For him and many others like Reagan the birth of the neoconservative returned America do its roots intellectually and spiritually.  No one could expect that an ambitious expansionist Russia in Central Asia would propel World War IV.

For Podhoretz and others like the Arabist Bernard Lewis, the scale and suddenness of September 11, swept away the assumptions of an entire era that preceded it, both Wilsonian internationalism and Nixonian calculation of balance of power politics.  For Podhoretz, September 11 is a generational commitment to an existential confrontation which Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and the Cold War masked.  Militant Islam is international, passionate, committed and soon to be nuclear!

Podhoretz has pondered the response needed to succeed.

The military face of the strategy is pre-emption and the political face is democratization.  For him, the stakes are nothing less than the survival of Western civilization.  Europe has completely capitulated to the encounter as witnessed in any ardent study of either its foreign commitments or demography.

Although he admits that any encounter with Islam outside of the Far East like Malaysia is likely to be deadly because of the recalcitrance and obduracy of both the region and Islam’s intrinsic difficulties with the social tenants of modernity.  Nevertheless, the Bush doctrine embraces the difficulties that reside in its doctrine.  It’s simple:  confronting Islam throughout Central Asia is an act of child rearing.

His most difficult embarrassment is reconciling his lost comrades to recognize their deadly political posture in politicizing their distaste for Bush and his constitutional duty to prosecute this confrontation.

Podhoretz’s life as a committed Marxist prepared him for a great reversal.  The kind that Dante, Machiavelli, Whittaker Chambers, dare I say St.Paul and hosts of other great men who lost their way through blind passion.  He sadly remarks “there was a heavy price to  be paid for my kind of apostasy.”  Still, he retains an acute sense of longing for the intellectual community in which he grew up, a world that is irretrievably lost, with no equivalent today.  It was a world that cared immensely about the life of the mind, and “even though practically everything it held dear was wrong, the fact is, it was exhilarating.”

For those that never felt the home coming that resides in the felt desire of acknowledging a passionate ideal; find solace in another more enduring carnal embrace.  For the likes of Podhoretz and his treason, it was worth it!

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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