Make sure you read the comments!
This arrived as a comment, but is so important that I have promoted it to entry status. David is referring to point 5 in yesterday’s entry Vital Reading.
Anyone who thinks that America is “full of” the likes of Philip Atkinson [a British expatriate, I see. — N] obviously doesn’t live here and is, I would suggest, a little dangerous themselves (it’s like the left-wing version of “all Arabs are terrorists” and it could be used to justify anything.) You can find some useful background to this article from the right-wing antiwar activist Justin Raimondo. Raimondo, who sees Neocons as a “pestilential sect” arising from the cold war (a small minority, but a highly influential and dangerous one in Washington) describes Atkinson and the Family Security Foundation as “at the outer limits of neocon kookery” — in other words, a minority of a minority. However, some of the tropes in the Atkinson article (particularly the half-based classicism) are common ones in Neocon fantasy, and Raimondo fears that this may be revealing of what “lies behind the mask” of Neoconservatism.
Nonetheless, very few Americans ever bought into the intellectual apparatus of the Neocons (a sort of right-wing version of Trotskyist permanent revolution), believing that the Iraq war really was about American security. Support has fallen as that has become more implausible — the 2006 rout of the Republicans was essentially about the fact that conservatives are increasingly sick of the war and see no point to it. Atkinson represents a dwindling band of intellectuals who were long ago shunned from most universities and are increasingly out in the cold in Washington. Not that they’ll ever go away completely.
By the way, antiwar.com, despite occasionally carrying pieces from the left, is usually a fascinating collection of thought from the “Old Right,” that is, the isolationist, anti-government, pro-market strand of American thought to which probably 10-15% of Americans subscribe — a lot more than anything Atkinson represents. Their only office-holding representative is Congressman Ron Paul, aka “Dr No.” Probably their best-known intellectual representative is H L Mencken. They are remarkably consistent in their anti-war opposition, much more so than the left — not only were they against Iraq and Vietnam, they were also against interventions in Kosovo and Bosnia, both World Wars and the American Civil War (they see Lincoln as a near-psychopathic dictator who cared little about emancipation but a lot about expanding presidential power — a view they share with Gore Vidal). Raimondo himself cut his teeth on an anarchist brand of gay activism in the sixties.
Who David is, and why I would take his opinion very seriously, may be seen here.
Harper’s writer Lewis H Lapham is another distinguished representative of the tradition of H L Mencken, if not as hard-boiled as some David mentions. A more ferocious yet urbane critic of George W Bush and the whole “imperial” mission of the neocons is hard to imagine. I commend Lapham’s essays. I rather like his patrician style. See for example “The Case for Impeachment: Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush”. As I wrote in July 2005, “The US form of ‘patriotism’ is alien to most Australians I know, and was considered quite bizarre even by my parents and grandparents, none of whom were known to be leftwingers either. Mind you, the more Americans there were like Harpers Magazine’s Lewis H Lapham, the better would be the US and the safer the rest of us.” [I see the Lapham articles are now limited to subscribers to Harper’s. See instead Lewis Lapham Interview on The Progressive and Conversation with Lewis H Lapham from Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley.]
Discussions of US fundamentalism or evangelicalism too often resort to overgeneralisation. For all the drivel emanating from Ken Ham and his fans there are also others in that world far less kooky, as perusal of Sojourners or even Christianity Today quickly shows. David’s point that we must avoid “the left-wing version of ‘all Arabs are terrorists’ [which] could be used to justify anything” is well made.
There are such significant cultural differences between the USA and Australia, despite the many similarities, that the discourse “over there” is a minefield for us Aussies. At the same time, unreflectively projecting their assumptions and values onto the rest of the world has often been a trap for Americans, which can have — I would argue has had — disastrous results at times, perhaps now more than ever.
David, feel free to respond. 🙂
1 September UPDATE
Ninglun from here on, not David…
Given the direction the comment section has taken, here are some more resources for you. The first is a Rolling Stones song some may find offensive, “My Sweet Neocon”, but it is part of the discourse.
For all that some mutter about Wikipedia, its account of neoconservatism in the USA — because the term has become something of a generic term of abuse such careful distinction is necessary — is actually quite a good starting point.
I am afraid many of us, and I count myself, though I do try more than I did to avoid doing this, rabbit on in our blogs about things we really do not understand. That’s fine, up to a point; the blog is not written in stone for all time, after all. I think this current post is a bit of a contribution to more careful thought. I hope that is the case. I do know I have been learning something from it all.