February 20, 2008

We Know He Is Wrong

During our longish absence, dear reader, we, the crack young staff of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly,” have been hitting the books. Call us the anti-college student: We’re actually literate.

And what books, pray tell, have we been reading? Well, dear reader, we’re glad you asked. Most recently, we strolled our fingers through They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons by one Jacob Heilbrunn.

We wish we could report that we found this particular tome immensely satisfying. After all, it was penned by something of a political insider: Mr. Heilbrunn, in addition to having scribbled for The New Republic, is a senior editor of The National Interest, Irving Kristol’s old foreign policy rag.

So here, one might think, is a fellow who has the skinny on those slippery neoconservatives. Ah, but one would think incorrectly. As it turns out, Mr. Heibrunn’s book is part tired rehashing of the same old neocon story, part sloppy, dubious opining.

For instance, Mr. Heibrunn argues that there is something inescapably Jewish about neoconservatism, since it is apparently a tradition heavy of prophetic polemics. To which one might reasonably respond: As opposed to…what? We mean, come on: What political movement doesn’t have its share of such stuff? Has Mr. Heilbrunn never read The Nation? Has he heard of The New York Review of Books?

But that’s far from the only flaw in They Knew They Were Right. (Incidentally, Mr. Heilbrunn, unlike those dreaded neocons, often recognizes that He Is Wrong. That should make reading his latest opus’ reviews easier.)

In the course of discussing the intellectual atmosphere of post-Cold War America, Mr. Heibrunn dilates on Francis Fukuyama’s essay “The End of History,” which appeared in The National Interest. To Mr. Heilbrunn, Mr. Fukuyama’s Hegelian nonsense demonstrates the neoconservatives’ outlandish post-Cold War triumphalism. Like Mr. Fukuyama, apparently, the neocons envisioned the End of History.

Well, let’s just take a look at a bit of evidence, shall we? Neocons were enraptured by Mr. Fukuyama’s article, were they? Hmmmm.

In Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks—a New York Times neocon—argued that the way to become a famous public intellectual was to write an article so transparently foolish that other public intellectuals clamor to discount your arguments. His example: “The End of History”—an idea so dimwitted that even reading the title proved the piece’s fatuousness.

How about Roger Kimball, co-editor and co-publisher of The New Criterion, a neoconservative journal of high culture? In a lengthy discussion of Mr. Fukuyama’s argument, Mr. Kimball rips it apart. For instance, Mr. Kimball writes: “But considered on his own—i.e. Hegel’s—terms, Fukuyama would seem to be a disappointing dialectician.” Not very strong praise, eh?

But wait: There’s more. Mr. Kimball, in this selfsame article, offers Irving Kristol’s take on “The End of History.” The godfather of neoconservatism said the following: “I don’t believe a word of it.”

Well, there you have it: An article—and accompanying book—roundly castigated by neoconservatives offers the triumphalist viewpoints of neoconservatives. Doesn’t leave you with much faith in Mr. Heilbrunn, does it?

Posted at February 20, 2008 12:01 AM | TrackBack