WHO ARE THE NEOCONS?
(Special text box, in the chapter Last One Standing, in Powerdown)
"Neoconservatism is the intellectual offspring of Leo Strauss (1899-1973), a jewish scholar who fled Hitler's Germany and taught political science at the University of Chicago. According to Shadia Drury in Leo Strauss and the American Right (Griffin, 1999), Strauss advocated an essentially Machiavellian approach to governance. He believed that:
-- A leader must perpetually deceive those being ruled.
-- Those who lead are accountable to no overarching system of morals, only to the right of the superior to rule the inferior.
-- Religion is the force that binds society together, and is therefore the tool by which the ruler can manipulate the masses (any religion will do).
-- Secularism in society is to be suppressed, because it leads to critical thinking and dissent.
-- A political system can be stable only if it is united against an external threat, and that if no real threat exists, one should be manufactured.
"Drury writes that 'In Strauss's view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on secular rational foundations.'
"Among Strauss's students was Paul Wolfowitz, one of the leading hawks in the US Defense Department, who urged the invasion of Iraq; second-generation students include Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, Irving Kristol, William Bennett, John Ashcroft, and Michael Ledeen.
"Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago (1999), is a political advisor (via Karl Rove) to the Bush administration. His fascination with Machiavelli seems to be deep and abiding, and appears to be shared by his fellow neocons. 'In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments,' writes Ledeen, 'the leader may have to "enter into evil." This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired, and challenging. It is why we are drawn to him still ...'
"Machiavelli's books, The Prince and The Discourses, constituted manuals on amassing political power; they have inspired kings and tyrants, including Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin. The leader, according to Machiavelli, must pretend to do good even as he is actually doing the opposite. 'Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majest of the state to defend them ... Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honorable and praised by everyone, for the vulgar is always taken by appearances ...' It is to Machiavelli that we owe the dictum that 'the end justifies the means.'
"In her essay "The Despoiling of America", investigative reporter Katherine Yurica explains how a dominant faction of the Christian Right, which she calls 'dominionism,' has found common cause with the neoconservative movement. Dominionism arose in the 1970s as a politicized religious reaction to communism and secular humanism. One of its foremost spokespersons, Pat Robertson (religious broadcaster, former presidential candidate, and founder of the Christian Coalition), has for decades patiently and relentlessly put forward the view to his millions of daily television viewers that God intends His followers to rule the world on His behalf. Yurica describes dominionism as a Machiavellian perversion of Christianity. For the Christian right, neoconservatives like George W. Bush and John Ashcroft can do no wrong, because they are among God's elect. All is fair in the war against atheists, secular humanists, Muslims, and liberals."
Niccolò Machiavelli, detail of an oil painting by Santi di Tito; in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
born May 3, 1469, Florence, Italy
died June 21, 1527, Florence
Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman, secretary of the Florentine republic, whose most famous work, The Prince (Il Principe), brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral cynic.
Page 1 of 9 -- Introduction -- Encyclopædia Britannica Article
born Sept. 20, 1899, Kirhhain, Ger.
died Oct. 18, 1973, Annapolis, Md., U.S.
German-born American political philosopher and interpreter of classical political theory.
Strauss served in the German army during World War I. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg (1921), he was a research assistant at the Academy for Jewish Research, Berlin (1925–32), and then worked as a Rockefeller fellow in England and France. He immigrated to the United States in 1938 (naturalized 1944) and served as a professor of political science at the New School for Social Research, New York City (1938–49), the University of Chicago (1949–68), Claremont (California) Men's College (1968–69), and St. John's College, Annapolis (1969–73).
He wrote a number of books on such political philosophers as Thomas Hobbes, Niccolò Machiavelli, Benedict de Spinoza, and Socrates. Among his more noted works are On Tyranny (1948; rev. ed. 1968); Natural Right and History (1950), widely praised for its scholarly incisiveness; Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952); and What Is Political Philosophy? (1959). He also coedited History of Political Philosophy (1963).
Strauss's books—lucid, insightful, and challenging—were written more for other scholars than for the general public, but he played an eminent role in American academic history and taught several generations of political scientists. He was largely credited with having revived and maintained the study of classical political philosophers in college curriculums at a time when such studies were overshadowed by quantitative and behavioral political scientists.
Page 1 of 1 -- Encyclopædia Britannica Article
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