Hoisted from Comments: The Protean Nature of English
Condoleezza Who?

Jon Chait: Half of American Conservatives Are Barking Mad

A nice piece from Jonathan Chait:

What if they held a war of ideas and nobody came?: These days, of course... conservatives are beset by panic and gloom. You'd think this would, at minimum, give us a small respite from boasts about the right's victory in the War of Ideas. But no.... The new line... is that conservatives are more intellectually serious because they're having deep debates over first principles, while liberals enforce stultifying conformity.... Presumably Iraq, where the right's ideology has collapsed most disastrously, should be a delicate point for conservative intellectual triumphalists. Instead, it's their favorite example. "Democrats today," complains Berkowitz, "are nearly united in the belief that the invasion has been a fiasco and that we must withdraw promptly." Meanwhile, conservatives are fiercely divided. Ergo, the right is "wrestl[ing] with the consequences of change more fully than progressives."...

[I]t's certainly true that conservatives today are more divided than liberals about whether the Iraq war has been a fiasco.... Conservatives see their split on this proposition as evidence of intellectual acuity. I see it as evidence that roughly half of all conservatives are barking mad. On last year's National Review cruise, as Johann Hari reported in these pages, Norman Podhoretz called the war "an amazing success" and insisted that "it couldn't have gone better."... Maybe it's the blind Bush hatred talking, but I'm not terribly embarrassed that liberals are united in rejecting this notion.

What explains the right's insufferable need to declare philosophical victory at all times?... [T]he natural insecurity that comes with being conservative in a scholarly milieu. If I were an academic or a writer who made his living defending a party that routinely wins elections by appealing to rabid anti-intellectualism, I'd be a little defensive, too. But... conservatism is more of an ideological movement than liberalism.... Like communists, conservatives have a tendency to believe that every question can be answered by referencing theory. Berkowitz, for instance, describes the conservative debate over the war as one of pure philosophical abstractions: Defenders of the invasion, he writes, believe in "planting the seeds of liberty and democracy in the Muslim Middle East." Whether or not the war actually has accomplished these ends is not an issue of much interest...

I would put it more strongly: half of all conservatives are barking mad, and the rest believed until very recently that they had to pretend to be barking mad or be ostracized.