links for 2007-08-23
Willem Buiter, Anne Siebert, and Walter Bagehot

Jonathan Chait Is Driven into Shrillness by William Kristol

Somehow my first reaction to it is: "This is news?"

The Thuggery Of William Kristol: IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE that, not so long ago, neoconservative foreign policy thinking overflowed with ideas and idealism. The descent has been steep, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the pages of The Weekly Standard--particularly in William Kristol's editorials, which have come to consist of stubborn denials of any bad news, diatribes about internal enemies, and harangues against the cowardice of Republican dissenters....

The notion that TNR published a Diarist merely for the edification of readers, rather than to advance a political agenda, did not occur to Kristol, because he could not imagine doing any such thing himself. He once explained his belief in the philosopher Leo Strauss to journalist Nina Easton thusly: "One of the main teachings is that all politics are limited and none of them is really based on the truth." Whether or to what degree Beauchamp's Diarist is true could not matter less to him.

Two years ago, my colleague Lawrence Kaplan--who once co-authored, with Kristol, a book arguing for the war--wrote a poignant cover story describing how the dream of creating a liberal Arab state had died. Kristol, naturally, denounced his inconvenient observation. "The fact remains that it is today more possible than ever before to envision a future in which the Middle East and the Muslim world truly are transformed," he insisted. "For this, no one will deserve more credit than George W. Bush." Of course, this was an opinion, not a "fact." But the failure to distinguish between fact and opinion is typical of his mentality....

Then there is Kristol's accusation that critics of the war don't "support the troops." I wonder if, back in his youthful days teaching political philosophy, Kristol ever imagined he would one day find himself mouthing knucklehead slogans like this. I shouldn't need to say this, but apparently I do: I strongly support and respect the troops and would desperately like them to succeed. My respect, unlike Kristol's, extends to soldiers who don't share my politics, and isn't contingent on the fantasy that all of them are saints....

The theme of traitorous liberals is becoming a Standard trope. Last week's cover depicted an American soldier seen from behind and inside a circular lens--as if caught in the sights of a hostile sniper--beneath the headline, "DOES WASHINGTON HAVE HIS BACK?" The Weimar-era German right adopted the metaphor of liberals stabbing soldiers in the back. Kristol is embracing the metaphor of liberals shooting soldiers in the back. I suppose this is progress, of sorts.

There was a time when neoconservatives sought to hold the moral and intellectual high ground. There was something inspiring in their vision of America as a different kind of superpower--a liberal hegemon deploying its might on behalf of subjugated peoples.... Kristol's good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he's too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.

My second reaction is that the Jonathan Chait who believes that "not long ago... neoconservative foreign policy thinking overflowed with ideas and idealism" has clearly not been paying attention:

First the neoconservatives came for the Salvadorean archbishop, and I was silent, because I was not a Salvadorean archbishop.
Next the neoconservatives came for the Maryknoll nuns, and I was silent, because I was not a Maryknoll nun.
Then the neoconservatives came for this who wanted to trust Gorbachov, and I was silent, because I was not Gorbachov.
Then the neoconservatives came for the Clinton Health Care Task Force, and I was silent, because I was not on the Clinton Health Care Task Force.
Then the neoconservatives came to gin up a cold war with China, and I was silent, because I knew little about China.
And now that the neoconservatives come for New Republic writers...