Posted by lex, on September 19, 2009
The term “neoconservative” has gone from an intended insult to a badge of honor and back again, at least in the minds of those who shrink from its realities.
Irv Kristol was the man more than anyone else who wove an intellectual thread into actual policy, giving the conservative movement something to fight for, rather than something to fight against. He died yesterday, at age 89.
Through editing, writing and speaking, Mr. Kristol “made it a moral imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas,” Rove said. He also said that Mr. Kristol helped create a synthesis of Cold War Democrats and Ronald Reagan White House anticommunist hawks that influenced foreign and military policy in the 1980s.
Mr. Kristol and his wife, the Victorian-era historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, along with a group of sociologists, historians and academics, including Norman Podhoretz, Nathan Glazer, Richard Pipes and, for a while, Daniel P. Moynihan, emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s as prominent critics of welfare programs, racial preferences, tax policy, moral relativism and countercultural social upheavals that they thought were contributing to America’s cultural and social decay…
In the late 1960s, Mr. Kristol helped form a conservative philosophy that advocated moderation against what he viewed as the excesses of the far right and far left. He wrote that “the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy. It is hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic.”
The neoconservative brand of foreign policy reached its apotheosis in George W. Bush’s first term. In an ironic kind of Hegelian dialectic, the perceived extravagances of that era gave birth to reaction in the form of an obscure state senator’s rise to the presidency.
It will be interesting – very interesting – to see what the synthesis of those two collisions will be.