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The Rise of the Neoconservatives

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03/02/2012David Gordon

[David Gordon will teach The Betrayal of the American Right and the Rise of the Neoconservatives, a 6-week online course at the Mises Academy, March 21 – April 30.]

President Obama is without question a warmonger, but except for Ron Paul, his conservative Republican opponents attack him for not being enough of a warmonger. We need to start a new war now, they say. We must immediately destroy the Iranian "nuclear program," though exactly why Iran poses a threat to the United States they don't bother to explain. Iran is just one example: we also have to wage a worldwide crusade against "militant Islam." In the Republican debates, Gingrich and Santorum told off Ron Paul. He doesn't want to kill people on useless crusades. To them, this makes Dr. Paul unpatriotic.

Things weren't always like this. In the years before World War II, American conservatives opposed global crusading. The Old Right opposed the New Deal and favored the traditional American policy of not getting involved in foreign wars.

Murray Rothbard describes the Old Right and explains how it was pushed aside by the pseudoconservative warmongers in The Betrayal of the American Right. Using Rothbard's book as a guide, we'll explore how the American Right changed.

The revolution went through two phases. First, William Buckley used the pages of National Review to argue that nonintervention needed to be replaced by a global struggle against Communism. Those on the Right who wanted to keep us out of war — like John T. Flynn, the John Birch Society, and Rothbard himself — were purged. In his defense of aggression, Buckley was aided by a crew of ex-Communists and ex-Trotskyites. Many, like Buckley himself, served in the CIA, and National Review was part of a CIA plan to control public opinion.

The second stage moved American conservatives even further away from nonintervention. A new group joined forces with Buckley: the neoconservatives, who include Irving and William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and Robert Kagan. They agreed with Buckley on foreign policy: they also favored an armed struggle against Communism. (One leading neocon, Norman Podhoretz, thought that Ronald Reagan was too soft on Russia.)

But unlike the National Review writers, the neoconservatives admired Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. They thought Harry Truman was a great president. The welfare state was fine with them, as long as "conservatives" like themselves were running it. In foreign policy, unconditional support for Israel's militant Likud Party was their most important issue. The neocons wanted America to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who they thought threatened Israel, and we'll look at the part they played in starting the Gulf War and the Iraq War. Today, the neocons want us to take care of Iran, another threat to Israel.

In the course, we will read some of the key writings of the neoconservatives and examine their assumptions. Students will gain a clear understanding of what Ron Paul is up against in his heroic battle for peace and sanity.

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