"Mickey Mouse is, to me, a symbol of independence. He was a means to an end."
~ Walt Disney
Justin Raimondo’s precise, clear and accurate description of neoconservativism as "an authoritarian power cult" is both encouraging and exciting.
It’s encouraging, because he has named the beast. A Trotskyist-Straussian-Wohlstetterian-Kristollian philosophical tsunami struck our shores before dawn, and we have now awakened to widespread and costly damage to the ideas and way of thinking about the world that once made America both free and great. Authoritarian power cult is an excellent description of neoconservativism.
It’s exciting, because we can now see the cult’s native vulnerability, one shared by cults everywhere. At their core, cults are authoritarian and power-oriented. Luckily, it is within the very circle of Plato’s 21st century self-appointed ruling guardians, those who envision the glorious utopia that would be possible if only the rest of us would simply shut up and do what we are told, that we find the antidote to the present day political crisis in America. The authoritarian power center relies on the rest of us abnegating our own judgment, individually and systematically. For neoconservativism, we are also required to abnegate our belief in the ideas contained in the Constitution and other early American statements of man’s relation to the state, and the role of the federation.
In the military, we are taught to trust in those who have gone before and stand above, without introspection or examination. Occasional thinking and study is needed, but collectivism is how soldiers and armies are put together, and stay together. Without that abnegation of personal judgment in favor of the judgment of a collective authority, the thing can fall apart. This problem has always challenged military commanders. It does so today in Iraq as they struggle to keep their troops safe, satisfied and motivated in their daily constabulary duties under fire. The collective judgment façade is starting to fall apart in the face of what soldiers actually see around them, not just while on patrols but in the barracks as they hear the authoritarian message ringing increasingly shrill and hollow. No wonder a commander felt the need to craft his unit’s "letter to home" himself and merely solicit signatures, not input, from his troops.
One needs training and practice to reliably and consistently suborn to others. I attended Air Force ROTC summer camp in 1980, and it was one of my first real experiences with the phenomenon of power mad authoritarianism. It was really quite incredible fun. At the camp, we were divided into flights, each with a training officer. Another flight’s training officer, a Captain, became obsessed with a group of four Virginia Military Institute cadets from our flight. This man would come over frequently to help "train" us.
The Capitan wore a dark mustache squared off at the sides of the upper lip. While this was the only authorized presentation of a mustache in the Air Force at the time, we came to believe it signified a Fascistic id struggling for expression.
Being from Virginia Military Institute and having spent their entire college careers in far more restrictive and authoritarian climes, the four musketeers had the idea that ROTC summer camp really was a summer camp. The Capitan wanted instant obedience from them, but even more, he wanted to see fear and trembling in the eyes of these cadets. It was one of those situations where someone wasn’t going to get what they wanted.
Now, in a designed utopian world — the unhappy ones should have been the VMI cadets, but as you can imagine, they had a wonderful time. One day the Capitan lectured them on the rules of the uniform, of bearing, and the seriousness of the training camp. A day later all four showed up in formation wearing plastic Mickey Mouse sunglasses. Standing tall, in formation, pressed uniforms, straight faces, eyes forward, and Mickey.
The instructor was infuriated.
For their many transgressions, the Capitan would assign penalty marches, at his command. The four always obeyed instantly, marching as instructed, including at one point into a tall hedge where they dutifully stomped and slogged, if I may borrow a word from the distinguished Mr. Rumsfeld, for several minutes until Capitan looked back and noticed. Alas and alack, the challenge of central planning!
Capitan went after them, apoplectic and screaming. The rest of us enjoyed the spectacle. At the time, I didn’t realize we were getting a lesson on combating intellectual terrorism.
It isn’t that difficult. You have to maintain a certain reality-based perspective, understand and accurately assess the enemy’s motivations and tactics, and if necessary, fight asymmetrically, never against their strengths and always their weaknesses. This would be the solution that Rumsfeld is looking for in the slog against terrorism — unfortunately he sent his memo to the wrong people. Under Secretary for Policy Feith and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, at least, are sure to return answers to Rumsfeld that have nothing to do with a U.S. foreign policy that is antagonistic, aggressive, and morally bankrupt, and everything to do with ways to increase the body count, and make the numbers look better.
Neoconservative strengths include tight intellectual conformity and ideological gatekeeping, dutifully ensured by ever-alert and defensive Frums, Kristols and Krauthammers. Neoconservatives are practiced masters of repetitive and imaginative storylines, fabrications, insinuations and name calling when it gets hot in the kitchen. Therefore in combating these strengths, we should be intellectually independent and challenging, open to ideas and perspectives than can help in the battles that lie ahead of us. We shouldn’t need storylines to repeat, just accurate information to share.
Name calling is not necessary, although it seems to be getting more difficult even to describe them honestly as adherents of Irving Kristol’s neoconservativism. They are correct to resist the label, I suppose, as neoconservativism is a misnomer of majestic proportions. Neo-Jacobinism is the name that fits far more accurately than neoconservative, as no rational person would define a "new" conservative as an advocate of perpetual war to promote abstract global morality through military imperialism, propped up by muscular national socialism at home.
Neoconservative weaknesses are far more interesting. The walls of the ideological lockbox within which they do their best work must seem to be falling in on them; enemies probing just outside the bars, and every visitor a potential Delilah. This paranoia makes our job not only easier, but entertaining as well. They are known for careful and long term strategizing, but in fact their long held strategies absent the energy of new perspectives and accurate information become quaint intellectual Maginot lines. Indeed, how very French of the neocons!
While self-assessed by the Perles and Cheneys and Kristols from within the intellectual lockbox, secure behind the Maginot line, as a strength — neoconservative willingness to sacrifice the lives of others to send messages is instead a fatal weakness. The ongoing investigation to determine which of the President’s loyalists committed the federal crime of leaking a NOC-listed agent, endangering her contacts overseas and at home, is significant. Not that the crime was done, but that it was done to send a message to a certain group of Americans who might speak out against neoconservative motivations and tactics in bringing this nation to war in Iraq, and future wars. 130,000 Americans in Iraq, an unnecessary percentage of whom are dying and being physically and mentally wounded at an unacceptable cost-benefit ratio, are also intended to send a message, this one to the rest of the world.
The new Jacobin’s willingness to offer other people’s lives and livelihoods as a blood sacrifice to an abstract but rapacious god of security-through-empire might be seen as a strength by some, but it is in fact the neoconservative’s greatest weakness.
In addition to building on the rock of truth, honesty and personal commitment to preserve America as a constitutional republic, at peace with the world and a model of real liberty, we should also put on our Mickey Mouse sunglasses and have a little more fun with these welterweight fascistas.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a recently retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley.