Do you want to know why President George W. Bush’s focus on the war against terror was redirected to war against Iraq and the Muslim Middle East? Read Professor Claes G. Ryn’s new book, America the Virtuous: Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire.
Professor Ryn is a learned, insightful, and courageous scholar who ably explains the ideas that are destroying our country.
These ideas are the property of neo-Jacobins. Professor Ryn calls the ideas u201Ca recipe for conflict and perpetual war.u201D Neo-Jacobins are known to Americans as neoconservatives, a clever euphemism behind which hides a gang of radicals who stand outside of, and opposed to, the American tradition. The US has been subverted from within as these counterfeit conservatives hold the reins of power in the Bush administration.
Professor Ryn shows that Jacobins have not a drop of conservative blood in their veins. For example, the Jacobins’ concept of morality is abstract and ahistorical. It is a morality that is divorced from the character of individuals and the traditions of a people.
Jacobins are seduced by power. The foundation of their abstract morality is their fantastic claim to a monopoly on virtue. Secure in their belief in their monopoly on virtue, Jacobins are prepared to use force to impose virtue on other societies and to reconstruct other societies in the Jacobin image.
Jacobin society is a centralized one that subordinates individuals and their liberties to abstract virtues. In short, it is an ideological society imbued with assurance of moral superiority that justifies its dominance over others, including its own citizens.
Virtue gives Jacobins a mandate to rule the world in order to improve it. Opposed to the American Republic that is based in traditional morality and limits on power, the Jacobin agenda is to remake America into an empire capable of imposing virtue on the world.
Jacobin morality is divorced from moral character, personal conduct, and treatment of others. Jacobin morality expresses itself in benevolent sentiments toward abstract entities. Human lives and cultural diversity mean nothing compared to u201Cmaking the world safe for democracyu201D and u201Cliberating women from the Muslim yoke.u201D Jacobin morality seeks to achieve a uniform unipolar world.
Possessed of an unrelenting will to power, the Jacobins in the Bush administration, together with their media allies, seized the opportunity afforded by September 11 to meld America’s nationalistic response to terrorism with the Jacobin ideological agenda. Once Americans associated invading foreign countries (Afghanistan) with the u201Cwar on terror,u201D Jacobins shifted the u201Cterrorist threatu201D to Iraq. Now they are working to shift it to Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. Next will be Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The Jacobin agenda requires large numbers of American troops and heavy taxation to support massive military budgets. It means the return of the draft.
It also explains why Jacobins are unconcerned with our own country’s porous borders while they seek to control Middle Eastern borders. The hordes of young Mexicans pouring into the US are a convenient source of cannon fodder, just as President Lincoln redirected the flow of Irish immigrants in his day into the Union Army.
Jacobins are dangerous because they lack historical understanding and rely on abstract righteousness to impose ideological unity. Their drive for like-mindedness implies coercion, the gulag and the Orwellian state. The Jacobin agenda means the end of Western civilization.
Professor Ryn shows that Jacobins are lost in abstractions and do not appreciate or understand Western civilization as a human achievement resulting from centuries of struggle to create moral character. Self-restraint, empathy, and mutual respect are necessary for pluralistic societies. However, such genuine virtues have no role in the uniform Jacobin state.
It is difficult to quibble when Professor Ryn writes that u201Cmonopolistic ideological universalism that scorns historically formed societies is a potential source of unending war and great disasters.u201D Professor Ryn reports that many Americans, including conservatives, find aspects of the Jacobin message attractive without understanding where it leads. The Jacobin quest for American world supremacy appeals to nationalistic patriots, to macho types whose response to September 11 is to u201Ckick butt,u201D to people fearful of terrorist plots, to global business and financial interests, to do-gooders anxious to spread democracy and women’s rights, and to people who enjoy power and success vicariously like fans of champion sports teams.
Jacobins are to be found among both political parties and among both u201Cconservativeu201D and u201Cliberalu201D columnists. As a result of conservative befuddlement, Jacobins now control the formerly conservative media, foundations and think tanks, and they occupy most of the putatively u201Cconservativeu201D posts in universities.
Professor Ryn acknowledges that he is alerting us to the Jacobin threat late in the game. Jacobins use their power and influence to suppress dissent. Jacobin ends justify Jacobin means. Thus, lies, deception, and manipulation cause Jacobins no shame.
As Professor Ryn observes, ambition unchecked by intellectual humility and moral self-control is the source of tyranny.
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.