Ad Hominem?

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As part of the occasional series "Know Your Neocons," we have Max Boot on Monday’s edition of C-Span’s Washington Journal. It was quite informative.

Max was busy fending off a series of caller comments regarding the war-mongering and war-profiteering of neoconservatives in America. Max seems quite the reasonable man, but he refused to address a caller who asked why people around the world sometimes see Israel as a threat to peace in the region. Instead, he resorted to a cry of ad hominem.

By this he meant that callers complaining about neocons in Washington or neoconservative assumptions are simply "appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason." Why not acknowledge how 200 nukes and a very tough occupation might legitimately be considered a factor that detracts from the image of "liberalism and a beacon of regional democracy" that Max claims? There are several valid arguments that may be made, and Max could have made them, but he did not.

Never mind.

Max likes to discuss evil, as did several callers. Max says amorphous dictatorial evil like Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein must be addressed militarily, and now. This fight against evil, in all of its Manichean simplicity, gives powerful meaning to the wars sought by neoconservatives in the Bush Administration. Several callers, however, felt that evil was more accurately perceived as a beam in our own eye. Callers mentioned that Saddam’s purported WMD, if they existed at all, were the degraded residuals of our own sale and gifts of WMD to Saddam-the-ally over a decade ago. They mentioned the lies we used to justify the 2003 adventures in Mesopotamia. Callers mentioned the evil of institutional and executive disrespect of the Constitution, of our leaders failing "to seek peace and pursue it" and instead fomenting war, in the extreme and reckless waste of American taxpayer contributions, past-present-future, by George W. Bush and his minions. Max felt these were all ad hominem attacks, not appealing to logic or reason. Max apparently has a very narrow definition of logic and reason.

Max fended off a question about Richard Perle’s war profiteering, again, as an ad hominem insult against a major neoconservative. For future reference, Max, intellectuals like yourself who do not, I assume, personally profit from the current foreign policy of government subsidized contracts to rebuild what government funded destruction has wrought, ought to seriously consider putting some daylight between yourselves and profiteering neoconservatives like Richard Perle. If you can.

A Democrat calls up. He fully supports the war in Iraq as justified (even if started and continued ad nauseum on a foundation of lies and propaganda, devoid of reality on the ground or in the region). This caller advocates a "two-party system" for Iraq. Can you imagine? Max likes this idea. Iraq will be resolved and all will be well if we could just put in place a two-party system there. Kind of like the great two-party system we have today in America. The same two-party system that brought us the pre-emptive war against a fourth-class military power that did not threaten us, and Patriot Acts I and II at home to keep dissenters in line.

But there is hope — a female caller claims that Bush is really playing the man behind the green curtain, except the difference is that the Wizard of Oz meant no harm, and Bush does. She is a Wes Clark supporter, and she believes that Bush should be charged with treason. Hear, hear!

Max responds that treason is an unreasonable charge, because, thanks to the two/one party system we have, both houses of Congress supported Bush in this war. The argument that Max hopes we will follow is that it is unreasonable to charge both houses of Congress with treason. Actually, Max, it’s not unreasonable at all! You are, for this moment, approaching a clarity of perception worthy of your intellect.

Finally, Max brings up the alleged anti-Semitic aspect of those who criticize the neoconservative program. Earlier on the show, Max admitted that neocons are mainly present in Washington thinktanks and exist only as policy-makers, who neither have nor seek a domestic constituency, a neocon "voting bloc" so to speak. Yet, when people criticize or question the national "democracy" inherent in such a small, non-representative, and powerful policy making group, Max is very sensitive that we have ignored all the non-Jewish members of this policy bloc. Max mentions the virtuous gambler Bill Bennett, former Director of Central Intelligence under Bill Clinton, Jim Woolsey, and Catholic policy writer Rev. John Neuhaus.

Max failed to mention a far more substantive fact that separates neoconservatism from any of the great Semitic religions — Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Neoconservatism springs from a 1930s atheistic communist/Marxist-leaning world revolution movement transformed throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s by a Cold War—driven domestic agenda, and crowned by the current global military ascendance of the United States. Neoconservatives indeed have a religious bent, but it’s not monotheistic in the tradition of the great religions. If neoconservatism has a religious aspect, it may be found in its general anti-traditionalist roots, or perhaps in its apparent worship of several lesser gods. Gods of unilateral power and this idea of a holy American-enforced "democracy" spread all over the world come to mind. There are probably other idols that animate neo-cons in the privacy of their own minds, but I don’t want to go ad hominem on good old Max.

Neoconservatism, Max, is a historical pinprick. It rose on the wings of domestic tactical success in America only to be foiled by its remarkable ability to create foreign and domestic policy disaster after disaster. These disasters include falsely justified invasions and occupations of other countries, as well as the profligate Bennett-ese gambling away of this nation’s assets, in blood and treasure. Our immediate political future looks to be one of painful, at times violent and angry, recovery from the neoconservative era. An era that, logically, reasonably, and thankfully, is at the cusp of its sorry existence.

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.

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