The Neocon Credo In a Nutshell

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"The view that 9/11 ‘changed everything’ did not hold up under the weight of our politics."

This is the quintessential neocon dialectic, the Hegelian revolt against reality, succinctly stated by the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, Deputy to editor Paul Gigot.

They are both nice guys, but this is dead wrong.

Advocates of the dialectic insist that reality can change, and that, after an apocalyptic event like 9-11, reality should change.

That explains why the Constitution, the separation of powers, the primacy of Congress, the limits on governmental power, and the danger of the lust for power are all dismissed by the neocons as passé.

Like Marx, they consign everything that went before 9-11 to an earlier historical stage, which has now given way to a new reality with new truths (which they know, but which we do not yet know — that is, to them has been revealed the gnostic secret that we cannot understand, and, therefore, that must be forced upon us in our ignorance. As Rousseau, their hero, lovingly put it, “they must be forced to be free.” Or, as they put it in Big Brother’s Ministry of Love, “Room 101!!”).

Eric Voegelin underscored the critical insight of novelist Robert Musil (Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften/The Man Without Qualities): the ideologue rebels against reality and creates a “second reality” in which he is allowed to turn the world upside down. The creator and inhabitant of this “Second Reality” can literally defy the laws of nature, because there are no longer any immutable laws — except, of course, power. And, in Mao’s pithy phrase, “power flows from the barrel of a gun.”

Once the neocons throw those "old truths" of a bygone era into the dustbin of history, what are the "new" truths that must now govern the new, neocon reality? It’s quite simple: they include the Manichaean goodness and messianic mission of America; the nobility and primacy of neocon goals and methods to represent best that goodness; the self-evident superiority of the neocons as the most desirable group to accomplish the mission; and the abiding ignorance of those who cling to historical forms (e.g., the Founders, Christian Revelation, tradition, actual history) that went before.

Now, here lies the neocon dialectical contradiction: the neocon can defy Aristotle’s fundamental metaphysical principle that underlies all reality and language. Remember that? A is A. A is not non-A.

For the neocon, Aristotle can take a hike. Two opposing realities can co-exist in their Second Reality. First, 9-11 has changed everything. Second, if 9-11 hasn’t changed everything yet, then we [neocons] must be given the power to make everything change according to our vision of the new reality. This is precisely the same dilemma faced by Karl Marx, dilemmas which Lenin and Stalin resolved by pickaxes in the head in Colonia Polanco and bullets in the back of the neck in the basement of the Lubayanka. Their successors faced it when their totalitarian "Second Reality" finally collapsed in the face of the incorrigible facts of the real world and fallen human nature.

Mr. Henninger sputters that it’s our imperfect politics that will not allow this magical transformation to take place. No, Mr. Henninger, it is the reality of our fallen nature and the fact that "all men are created equal" that prevents it. No neocon claims to the possession of a raised consciousness can change that.

So here’s the rewrite: "The view that 9/11 ‘changed everything’ did not hold up under the weight of reality."

Christopher Manion Archives

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