Neocons Keep Feeding the Goats

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From time to time, my old boss, Jesse Helms, God rest him, used to give real stemwinders full of stuff that no speechwriter ever could have dreamed of. "Sometimes you gotta feed the goats, son," he explained. "Gotta give ‘em goat food."

The neocons apparently have a "goat food" menu to which they repair in times of need.

A recent instance caught my attention because it resurrects that old neocon favorite, the "Bush-haters." Note the immediate attempt to reduce the opponent’s position to a passion, and a sinful one at that — an evil movement of the will. It was cute once, however tawdry, however shopworn, however self-congratulatory — and those sentiments pervade the piece. Why, we neocon lovers might even have a "decent outcome" in Iraq, trumpets Mark Goldblatt, if we can just ignore morality and the Constitution. (Let us not address the decency of the past seven years, just the outcome: here Goldblatt embraces the fatal moral flaw of consequentialism, but he isn’t finished). He disses the Constitution — routine with the left-righties — and embraces the UN (Hey, I thought John Bolton said the UN was bad. Oh, only when we don’t like it?). Notably, he says that Abe Lincoln and FDR were worse than Bush — but he says it only to embellish Bush’s crimes, not to sully those extra-Constitutional characters. (Tom DiLorenzo, call your office! The American Spectator agrees with you!)

The tipoff comes with this beauty: "Like every war before it, the war on terror (or, to call it what it is, the war against totalitarian Islam) is a nasty, brutish endeavor. It is fraught with obscene excesses and squalid idiocies because, like every war before it, it looses the primordial evils of tribalism and bloodlust to which the human race, even at its current stage of evolution, remains heir."

Here, Goldblatt lets the cat out of the bag. He embraces, in one paragraph, Hobbes, Darwin, and Marx. Quite a feat? Undoubtedly — but absolutely essential for the left-right war apologists. With Hobbes, he rejects morality in war, because Hobbes’s "war of all against all" absolved every crime, and eradicated every moral standard, in the name of self-preservation. So for Hobbes, the Leviathan — "a mortal god" — was just the ticket. Goldblatt is evidently ignorant of the provenance of his own principles — because Hobbes’s Leviathan doesn’t have to be moral either. His word is law, and he can change his mind on a whim (hey, so can Allah! We might be on to something here!).

The "war against totalitarian Islam" absolves "us" (the government, of course), as Hobbes does, from any constitutional or moral limits on our actions. Since war makes us all barbarians, Goldblatt has, for all practical purposes, placed the conduct of the war outside the realm of prudential morality (and barred moral and Constitutional criticism). And the prohibition is permanent, because the war will last until our grandchildren’s generation, as Dick Cheney often reminds us, and, if it’s actually a war against evil, or madmen, as President Bush has put it, well, it’s going to last until the Second Coming. Goldblatt even borrows Hobbes’s language to make his point more emphatically: the war against Islam is "a nasty, brutish endeavor," but, unlike Hobbes, it is not short: so we’re not in Hobbes’s State of Nature any more, but under our own private Leviathan. The Leviathan then authorizes himself, and us (under orders, of course) to act like barbarians, even though Goldblatt admits that what he advocates is dehumanizing. (How Clintonesque: Hey, so what??!! )

After channeling Hobbes, Goldblatt next embraces Darwin, because, "war looses the primordial evils of tribalism and bloodlust to which the human race, even at its current stage of evolution." Well, that must make it OK. Note that "tribalism" — which entails pre-modern, non-Democratic, family-based arrangements, prevails in Arab societies (as it has as in most societies throughout the world since ancient times), so it must be bad. Clearly democracy is superior, and exporting democracy is today the very tip of the spear of evolution — especially when you export it by force. Well, we’re talking about "survival of the fittest," after all. Founders, roll over.

Once we embrace Goldblatt’s principles, we are launched into a new stage of history beyond good and evil, beyond Christendom and Western Civilization, where everything is permitted (see Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov) because, after all, war calls up from the depths what is worst in us. (The Founders certainly recognized that temptation — but not that certainty. Maybe that’s why they insisted that Congress, and not just any single elected leader, should declare war. Why? Because Congress is closest to the virtuous people of Federalist 57.)

And what about Marx? He’s actually very helpful here. Of course we’re absolved for lowering ourselves to barbarian behavior in war because the war — the "class struggle" that explains away any given conflict of the day — is permanent. Anyway, for Marx, we act like barbarians because 1) we can’t help it — we are trapped in the bourgeois consciousness, and we have no free will; 2) because human nature is materialist, since we cannot control ourselves morally, and must suspend even the pretense of morality in war, because victory is everything; and 3) because of contradiction, the beautiful tool of the dialectic that allows the rhetorical "ideals" of democracy to float around as thought they were principles rooted in metaphysical reality, when in fact there isn’t any metaphysical reality, only power, and winning or losing the war that — oops — will never be won, or lost, by definition (viz. Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution). Isn’t contradiction wonderful?

Goldblatt also follows Marx’s endearing style of invective, honed in the 1840s when the Left-Hegelians launched a lot more vituperation at each other than they ever did at the evil bourgeoisie. That makes sense, though, because their common leftism was nothing but an apology for totalitarian power, without the limits of natural law or the moral law, and so is Goldblatt’s. In addition, of course, Goldblatt throws in the "Spott" — that exquisite German term for high contempt. It spares him (he hopes) the duty of speaking rationally. Being irrational himself, Goldblatt projects, in self-defense: it’s really the "Bush-haters [who] are blind" — deprived of rationality, by assertion.

Like Bush, who insists that he will be vindicated by history, even though he is repudiated by a majority of today’s Americans, Goldblatt is a prophet: “Bush will eventually be ranked with Lincoln and Roosevelt among our greatest presidents — for the very reason that he championed American values. Bush-haters, in turn, will join the long ranks of history’s laughingstocks.” Now, eight paragraphs ago, Goldblatt just said that Bush wasn’t as bad as Lincoln and FDR — now he tells us that someday he will be considered as good as Lincoln and FDR! Leon Trotsky, call your office! Isn’t the dialectic wonderful? The goats must feel a lot better now.

And that’s a wrap, folks, way over there in Neoconville. That’s the dialectic for you. Goldblatt’s "eventually" is required, of course, so Darwin can do his work and smarter people — who will apparently agree with Bush and Goldblatt — start showing up in future centuries.

In the meantime, speaking of "laughingstock," let’s look at the real world. I wonder what Mr. Goldblatt would make of the views of today’s Republicans: "House Republican leader rips Bush," reports The Hill:

"Republican House Policy Committee Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) told fellow GOP lawmakers and staff that u2018Beijing George’ was tossing his party’s lawmakers "under the bone dry bus." [Which one is the barbarian, Mr. Goldblatt?] Today, in his final term, the wildly unpopular President George W. Bush boarded Air Force One bound for the Beijing Olympics and a meeting with his chum Hu Jintao, the dapper ruler of a nuclear armed, communist dictatorship,’ railed the Republican leader."

Well, evolution will no doubt take care of Mr. McCotter — unless Goldblatt and his barbarians get him first.

Christopher Manion Archives

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