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Neo No More 

by Robert Herold & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & P & lt;/span & aul Berman's recent book review titled, "Neo No More," refers to Francis Fukuyama's new book, America at the Crossroads. Seems that Fukuyama has jumped off the "Neo-Con" boat. The author of The End of History and The Last Man and darling of the movement finally had it when his longtime political soul mate, Charles Krauthammer, called America's efforts in Iraq "an unqualified success."


Fukuyama worried all along that the invasion was going to be "a gamble with unacceptably long odds." The post-invasion Rumsfeld Follies lengthened the odds. Then, Fukuyama writes, the "White House decided to ignore any useful lesson the Clinton administration might have learned in Bosnia and Kosovo, on the grounds that whatever Bill Clinton did -- for example, conduct a successful intervention -- George W. Bush wanted to do the opposite."


Fukuyama lays much of the responsibility on the University of Chicago-trained disciples or followers of conservative philosopher Leo Strauss. Now a small army of intellectuals, these "Straussians" continue to wield great influence inside the Bush administration. I refer to the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Richard Perle, and present U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. The segue into circles of governmental power for these intellectuals was provided by another Strauss advocate, Albert Wohlstetter, whose career moved from the Santa Monica think tank RAND through the University of Chicago and east to the CIA.


Fukuyama isn't the first writer to see these connections. In her wonderfully illuminating book titled Leo Strauss and the American Empire, Anne Norton -- in her undergraduate years a student of Joseph Cropsey, who was a student and then colleague of Leo Strauss -- takes on her fellow "Straussians" for their arrogance, narrow-mindedness, and pejorative misuse of the term "modern" ("almost everything since the sixteenth century," as one of my Gonzaga colleagues puts it). She further calls attention to their secretiveness, obsession with codes, and even downright meanness directed towards those who are considered to be "sell-outs," i.e., people with whom they disagree. Norton too sees Wohlstetter as the person who conducted the Chicago crowd from the ivy-covered walls into the hallways of power in Washington, D.C. Wohlstetter is criticized by both Fukuyama and Norton as the academic who supported the tactical use of nuclear weapons. He is characterized as the Straussians' very own Dr. Stangelove -- recall that the movie's subtitle was "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love the Bomb" -- and they see in him the impulse to build an American empire.


But here, I think, both Fukuyama and Norton become a tad too neat. And if too neat here, maybe elsewhere as well. As for making the case supporting the tactical use of nuclear weapons, during the '50s and into the '60s, Albert Wohlstetter was hardly alone. Actually, I believe it was none other than Henry Kissinger who first made the case. Then, in 1960, Herman Kahn "thought unthinkable thoughts," in his monumental study, On Thermonuclear War, in which he not only considered the tactical use of nuclear weapons but performed what can only be called a microanalysis of any possible nuclear exchange. He concluded, by the way, that under certain circumstances, you could have a clear winner.


And what else might Fukuyama and Norton have missed? While the University of Chicago graduates, most obviously acolytes of Leo Strauss, have emerged during the Bush years, if you go back to previous Democratic administrations, I believe you can find the same predominance of academics from Harvard, a school that long before Chicago served as a conduit into government service. Indeed, schools of thought packaged and acted upon by intellectuals have influenced government since the beginnings of the republic. Historian Garry Wills, in his study of the Declaration of Independence, calls attention to the importance of the Hamilton-Madison-Jefferson intellectual nexus. Hamilton went to Columbia, Madison to Princeton, and Jefferson to William and Mary. But more importantly, professors with whom these men studied, most especially Jefferson, were influenced by a very few philosophers which we identify with the "Scottish Enlightenment." Indeed, particular "schools of thought" have always dominated. During the Keynesian rage, I doubt you could get a job in an college economics department if you were a monetarist.


Depending on one's viewpoint, "Straussians" are regarded as either the keepers of the faith and the Western Canon or obnoxious, narrow-minded academics fixed in time. And for the past two decades, they have dominated public debate. But the problem isn't the dominance of their ideas and arguments. Rather it is the lack of new ideas and critical thought. No one made the case more clearly for the New Deal (or more eloquently) than Harvard's John Kenneth Galbraith. And it was during the Truman administration that Ambassador George Kennan, wrote his famous "long telegram" which made the case for containment -- a doctrine that defined American foreign policy for the next 40 years. Neither would agree with the neo-cons of today. But where are today's Galbraiths and Kennans?


Henry Kissinger, whom we associate with the balance-of-power and spheres-of-influence schools of thought, and who remains the symbol of immorality to the neo-conservatives, argues in his new book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, that these people are hopelessly naive and that if they do not come to grips with international reality they will squander America's brief window of global dominance.


Most ironic and revealing, if you ask me.
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