PURGING THE NEOCONS January 6, 2004 by Joe Sobran Did you know that the word "neoconservative" -- often shortened to "neocon" -- is an ethnic slur? Neither did I, but some, er, conservative pundits have set me straight. David Brooks of the NEW YORK TIMES says of "the people labeled neocons" that "con is short for 'conservative' and neo is short for 'Jewish.'" So when other people call these people "neocons," you see, they're really calling them Jews, which for some reason is anti-Semitic. This must come as a surprise to Irving Kristol, who long ago cheerfully, indeed proudly, accepted the term. Though Jewish himself, he never suggested that you had to be Jewish to be a neocon. His Irish friend Daniel Patrick Moynihan was also called a neocon in those days, as are a number of other notable non-Jews today. Kristol is still known as "the godfather of neoconservatism" and in a famous bon mot defined a neoconservative as "a liberal who has been mugged by reality." The neocons were known for a qualified skepticism about the welfare state, though, unlike traditional conservatives, they accepted it in principle. Kristol wanted to ditch a lot of conservative baggage about limited government, the free market, and the U.S. Constitution. Nothing particularly Jewish about all that. (Kristol's son William, by the way, is also a leading neocon.) So what's the problem? Well, the neocons broadly agreed with conservatives about foreign policy. They were anti-Communist and wanted an activist, some would say aggressive, U.S. foreign policy. And a lot of them, many of whom happened to be Jewish, especially wanted the United States to fight Israel's enemies. In the last few years, "neocon" has become synonymous with these particular neocons, though it's perfectly possible to adopt the neocon philosophy in principle without being either Jewish or pro-Israel. In the real world, people can't help noticing that a pro-Israel faction has come to dominate the neocon movement. To say this, however, is to court the charge of bigotry. I like to define a bigot as "one who practices sociology without a license." There are certain social realities which it behooves one to discuss in euphemisms and circumlocutions. To talk about them bluntly is bigotry; to talk about them in academic lingo may be permissible. Raising alarms about neocon influence is sometimes also called "a new form of McCarthyism." But of course lots of things -- hundreds, would be a safe estimate -- have been branded "a new form of McCarthyism," including any observation that communists and their sympathizers actually did infiltrate the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The real Joe McCarthy rose to prominence by affirming, none too academically, not only that there were Reds under the bed, but that a lot of them were *in* the bed with their pinko friends. This forced liberals to make sure that they kept a careful distance from Stalin's little helpers, who had infiltrated the liberal movement and often hid behind liberal "fronts." The Reds often found liberal causes handy for their own purposes. Is there a lesson here for the neocons? I think so. Like the liberals of yore, they have carelessly allowed their movement to be infiltrated by Zionist partisans and agents who have brought suspicion on all of them. And just as the liberals of McCarthy's day had to purge Communists from their ranks in order to preserve their good name, it's up to patriotic American neocons -- surely the great majority -- to weed out the Israel-firsters among them. At stake is the good name of the neoconservative philosophy. It would be a disaster to its principles for the general public to get the false impression that those principles are nothing but a "front" for agents of a foreign power who want to trick us into wars against our own interests. Any genuine political philosophy can stand on its own feet. It must never be reduced to any particular interest if it is to have a broad appeal to ordinary people. The exposure of people calling themselves "neocons" (or taking shelter behind the label) as chums of the Israeli Likud threatens to discredit all the truly principled neoconservatives, who must now show that they represent a universal creed, not a narrow sect. Otherwise, neoconservatives may find themselves once again mugged by reality. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/columns/2004/040106.shtml". Copyright (c) 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate, www.griffnews.com. This column may not be published in print or Internet publications without express permission of Griffin Internet Syndicate. You may forward it to interested individuals if you use this entire page, including the following disclaimer: "SOBRAN'S and Joe Sobran's columns are available by subscription. For details and samples, see http://www.sobran.com/e-mail.shtml, write PR@griffnews.com, or call 800-513-5053."