The conspiracy narrows
The search for a secret cabal running the government continues. First it was the neoconservatives. Then it was, more specifically, Jewish neoconservatives. Now, according to the New York Times, it’s Straussian neoconservatives: To intellectual-conspiracy theorists, the Bush administration’s foreign policy is entirely a Straussian creation. Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, has been ...
The search for a secret cabal running the government continues. First it was the neoconservatives. Then it was, more specifically, Jewish neoconservatives. Now, according to the New York Times, it's Straussian neoconservatives:
The search for a secret cabal running the government continues. First it was the neoconservatives. Then it was, more specifically, Jewish neoconservatives. Now, according to the New York Times, it’s Straussian neoconservatives:
To intellectual-conspiracy theorists, the Bush administration’s foreign policy is entirely a Straussian creation. Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, has been identified as a disciple of Strauss; William Kristol, founding editor of The Weekly Standard, a must-read in the White House, considers himself a Straussian; Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, an influential foreign policy group started by Mr. Kristol, is firming in the Strauss camp. The Bush administration is rife with Straussians. In addition to Mr. Wolfowitz, there is his associate Richard N. Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board and the managing partner in Trireme Partners, a venture-capital company heavily invested in manufacturers of technology for homeland security and defense. Mr. Perle and Mr. Wolfowitz are both disciples of the late Albert Wohlstetter, a Straussian professor of mathematics and military strategist who put forward the idea of “graduated deterrence” — limited, small-scale wars fought with “smart” precision-guided bombs.
This is pretty weak stuff. In the end, you have one genuine Straussian devotee — Wolfowitz — in the government. The rest — Perle, Kristol, Schmitt — may be intellectual forces to be reckoned with, but none of them hold a position in the Bush administration (Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board last month). These myriad variations of the same conspiracy story are growing tedious. Bob Lieber does a nice job of demolishing them in a Chronicle of Higher Education essay. The key grafs:
More to the point, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice are among the most experienced, tough-minded, and strong-willed foreign-policy makers in at least a generation, and the conspiracy theory fails utterly to take into account their own assessments of American grand strategy in the aftermath of 9/11. The theory also wrongly presumes that Bush himself is an empty vessel, a latter-day equivalent of Czarina Alexandra, somehow fallen under the influence of Wolfowitz/Rasputin. Condescension toward Bush has been a hallmark of liberal and leftist discourse ever since the disputed 2000 presidential election, and there can be few readers of this publication who have not heard conversations about the president that did not begin with offhand dismissals of him as “stupid,” a “cowboy,” or worse. Partisanship aside, the president has shown himself to be independent and decisive, able to weigh competing advice from his top officials before deciding how to act. In August of last year, for example, he sided with Secretary of State Powell over the initial advice of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Cheney in opting to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. Powell’s own February 5 speech to the Security Council was a compelling presentation of the administration’s case against Iraq, and well before the outbreak of the war, Powell made clear his view that the use of force had become unavoidable.
Sigh. What Lieber says is pretty damn obvious, but it’s depressing that it needs to be constantly repeated. I miss the good old days of conspiracy-mongering, when the Trilateral Commission was supposed to be running things. Those readers expecting me — as a member of the very same political science department as Strauss — to comment further on the Straussian angle will be disappointed. No, it’s not because someone got to me. It’s because this is all ancient history to me, and since I’m not a political theorist, I have little incentive to keep up on Strauss’ legacy. Hopefully, Jacob Levy will be able to post a comment or two. I’m sure Andrew Sullivan, a Straussian-once-removed (read the Times piece for an explanation) will post something on this in the near future. (UPDATE: He has — you need to scroll down a little)
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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