Re: The Neocon Label

by Jonah Goldberg

Jon – I agree that Brooks kind of mails it in today. He seems to be blending two or three different arguments he’s made in the past. I don’t think Neo means Jewish and I think Brooks was kind of making a joke when he wrote it. But Drum is practicing some pretty serious hackdom himself when he freelances that the Neoconservatives made up the term. If he was remotely familiar with the intellectual history of neoconservatism he certainly wouldn’t need to read your no doubt excellent senior essay. This basic fact is mentioned in pretty much every published book and essay ever written on the subject. As Seymour Martin Lipset put it, the term neocon “was invented as an invidious label to undermine political opponents, most of whom have been unhappy with being so described.”

Moreover, Drum writes:

I’m mystified. Neocons exist, they have a fair amount of influence in current political discourse, and it is not simply another word for “Jew.” What’s more, this is all out in the open, in the same way that you might say that “DLC Democrats” had some influence in the Clinton White House but are looking kind of ragged lately. Just the normal ups and downs of political factions.
This strikes me as more than bit misleading. Sure it’s not “simply another word for ‘Jew.’” But it is very often a word for Jew. That is certainly how Pat Buchanan often uses it. It is also how the Arab press uses it. And the French press. And often the BBC. And Chris Matthews. And the increasing Jew-obsessed Michael Lind. And piles of average American leftists who think these sources are authoritative.

Lastly, as I wrote at length in my, alas, epic trilogy on neocons, I would love for a critic of the neocons to give me a serviceable definition of what one is. A few self-described neocons — Irving Kristol, Max Boot, Adam Wolfson — are invested in imbuing neocons with a lot more meaning than I believe it has in part because they are leaders of what they see as the distinct political faction Drum’s talking about. But on specific public policy issues, I am at a loss to understand what exactly neocons believe to the exclusion of plain old conservatives. And spare me the B.S. dichotomy of “neos” versus the mini-busload of “paleo” blood and soil socialists and isolationists Pat Buchanan claims to represent.

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