My first encounter with the neoconservatives of today came at youth programs of the Ethical Culture Society of New York when I first came to America. Since then, one might say, we grew from adolescence to old age together. First and foremost, it must be realized that the term neoconservative was a designated pejorative put upon them by fellow liberals in order to indicate their expulsion from liberalism’s left ranks. Much has been made by Michael Lind of the Trotsyist beginnings of many of its founders. That is quite true, but it goes far further back to WWII disillusion with Stalinism by youths seeking an identity in a nation of Anglo-Saxons that would not accept them.
Yet, the issue during WWII was that Stalin had his “Jews” and FDR his; the question was where would the preponderance of them go. Stalin lost, hence his rather aggressive attitude towards FDR in his last days and towards Truman. Our most effective Cold Warriors were indeed Jews working form the ranks of government and labor. Stalin’s beginning of yet another pogrom in his last days should make clear that he saw Jews as pro-American, despite the Zionist sympathies he had cultivated. The “Old Left”– as the “New Left” later called it, was marked by last ditch efforts to stick with the Bolshevik class war with America, despite Stalin’s anti-semitism. The AFofL-CIO provided many Jewish leftists a home where they could fight for humanitarian labor causes while maintaining their Bolshevik revolutionary elan fighting AGAINST Communism. After 1956, the liberal-left Jewish “we can get along” attitude towards the USSR served their American civil rights emphasis. But, as Khrushchev chose to side with the Arab nationalists and Palestinians, the young future neoconservatives (a small fraction of the Jewish population) began their drift into a complex contradictory position of “New Left” socialist student revolutionaries while supporting Zionist nationalism and expansion by force of arms. I recall the peculiar character of debate in mid-1960s UC Berkeley, wherein the vituperative criticism of the “neo-imperialism” of “Amerika” was not to be allowed to extend to US support of Israel. Our guns, in other words, were evil in the struggle against Communist expansionism but highly moral in our support of Israel. It is this contradiction which Bill Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom played on to discredit the Jewish left’s opposition to our Vietnam War.
Amongst many left Jews a rude awakening occurred– well chronicled in Judy Klinghoffer’s THE JEWISH STAKE IN VIETNAM– when in 1967 it was realized that Moscow considered the Middle East a “second front” in the global struggle. It is then that many leftist Jews jumped to the right of the Democrat Party. Also, a number of long time liberal Wilsonians who had supported the LBJ-Meany global struggle against Communism with a ferocious energy, now were ready to support abandonment of Vietnam so that America would be free to focus on the Middle East. Ironically, Nixon had independently recognized during the 1967 June War that America’s involvement in Vietnam made it incapable of defending Euro-American oil interests in the Middle East. He favored a quick-fix resolution of the Vietnam War through “linkage” and a more vigorous defense of the Western stake in the Middle East. This led to a more favorable view of him by many Jewish liberals, abandoning their long tradition of hating “Tricky Dick.” However, they did not abandon Humphrey in the 1968 election. It is only when Nixon squeaked in as President and chose to model domestic affairs after Prof. Moynehan, that they saw a way of marrying their hawkish foreign policy perspective with their liberal domestic agenda, under Nixon’s tent. The candidacy of McGovern in 1972 drove them fully (though secretly) into the Nixon Camp, given McGovern insistence on even-handedness in the Middle East. One more critical item was the effort of “Soviet Jewery Inc.” to mobilize a massive campaign to force the Red Bloc into permitting massive Jewish migration to Israel in order to balance the very large Arab population Israel had inherited after its 1967 conquests. Israel needed people, and the claim of anti-semitism was deemed the best way to mobilize support. Of course, the long time black allies of the civil rights struggle were expected to vigorously jump in. When they refused, an anti-black feeling exploded, reciprocated by the submerged anti-Jewish feeling of urban blacks of the North. This latter sentiment was quickly exploited by Arab assets and funs, generating strong anti-Zionist feelings amongst many sectors of the black population.
What unleashed, as chronicled in the excellent book TORN BY THE ROOTS, is a powerful popular Jewish conservatism, distinct from the left-liberalism of national rabbinical leaderships. This has brought great political and financial power to the neoconservatives at the very time when the funding of the conservative movements from corporate Mongols was drying up. The Reagan victory allowed much Jewish money and support to keep alive otherwise moribund conservative organizations and publications. With the end of the Cold War, the foreign policy right was rendered moot by the conservative tendency towards domestic issues. Here the bankrolling by neo–conservatism’s sympathizers brought a new guard in the right, much of it Jewish. Though vociferous on issues of race relations and culture, these neoconservatives prefer involvement in security and foreign policy issues– the “big stuff” that does not require much dealing with minutia but rather lends itself to ideological personalization…such as the New Republic’s Sullivan’s reference to “Europe feels that…”
9/11 created a vacuum in the know-how of the Bush defense and diplomatic bureaucracy, one that Zionists and the Likud rulers of Israel were quite familiar with. That has enabled them to greatly influence US policies. The neoconservatives, already muddled in their Americanistic primacy by their equally strong Zionism, served as a conduit for the Israeli right into the White House. Before 9/11, Sharon was seen by the Bush team as something of an unsavory character. But 9/11 changed all that, and the neoconservatives put their laboriously forged ties with the despised Christian right to work, forming a radical flank to neo–isolationist American conservatism. None of this would have worked had Clinton not put America’s global position on hold for eight years. The neoconservative argument about how much damage Clinton had done to America’s “unique [post-Cold War] moment” really caught on in Republican circles and allowed the neoconservatives to impose ideological arguments upon America’s frightened leadership. Doing to alQaeda what Sharon was doing to the Palestinians felt right. It was from there an easy jump through Israeli intelligence dis-information to an attack of Iraq, particularly in light of the unfinished job of Bush Sr. (unfinished because in that way Bush got the war paid for by the Arabs and could form a most desirable coalition with them).
Bush Jr. failed to note the open ended “black hole” into which he was allowing the neoconservatives to drive him. By the time his Secretary of State irrevocably told him that he had had enough (last weekend), Bush realized that he had allowed himself to be dragged where he could not afford to go. So now appeals went out to Bush Sr. to provide moderate staff that can undo the influence of the neoconservatives. This will be reflected in the crushing firmness with which Bush will be imposing the road map on Sharon. The era of neoconservative “influence”– not domination– of Bush has come to an end with Powell’s irreversible private announcement last week of his plans to abandon Bush.
The writer is a Vietnam war foe of Left but very impressed with logic of its case on Mideast…which he acted in as participant in events and journalist since 1967. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from New York, USA.