“You are what I call a meso-conservative, a paleo on domestic policy (esp. immigration) and a neo on foreign policy. How do like the compromise?”
Here is my reply:
A Meso-Con! That’s interesting, as I do see myself as between the neocons and the paleocons, rejecting the ideological universalism of the former and the ideological particularism of the latter.
However, I don’t completely agree with your description of me. I have consistently supported the neocon position on war with Iraq. I have also consistently criticized the neocons’ overall “democratist” agenda in foreign policy, particularly their ridiculously simple-minded assumption that, because everyone wants to avoid being oppressed and wants good things for their children, therefore everyone in the world is the same, and ready for American-style democracy. The assumption of essential sameness among human beings, based on what is really a very partial and superficial sameness, is what drives both the neocons’s open-borders policy and their “democratize the world” policy.
This does not mean I am necessarily against a broader campaign to change the Muslim countries. That part of the world currently represents a very dire threat to us and the whole world. Closing them out of the U.S. through immigration restrictions (and deportations) is essential in my view, but that wouldn’t end the threat. Therefore I do not dismiss arguments such as Michael Ledeen’s (even though I oppose his underlying ideology of “creative destruction” and “democratic revolution”) that the only way to end the terrorist jihadist menace is to topple the regimes that support it. This doesn’t have to mean war in each case, but effective political action to isolate and delegitimize those regimes while giving support to opposition groups. This is not because I want us to be involved there,—I regret and hate the whole business—but because there is an objective threat in the real world that we cannot ignore.
What could reasonably be expected to replace those regimes, as in Iraq, I haven’t the foggiest. I am appalled by the insouciance with which neocons keep talking about “democracy” this, “democracy” that. However, Secretary Rumsfeld writing in the Wall Street Journal, while making rhetorical bows to “democracy,” when he gets to his list of particulars does not talk about political democracy for Iraq at all, but of a decent, stable, non-terrorist regime that protects its people.
But getting back to the more general question of conservative typology, I call myself a traditionalist conservative or a traditionalist. What traditionalism means is an adherence to our particular culture, particularly as a vehicle and embodiment of transcendent truth; and to transcendent truth, particularly as it is expressed through our particular culture. Traditionalism is both universalist, in that it sees each individual as a moral agent and potential knower of universal truth, and particularist, in that it recognizes, insofar as man’s life in society is concerned, that such truth can only be fully realized by being embodied in, and experienced through, the actual form and history of a particular culture.
By contrast, the paleoconservatives make a cult of our particularism to the point of denying universal truth; and the neoconservatives make a cult of universalism to the point of denying particularist truth.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 27, 2003 12:06 PM | Send
Taking the same positions as Mr. Auster, I’ve long called myself an eclecticon. I think a name that recalls choice among several items and then the combining of them is more appropriate than mesocon, which has the feel of something that’s been obsolete for a few million years.
Where I might quibble with Mr. Auster’s response is in his calling himself a neocon on foreign policy. That implies that the neocons as a group have a copyright on that issue. Why not describe one’s position and then observe with some surprise that a certain group of people, with whom one has many principled disagreements, happen to support that position?
That response would, I believe, be more in keeping with his calling himself a traditionalist—especially since most neocons support that position with different longrange objectives in mind from ours.
Good point by Frieda. However, I did not actually call myself a neocon, I said that I have “supported the neocon position on war with Iraq.” I meant something specific by that. In the aftermath of the September 11th attack, the articles by neoconservatives and NR writers about the need to invade Iraq made sense to me, right from the start. They pushed and articulated that position more than anyone else did, and I always found myself in agreement with it. So, to say I have supported “the neocon position on war with Iraq” expresses the truth of that experience; but that is not the same as saying that I am a neocon in any sense. Nor does it mean that support for the war on Iraq is a neocon position per se.
And on Frieda’s comment on the appropriateness of the “mesocon” label, even if mesocons have been extinct for millions of years, paleocons have been extinct for a lot longer!
Of course, I agree. What I had in mind was a more general point. It has to do with the nature of labeled belief-systems.
When a set of beliefs is combined into a highly integrated belief-system, two consequences are almost inevitable. First, a supreme ulama or board of commissars appears, to rule on which variants are acceptable and which doom the heretic to hell, expulsion, and obloquy. Second, the tight integration insures that deviation on any one tenet will challenge the entire structure of belief, since each tenet depends on all the others. The member of the movement sits at the summit where the Truth resides, and all around are slippery slopes. One false step, and down he slides. The elect are forever checking the orthodoxy of their own thoughts before they speak.
Now, neither paleoconservatism nor neoconservatism fits that description (although the dozen or so American Marxist movements have fitted it perfectly). Nevertheless, some individuals bearing those labels, especially the former, do show signs from time to time of functioning as doctrinal commissars.
The lesson is that we should take tenets and policies one by one and judge them on their merits, in light of the “permanent things,” which can however give only partial guidance. Facts count too, and the self-censoring mind tends to look away from facts that challenge its Truth. What’s at issue here is not so much the content of a belief/policy as the “way” the person believes it and the role it plays in his commitment to his ideology.
As an eclecticon I subscribe to a whole slew of beliefs, and it happens that paleos also subscribe to some of them and neocons to others of them, but the beliefs themselves are independent of—i.e., don’t come out of or depend on—any organized belief-system. The illusion that they do is related to my previous point: that the true-believer has other objectives than mine when he supports the same policy.
Putting my cards on the table, I define conservatism to be that movement which seeks to defend the Western tradition, e.g. Christianity, Western Man etc.
When describing conservatives, the first question I ask is do they believe in the “clash of civilizations”? If the answer is no, then obviously I cannot trust their foreign policy prescriptions.
On this question we find a rarely mentioned split among the self-described paleoconservatives. Some, like Pat Buchanan do not believe in the Clash of Civilizations. They believe that the present “clash” is only a temporary event which will end once Islam adjusts to modernity and if only the U.S. would change our foreign policy (usually vis a vis Israel, there would be no terrorism and no clash. e.g each civilization would live at peace.) Some times they portray this fact by stating as Paul Craig Roberts does that we should transport all the Jews in Israel to the United States and then we can have peace.
I think unless one wants to close one’s eyes to the past 1300 hundred years of history and to the current events in the Philipines,Indonesia, Russia, India, Armenia, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia etc. and indeed throughout much of Europe due to unchecked immigration and increasingly here, one would conclude that we are to my great regret in something very close to a “clash.” I wonder when it became a “conservative” or “paleoconservative” position to deny this. This is why I shudder when I see self described Western “conservatives” thoughtlessly parroting Arab propaganda lines.
Other self-described paleocons such as Srdja Trifkovic and Thomas Fleming manifestly do belive in a Clash of Civilizations. It is these paleo-conservatives that I respect, and listen for their informed judgements. Once we all grant the existence of the “clash” the next question is what can or should we do about it. Here we can disagree. I personally believe that ultimately much terrorism is state sponsored. Can anyone deny the think between Iran and Hizbullah etc.? So the way to combat it is through pressure on states whether economic, political, diplomatic and in certain SELECT instances “regime change.” Although, I agree with the “clash” positive paleocon critique (i.e. they admit the existence of the clash, but they nevertheless oppose military action in Iraq etc.) that ultimately “immigration reform” and investing in alternate energy sources will be more effective although this does not necessarily negate military action now.
I am also leery of exporting “democracy.” Although like Mr. Auster’s critique of Secretary Rumsfeld. Watch would they do rather than what they say.
The upshot? Reappropriate being “clash” positive and support for an active military role as a legitimate “conservative” position even as we demand “immigration reform” (a total moratorium)and denounce “world government” “equality of outcome” “denial of exitence of race”, oppose abortion, judicial tyranny, defend Christianity, oppose homosexuality, support the second amendment etc.
P.S. It is no surprise that Rep. Tom Tancredo voted FOR the Iraq war authorization and has a much highter betterimmigration.com ranking than the clash “negative” paleocon darling Rep. Ron Paul. Often the self-described paleos are sell-outs on immigration, the ISSUE of our day. The United States is being completely remade through Third World immigration and they are involved in a self defeating attack on an active foreign policy. Observe the paltry tepid immigration coverage at the “american conservative” or “lewrockwell.com.” Some will argue that there are other defining “paleoconservative’ positions such as distrust of the free-market etc. but here too there is a split between the paleocons and the paleolibertarians. My impression when I read lewrockwell or the american conservative is their primary obsession is an attack on our foreign policy and a denial of the “clash.”
Excellent statement by Fire. I agree with everything he has said. In his comments we can see the outlines of a renewed, patriotic right that will stand strongly both for the defense of our national security and national interests around the world (we can’t help having such interests, we are too big not to have them) and for the defense of our nation at home.
Mr Auster’s article and the above responses by Frieda and Fire have articulated what I have been trying to say since first posting at VFR, and done so far better than I have been able to.
Fire is right to acknowledge the reality of the clash of civilisations, and to recognise that conflict with Islam goes back 1300 years, long before Israel and American foriegn policy. Islam is the enemy of the Christian West, there is no getting around this basic fact. And nothing short of an aggressive foriegn policy, and at times, military action, combined with serious immigration reform, will protect us from this threat. Neither neocon democratic imperialism nor palecon isolationism will protect us. We must have a foriegn policy that recognises the reality of Islamic militant imperialism, and takes a cold blooded, and realist approach to our defense and survival.
“I call myself a traditionalist conservative or a traditionalist. What traditionalism means is an adherence to our particular culture, particularly as a vehicle and embodiment of transcendent truth; and to transcendent truth, particularly as it is expressed through our particular culture. Traditionalism is both universalist, in that it sees each individual as a moral agent and potential knower of universal truth, and particularist, in that it recognizes that such truth can only be fully realized by being incarnated in and lived through the actual form and history of a particular culture.
By contrast, the paleoconservatives make a cult of our particularism to the point of denying universal truth; and the neoconservatives make a cult of universalism to the point of denying particularist truth.”
This is by far the best defintion of traditionalism I have seen so far, and it resonates with with my own thinking since falling out with the Buchananites after 911. I have been under the impression that traditionalists simply wanted to restore the poltical and religious status quo of the Medieval period, which as a Protestant and an American patriot, is not at all atrractive to me. This definition above on the other hand is one I can live with and subscribe to.
I think “meso-conservatism” is what most people have traditionally associated twentieth century conservatism with — until the neos and paleos began tugging people in differing directions. National Greatness, Fortress America, etc.
By the way, having never seen Fire posting here before, I’m tempted to ask: Who is that masked man?
Fire’s comment linking support for the war with immigration reform ratings sparked my interest. Putting together stats from betterimmigration.com and the US congress website, I discovered some interesting facts.
For example, Chris Cannon of Utah voted to “authorize US military operations in Iraq” (a complete abdication of Congress’s power to declare war, BTW) . Cannon has a score of D,D (career, recent), far worse than Paul’s B-,B-. Cannon is sometimes called President Bush’s point man on immigration, so you know where the administration stands on the issue.
On the other hand, one John Duncan of Tennesee appears to have voted against the authorization (http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=2002&rollnumber=455), and he has an A+,A+ rating. I.e. as good as Tancredo (but not as out front on the issue).
To be honest, only 6 Republicans voted against war, and I suspect that there overall rating on immigration is lower than the Republican average. But I also suspect the difference is not statistically significant. Moreover, much of Paul’s low rating derives from his voting against putting troops on the border, which I believe is a legitimate policy position (troops are trained to kill, and I don’t think most of us here want to *kill* illegals).
Given that the current Republican administration pushed the war, and if it had its druthers would foist an amnesty and a ‘guest worker’ or ‘regularization’ program on us, I think it unwise to link positions on the war with positions on immigration (which, I agree, is *the* major issue of our time.)
“Often the self-described paleos are sell-outs on immigration, the ISSUE of our day. ”
Paltry, tepid support for immigration reform at American Conservative. etc .etc
Which paleos are sellouts? J.Raimondo mentioned briefly having “second thoughts” on immigration, but has not published anything on this. PJB ?— his magazine publishes exponentionally more about immigration than NR, Weekly Standard, etc. Taki? the man was under investigation for politically incorrect comments about Afro-Caribbean immigration into Britain. Thomas Flemming? I understand his position to be that the political forces supporting immigration are just to great to overcome, and our best hope is to hunker down and preserve what we can privately. Given the position of this “conservative” administration, who can blame him?
Amcon had a *cover* issue on Somali refugees invading Maine. It regularly features Roger McGrath, UCLA history prof and front line commentantor on immigration. e.g. http://www.amconmag.com/05_19_03/feature.html .
Fire’s postings smell of classic “black” propaganda, i.e. appearing to come from one side of the issue but in truth working for the other side. I suspect that Fire is a neocon mole, trying to undermine the last few shreds of public resistance to neocon world domination ; )
So Mr. Young has answered my tongue-in-cheek question, “Who is that masked man,” with a tongue-in-cheek answer: that Fire is a neocon mole, or rather a neocon agent provocateur. At least, I hope he meant it tongue-in-cheek. Apart from the unlikelihood of anyone bothering to engage in such an elaborate ruse, it also seems very unlikely that any neocon would have a grasp of some of the issues that Fire has a grasp of, even to use them insincerely.
One consistent thing about the neocons is that they evince no understanding of the positions to their own right. For example, the only way the Weekly Standard could respond to Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis was to attack it as “multiculturalism.” For the neocons, there are two available theoretical alternatives: (1) a uniform, democratic-capitalist world order, and (2) “multiculturalism.” Given their ideological mindset, the idea that there are other civilizations that are fundamentally distinct from ours is incomprehensible. Since they define the West as the principle of a pure global uniformity rather than as a concrete civilization, to their minds anyone who defends the West as a civilization distinct from other civilizations is in reality an anti-Western multiculturalist!
At the same time, to be fair, one must acknowledge that there is some validity to the neocon charge of a multiculturalist-like mindset among at least some people on the right. Some figures on the paleo right, saying, “I just care about my own regional/ethnic/cultural group,” and denying any larger truth or common moral standards, do indeed sound like multiculturalists.
Indeed, I was being tongue in cheek.
Mr. Auster has underlined a point that I believe most people have missed about Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. Huntington claimed that Western Civilization — at least the neo-liberal and I think we can add neoconservative — has an impulse to expand, an almost missionary impulse. This brings it into conflict with Islam, which has the same impulse, and “Confucian” civilization, which basically wants to be left alone (although it is expanding through demographics). This is not “blaming the West”, it is simply pointing out that modern Western leaders and intellectuals, for the most part, want to export “our way of life”. That means feminism, human rights regimes, gay rights, multiculturalism, and so on. Many, if not most, Muslims and Confucian Chinese both resent this.
On a lighter note, poking around betterimmigraton.com was heartening. Random clicking on Republic legislators’ names resulted in quiet a few A and A+ ratings. Why aren’t these guys out there with Tancredo challenging the President?
On another matter, the person who came up with the label “meso-conservative” is Premise Checker, a learned and well-known contributor at various conservative discussion groups. His moniker is, of course, derived from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in which one of the main characters tells those who find themselves caught in a logical contradiction, or who can’t make sense of contemporary events, to “Check your premises; one of them must be wrong.” I’m no Randian, but that is a piece of advice I’ve always valued.