Talk:Neoconservatism (United States)/Archive 2

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The Irving Kristol article listed above (The Neoconservative Persuasion) ought to be used to rewrite the introduction and the end of this article. His account of what distinguishes neoconservatism philosophically from traditional conservatism makes more sense than what's there now.


I reverted a propaganda piece. J.J. seems to be trying to explain the origins of the neoconservative worldview. However, he endorses it outright in his additions, only falling short of explicitly stating the neocon maxim (a neoconservative is a "liberal mugged by reality") as a matter of fact.

While I suppose someone could tone it down and salvage it and sketch the neocon worldview in a more neutral light, the content removed was effectively a poorly written rant by a cocksure teenager. It endorses the neocon worldview, but neglects ever-shifting contexts of policy in regimes deemed unacceptable by the neocons (e.g., the social structure, institutional structures, international pressures, phases of socio-economic development, etc.) and the shifting political and economic context of this country, within which neoconservative views caught on so fast since the Reagan years. Historians would have great reservations about his tendency to see the so-called "left" presented as a global monolith, from the Black Panthers in the US, the peasant-based movements in Southeast Asia, to the Kremlin. The social origins of these distinct phenomena varied considerably, and had a lot more to do with hisorical processes than people reading the Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital.

However, the rant does sketch popular caricatures fairly well. Indeed, the author of the rant is an amateur political cartoonist who has applied in this very article his ability to illustrate caricatures in another medium, namely writing polemics and propaganda pieces. This technique has enabled him to turn his opponents into caricatures, and mobilize opposition against them. In his entry, anyone who isn't a neocon is painted either as a hypocrite who supports Stalinism, but opposes less repressive regimes; as a radical extremist with a dangerous world-view; as a silly caricature of the 1960s counter-culture; or as anti-American. I'm not saying that this isn't a valuable skill; it's a very effective strategy for changing minds. First, you can over-simplify the underlying assumptions of your opponents. Then you can distort how their arguments would be applied, and even apply the distortion to certain sets of conditions where the premises of your opponents are inapplicable. Then you can discredit what you are targeting on the basis of low-caliber, but highly emotive and values-based grounds with catchy slogans that appeal to certain groups.

Underlying all this, J.J. probably believes in neocon's epic struggle of good and evil in international relations. I admit that I don't. But my approach (viewing policy and agents in context) is the Wikipedia way. NPOV is policy; and picking "good guys" and "bad guys" is forbidden.

Now, about the need to consider the context, this may seem obvious to be, but I'll explain it anyway. The actions of politicians aren't predetermined by any structures. But institutional structures, social structures, the phase of socio-economic development, government-type, international forces, and shocks and crises shape the conceptions of what political actors deem a necessary response. Thus, they limit or widen the options available to them for policy, a realignment of interests, encourage consensus among some, and conflict among others.

He is unwilling to do this and has even crticized the attempts by other users to put neocon views in context. He seems to have an agenda, realizing that most readers are going to have a fairly weak grasp of the complexities of history, and exploiting that to implant his caricatures of Third World leaders, left-wing scholarship, social revolutionaries, and foreign policymakers of the realist school.

For instance, he writes "having discredited Marxism as flawed and dangerous, many of these former leftists began to view the world with a different perspective." In that vein he expounds, "and suddenly, the Soviet Union, previously dismissed as irrelevant, was recognized as threat to both America and the world." Of course, this is all to suggest that only the neoconservatives have a coherent worldview of international relationships. Other views of international relations, thus, are characterized as distorted, na�ve, and hypocritical at best; or threatening, evil, or twisted at worst.

J.J. calls Ho Chi Minh a "Stalinist" and attempts to discredit the left for opposing the Vietnam War while 'hypocritically' condemning South Africa. By the way, I've noticed his tendency to speak highly of the latter. Eloquence had to put a stop to his aims to hijack the Idi Amin article with his claim that Idi Amin was "proof" that white-rule was okay since black Africans were 'unfit to govern themselves.'

On social revolutionaries in J.J.'s rant, Ho is "fighting to create yet another Stalinist dictatorship." But if the contexts that I mentioned above are examined, you can see why asserting that Ho Chi Minh was no more than an ideologue bent on applying Stalinism, whatever the cost to his people, can be contested on serious grounds, and thus not up to NPOV standards. Of course, J.J. disregards the plight of the peasantry under French rule, and the role of the leadership and support base of the South Vietnamese regime as the Westernized collaborator class of the French colonialists. Furthermore, the lack of a sizable popular support-base for pro-US elites in Saigon is disregarded, along with the exploitative system of land tenure and repressive rural labor practices. With the inability, or unwillingness, of the South Vietnamese regime to resolve these socio-economic problems at the root of the anxiety of the impoverished peasantry, who accounted for the vast majority of the population, conditions were ripe for social revolution. By the way, it is worth nothing that the peasants got the land reform for which they were fighting, not Stalinist-style collectivization. Perhaps the influence of the Soviet Union was not a "threat" to this population, but a source of inspiration and support for Vietnamese peasants fighting to create a more just society as they (and not US foreign policymakers) envisaged it. Either normative view (in favor or against Ho Chi Minh), however, is inappropriate due to NPOV policies. Yes, if Wikipedia is dealing with the issue of neoconservative views vis-�-vis Vietnam, the article has to sketch the reasoning behind the neoconservative condemnation of any social revolution inspired by anything outside the norms of Western political culture. However, it cannot end there because that would be tacitly endorsing the interpretations of a group of foreign policy pudits. Thus, we will have to bring up the social and historical context in Vietnam and US geopolitical concerns.

With these problems in mind, the article will have to be edited and expounded upon by skilled authors who can weigh sides in the delicate balancing act of presenting political and historic topics in a neutral manner. And a young, rightwing firebrand with a mastery of catchy rhetoric will have to be monitored. He has been by and large an excellent contributor, but this one-sided propaganda piece had to be reverted. 172 09:34, 27 Sep 2003 (UTC)


What, are we still fighting? Oh shit. This seems to be worse than some of the Middle East entries.

Sigh.

Cema 22:09, 27 Sep 2003 (UTC)


I quite enjoyed reading your response, UTC. I can honestly say, I have never read such an interesting critique of myself before.

I agree with Cema that this article is fast becoming a lot cause, and I'm all but prepared to give up on it.

But I will still try to address some of your concerns. For those who care, here was the passage I added to the page about a week or so ago:

---

As the years went on, however many of these young leftists began to grow disillusioned with the tactics of their contemporaries. Many were turned off by the militancy of left-wing "revolutionary" groups such as the Black Panthers, and recent events of politically motivated violence, such as campus "uprisings". Though opposed to the Vietnam war, these leftists also depised the Viet Cong and Ho Chi Minh for fighting to create yet another Stalinist dictatorship, instead of a true socialist state. This in turn led to another key element in the evolution of the neo-con ideology- the dislike of the political double standard practiced by many leftists of the time. Along with Ho Chi Minh, many leftist advocates in the 70's vigourously defended the socialist regimes of Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, and Cho En-Lai, and instead reserved their criticism for "right-wing" or "American supported" regimes, such as Chile and Iran. The future neo-cons saw this as hypocritical, but also a case for self-reflection. Many began to see the prospects for a "socialist revolution" as a fundamentally flawed concept, and began to see the dictatorial communist regimes not as "abnormalities," as some of their contemporaries did, but rather as a disturbing "norm" that could not be avoided. This in turn led to a re-anaylsis of Marxist theory by many, and even spawned a period some refer to as the "Crisis of Marxism" in which many former Marxists became thuroughly disillusioned with the philospher's principles.

Having discredited Marxism as flawed and dangerous, many of these former leftists began to view the world with a different perspective. Suddenly, the Soviet Union, pereviously dismissed as irrelevant, was recognized as a major threat, both to America and the world.

---

It is important to understand that this is all I contributed. The rest of the article is a hodge podge of random crap (contributed by both pro and anti-neo cons) that doesn't flow and is full of akward quotes and other such unessisaries. So I cannot answer for things I did not add, such as the "liberal mugged by reality" thing.

The other thing that I want to stress is that this article is about neconservative perceptions of the world. I was careful to always word my statements to make this clear. For example, consider this statement I used: Many began to see the prospects for a "socialist revolution" as a fundamentally flawed concept, and began to see the dictatorial communist regimes not as "abnormalities," as some of their contemporaries did, but rather as a disturbing "norm" that could not be avoided.

The key phrase is many began to see. If I was really interested in propaganda, I would have written something like "many accepted the reality that communism was an evil ideology that would always create oppressive dictatorships, and rightly abandoned their persuit of an impossible socialist revolution."

I don't see how you can argue how simply explaining what a certain group thinks somehow amounts to "propaganda."

I doubt you would have been offended if the ideological tables were turned, and say an article contained a passage like: "To his followers, Chomsky's writings highlight contradictions in US foreign policy, and expose proof of America's desire to control all the world's resources." Now maybe I am caricaturing the situation again, but I frequently see a double standard on this site. If a conservative minded fellow such as myself attempts to add any sort of balance or context to an article heavy with anti-rightist bias, these edits are instantly pounced upon, and denounced as propaganda. Meanwhile, pages that are heavily biased towards the left, praising brutal dictators for their agricultural reforms, can go untouched for ages.

I don't want to condemn you entirely, UTC, if only because I am somewhat flattered you took the time to write such an in-depth critique of me. But I think you have seriously viewed my edits entirely out of context. By editing out my comments you have removed an important chapter of the evolution of neo-conservative ideology, simply because it exposes some of the unpleasant realities of your own political ideology from years past. You could have simply edited a couple of words (and in retrospect I agree that perhaps a couple are a bit "loaded"), but instead you chose to remove the whole paragraph, which says a lot to me.

I'd like to hear Cema's opinion on all this, if its possible.

user:J.J.

Well, I do have an opinion. More like a gut feeling. Which is that 172 is trying to find a path towards NPOV, and so do you, and eventually the paths may converge. But until then we are bound to go through a few more iterations of this, er, process. Which I am not looking forward to. Nor would like to participate in. Although, if I come across some interesting material, I will gladly add it.
Speaking of the text of the article, it is now a quilt of several narratives, of various quality of narration. Either someone needs to spend a few hours rewriting the text (and then someone else will claim POV and mangle it beyond all recognition), or — more likely — several people will add a few strokes of brush each using their own easels until the pictures becomes more or less even.
Enough of this creative writing thing. :-)
BTW, the name of the person you are having a discussion with is 172, not UTC. UTC is part of the automatic time string added after his name by wikipedia software (use four tildes to insert it, or three tildes to insert just the user's name). You were confused because his user name is all digits. :-)
Just let me insert my four tildes now...
Cema 05:49, 1 Oct 2003 (UTC)

J.J.:

I'm flattered that you enjoyed the postings; but I can't take all credit. The "caricaturing" idea actually came from Eloquence, who noted that you were describing a caricature of Idi Amin. I wrote about this is such great depth because it's actually a commendable skill. Thus, your piece was thought-provoking and effective. It could even imagine reading it on National Review Online, which has been adopting many aspects of the neocon style in recent years. Columnists for the National Review, Weekly Standard and even the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, in fact, brutally ravage opposing ideas. Perhaps consider becoming one.

One of their most effective techniques is turning the people who hold those ideas into absurd caricatures, which I noticed you doing in that short piece. In short, they discredit the ideas by first discrediting the people who hold them. Whenever questions raised over Bush's foreign policy come up, these columnists often characterize a lot of stereotypical personalities (e.g., the na�ve, uninformed, and idealistic college student; elements of a "counter-culture" that border on being anti-social; anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists who hide behind the "pro-Palestinian" mantra; left-wing college professors who hate America, etc.). For intance, many of these columns often start out at an event or rally organized by anti-IMF and anti-WTO groups, or peace rallies, and go on to point out how absurd these people and their ideas are (often they're right about the people - most of the rank-and-file leftwing activists in this country whom I've encountered are just as narrow-minded, uninformed, and pigheaded as the knee-jerk ultra-nationalistic, flag-waving, and parochial-minded elements of the rank-and-file right). However, what they do is always paint the picture of the most absurd group who holds an opposing view.

Also, on foreign policy, every year is 1936. And every world leader who doesn't restructure state enterprises (or especially goes the wrong way in restructuring, such as Mugabe), or who favors a regional balance of power, is Hitler revisited. Many have stated that the neocons adopted this hard-hitting style from Marxist polemics. Recalling Eloquence's comments on the Idi Amin page, you might have picked up this talent, in large measure, from your own abilities as a cartoonist.

Thus, your additions just elicited such a strong response from me because I was a bit troubled that such a style was so evident in a supposedly neutral encyclopedia article. In addition, the talent was noteworthy.

All I ask is that the neocon world view be presented in this article, but with equal weight to questions raised concerning their tactics in foreign policy, from the standpoint of US interests; and broader ones raised concerning the accuracy of such a worldview.

BTW, let me respond to one of your comments. I'm not too interested in praising Third World dictators, if that's what you're suggesting. What we think or feel isn't important. But the effects of structural shifts (such as agricultural reform) in developing economies under non-democratic regimes on historical processes, alignment of class forces, alignment of political forces, economic development, the allocation of resources, and living standards, shouldn't be ignored in a history article. Wikipedia's strong Western-centric orientation often precludes articles from presenting past and present actors, political structures and institutions, social structures, and policies in their own context. Instead, the context to many writers on Wikipedia is their own ideology and biases. 172 07:11, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)