Posts Tagged ‘douthat’

Collapsing Brand Perilous for Young Conservative Careerists

October 15, 2008

Ross Douthat writes an engaging, honest post about the incentives of conservative-leaning writers in non-GOP institutions and states. Naturally, the whole debate among conservatives isn’t about the merits, but about the political correctness of the ideas expressed.  It’s all a tribal tug-of-war, because as the freshly excommunicated Christopher Buckley pointed out, it’s not clear just what, if anything, movement conservatism stands for at this point.

Anyway, I’d just like to point out that this, from Douthat’s post, is quite a difficult sentence to diagram:

Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on – note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren’t Helping The Team these days – are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their “seat at the table” is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point.

“Rock-hard testicular fortitude.”  Not necessarily a phrase I expected to see from Ross Douthat.


Can American Conservatism Ever Be Responsible?

February 27, 2008

Ross Douthat expresses the hope that “the chastening impact of the Iraq War and the changing of the generational guard provides an opening the revive the pragmatic, empirical meliorist style of neoconservative politics.”

That would, indeed, be a positive development. But there is nothing in the statements of leading neoconservatives, nor in the development of neoconservatism, that indicates that it’s taking place.

Conservatism in the world’s most powerful country— a country committed to a robust, assertive foreign policy— is always at risk of lapsing into mere jingoism. If we’re the world’s “last, best hope,” a city on a hill, then what are the grounds for opposing Product Proposed Invasion X?

As its founders made clear, neoconservatism is grounded on the belief that patriotism is good, and that identifying enemies is really important. These are worthwhile principles, to be sure. But if those are principles 1 and 3, and there’s no mention anywhere of humility, empiricism, or consciousness of the scarcity of resources, catastrophes such as the Iraq invasion are the natural outcome of neoconservatism, not some horrible misrepresentation.

Earlier in his post, Douthat described the “two faces” of neoconservatism:

the neocon reaction tended toward hardheaded realism on the one hand, epitomized by Jeane Kirkpatrick’s famous “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which Berkowitz’s op-ed references, and a sweeping faith in American power on the other, epitomized by … well, a host of recent examples spring to mind.

The “hardheaded realism” was a way to excuse overthrowing democracies and installing friendly dictatorships, and to profess indifference to suffering so long as it was inflicted by a putative ally. The “sweeping faith in American power” wasn’t “on the other hand,” it was another manifestation of that jingoism.

Now, the USSR was bad. As are terrorists. But when we let our fear and jingoism be our guide, instead of a calm, well-grounded appreciation of the threat, we are certain to make miscalculations, which can exacerbate the real threat.

The “Conservatism of Doubt,” for which Andrew Sullivan is an unlikely, erratic spokesman, calls for humility in policymaking. That’s a call for a return to a style of conservatism that is dead in this country, at least in the Republican Party.

It’s quite unclear why Douthat would turn to neoconservatism, of all things, for a return to humility and empiricism.