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[casi] Neocons dance a Strauss waltz is quite a useful site for info on the situation in Iraq.

Neocons dance a Strauss waltz
12.05.2003 [05:31]

 Is United States foreign policy being run by followers of an obscure
German Jewish political philosopher whose views were elitist, amoral
and hostile to democratic government? Suddenly, political Washington
is abuzz about Leo Strauss, who arrived in the US in 1938 and taught
at several major universities before his death in 1973.

Following recent articles in the US press, and as reported in Asia
Times Online This war is brought to you by ... in March, the
cognoscenti are becoming aware that key neoconservative strategists
behind the Bush administration's aggressive foreign and military
policy consider themselves to be followers of Strauss, although the
philosopher - an expert on Plato and Aristotle - rarely addressed
current events in his writings.

The most prominent is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, now
widely known as "Wolfowitz of Arabia" for his obsession with ousting
Iraq's Saddam Hussein as the first step in transforming the entire
Arab Middle East. Wolfowitz is also seen as the chief architect of
Washington's post-September 11 global strategy, including its
controversial preemption policy.

Two other very influential Straussians include Weekly Standard chief
editor William Kristol and Gary Schmitt, founder, chairman and
director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a six-
year-old neoconservative group whose alumni include Vice President
Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, as well as a number
other senior foreign policy officials.

PNAC's early prescriptions and subsequent open letters to President
George W Bush on how to fight the war on terrorism have anticipated
an uncanny extent precisely what the administration has done.

Kristol's father Irving, the godfather of neoconservatism who sits on
the board of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where a number
of prominent hawks, including former defense Policy Board chairman
Richard Perle, are based, has also credited Strauss with being one of
the main influences on his thinking.

While a New York Times article introduced readers to Strauss and his
disciples in Washington, interest was further piqued this week by a
lengthy article by The New Yorker's legendary investigative reporter,
Seymour Hersh, who noted that Abram Shulsky, a close Perle associate
who has run a special intelligence unit in Rumsfeld's office, is also
a Straussian.

His unit, according to Hersh, re-interpreted evidence of Iraq's
alleged links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network and
possession of weapons of mass destruction to support those in the
administration determined to go to war with Baghdad. The article also
identified Stephen Cambone, one of Rumsfeld's closest aides who heads
the new post of undersecretary of defense for intelligence, as a
Strauss follower.

In his article, Hersh wrote that Strauss believed the world to be a
place where "isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger
hostile elements abroad", and where policy advisers may have to
deceive their own publics and even their rulers in order to protect
their countries.

Shadia Drury, author of 1999's Leo Strauss and the American Right,
says that Hersh is right on the second count but dead wrong on the
first. "Strauss was neither a liberal nor a democrat," she said in a
telephone interview from her office at the University of Calgary in
Canada. "Perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is
critical [in Strauss's view] because they need to be led, and they
need strong rulers to tell them what's good for them.

"The Weimar Republic [in Germany] was his model of liberal democracy
for which he had huge contempt," added Drury. Liberalism in Weimar,
Strauss's view, led ultimately to the Nazi Holocaust against the

Like Plato, Strauss taught that within societies, "some are fit to
lead, and others to be led", according to Drury. But, unlike Plato,
who believed that leaders had to be people with such high moral
standards that they could resist the temptations of power, Strauss
thought that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there
no morality and that there is only one natural right, the right of
superior to rule over the inferior".

For Strauss, "religion is the glue that holds society together", said
Drury, who added that Irving Kristol, among other neoconservatives,
has argued that separating church and state was the biggest mistake
made by the founders of the US republic.

"Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing," because
it leads to individualism, liberalism and relativism, precisely those
traits that might encourage dissent, which in turn could dangerously
weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. "You want a
crowd that you can manipulate like putty," according to Drury.

Strauss was also strongly influenced by Thomas Hobbes. Like Hobbes,
thought the fundamental aggressiveness of human nature could be
restrained only through a powerful state based on nationalism.
"Because mankind is intrinsically wicked, he has to be governed," he
once wrote. "Such governance can only be established, however, when
men are united - and they can only be united against other people."

"Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is
united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book. "Following
Machiavelli, he maintains that if no external threat exists, then one
has to be manufactured. Had he lived to see the collapse of the
Union, he would have been deeply troubled because the collapse of the
'evil empire' poses a threat to America's inner stability.

"In Strauss' view, you have to fight all the time [to survive]," said
Drury. "In that respect, it's very Spartan. Peace leads to decadence.
Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in."
Such views naturally lead to an "aggressive, belligerent foreign
policy", she added.

As for what a Straussian world order might look like, Drury said the
philosopher often talked about Jonathan Swift's story of Gulliver and
the Lilliputians. "When Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over
the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput
from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by
such a show of disrespect."

For Strauss, the act demonstrates both the superiority and the
isolation of the leader within a society and, presumably, the leading
country vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

Drury suggests it is ironic, but not inconsistent with Strauss' ideas
about the necessity for elites to deceive their citizens, that the
Bush administration defends its anti-terrorist campaign by resorting
to idealistic rhetoric. "They really have no use for liberalism and
democracy, but they're conquering the world in the name of liberalism
and democracy," she said.

 Jim Lobe/Asia Times

Mark Parkinson

------- End of forwarded message -------
Mark Parkinson

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