Francis Fukuyama has officially broken with his former neo-conservative colleagues — and judging from his appearance on C-Span2, March 5 — with grace and measured analysis, in his new book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy (Yale University Press). One thing that he’s not doing (unlike many other critics of neo-conservatism) is making an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic argument.
His article in the NY Times Magazine, Feb. 19, 2006, explores the various streams that went into neo-conservative thinking, including its Trotsyist (actually Shactmanite) origins with Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell at CCNY in the 1930s and ’40s. Gal Beckerman, a former staffer at Meretz USA (before he went on to the Columbia School of Journalism) wrote a review in The Forward of The Neocon Reader and two other books on this subject. I’m something of an expert on the evolution of neo-conservativm in the late 1960s and ’70s from social democracy into Reaganism.
This links to what I wrote for the UK ” Engage” online journal recently on the “Neo-conservative” phenomenon as fact and fiction . (Engage is the left/liberal British group that defeated the academic boycott of Israeli universities). My Engage article is based on, and updated from, the workshop I did at the “Facing A Challenge Within” conference in Oakland, CA, August 2004, an explicitly left-wing effort to confront anti-Semitism within the left. (Link here online for information on the follow-up conference, taking place this weekend, March 25-27, at a hotel at the Newark airport; Mairav Zonszein and I will be co-presenting a workshop on the history, theory and contemporary issues of Zionism, on Saturday, 2:30 to 4:30 – join us if you can.)
As indicated in my article’s abstract, it’s “mostly a discussion of the early Shachtmanite (Trotskyist) origin of neo-conservatism. It also notes how use of this label lends itself to conspiratorial thinking with anti-Semitic overtones. Among the facts generally disregarded in contemporary polemics: neocons advised on but didn’t have the authority to make the decisions that the Bush administration chose to follow, some have differences with the current administration and among themselves, not all are Jews, they do not represent majority Jewish opinion in the US, they are not all pro-Likud or pro-settler. But they are too often being attacked as ‘Jews’ [or as ‘Zionists’, ‘pro-Likud’ or simply as pro-Israel — as if these were crimes].”
I am not now nor ever been a neo-conservative. And I do not support most political policies advocated by neocons, but just as McCarthyite attacks on Communism were often explicitly or implicitly anti-Semitic, the overblown hysterics about this small bunch of intellectuals, journalists and policy wonks poses dangers for us as Jews. Professors Mersheimer and Walt’s article, discussed by Ron Skolnik below, looks too much like another instance of such an hysterical assault. Stay tuned for more on Mersheimer and Walt….