The neoconservative war on modernity

The neoconservative war on modernity

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The neoconservative war on modernity the Bush Doctrine and its resistance to legitimation
Luongo, Ben
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[Tampa, Fla]
University of South Florida
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Leo Strauss
Jurgen Habermas
George W. Bush
United Nations
Dissertations, Academic -- Government & International Affairs -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The Bush Doctrine represents a paradigm shift in international security policy. Never had a foreign policy demonstrated such will through unilateralism, preemptive militarism, and a sense of exceptionalism. I argue that this shift in policy resists modern international order in an attempt to reestablish ancient modes of power and control. The international system maintains order through rules and institutions which are perceived to be legitimate because they have the consent of the governed. An example of this would be the UN, where member states engage in a democratic deliberation geared towards reaching understanding and consensus. However, order breaks down when a member state fails to recognize the legitimacy of a rule or institution. This was the case for the Bush Doctrine when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq without a UN resolution. The Bush Doctrine is the embodiment of neoconservatism, an intellectual movement influenced by the thoughts of Leo Strauss.What neoconservatism has inherited from Strauss was a fear of relativism. Strauss's critique of modernity holds that liberal society fosters moral relativism which, in turn, destroys the moral fabric of society. Strauss calls for a revival of antiquity, more specifically a Platonic design of society, where elites rule through the use of myths which provide society with moral truth and national purpose. Neoconservatism has projected Strauss's war on modernity onto the international level. The Bush Doctrine assumes its core democratic values to be universal and thus views consensus building as unnecessary. Rather, deliberating on 'right' may enlighten us to the conventional nature of morality. Therefore, neoconservatism works to reestablish ancient modes of control through the use of moral absolutes, where the practice of these values, consequentially, resists international order governed by liberal principles.As a result, neoconservative policies disrupt international order and isolate the U.S. from the modern world.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Ben Luongo.

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The neoconservative war on modernity :
b the Bush Doctrine and its resistance to legitimation
h [electronic resource] /
by Ben Luongo.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 82 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: The Bush Doctrine represents a paradigm shift in international security policy. Never had a foreign policy demonstrated such will through unilateralism, preemptive militarism, and a sense of exceptionalism. I argue that this shift in policy resists modern international order in an attempt to reestablish ancient modes of power and control. The international system maintains order through rules and institutions which are perceived to be legitimate because they have the consent of the governed. An example of this would be the UN, where member states engage in a democratic deliberation geared towards reaching understanding and consensus. However, order breaks down when a member state fails to recognize the legitimacy of a rule or institution. This was the case for the Bush Doctrine when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq without a UN resolution. The Bush Doctrine is the embodiment of neoconservatism, an intellectual movement influenced by the thoughts of Leo Strauss.What neoconservatism has inherited from Strauss was a fear of relativism. Strauss's critique of modernity holds that liberal society fosters moral relativism which, in turn, destroys the moral fabric of society. Strauss calls for a revival of antiquity, more specifically a Platonic design of society, where elites rule through the use of myths which provide society with moral truth and national purpose. Neoconservatism has projected Strauss's war on modernity onto the international level. The Bush Doctrine assumes its core democratic values to be universal and thus views consensus building as unnecessary. Rather, deliberating on 'right' may enlighten us to the conventional nature of morality. Therefore, neoconservatism works to reestablish ancient modes of control through the use of moral absolutes, where the practice of these values, consequentially, resists international order governed by liberal principles.As a result, neoconservative policies disrupt international order and isolate the U.S. from the modern world.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Steven Roach, Ph.D.
Leo Strauss
Jurgen Habermas
George W. Bush
United Nations
0 690
Dissertations, Academic
x Government & International Affairs
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.


The Neoconservative War on Modernity: The Bush Doctrine and its Resistance to Legitimation by Ben Luongo A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Government & International Affairs College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Steven Roach, Ph.D. Michael Gibbons, Ph.D. Mark Amen, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 8, 2009 Keywords: Relativism, Leo Strauss, Jurgen Habermas, George W. Bush, United Nations Copyright 2009, Ben Luongo


Acknowledgements I would like to thank Dr. Steven Roach, Dr. Michael Gibbons, and Dr. Mark Amen for their support with this thesis. In particular, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Dr. Roach, who has encouraged me to pursue my interests and challenged me at the same time. You are a true mentor and I thank you for your inspiration.


i Table of Contents Abstract ...................................................................................................................... ........ iii Introduction .................................................................................................................. ........1 Problem/A rgumen t ...................................................................................................1 Literature Review.....................................................................................................3 Legitimacy ...................................................................................................3 Straussianism ...............................................................................................4 Neoconservatism ..........................................................................................5 Analytical Framework/Objectives ...........................................................................6 Neoconservatism versus Legitimacy: The Bush Administration and the UN .....................................................................................................6 Moral Authority versus Relativism: Neoconservatism and the Fear of Relativism ...........................................................................................6 Moral Authority Undermining the Governing Principles of International Order ..................................................................................7 Structure ...................................................................................................................7 Chapter 1: Legitimation ....................................................................................................... 9 Introduction ..............................................................................................................9 The Relevance of the Enlightenment .......................................................................9 Habermasian Legitimacy .......................................................................................13 Communicative Rationality .......................................................................13 Deliberative Legitimacy .............................................................................16 The Legal Argument for War and Resisting Legitimation ....................................18 Self-Defense and the ‘Truth ’ Dimension of Validity ................................20 Self-Defense and the ‘Truthfu lness’ Dimension of Validity .....................21 Breach of UN Resolution and the ‘Rightness’ Dimension of Validity ......................................................................................................24 Chapter 2: Leo Strauss .......................................................................................................2 7 Introduction ............................................................................................................27 The Ancient and Modern Dichotomy ....................................................................28 The Crisis of Modernity .........................................................................................30 Modernity and American Liberalism .....................................................................33 Platonic Elitism and Deception through Culture ...................................................35 Strauss on Schmitt: the Concept of the Political ....................................................36 Conclusion .............................................................................................................41 Chapter 3: Linking Neoconservatism to Strauss ................................................................43 Introduction ............................................................................................................43 The Culture Wars ...................................................................................................44 Hostility towards Liberalism – Opposition to Counterculture ...................45


ii Platonic Elitism – Affirmation of Religious/Cul tural Orthodoxy ..............51 The Cold War .........................................................................................................54 Hostilities towards Liberali sm – Aversion to Detente ...............................54 Platonic Elitism – Affirm ation of the Political ..........................................58 Conclusion .............................................................................................................66 Chapter 4: The Bush Doctrine ...........................................................................................67 Introduction ............................................................................................................67 The Pillars of the Bush Doctrine ............................................................................68 Democratization .........................................................................................68 Militaristic Primacy ...................................................................................70 Preemption .................................................................................................71 Unilateralism ..............................................................................................72 Relating the Bush Doctrine to Neoconservatism ...................................................73 Why Neoconservatism Resists Legitimation .........................................................76 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... .....81


iii The Neoconservative War on Modernity: The Bush Doctrine and its Resistance to Legitimation Ben Luongo ABSTRACT The Bush Doctrine represents a paradigm sh ift in international security policy. Never had a foreign policy demonstrated such will through unilateralism, preemptive militarism, and a sense of exceptionalism. I argue that this shift in policy resists modern international order in an attempt to reestablish ancient modes of power and control. The international system maintains order through rules and institutions which are perceived to be legitimate because they have the consent of the governed. An example of this would be the UN, where member states engage in a democratic deliberation geared towards reaching understanding and consensus. However, order breaks down when a member state fails to recognize the legitimacy of a rule or institution. This was the case for the Bush Doctrine when the U.S. decide d to invade Iraq wit hout a UN resolution. The Bush Doctrine is the embodiment of neoconservatism, an intellectual movement influenced by the thoughts of Leo Strauss. What neoconservatism has inherited from Strauss was a fear of relativism. Strauss’s critique of modernity holds that liberal society fosters moral relativism which, in turn, destroys the moral fabric of society. Strauss calls for a revival of antiqu ity, more specifically a Platonic design of society, where elites rule thr ough the use of myths which provi de society with moral truth and national purpose. Neoconservatism has projected Strauss’s wa r on modernity onto the international level. The Bush Doctrine assumes its core democratic values to be universal and thus views consensus building as unnecessary. Ra ther, deliberating on ‘right’ may enlighten us to the conventional nature of mora lity. Therefore, neoconservatism works to reestablish ancient modes of control through the use of moral absolutes, where the


iv practice of these values, consequentially, resi sts international orde r governed by liberal principles. As a result, neocons ervative policies disrupt international order and isolate the U.S. from the modern world.


1 Introduction Problem/Argument Global order is maintained principally thro ugh compliance with international laws. Voluntary compliance with international law often reflects the high degree of legitimacy of international institutions. Legitimacy, which refers to the recognition of the public right to exercise authority, then, routinel y requires deliberati on, rational argumentation, bargaining, and compromise to reach consensus on issues. Over the years, however, legitimacy has either been contested on various fronts, or manipulated by states to serve their coercive ends on a domestic and international level. The most notable example is the Bush AdministrationÂ’s manipulation of the United Nations (UN) to justify the launching of the Iraq war. The UN, which is perceived as the most legitimate internati onal organization, provides a forum for member states to engage in debate and deliberati on. Here member states deliberate to reach mutual understanding on issues involving ma jor international threats and the need to invoke military measures (pursuant to the Chapter VII mandate) to enforce compliance with the law. The decision to invade Iraq not only reflected the failure to exhaust all options; it also reflected a vi olation of the UN charter pursuant to Article 51 (selfdefense). The problem then is that the Bush Administration used the legitimacy of the UN to justify or pursue its own coercive ends (principles of the Bush Doctrine: preemptive action and unilateralism). This raises an important question: How does the Bush AdminstrationÂ’s manipulation of this legitimacy reflect the ideological underpinnings of its own resistance of legitimization (processes)? In addressing this question, I argue that the Bush Doctrine was predicated upo n an aggressive national security policy who moral absolutes took precedence over the need to legitimize authority and action. These moral absolutes include the spread of democracy for its national


2 security policy, and resulted in a resista nce to the legitimation process at the international level. I explain the use of moral absolutes in the Bush Doctrine as the constituent elements of the neoconservative movement a nd the political philosophy of Leo Strauss. Strauss was critical of modern ity, arguing that liberalism and rationally have exposed morality as relativistic. He contended that society be governed by educated elites, who roles were to transmit ‘noble lies’ to the masses. In this paper, I examine how neoconservatism incorporated many of the el ements of Strauss’s political philosophy, especially his doubts that liber alism can maintain social or der and his preference for Platonic elites. However, translating Straussianism into foreign policy, I claim, projects the fear of relativism and elitist inclinations on the international level. This means the spread of political and moral absolutism across the globe and justifies the unfettered use of American power. This became evident dur ing the Security Council’s deliberation on resolution 1441. Here, as already noted, the U.S. resisted modern international order when it invaded Iraq without securing the consensus for a new UN resolution In short, legitimation requires democratic deliberation; but elitism compromises any domination-free communication arena. Legitimation also requires rational communication, not unyielding ab solutism. Straussianism wo rks to reestablish ancient modes of power and control, most notably myth s that are self-legitimating, and that helps to explain the tension between the Bush Doct rine and the (objective) legitimacy of the UN. A society that demands rational justific ation is incapable of propagating myths. Rather, bargaining and compromise expose the relativism in our notions of ‘right’. For a foreign policy that harbors Straussian tende ncies, then, safeguard ing the nation against potential nihilism requires resisting modern conceptions of legitimacy to preserve American ideals. Neoconservatism had done just this; it has designed an uncompromising doctrine of pro-American impe ratives that assume self-legitimation. Ultimately, a foreign policy founded on the fears of relativism cannot engage properly in modern legitimation. Resisting such interna tional order governed by liberal principles illustrates the neoconservatives’ willingness to carry on Strauss’s war on modernity.


3 Literature Review Legitimacy As stated before, legitimacy refers to the approval of and compliance to rules by those subject to those rules. Legitimacy is an important concept because the approval of and compliance to rules maintains social order. However, it is important to mention that throughout history order has been maintain ed through different conceptions of legitimacy. I distinguish between modern and ancient forms. Both imply compliance to rules but differ on the reasons for that compliance. Modern forms of legitimacy emerged dur ing the enlightenment and stress the consent of the governed. John Lo cke argued that “the liberty of man in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but the es tablished, by consent, in the commonwealth”.1 Montesque argued that “the government most comfortable to nature, is that whose particular disposition be st aggress with the humour a nd disposition of the people in whose favour it is established”.2 Rousseau argued that “t he sovereign, being formed wholly of the individuals who compose it, neith er has nor can have an y interest contrary to theirs”.3 This consent of the governed is fo rmed through a proces s by which the rule may become legitimate. This process is called legitimation and is built upon liberal principles. More specifically, the process follows a democratic deliberation with the intentions of reaching consensus. Consensu s can only be reached if the communication is rational, meaning that actors provide reasons for their claims. Then all actors bargain and compromise to reach consensus.4 In general, for modern forms, rules are seen as legitimate if those subject to th e rule approve of the process at which it came into being. I contrast modern forms of legitimacy with ancient ones. Ancient legitimacy is different where rules can assume a Bodinian sovereignty, where the compliance to rules does not require the approval of its coming into being. Rules are followed simply 1 John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc. 1980), 17. 2 Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (Berkely: University of Ca lifornia Press, 1997), 104. 3 Jean Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract and its Discourses (New York: Dutton and Company, Inc., 1950), 16-18. 4 Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998) p. 448.


4 because the authority of those rules is assume d. In general, for ancient forms, rules are thus self-legitimating. Straussianism Leo Strauss was a political philosopher whos e ideas have influenced much of the neoconservative movement. The most im portant thoughts of Strauss are those concerning his ‘crisis of modernity’. His ‘crisis of modernity’ holds that the enlightenment’s liberalism and scientific progress has exposed morality as conventional and relativistic.5 For Strauss, relativism in society was a crisis because it ultimately led to the rejection of all notions of ‘natur al right’ where society becomes nihilistic.6 Straus feared that such nihilism had the power to destroy society. His philosophy comes from hi s experience in Germany. He fled the Weimer Republic before they drafted their constitution after World War I. When Hitler rose to power he concluded that liberalism inevitably collapses into itself.7 His logic was that liberalism leads to relativism and relativism l ogically leads to nihili sm, and the rise of Hitler in the Weimer Republic was proof of this. To safeguard society from history repeating itself, Strauss calls for a return to the ancients. More specifically, Strauss advises society to adopt a Platonic design of so cial hierarchy where th e elites rule through the use of the ‘noble lie’.8 He argued that the masses must believe in certain absolute truths. These truths took the form of nationa l and religious ideals and provided them with purpose and moral clarity. Thus, for Strauss, elitism is meant to combat relativism and maintain social order through the transmission of truths said to be absolute. In the end, he favored a romanticist aristocratic so ciety, not an enlightened egalitarian one. 5 Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 12. 6 Ibid p. 14-20. 7 Shadia Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997) 4-6. 8 Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978) 102.


5 Neoconservatism Neoconservatism is an intellectual moveme nt that was born as a reaction to the counterculture of the 1960s. Neoconservative s saw counterculture as the breakdown of social and moral order and viewed themselves as the culture warriors who would reestablish order through orthodoxy and tradition.9 They were also vehemently anticommunist and adopted uncompromising and m ilitaristic foreign policies against Soviet expansionism which they would pursue after gaining ranks in the Reagan administration.10 In general, neoconservatism emphasizes the need for social order and espouses democratic principles. However, neoconservatives found their home in the George W. Bush administration and provided the philosophical foundation for the Bush Doctrine, a foreign policy idealistic in principle yet militaristic in practice.11 There are four main pillars of the Bush Doctrine. The first and most impor tant one is democratization. Democracy is the core ideal to which the rest of the Bush Doctrines principles stem from. Democracy is regarded as a universal truth that all mankind deserves and America should lead the struggle.12 The second pillar is militarist prim acy. According to the Bush Doctrine, American might is unmatched and should be used to actively to reshape the world rather than used passively as deterrence. The th ird pillar is preemption because the Bush Doctrine views threats of the 21st century no longer to enemy states but rather terrorist organizations that cannot be deterred. The fourth pillar is unilateralism out of the necessity to act quickly and decisively when other ally nations might hesitate to act.13 The Bush Doctrine, as the embodiment of the neoconservative movement, has Straussian undertones to it. The Bush Doct rine becomes elitist in the Straussian sense through its core principle that de mocracy is an absolute truth. However, a foreign policy 9 Irving Kristol Countercultures, Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press, 1995) 146 10 Gary Dorrien, Imperial Design: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana (New York: Routledge, New York) 8-10. 11 Mearsheimer, John. Han s Morgenthau and the Iraq War: Realism Versus Neo-conservatism. 21-042005. www.openDemocracynet. p. 3 12 The White House. The National Security Strate gy of the United State of America, September 20th 2002; available at 13 Robert Jervis, Understan ding the Bush Doctrine, Political Science Quarterly Volume 118 N.3 2003


6 that assumes some values to be absolutely true see legitimation as undermining the natural authority of those values. Analytical Framework/Objectives Neoconsersativism versus legitimacy: The Bush adminstration and the UN First, the paper must evidence how neoconser vatism has resisted modern legitimation. To do this I will demonstrate how the Bush Doctrine has resisted proper protocols in the Security CouncilÂ’s delib eration on resolution 1441. This will be done by describing how UN deliberations are a process of legitimati on using a Habermasian model, one that is built on validating claims. A ccording to Habermas, claims are validated upon them being factually true (truth), that th ey conform to basic norms of how the social world should act (rightness), and that they are sincere (truthfulness). To evidence how the Bush Doctrine resists legitimation, then, entails demonstra ting how it did not satisfy validity claims during UN deliberations. I will demonstrate how the U.S. could not validate their decision to invade on any of the validity dime nsions of truth, rightness, and truthfulness, thus demonstrating that neoconservatism does resist modern legitimation. Moral Authority versus Relativism: Neocons ervatives and the Fear of Relativsism The next task is to link neoconservatism to Straussianism. To do this I will demonstrate that the neoconservative movement has adopted StraussÂ’s fear of relativism that casts suspicions on liberalism and calls for cultura l elites. This will be done through an historical examination of the neoconser vative movement during two periods. The first period will be the neoconservativesÂ’ reaction to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. They viewed the permissive ega litarianism and cultura l relativism of the counterculture as a disintegration of va lues. The paper will demonstrate how neoconservatives saw this as evidence that li beralism was incapable of maintaining social order and that the neoconservative solution was for educated elites to reestablish cultural orthodoxy.


7 The second period will be their rise to pow er in the Reagan administration and their efforts to overturn dtente. Neoconservat ives viewed dtente not as peace between nations but as a sign of ideological malais e and became concerned that America had lost its convictions. The paper will demonstrate how neoconservatives blamed this tolerance and diplomatic passivity on th e liberal intelligentsia and, after gaining ranks in the Reagan administration, worked to reconstitu te AmericaÂ’s unique role in international politics. Moral Authority Undermining the Governing Libe ralist Principles of International Order The last task is to explain that the Bush Doctrine is a neocons ervative document that harbors the same fear of relativism and that it is this fear of relativism that resisted legitimation in the UN. First the paper will evidence the fear of relativism in the Bush Doctrine through its belief that democratic values are absolute and universal. Then the paper will demonstrate how the fear of rela tivism resists legitimation on the grounds that legitimation requires the compromise and ba rgaining of values. The Bush Doctrine becomes elitist in the Straussian sense by wo rking to reestablish ancient modes of power and control through the use of myth, where my ths are self-legitimati ng because their truth or rightness is na tural or inherent. Structure The paper will be divided into five chapters Chapter one will explain the theory of modern legitimacy and demonstrate how th e U.S. legal argument for war could not validate its claim to be con ceived as legitimate under modern standards. Chapter two will discuss Leo StraussÂ’s critique of modern ity where his fear of relativism casts doubts on liberalism and attempts to reestablish ancient modes of power and c ontrol through cultural elites. Chapter three will disc uss the link between neoconservatism and Straussianism through the fear of relativism. Chapter four will explain what makes the Bush Doctrine a distinctively neoconservat ive document by providing evidence that it harbors a Straussian fear of relativism. Chapter five, then, explains that the Bush


8 DoctrineÂ’s inability to validate the decision fo r war in the UN is explained by its fear of relativism and why this fear ultimately resists modern conceptions of legitimation.


9 Chapter 1: Legitimation Introduction Modern forms of legitimacy, compared to ancient forms, require reaching consent through a democratic deliberative process. Conflict ar ises when this process breaks down and when a member of this process undermines the need for consent. This chapter will demonstrate that the Bush Doctrine does just this. First, the chapter will explain what legitimacy is and the role it has in the world. Second, it will relate legitimacy to the Unite d Nations and explain why the UN works as a form of legitimation. Third, this chapte r will explain how the Bush Doctrine has resisted legitimation by critiquing the U.S.Â’s legal argument for military action against Iraq and its inability to satisfy validity claims in the UN. The Relevance of the Enlightenment Scholars agree on a rather general meaning for the concept of legitimacy. Weber provides us with a concept of legitimacy in it s most basic form. For Weber, any authority is legitimate when its subjects desire and comply with its rules.14 Though Weber provides us with different forms of legitimat e rule, those being traditional, charismatic, rational and legal, the greater question is wh ere an authorityÂ’s legitimacy derives from? It is important, then, to turn to the Enlight enment because it was during this period that society began to question the authority of ru les and institutions a nd provided us with a modern framework of legitimacy. The Enlightenment was progressive and championed liberal ideals that were completely discontinuous with ancient and me dieval modes of thinking. Modern thought 14 Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press, 1947), 124132.


10 had a much more optimistic view of human nature which could be seen in Immanuel Kant’s short essay, What is Enlightenment? : “Enlightnment is man’s release from his se lf-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s ability to make use of his understanding w ithout direction from another. Selfincurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it wi thout direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reas on!” – that is the motto of the enlightenment.”15 The optimism of modernity’s enlightened th inkers had led it to embrace a number of liberal tenets such as indivi dual autonomy, scien tific rationalism, free market economy, etc. In general, mode rn thinkers emphasized the individua l at the center of society, where now the authority of laws and institutions w ould have to be recognized by the individual. The best way to demonstrate this is by revi ewing some major thinkers of this time. This can best be evidenced through John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government which outlines a political society based on the social contract. Locke asserts the role of the individual in the legitima tion of a political system under the idea that the rule of government is legitimate only under the consensus of those governed. “The liberty of man in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but the established, by consent, in the commonwealth; nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what th at legislative shall enact, according to the trust put into it.”16 This is an important concept for Locke b ecause this illustrate s that each man has “property in his own person”17, meaning that men are free fr om arbitrary rule from any other. Furthermore, the idea of “property in his own person” assumes each person’s self15 Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment.” In The Portable Enlightenment Reader ed. Isaac Kramnick, (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 1. 16 John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc. 1980), 17. 17 Ibid., 19.


11 determination, that each person determines th eir own destiny and thus reserves the right to revolution if that law is in breach of the social contract. Locke has placed consent-ofthe-governed at the center of social orde r, where the legitimacy of authority is constructed only through the consen sus of the social constract. This contractarianism is evident also in Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws written in 1748. He wrote: “Bette r is it to say that the government most comfortable to nature, is that whose particular disposit ion best aggress with the hu mour and disposition of the people in whose favour it is established.18” Montesquieu also offers us a system of checks and balances to counter power monopo lies in government and ensure that policy reflects those it governs. “The re would be an end of everything, where the same man or same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers”.19 Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract and its Discourses in 1762 where he to places much importance on consensus. He argued that only the individual, not the state, knows best of his or her own in terest, thus the state’s power derives from those individuals it meant to govern, still allowing their own self -determination. This would place the state as the subject to the w ill of the people, rather than the people as subject to the will of the state, a concep t Rousseau would call the ‘general will’. “Again, the Sovereign, being formed who lly of the individuals who compose it, neither has nor can have any interest c ontrary to theirs; an d consequently the sovereign power need give no guarantee to its subjects because it is impossible for the body to wish to hurt all its members.”20 Democratic rule is formed through Rousseau’s ‘general will’, dictati ng the state’s policy. Many other enlightenment thinkers saw that th e state should reflect the general will of the people and that a democratic process was the appropriate method for actualizing that general will. If the state was to be legitimat e, some democratic process was necessary for the state to reflect those it meant to govern. 18 Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (Berkely: University of Ca lifornia Press, 1997), 104. 19 Ibid., 152. 20 Jean Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract and its Discourses (New York: Dutton and Company, Inc., 1950), 16-18.


12 However, a democratic process could onl y thrive under the practice of other ideals that safeguard self-determination and thus act as main ingredients for democracy. John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty notes two important concepts for and healthy liberal democracy, those being freedom of speech and the harm principle. For Mill, freedom of speech was necessary, not only in a democracy, but necessary for the discovery of truth. Freedom of speech allowed for debate and di alogue amongst members of society. Only through dialogue and the exchange of ideas could the people determine which ideas were right and wrong. He wrote: “We can never be sure that the opinions we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.”21 The second concept in On Liberty is the harm principle. Mill claimed that the only reason to as sert power over an individual is to protect the well-being of another. “The only part of the conduct of any one, fo r which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the pa rt which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”22 All members of society have the right to act as they saw fit until there action intervened with another’s. This personal sovereignty ex tends into two spheres of an individual’s life, his mind and body. Not only are individu als free from physical coercion but also from the mental coercion or persuasion. This personal sovereignty safeguards the individuals right to self-d etermination by allowing that individual to recognize and actualize what is in their interest from others and allowing others to do the same. It is this notion of self-determinati on, or at least participation, that frames the notion of legitimacy. 21 John Stewart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes and Nobel Books, 2004), 17. 22 Ibid., 10.


13 Habermasian Legitimacy Today legal scholars have better articulated wh at legitimacy is and what the process of reaching legitimate rule looks like. Thomas M. Franck argues that legitimacy is a “property of a rule or rule-making institu tions which itself exerts a pull towards compliance on those addressed normatively becau se those addressed be lieve that the rule or institution has come into being and operates in the accordance with generally accepted principles of right process.”23 He accounts for all of the char acteristics of a law that add to its legitimacy, those being: determinacy, symbolic, coherence, and adherence.24 However, while Franck offers a thorough explan ation of why international law is for the most part obeyed, he does not explain the mech anics of how legitimate rule is produced. It is important then to turn to Habermas. Communicative Rationality Habermas provides us with a very thorough understanding of legitimacy and credits modernity for its “courage to use reason”. Ha bermas sees modernity as a project worth ‘finishing’. His universal pragmatics holds that the rationality that has built our modern society should be further used to substant iate our universal impulse to communicate, where intersubjective understand ing is made possible. Only then, through the processes of mutually desired unders tanding and agreement, can society recognize mutual “normative backgrounds”.25 For Habermas, rational communication binds society together. Much like Mill’s belief that freedom of speech was necessary for reaching understanding in a democratic process, so to does Habermas hold that much weight for speech and language. Habermas is most known for his work on communicative rationality which is a model of communication based on inters ubjective understanding through rationally justified speech acts. At the heart of this theory is th e role of language: 23 Thomas M. Franck, The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations (England: Oxford University Press, 1990), 3-26. 24 Ibid. 25 Jurgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), 3.


14 “If we were not in a position to refer to a model of speech, we could not even begin to analyze what it means for two s ubjects to come to an understanding with one another. Reaching understanding is the inherent telos of human speech. Naturally, speech and understanding are not related to one another as means to and end. But we can explain the concep t of reaching understa nding only if we specify what it means to use sent ences with communicative intent.”26 For Habermas, speech is not only necessary for reaching understanding, “understanding is the inherent telos of human speech”. However, we can reach understanding only when our intentions are rationally based. Habermas gives rati onality a central role in communication and refers to the intentions of our speech acts. What we express to other participants in communication must be rationa lized and justified; we must have reasons for it. “The rationality inherent in this practice is seen in the fact that a communicatively achieved agreement must be based in the end on reasons. And the rationality of those how participate in this communicativ e practice is determined whether, if necessary, they could, under suitable circumstances provide reasons for their expressions.”27 Only by providing reasons for what we expr ess can others understa nd our expressions and regard them at valid. Habermas calls these validity claims wh ich could be assessed on three dimensions: truth, ri ghtness, and truthfulness. “In uttering a sentence the speaker ma kes a claim which, were he to make it explicitly, might take the form: “It is true that p ,” or “It is right that a ,” or “I mean what I say when I here a now utter s ” (where p stands fo r a proposition, a for a description of an action, and s fo r a first person sentence). A validity claim is 26 Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society, Volume I (Boston, Beacon Press, 1981), 287. 27 Ibid., 17.


15 equivalent to the assertion that the conditions for the validity of an utterance are fulfilled.”28 By mutual recognition of these dimensions in validity claims, the h earer’s criticism, if any, articulates the dimension in question back to the speaker and does so “i n light of reasons or grounds” and illustra tes “insight and understanding.”29 Such consensus achieved by validity claims results in a communicative action. For Habermas, communicative rationality creates an “orien tation toward reaching understanding” which transforms consensus into action. In othe r words communicative action is the movement from communication to action c oordinated by validity claims. “Reach understanding functions as a m echanism for coordinating actions only through the participants in interaction coming to an agreement concerning the claimed validity of their utterances, th at is, through intersub jectively recognizing the validity claims they reciprocally raise.”30 Habermas makes a distinction between this communicative action, which serves as a social cohesive, and a more infectious model he calls instrumental. Where a communicative model promotes sociality and rela tes individuals to each other as “subject to subject” and having “share d expectations, beliefs, and norms, Instrumental models focus on the individual and his or her relationship to “external nature, as subj ect to object, oriented toward its efficient mastery.”31 Instrumental action is designed to advance one’s own intentions rather than promote unders tanding. Instrumental action ignores and defeats the ‘telos’ inherent in our use of language and le aves no foundation for social order. Only a model based on mutual unders tanding offers the build ing blocks for an integrated society. 28 Ibid., 38. 29 Ibid., 38. 30 Ibid., 99. 31 Jurgen Habermas and Steven Seidman, Jurgen Habermas on Society and Politics: A Reader (Boston: Beacon Press, 1981), 11-12.


16 Deliberative Legitimacy The argument for communicative rationality articulates an important principle that habermas calls the discourse principle or (D ): “Just those actions norms are valid to which all possibly affected persons could agre e as participants in rational discourse.”32 (D) operates as a specification for Habermas’s condition that the validation of claims leads to consensus. This principle allows Habermas to employ his communicative model into a legal theory of legitimation. However, rational discourse is often times not enough to produce social order, especially in culturally dive rse societies. If humankind was naturally inclined to act towards social order, than we would not need notions of right to govern our actions. This is not the case and where discourse falls s hort, law maintains the standard of rational communication and thus social order. “Through communicative action th e rationality potential of language for functions of social integration is tapped, mobilized and unleashed in a course of social evolution. Modern law steps in to fill th e functional gaps in social order whose integrative capacities are overtaxed. Th e tension between validity and facticity, already built into informal everyday practice in virtue of the ideal content of the pragmatic presuppositions of communicativ e action, becomes more acute in the validity dimension of modern law.”33 Modern law “fills the functional gap” of civil society’s discourse by providing a dual structure to law. Where the civil society attempts to reach consensus communicatively and uphold its claims based on mere validity law provides a due l structure for the compliance of its rules: “Its positivity and its claim to rational acceptability”.34 Not only is law rational but also enforceable and thus binds facticity with validity. Ultimately, 32 Jurgen Habermas, Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998), 107. 33 Ibid., 42. 34 Ibid., 38.


17 Habermas believes that “moral content can spread throughout a society along the channels of legal regulation”35 Law becomes rationally acceptable through Habermas’s democracy principle, which is a legal variation of (D). The de mocracy principle states that: “only those statutes may claim legitimacy that can meet with the assent ( Zustimmung ) of all citizens in a discursive process of legislation th at in turn has been legally constituted.”36 The assent that Habermas is referring to is th e “democratic opinion a nd will-formation” of civil society reached through discourse and rational communication.37 This assent brings with it a will that is distinctively legal, a civic motivation to bind the rationality of communication with the facticity of law. Haberams refers to this will as communicative power. Communicative power works to infl uence and inform governance by processing the general will through democratic structures, that would hopefully, once institutionalized as law, reflect the genera l will and its rationality that motivated it originally, whereby its legitimacy originates. “The democratic procedure for the pr oduction of law evidently forms the only postmetaphysical source of legitimacy. But what provides this procedure with its legitimating force? Discourse theory answ ers this question with a simple, and at first glance, unlikely answer: democratic procedure makes it possible for issues and contributions, information and reasons to float freely; it secures a discursive character for political will-formation; and it thereby grounds the fallibilistic assumption that results issuing from proper procedures are more or less reasonable.”38 Habermas’s legitimation of rules and law comes full circle with his advocating for modernity’s completion and the upholding of enlight enment ideals. It is the practice of these ideals, reason, communication, democr acy etc that not only describes what legitimate rule may look like, but also where it comes from. 35 Ibid., 118. 36 Ibid., 110. 37 Ibid., 300. 38 Ibid., 448.


18 The Legal Argument for War and Resisting Legitimation I will use the UN to contextualize legitimati on for it engages its members in democratic deliberative decision-making and generally enjo ys a healthy level of compliance with its rules. This section will critique the U. S.s legal argument in the UN that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction to be us ed in conjunction with its ties to terrorist networks with the intent of attacking the United States and therefore constituted an imminent threat that justified military action ag ainst Iraq. The argument in this section is that Bush Doctrine resisted legitimation by fa iling to satisfy validity requirements (truth, rightness, truthfulness) necessary for creati ng understanding and consensus in the UN. As a result, no communicative power materiali zed to bind the general will into law, however, the U.S. would invade Iraq anyway. The U.S.s argument for preemptive action against Iraq was based on the idea that Iraq was advancing its development of WMDs and that it would exploit its supposed ties to terrorist networks to carry out an attack on the U.S. Bush outline this claim in a speech he delivered October 6th 2008. Eleven years ago, as a condition for e nding the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its w eapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to st op all support for terro rist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of thos e obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and pract ices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq's eleven-y ear history of defiance, deception and bad faith.39 Bushs speech asserted that Iraq stockpiled atleast 60,000 lit ers of anthrax, thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas, and was 39 The White House. President Bush Outlines Iraq Threat; available from; accessed 1 October, 2008.


19 rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemi cal and biological weapons.40 Bush further warned that these deadly ag ents need not be deployed by conventional military means but rather could be concealed and detonated by hand by terrorist agents. And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren't re quired for a chemical or biological attack; all that mi ght be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it. And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to in ternational terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to te rrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terr orist attacks in 20 c ountries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans.41 Bush specified in the above statement that the danger of WMDs in Iraq was linked to Iraqs ties to terrorists orga nizations and was sure to make this case to the UN. In his address to to the UN, Bush argued that Iraq admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other dead ly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tank s and that U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that coul d be used to produce biological weapons.42 His speech then claimed that Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments.43 The U.S.s legal argument (and thus ther e claim which requires validation from all parties) was twofold: Fi rst, it assumed that Iraq w ould supply these weapons to terrorist allies44 and therefor U.S. military action was appropriate out of self-defense. Second, Iraq had breached UN resolutions 686 687, and 688, under the accusation that 40 Ibid. 41 Ibid. 42 The White House, President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly; available from; accessed 1 October, 2008. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid.


20 Iraq continued to reppress its own people and still held ties to terrorist networks. These arguments will be examined first through validity claims Self-Defense and Truth Dimension of Validty The legal argument for invasion for the reason that Iraq posed an imminent threat failed to satisfy basic validity requirements discu ssed in a Habermasian legitimation process. First, this claim did not satisfy the truth di mension of validity clai ms that required an emperical and factual argument for the use of miltary force against Iraq. This dimension required evidence for both assertions that Iraq was furthering its development of WMDs and that it held strong ties to terrorist organizations. None of these assertions could be factually backed. First, the White House asserted that Ira q was purchasing uran ium from Africa as evidence of their nuclear amb itions. However, CIA intellegence stated that no contracts had been signed with Iraq or other "rogue states" after 1997, and that no uranium ore had been shipped to those states.45 Even before Bushs address to the General Assembly, the CIA told the State Department that there was no factual basis to this claim. The White House also asserted that Iraq had built new factories to further develop biological and chemical weaponry. However, according to the George Tene t of the CIA, there was no confirming intelligence of any such developments and nothing suggested that these factories were developing any weapons. Tene t stated that the claim that these were factories developing weapons was so unsubstantia ted that if an invasion occurred with the intention of targeting military complexes wed be going in there blind.46 There was very little evidence for the White House to vali date the truth dimension of their claim. To this day, no weapons were found. The second claim, that Saddam Hussein harb ored terrorists or had any close ties to Al Qaeda, lacked sufficient material evid ence also. Many in Bushs cabinet could not make a strong case for a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Richard Armitage, Deputy 45 John Diamond, Uranium Reports Doubted Early On USAToday June 12, 2003; available from ld/iraq/2003-06-12-niger-usat_x htm; accessed 1 December, 2008. 46 Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the Wh ite House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), 72-73.


21 Secretary of State, said that A lot of folk s out of the administration have spent a lot of time and energy trying to tie Iraq and Al Qaeda together, but thus far it hasnt been able to be done.47 The 9/11 Commission Report would la ter come out and reject the claim that there were any collaborative e fforts between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operationa l relationship. Nor have we seen any evidence indicating th at Iraq cooperated with al Q aeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States48 In general both claims that Iraq was acqui ring and developing WMDs and that it had close ties to terrorist networ ks were unsubstantiated and th us were not valid claims. Self-Defense and the Truthfuln ess Dimension of Validity The White Houses claim falls short also on the truthfulness dimension, the dimension that requires all parties to demonstrate si ncere interest in reaching understanding and consensus. Documentation has emerged exposi ng possibilities that U.S. officials have manipulated or fixed intelligence concerning Iraq. The most egregious case was the Downing Street memo which revealed that th e intelligence and f acts were being fixed around the policy.49 This type of fixing was made public when George Tenet stated that Bush aids ignored CIA intelligence concerning Iraqs possible WMDs. The CIAs National Intellegence Estimate never concl uded that Iraq was an imminent threat.50 After it was clear that Bush aids ignored CI A intelligence, Wesley Clark has said that 'We need an independent, comprehensive investigation into the administration's 47 James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bushs War Cabinet (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 310. 48 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York, W. W. Norton and Company), 66. 49 Mark Danner, The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq Wars Buried History (New York: New York Review Book, 2006), 88. 50 Walter Pincus and Dana Priest, Bush, Aides Ignored CIA Caveats on Iraq: Clear-Cut Assertions Were Made Before Arms Assessment Was Completed. Washington Post February 7, 2004; available on http://www.washing; acce ssed December 1, 2008.


22 handling of the intelligence leading to war in Iraq. Clark was approached by President Bush on September 12th asking for links between Iraq and al Qaeda. Bush told him See if Saddam did this. See if hes linked in any way.51 The New York Times article wrote: Gen. Wesley K. Clark delivered a searing indictment of the Bush administration on Friday, asserting that its headlong rush to war was based on twisted facts and had violated the nation's democratic prin ciples with dire c onsequences for our security.52 Defense Dept. Inspector General Tom Gimble stated that top Pentagon officials misled the White House concerning in telligence by exaggera ting ties between Iraq and al Qaeda and by withholding intelligence from agencies that challenged Pentagon intelligence.53 Most cases concerning the manipulation of data and twisting intelligen ce is traced back to the Office of Special Planning. Karen Kwiat kowski, a Petagon offi cer wrote what she witnessed in the OSP: I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, a nd through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what we re in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.54 51 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York, W. W. Norton and Company), 334. 52 Katharine Q. Seelye, Clark Says 'R ush to War' Based on Twisted Facts, New York Times October 6, 2008; available on =9F04E7DB153CF 937A35753C1A9659C8B63; accessed December 1, 2008. 53 Dawn Kopecki, Accusations of Twisted Intelligence: Defense Dept. Inspector General Tom Gimble told lawmakers that Pentagon officials manipulated data before the invasion of Iraq, BusinessWeek February 9, 2007; available on ily/dnflash/content/feb2007/db20070209_682557htm?chan=top+news _top+news+index_businessweek+exclusi ves; accessed December 1, 2008. 54 Karen Kwiatkowski, The New Pentagon papers, Salon; available on feature/2004/03/10/osp_moveon/index.html; accessed December 10, 2008.


23 Scott McClellan, former White House Press Secr etary to Bush, has recently said that in the permanent campaign era, it was all abou t manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage.55 He wrote in his book: Our lack of candor and honesty in maki ng the case for war would later provoke a partisan response from our opponents that, in its own way, further distorted and obscured a more nuanced reality. Another cycle of deception would cloud the publics ability to see larger, underlying important truths that are critical to understand in order to avoid the same problems in the future.56 In March of 2006 the New York Times published the contents of a confidential memo written by David Manning, Tony Blairs foreign policy adviser. The NY Times article wrote: But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons.57 In that memo Manning said that Our diplom atic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning.58 Overall, enough documentation has exposed suspect methods of data gathering and policy planning on behalf of the U.S. to question the truthfulness validity of the legal argument for invasion on grounds of self-defense. 55 The Associated Press Ex-aide Scott McClellan Rips Bush's Iraq Propaganda, Daily News, May 28 2008, available on http://wwwnydailynews .com/news/us_world/2008/05/28/2008-0528_exaide_scott_mcclellan_rips_bushs_ iraq_p.html; accessed December 10, 2008. 56 Scott McClellan, What Happened: Inside the Bush White Ho use and Washingtons Culture of Deception (New York: Public Affairs, 2008), 125 57 Don Van Natta, Bush Was Set on Path to War, British Memo Says, New York Times March 27, 2006; available on http://wwwnytimes .com/2006/03/27/international/europe/27memohtml; accessed December 10, 2008. 58 Ibid


24 Breach of UN Resolutions and the ‘Rightness’ Dimension of Validity The U.S. legal argument of invasion for reason of Iraq’s breach of UN resolutions did not satisfy the ‘rightness’ dimension, the dimension that requires the claim to adhere to basic norms of how the social world should operate ‘Rightness’ adds an epistemic dimension to moral and legal decisions or rules, where notions of legal justice and morality become interlaced. “An agreement about norms or ac tions that has been attained discursively under ideal conditions carries more than merely authorizing force: it warrants the rightness of moral judgment”59 Habermas makes a case then that rightness pertains to the compliance of rules as long as those rule s are consensually ac cepted by society. Rightness in this legal argument then pertains to compliance of legal protocols when a state in question is in breach of UN resolutions. What then is the protocol? According to the UN charter Chapter 7, article 39: “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any thre at to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Ar ticles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”60 This article states that only the UN Security Council may dete rmine a threat to the peace, not an individual member state. This article would discredit the U.S.’s justification for invasion which was based on the argument th at resolution 1441 somehow authorized military use. Resolution 1441 states: “that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations”.61 This point however, does not authorize any pa rticular member state the power to use military force. John Negroponte even acknowledged in his statement to the Security Council. 59 Jurgen Habermas, Truth and Justification (Boston: MIT Press, 2003), 258. 60 United Nations, The Charter of the United Nations ; available on tun/charter/pdf/uncharter.pdf ; accessed December 10, 2008. 61 United Nations, Resolution 1441 available on http://daccessdds.un.or g/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/6 82/26/PDF/N0268226.pdf?O penElement; accessed on December 10, 2008.


25 this Resolution contains no hidden triggers and no a utomaticity with respect to the use of force. If there is a furt her Iraqi breach, reported to the Council by UNMOVIC, the IAEA, or a memb er state, the matter will return to the Council for discussions as required in paragraph 12.62 These two legal arguments by the U.S. did not satisfy all validity dimensions and thus could not reach understanding and consensus during the UN deliberations. Of the permanent five members of the Security Council, France, China and Russia were strongly against the premature invasion of Iraq. Fran ce threatened to veto any military action taken. China aligned itself with France in advocating for further inspections. Russia was willing to back the U.S. if the situation in Iraq did not change but rested on continued weapons inspections and multilateral consensus. Furthermore, of the temporary ten, the only members that supported the use of for ce ware Bulgaria and Spain. Of the total fifteen members of the Security Council, U.S. ambitions to invade Iraq were backed only by the UK, Spain and Bulgaria. This was not enough given the nine out of fifteen supermajority required to pass a resolution. Despite no passage of any resolution, the U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20th 2003. Kofi Annan reported to the BBC after reviewing the charter and indicated that the invasion was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the char ters point of view, it was illegal.63 The failure of the U.S. to reach consensus, especially the absence of truthfulness during decision-making, doesnt illustrate misunderstanding or miscommunication, it illustrates outright instrumental and strategic action, which according to Habermas is a parasitic form of communicat ion and obstructs a process designed with communicative intent. This further comes to light when the U.S. was determined to invade despite the lack of consensus, which indicates the Bush Doctrines strong resistence to legitimation. What then is the reason for this resistance? 62 John Negroponte, Explanation of Vote on Resolution 1441: Statement by Ambassador John Negroponte of the US Global Policy Forum ; available on aq/document/2002/1108usstat htm; accessed on December 10, 2008. 63 Iraq War Illegal, Says Annan, BBC ; available on; accessed on December 10, 2008.


26 The paper will argue that this resistan ce can be explained by examining Leo StraussÂ’s critique of modernity because it is his thought that has been the most influential for the neoconservative movement. In particular, it is his fear of relativism that has been internalized by the neoconserva tive movement and embedded in the Bush Doctrine that resists the modern legitimation of rules.


27 Chapter 2: Leo Strauss Introduction The thoughts of Leo Strauss have received grea t attention, especia lly after the Iraq invasion. More and more scholars have found it necessary to explore the relationship between Straus and the neoconservatives, and indeed there is one. James Atlas was one of the first to report on Strausss influence sa ying that the Bush Administration is rife with Straussians.64 Jim Lobe later wrote Strau ss is a popular figure among the neoconservatives. Adherents of his ideas include prominent figures both within and outside the administrationStrauss' philosophy is ha rdly incidental to the strategy and mindset adopted by these men.65 Anne Norton, a student of many of the Straussians such as Joseph Cropsey and Ralph Lerner, ar gues in respect to Straussians that they were bound by politics as well: a distinctly and distinctively conservative politics. They have come to power and influenced the ch aracter of governance in the United States.66 Shadia Drury writes The power and influence of Strausss students in Washington is a well-documented fact.67 It is because of his influen ce on the neoconservative movement that it is so important to turn to his philosophy. Strauss can be viewed as a sort of postmodernist given his critique of liberalism and rationalism in a modern era. For Stra uss, both rationalism and liberalism cultivate a dangerous relativism that co uld destroy societys moral fa bric. If modernity is the problem, then society must unearth the ways of its ancestors, which requires reversing our enlightenment and embracing ancient mode s of power and control. Rather than building society on a foundation of reason, elites would be trusted to provide the masses 64 James Atlas Leo-Cons; A Classici st's Legacy: New Empire Builders, The New York Times; available on; accessed on 10 December 2008. 65 Jim Lobe Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception, AlterNet ; available on story/15935/; accessed on 10 December 2006. 66 Anne Norton, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), 2. 67 Shadia Shadia, Leo Strauss and the American Right (New York: St. Martins Press, 1997) xi.


28 with information concerning morality and meaning. For Strauss, it is the ancients rather than the moderns that have built a stable soci ety given their ability to safeguard against relativism. This chapter wi ll focus on two aspects that are important to understand Strauss’s political thought: 1) his suspicions of liberalism, and 2) his preference for cultural elites. The Ancient and Modern Dichotomy A key feature of Strauss’s pol itical thought is his dichotomy between the ancients and the moderns, more specifically the departure fr om antiquity and the crisis of modernity, a debate that is essentially at the heart of St raussianism. This dichotomy is not to be understood as an evolution of an ancien t world to a modern one, but rather a transformation of moral and po litical understanding through a new conception of nature. According to Strauss: Traditional natural law is primarily and mainly an objective ‘rule and measure’, a binding order prior to, and independent of, the human will, while modern natural law is, or tends to be, primarily and main ly a series of ‘rights’, of subjective claims, originating in the human will.68 The antiquarian conception of nature was a world order in which human behavior would act in accordance with. Conversely, modern conceptions of nature departed from the subjugation of man’s will and would champion what Strauss would call a ‘conquest of nature’. This conquest was, for Strauss, a “present-day tyranny” of progress made possible through the advancement of scien ce and knowledge. What seemed unnatural and perverse to the ancients would now dominate present-day political philosophy that man would rule over nature.69 It is the opposing notions of nature, and therefore ultimately opposing epistemological understanding of moral behavior, that makes distinct modernity from antiquity. 68 Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 1952) vii – viii. 69 Leo Strauss, On Tyranny (London: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1963) 189-191.


29 Strauss traces the advent of modernity ba ck to Machiavelli as the first modern philosopher. Strauss would call this the first wave of modernity which would be developed further by the Enlightenment.70 MachiavelliÂ’s distinct conception of nature can be understood through the notion of virtue. As Strauss puts it: The Traditional approach was based on the assumption that morality is something substantial: that it is a fo rce in the soul of man, howev er ineffective it may be especially in the affairs of states and kingdoms. Against this assumption Machiavelli argues as follows: virtue can be practiced only within society; man must be habituated to virtue by laws customs and so forth. Men must be educated to virtue by human beings.71 What makes MachiavelliÂ’s conception of virt ue modern is his humanism. This is a departure from ancient virtue in that it no longer precedes, and therefore provides, guiding principles for the good of society. Rather, virtue is achieved now through actions taken for the ends of society, despite how those actions might be viewed in terms of ancient virtue. Modern political philosophy thus has transformed the no tion of virtue into a construction no longer to be understood in term s of morality but rather in terms of the civic. The argument thus becomes: what is virtuous is so because it is good for the city.72,73 It is important to note, for the purpos e of this paper, what is crucial to understanding MachiavelliÂ’s virt his critical stance to wards religion, specifically Christianity. According to Machiavelli: Our religion has glorified humble and c ontemplative men, rather than men of actionÂ… But though it looks as if the wo rld were become effeminate, and if heaven were powerless, this undoubtably is due rather to th e pusillanimity of 70 Leo Strauss, An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989) 84-87. 71 Leo Strauss, What is Political Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959) 41-42. 72 Ibid 40-49. 73 Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis (Chicago: University Chicago Press, 1952) 129-131.


30 those who have interpreted our religion in terms of laissez faire not in terms of virt.74 Christianity glorified natureÂ’s rule over man a nd was therefore antithetical to virtue. On the other hand, civic virtue was aggressive and passionate; it drove men to action. It is here that we understand StraussÂ’s distinction between the moderns and the ancients. ModernityÂ’s concep tion of virtue is no longer compatible with antiquityÂ’s political philosophy. By constructing virtue in terms of the civic, the moderns have transformed political philosophy from what was once antiquityÂ’s purely reflective pursuits to now be bonded with a present-day praxis. Political ph ilosophy would finally waken in modernity to find man ruling over nature. The Crisis of Modernity Modernity is central to much of StraussÂ’ s work and, again understood as a present-day political philosophy and a new conception of na ture, would become a major point of his criticism. Strauss is well known for advising a return to the ancien ts. Strauss writes: It is not self-forgetting and pain-loving antiquarianism nor self-forgetting and intoxicating romanticism which induces us to turn with passionate interest, with unqualified willingness to learn, toward the political thought of classical antiquity. We are impelled to do so by the crisis of our time, the crisis of the West.75 To better understand why modern ity or the West was in crisis it is important to start with the thoughts of those who first recognized a cr isis thus laying the foundation for much of StraussÂ’s work. Those thoughts belong to Nietzsch e. In fact much of StraussÂ’s work was in response to the ideas of Nietzsche. StraussÂ’ s letter to Karl Lwith illustrates this as he 74 Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses (London: Penguin Books, 2003) 278. 75 Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978) 1.


31 said “Nietzsche so dominated and bewitched me between my 22nd and 30th years, that I literally believed everything that I understood of him”.76 It is The Birth of Tragedy where Strauss was introduced to Nietzsache’s crisis of the West.77 Nietzsche uses Socrates as a symbol of false hope that true knowledge is attainable, that we can understand the self and use knowledge to improve the self. According to Nietzsche: By contrast with this practical pessimi sm, Socrates is the prototype of the theoretical optimist who, with his faith that the nature of things ca be fathomed, ascribes to knowledge and insight the power of a panacea, while understanding error as the evil par excellence…But sc ience, spurred by its powerful illusion, speeds irresistibly toward its limits wher e its optimism, concealed in the essence of logic, suffers shipwreck.78 For Nietzsche we can never know things-inthemselves including ourselves. Humanity was promised, by science and knowledge, an im provement of our condition only to find the loss of meaning for our existence.79 Strauss’s interpretation of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil further displays what is at the heart of Nietzsche’s crisis our perspectivism. For Nietzsche, there is no objective judgment of truth but rather there are several wa ys to see the world based on each person’s perspective of truth. Nietzsche provides three assumptions: Everything is interpretation or construction Constructed truths are ‘life-giving’ No constructed truth is everlasting 76 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006) 83. 77 Ibid 80-82. 78 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1967) 97. 79 Catherine and Michael Zuckert. The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Ch icago Press, 2006) 80-83.


32 Thus we understand how knowledge destro ys the meanings humanity lives by. Understanding that truth is nothing more than construction and tem porary enlightens us about our perspectivism, and we become nihilistic. 80 Strauss’s interpretation of Nietzsche does not end with an existential dilemma but pursues this nihilism further into the mora l and political. The sciences of modernity provide the knowledge of other notions of ‘ri ght’, harboring a sense of conventionalism, the “contention that the variety of notions of right proves the nonexisten ce of natural right or the conventional character of all right.”81 Strauss’s conventionalism recognizes the varying notions of right spatially but focuses more so on there temporal nature; notions of right are subject not only to loca tion but have also been subjec t to the whims of historical conditions. In Strauss’s words: The fundamental premise of conventionalism is, then, nothing other than the idea of philosophy as the attempt to grasp the eternal. The modern opponents of natural right reject precisely this idea. According to them, all human thought is historical and hence unable ever to gras p anything eternal. Whereas, according to the ancients, philosophizing means to leave the cave, according to our contemporaries all philosophizing essentia lly belongs to a “historical world”, “culture,” “civilization,” “W eltanschauung,” that is, to what Plato had called the cave. We shall call this view “historicism.82 This historicism, a particular form of pos itive science in search for objective truths, would confess rather our perspe ctivism, destroying all norma tive universal principles and declare a state of nihi lism for the new world.83 Here we understand the crisis of modernity in Strauss’s thought. The conquest over nature is humanity’s attempt to improve its situation through scientific unders tanding which inadvertently results in the historicization of morality. Machiavelli’s modernizing of political philosophy produced the foundation for the second and third wave of modernity, reaching its climax in 80 Shadia B. Drury, The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) 170-172. 81 Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 10. 82 Ibid 12. 83 Ibid 14-20.


33 Nietzsche’s nihilism and illustrating our greatest irony “The attempt to make man absolutely at home in this world ended in man’s becoming absolutely homeless.”84 By transforming virtue from the moral to the civic we paved the way for a destructive nihilism and lost our ability to act morally in the city. For Strauss, historicism’s destruction of all natural ri ght authorities woul d elevate itself as the new and only authority of relativism, leaving hum anity in moral loath and despair. Modernity and American Liberalism It is important, then, to understand Strauss’s cr isis of modernity in context of the West’s liberal traditions (in particul ar the U.S.), for they are closely related. For Strauss, liberalism is very much a part of modernity. In fact modernity assumes liberalism, thus also assumes an integral part for liberalism in modernity’s crisis.85 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, both former students of Strauss, write: “What is needed, in other words, is En lightenment, that is, the spread within society of truths discerned by philosophy and the replacement of old opinions, understood now as mere prejudices, by th ese new truths. Philosophy thus became particularly eager to have an effect to remake the world. As Strauss puts it, philosophy, while not giving up its aspirati on to truth, also becomes propaganda, the conscious effort to reshape opini on through public teaching. America was founded by men who were heirs to this project.86 Machiavelli’s ‘modern project’ was inher ited by John Locke, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Voltaire and other prominent Enlighten ment thinkers who would further develop modernity and champion the libe ral ideal, an ideal that Strau ss would show suspicion for. Strauss’s unique perspective of liberalism is due in part to his experience in the Germany. The Weimer Republic would draft it s constitution after Wo rld War I and thus 84 Ibid 18. 85 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth About Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Ch icago Press, 2006) 58-64. 86 Ibid 6.


34 began its liberal experiment. However, Germany had no history of democracy and this would prove problematic for an effective repub lic. Democracy was predestined to fail as most political groups were opposed to a parlia mentary structure. Hitler would become chancellor in 1933 and brought Germa ny to Nazi rule a year later.87 Though there are several reasons as to why Germany’s republic failed, Strauss claims that it’s simply the nature of liberalism to “plant the seeds for its own destruction”. The rise of Hitler and the horrors of Nazi Germany both illustrate, for Strauss, the inevitable tyranny that awaits liberalism.88 Strauss’s critique of liberalism is unde rstood through the crisis of modernity, more specifically he feared modern relativ ism would surface thr ough America’s liberal traditions. Thomas Pangle wrote, referring to Am erican culture, that “Ours is the culture of “humanism” and “humanity’s enlight enment”, “to and through reason and rationalism.”89 Reason and rationalism would, howeve r, cultivate for Strauss a deadly tolerance. “But there is a tension between the respect for diversity or i ndividuality and the recognition of natural right. When liber als became impatient of the absolute limits to diversity or individuality that are imposed even by the most liberal version of natural right, they had to make a choice between na tural right and the uninhibited cultivation of individuality. They chose the latter. Once this step was taken, tolerance appeared as one value or ideal among many, and not intrinsically superior to its opposite. In other words intolerance appe ared as a va lue equal in dignity to tolerance.”90 Our inability to discern any natural right has le d to the acceptance of all notions of natural right, leading furthermore to nihilism and eventually to tolerate the intolerant. For Strauss this would lead to humankind’s inab ility to live as “responsible beings” and 87 Shadia Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997) 4-6. 88 Ibid 7-9. 89 Thomas Pangle, Leo Strauss: An Introduction to his Thought and Intellectual Legacy (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2006) 8. 90 Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965) 5.


35 ultimately the destruction of history and our moral fabric. His prescription would be to “silence the easily silenced voi ce of reason” lest we fell to “radical obscurantism”.91 Platonic Elitism and Deception through Culture Strauss recognized the conventional nature of morality and meaning and understood those conventions as products of power. S ilencing the voice of reason meant maintaining power in society. Unlike the Enlightenment, which was advocated for egalitarian designs, the ancients accepted inequality and subordination as natural. Accordingly, the best form of government should be one ex emplary of nature, where power is the determining force. Strauss would find such a society in Plato’ s Republic, socially designed to maintain a natural hierarchy. In that were the tools necessary for silencing reason – myths handed down from the nobles providing for the demos meaning and purpose for their stratification, ultimately maintaining hier archical integrity. Plato illustrates for us this noble lie: Citizens, we shall say to them in our ta le, you are brothers, yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold. Wherefore also they have the greatest honor; others he has made of silver, to be auxiliaries; others ag ainst who are to be husbandmen and craftsmen he has composed of br ass and iron.92 Strauss believed, like Plato, that “the good city is not possible than without a fundamental falsehood; it cannot exist in th e element of truth, of nature.”93 For Strauss deception was an integral and necessary component of th e healthy society. He elaborated on two dimensions of Plato’s noble lie. The first is designed to bind the citizens together for reasons of social cohesion. It would fo ster a national fraternity among the citizens through myths of the nation. Acco rding to Strauss, “The frater nity of all human beings is 91 Ibid 6. 92 Plato, Republic (New York: Barnes and No bles Classics, 2004) 112. 93 Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978) 102.


36 to be replaced by the fraternity of all fellow citizens.”94 The second was to qualify the inequality of fellow citizens th rough the myth of religion. Again, he writes: “While the fraternity is traced to the earth, th e inequality is traced to the god.”95 Religion would provide justification for the natural hier archy that takes place in humankind. The justification for hierarchy plays a practical role, not just as part of the myth but in the very dissemination of myths. Lies are “useful only as a medicine to men” and “the use of such medicines should be restricted to phys icians”, those physic ians being the elite.96 However, it is important to note the nature of Strauss’s elite, that being the distinction between philosophers and non-philosophers. A ccording to Zuckert and Zuckert, “what distinguishes Strauss’s elite is not wealth, status, political, military, or economic power, but recognition of ‘the truth’”.97 It was, for Straus, th e manipulative role of the philosopher kings to deceive the mass es to assure a healthy society: Again, truth should be highly valued; If, as we were saying; private individuals have no business with them… Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the stat e should be the persons. As this passage suggests, only the elite is morally equipped to design and deceive the nation. The use of nationalism and religion en sure social cohesion by creating culture. Culture provides society with purpose and mora l identity. It is th ese two dimensions of the noble lie that maintain the health of the society and safe guard it from the dangers of relativism. Strauss on Schmitt: The Concept of the Political Carl Schmitt’s essay, Concept of the Political offered a new domain of interest, that being the political, which would provide the state w ith its own domain of predominance. This concept of the political is understood through a distinction, and this distinction in which 94 Ibid 102. 95 Ibid 102. 96 Plato, Republic (New York: Barnes and No bles Classics, 2004) 78. 97 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth About Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006) 7.


37 “political actions and motives can be re duced is that between friends and enemy.”98 He elaborates on the nature of the other: The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in a extreme case conflicts with him are possible.99 For Schmitt the unity and identity of a gr oup or the state is possible only in the juxtaposition to the “other”. This ‘othering’ make s war between groups very real, however, at the same time, provides those groups with an identity formation process; thus it is our struggle against each other that is the “pervasive and determining forces of human existence”.100 Strauss would find this Hobbesian ex istentialism attractive because it was affirming of the political and critic al of liberalism. He writes: It thus becomes clear why Schmitt rejects the ideal of pacifism (more fundamentally: of civilization), why he affirms the political: he affirms the political because he sees in the threatened status of the politi cal a threat to the seriousness of life.101 For Schmitt, the political was a necessary condi tion, one of threat and struggle, so that we may place value on our lives and take responsi bility for it. In an age of modernity 98 Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 26. 99 Ibid 27. 100 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006) 188. 101 Leo Strauss, “Notes on The Concept of the Political ,” in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996) 101.


38 however, liberalism and its promotion of ethical universalism w ould depoliticize the world, thus trivializing and destroying the meaning of our existence.102 Strauss would agree with Schmitt that liber alism has failed but he would disagree with Schmitt’s critique of liberalism. For St rauss, Schmitt “remained within the orbit of modernity” by employing a main architect of liberalism, Hobbes, to explain the friend/enemy distinction as intrinsic to the political.103 Thus Schmitt’s affirmation of the political never materialized as a negation of liberalism, and, furthermore, such negation was never really necessary to begin with. Strauss argues: We said that Schmitt undertakes the critique of liberalism in a liberal world; and we meant thereby that his critique of liberalism occurs in the horizon of liberalism; his unliberal tendency is restrained by the still unvanquished “systematics of liberal thought.” The critique introduced by Schmitt against liberalism can therefore be completed only if one succeeds in gaining a horizon beyond liberalism.104 Moving beyond the horizon of liberalism, be yond Hobbes, would challenge the idea of the friend/enemy distinction as intrinsic to the political. Such an understanding could be found in the ancients, where the distinction between frie nds and enemies is only a derivative of the political. Like Schmitt’s co nception of the political, the ancients too recognized the tendency for man to form in to groups. However, such groupings would not rise out of enmity for another but instead were born out of man’s desire to “perfect human nature as social and rational.”105 Each society, again, traced to the earth for territorial boundaries, would also be traced to the God for moral boundaries. These moral boundaries, what was moral permissible and no t, binds society toge ther and provides meaning and purpose, making each group morally particularistic. 102Tracy B Strong, “Forward: Dimensions of the New Debate Around Carl Schmitt” in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Ch icago Press, 1996) xiii-xx. 103 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006) 187. 104 Leo Strauss, “Notes on The Concept of the Political ,” in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996) 107. 105 Catherine and Michael Zuckert, The Truth about Leo Strauss: Political Philosophy and American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006) 193.


39 Strauss sought for a higher, not a lowe r, understanding of the significance and priority of the political. Strauss came to understand the political in relation to the highest in humanity, and that led him to emphasize the dignity, not the viciousness, of potential life.106 For Strauss the concept of the political is no t defined by friends and enemies but rather a desire to reach perfection through the pr actice of moral behavior. Friend/enemy distinctions are only derivatives of each groups’ moral particularism. However, Strauss is quick to remind us that though humanki nd’s intentions are virtuous, the friend/enemy distinction that de rives from it remains real and grim and reminds us as to why it, at times, seems appropriate for Schmitt to explain it through Hobbes. Strauss writes: In other words, it became clearer that it had been for some time that no bloody or unbloody change of society can eradicate the evil in man: as long as there will be men, there will be malice, envy and hatred.107 The consequences of this reveal themselves as ironic; it is our desi re to reach perfection through moral practice that paints the world as a constant struggle between good and evil leaving humankind to conceive the world norma tively in terms of ‘us and them’, and the prophecy fulfills itself. Strauss, like Schmitt, finds that it is impor tant for the world to remain political. He claims that “there cannot be a uni versal state, unitary or federative”.108 However, unlike Schmitt, Strauss does not think it is necessary because it negates liberalism, but rather it is a result of our highest moral aspirations which are necessary for making humankind responsible members of society. A universal state can only signal an erosion of our ‘life-giving’ myths and the disintegration of society. Strauss argues this point when talking about the West’s “experience of Communism” and the lessons learned: 106 Ibid 194. 107 Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964) 5. 108 Ibid 6.


40 Apart from the fact that there does not exist now a universal federation of nations but only of those nations which are calle d peace-loving, the federation that exists masks the fundamental cleavage. If that federation is taken to seriously, as a milestone on man’s onward march toward th e perfect and hence universal society, one is bound to take great risks supported by nothing but an inherited and perhaps antiquated hope, and thus to endanger th e very progress one endeavors to bring about…Even if one would still contend that the Western pu rpose is as universal as the Communist, one must rest satisfied for the foreseeabl e future with a practical particularism.109 Furthermore Straus agrees with Schmitt that the threatened status of the political threatens the seriousness of life. However, Strauss goes further than Schmitt and traces the seriousness of life not to the political but what, as the classics understood, creates the political, that being our desire to reach perfection through moral practice. Strauss continues: The situation resembles the one which existed during the centuries in which Cristianity and Islam each raised its unive rsal claim but had to be satisfied with uneasily coexisting with its antagonist. All this amounts to saying that for the foreseeable future, political society remains what it always has been: a partial or particular society who most urgent and primary task is its self-preservation and whose highest task is its self-improvement.110 Ultimately for Strauss, it is our sense of self, our character and virtue, which is defined through moral practice and self-improvement, th at separates life-as-s erious from life-asmere-entertainment. This arranges huma nkind into conflicting groups, because, in Schmitt’s words, “the political world is a pluriverse, not a universe”111 where war is not born out of blind enmity but out of mora l necessity and thoug h this conflict is 109 Ibid 6. 110 Ibid 6. 111 Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 53.


41 unfortunate, Strauss considers this better than the depolitical alternat ive that dehumanizes and trivializes our existence. Conclusion To summarize, Strauss’s postmodernism can be understood through his arguments against the rationalism and egalitarianism th at emerge under libera lism. For Strauss, social order depends on the cultivation of life-giving myths; more specifically societies need to be founded on strong religious and na tionalistic convictions that constitute a culture. Rationalism and science, however, expose these religious and national beliefs as having no inherent truth or na tural right. Modernity would then witness this nihilism converge with the liberal movement’s celebratio n of the individual. Strauss feared that liberal societies would destroy culture and collapse without a sense of natural right to constrain the individua l’s self-interests. Understanding Strauss’s anxieties about modernity’s rationalism and liberalism clarifies as to what his ‘return to the ancients’ is and why he prescribes it. It is a contraposition to modernity by prescribing what is antithetical to both rationalism and liberalism. Strauss argues that it is the role of the elites to propa gate myths that provide the masses with cultural truth and natural right He perceives a dest ructive self-interested relativism growing from liberalism’s egalitarian designs and the advancement of knowledge. He combats this by supplanti ng liberalism with cultural elites and knowledge with myths of nation an d origin. For Strauss, elites and myths co-act to form the concept of Platonic elitism, where the role of the elite is to transmit such myths in order to protect society from the dangers of relativism. Simply put, Platonic elites safeguard society from moral relativism by the use of their power to assert religious and nationalistic values. These values constitute a culture that informs what the regime, the nature of the political society, would look like. It is the character of the regime that frames foreign policy, an expression of its own particular character, which inevitably becomes contentious among differing regimes. Fo r Strauss, regime is at the core of the ‘political’ – friend/enemy di stinctions are only a symp tom of the ‘political’.


42 It is these two major points of StraussÂ’s fear of relativism, 1) his suspicion of liberalism and 2) Platonic elitism, that neocons ervatives have interna lized as there own. The next chapter will demonstrate how these two points have been translated and employed by the neoconservative movement.


43 Chapter 3: Linking Neoconservatism to Straussianism Introduction Many neoconservatives were quite open abou t their admiration for Strauss. Irving Kristol, often called the “godfather” of ne oconservatism, describe s reading Strauss as “the kind of intellectual shock that is a once-in-a-lifetime e xperience. He turned one’s intellectual universe upside down.”112 Allan Bloom claimed that meeting Strauss had been the “decisive moment” of his life.113 Strauss’s thought would have such an impact on his students and readers that it would form a close circle of scholars and intellectuals faithful to the Straussian discip line. Werner J. Dannhauser ill ustrates this best by saying, “Leo Strauss was like a sun around which we thought ourselves pr ivileged to orbit”.114 Many have referred to such students of Strauss as ‘disciples’. Whether the term has risen out of mockery or endearment, severa l Straussians have accepted the title. What truly links neoconservatism to Straussianism is the fear of relativism that is suspicious of liberalism and works to establish cultural elites. The neoconservative movement, which grew around intellectuals su ch as Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, believed they were witnessing th e disintegration of Western society through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s and the Cold War. They feared that the anti-Americanism duri ng the culture wars and dtente with the Soviets were signs of growi ng relativism in our modern society. Norman Podhoretz writes: 112 Irving Kristol, “An Autobiographical Memoir” in Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press) 7. 113 Walter Nicgorski, “Allan Bloom: Strauss, Socrates, and Liberal Education” ed. Kenneth L. Deutsch and John Albert Murley, Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime (Rowman and Littlefield, 1999) 208. 114 Dannhauser, Werner J, “Allan Bloom: A Remi niscence” ed. Robert Palmer and Thomas Pangle, Political Philosophy and the Human Soul: Essays in Memory of Allan Bloom (Maryland: Roman and Littlefield, 1995) 5.


44 Finally, there was the realm of culture. If anti-Communism was the ruling passion of the neoconservatives in foreign affairs, opposition to the counterculture of the 1960s was their ruling passion at home. Indeed, I suspect that revulsion against the counterculture accounted for more converts to neoconservatism than any other single factor.115 This chapter, then, will evidence the link be tween Straussianiam and neoconservatism by demonstrating the fear of relativism in tw o historical periods: 1) the neoconservative response to the culture wars of the mid 1960s a nd early 1970s and 2) their rise of political power during the Cold War. The Culture Wars Leo Strauss became a significant factor in the culture war, and neoconservatives brought Strauss in.116 Irving Kristol Neoconservative fear of relativism will be demonstrated through their hostility towards liberalism and desire to establish cultural el ites. The hostility towards liberalism will be evidenced through their opposition towards the countercultures tolerance, individualism and egalitarianism. Such liberalism w ould invite a moral relativism through the emergence of multiculturalism and general anti-Americanism that would follow. Platonic elitism, again meaning the employment of power or status to affirm traditional and cultural values, will be evidenced through the assertion of religious truths and the championing of American nationalism. 115 Norman Podhoretz, Neoconserva tism: A Eulogy; available on,filter.a ll/pub_detail.asp.; accessed 10 December, 2008. 116 Ronald Bailey, The Voice of Neoconservatism We in America fought a cultu re war, and we lost; available on http://wwwreas ; accessed 10 December, 2008


45 Hostility towards Liberalism – Opposition to Counterculture America in the 1960s witnessed new and progressive political and cultural trends. This era saw the emergence of the New Left and Johns on’s “Great Society”. Issues of equality became more urgent during this time as seen with the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and the war on povert y. Under the civ il rights movement new reforms passed such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a nd Voting Right Act of 1965. Johnson’s War on Poverty passed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which was followed by a number of programs aimed at eliminating poverty. The Higher Education Act of 1965 granted more money to universities and made loans more accessible to students. But reform did not take pl ace without struggle. Race riots broke out in Watts, Detroit, and Cleveland in the late 1960s.117 The Stonewall riots marked the beginning of violent struggles for the LGBT Possibly the largest radica l movement was the student rebellions voicing a variety of issues ranging from curricular reforms to protesting against the Vietnam War. Students, for instance, enga ged in campus riots, sit-in, and marches. The death of four students by the National Guard at Kent State marked the violent consequences of crackdowns.118 In addition, there was religious and sexual experimentalism in which younger generations pushed the boundaries of decency through homo sexuality, libertinism, intoxication, excess. Suicide, out-of-wedlock-birth, divorce drug use and other sign s of crisis rose. For the neoconservatives, these times highlighted a time of moral decadence and crisis and marked a new culture emerging in oppositi on to the current one, a counterculture. Peter Steinfels accurately describes the ne oconservatives’ reacti ons to this period. “The current crisis is primarily a cultural crisis, a matter of values, morals, and manners. Though this crisis has causes and consequences on the level of socioeconomic structures, neoconservatism unlike the Left, tends to think these 117 Michael A. Peters “Leo Strauss and the Neoc onservative Critique of the Liberal University: Postmodernism, Relativism and the Culture Wars,” Critical Studies in Education Vol 49, No. 1 (March 2008) 15 118 Ibid 16.


46 have performed well. The problem is th at our convictions have gone slack, our morals loose, our manners corrupt.”119 Here is where we understand the neoconserva tive critique of liber alism, through their concerns of the counterculture. The New Left of the 1960s spawned a counterculture that neoconservatives viewed as “cynical nihilistic, and exploitative.”120 As one of the main actors in this countercultural movement, th e Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) popularized political radical ism and extremism through va rious student rebellions.121 However, while the SDS saw their struggle on campuses as one that might improve society, neoconservatives saw it as one that would destroy societ y. Neoconservatives, such as Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, Irving Kristol and Allan Bloom were some of the most vocal against the student rebellions. Bl oom, referring to the universities in the 1960s, has said “I know of nothing positiv e coming from that period; it was an unmitigated disaster for them”.122 Kristol wrote in his memoirs: “The major event of that period was the student rebellion and the rise of the counterculture, with its me ssianic expectations and its apocalyptic fears… Suddenly we discovered that we had b een cultural conservatives all along.”123 Glazer wrote in “The Campus Crucible”: “…My first reaction to the student disruption – and it is not only an emotional one – is to consider how the disrupters can be isolated and weakened, how their influence, which is now enormous among students, can be reduced, how 119 Peter Steinfels, The Neoconservatives (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979) 55. 120 Irving Kristol “Countercultures,” Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press, 1995) 146. 121 Waldemar A. Nielsen Golden Donors: A New Anatomy of the Great Foundations (Transaction Publishers, 2001) 40-41. 122 Allan Bloom The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) 320. 123 Irving Kristol “An Autobiographical Memoir,” Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press) 31.


47 dissension among them can be encouraged, and how they can be finally removed from a community they wish to destroy.”124 Podhoretz wrote in “Neoc onservatism: A Eulogy”: “Indeed, I suspect that revulsion agains t the counterculture accounted for more converts to neoconservatism than any other si ngle factor. This revulsion was not only directed against the counterculture it self; it was also inspired by the abject failure of the great institutions of liberal community to resist the counterculture…In part the problem was simp le moral cowardice, but in part it was sheer inability of these institutions to defend themselves intellectually when they came under attack.”125 Podhoretz illustrates here not only revulsion against the co unterculture but liberalism itself. Here is where we can draw one of the links between Straussianism and neoconservatism, not simply because of their mutual criticism of liberalism but because the founders of neoconservatism had adopted Strauss’s logic that “liberalism leads to relativism”. To critique this point require s understanding the neoconservative reaction to the New Left’s egalitarian demands. Irving Kr istol, considered to be the ‘godfather of neoconservatism’ demonstrates this best in hi s work. He argues that demands for greater equality are not rooted in inequality at all. In fact, Kristol claims that inequality is healthy in society. Much like Strauss w ho favored the ancient’s model of social hierarchy exemplary of the inequalities found in nature, so too does Kristol advocate for Aristotle’s legitimate society, “in which inequa lities – of property, or station, or power – are generally perceived by the citizenr y as necessary for the common good”.126 He goes on to say that dissatisfaction with this de finition of a legitimate society arises from 124 Nathan Glazer “The Campus Crucible: Student Politics and the University,” in The Essential Neoconservative Reader ed. Mark Gerson (Reading, MA: Addis on-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1996) 55. 125 Norman Podhoretz “Neoconservatism: A Eulogy,” American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research available on; http://www pubID.18103,filter. all/pub_detail.asp; accessed on January 10, 2000. 126 Irving Kristol “About Equality,” in Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea (New York: Free Press, 1995) 167.


48 liberalism’s conception of it. However, he claims that liberalism itself is inequitable because it is “based on a deficient conception of the common good”.127 It cannot provide the equality that it promises and so its cr itics become more enraged but “there are no reforms that are going to placa te the egalitarian impulse”.128 For Kristol, much like Strauss, crisis in society is not rooted in inequality but rather how equality leads to nihilism. His crisis of liber alism, then, isn’t understood to end with egalitarianism but rather how egalitar ian struggles leave societies in a “religious vacuum – a lack of meaning in their own li ves, and the absence of a sense of larger purpose in their society – that terrifies them and provokes them to ‘alienation’ and unappeasable indignation”.129 According to Kristol: “They have obtained enough of the comforts of bourgeois civilization, and have a secure enough grip upon th em, to permit themselves the luxury of reflecting uneasily upon the inadequacies of their civi lization. They then discover that a life that is without a sense of purpose creates an acute experience of anxiety, which in turn transforms the universe into a hostile, repressive place. The spiritual history of mankind is full of such existential moments, which ar e the seedbeds of Gnostic and millenarian movements – movements th at aim at both spiritual and material reformations. Radical egalitarianism is in our day, exactly such a movement.”130 Kristol claims that a secular sense of success has replaced the religious sense of virtue. Understanding Kristol’s argument further links neoconservatism to Strauss’s suspicions of liberalism. Kristol’s argument reflects St rauss’s concerns of constructing virtue in terms of the civic. This was the virtue of Machiavelli, the original modern thinker who glorified men of action, launching a dire ction of human history towards the enlightenment and Adam Smith’s market economy. This was important for Kristol because for him Smith was the first in history to establish a “moral legitimacy of a market 127 Ibid p. 172 128 Ibid p. 172 129 Ibid p. 178 130 Ibid p. 172


49 economy based on self-interested activity”.131 However, this would lead to cultural attitudes being subject to sel f-interest and matters of taste which would leave the heirs of Adam Smith “powerless against capitalism’ s cultural critics” a nd void of a moral compass.132 Kristol Writes: “Bourgeois Society is [Smiths] legacy, for good and ill. For good, in that it has produced through the market economy a world prosperous beyond all previous imaginings – even social imaginings. For ill, in that this world, with every passing decade, has become ever more sp iritually impoverished. That war on poverty is the great unfinished task before us.”133 Our capitalist society, though originally success ful in because of its incorporation of moral tradition, entered into a “crisis of fa ith” because it “erred in cutting this moral tradition away from the religi ous context that nourished it”.134 Instead, for Kristol, American capitalism had popularized consum erism and materialism, pandering to our physical wants rather than our spiritual needs. Launching our history in such a direction would culminate with Nietzsche’s nihilism an era that provided no “transcendent meaning” and therefore no metaphysical ju stification for inequality in bourgeois society135; rather inequality was a function of the market economy’s neutrality. Thus history culminates, for Kristol with his ‘crisi s of faith’ or rather his ‘crisis of bourgeois society’, and to further draw the link, runs pa rallel with Strauss’s crisis of modernity. According to Kristol: “Nietzsche and his disciple, the Nazi sy mpathizer Martin Heidegger, are almost unanimously regarded as the two philosophic al giants of the modern era. It is important to understand that their teachings are subvers ive not only of bourgeois society and Judeo-Christian tradition but also of secular humanism, secular 131 Ibid p. 124 132 Ibid p. 128 133 Ibid p. 135 134 Ibid p. 133 135 Ibid p. 133


50 rationalism, bourgeois morality – and, in the end, of Western civilization itself.”136 According to Kristol religion and cultural ort hodoxy are imperative for societal stability. However, with the countercultural attack on orthodoxy, Kristol and the neoconservatives believed they were witnessing the breakdown of Western civiliz ation itself. For them the culture wars were evidence that liberal societ y fostered a deadly relativism that led to nihilism. The New Left’s egalitarian strugg les championed the indivi dual’s right to equal access and recognition but at the expense of mora l society. The stability of a society is dependant on a shared sense of religious orig in and a unique national destiny, or indeed a strong sense of collectivism. However, Am erican liberalism cultivated an atomistic individualism that ran counter to the neoconservative co nception of stability through collectivism. Individual pref erences were now as legitimate as the next and should be tolerated as such. What would follow were th e temptations of Dionysus and our fall into moral decadence. Crisis became more evident when indivi dual’s particular moral beliefs challenged those shared forms of identity meant to hol d society together, more specifically when Americans protested against the Vietnam Wa r. In a sense the counterculture was “alienated from the modern traditions that created them.”137 America became enlightened to the conventional nature of its myths especially the myth of the nation which was evident in the protests against the Vietnam War. “The central aspect of the antiwar move ment was less its rejection of Vietnam War than its rejection of the United St ates. The argument was less that the war was unwise or unnecessary than that the United States was immoral – a ‘sick society’ guilty of racism, materialism, imperialism, and murder of the Third World people of Vietnam”138 136 Ibid p. 134 137 Ibid p. 137 138 Jeane Kirkpatrick “Neoconservatism as a Response to the Counterculture,” in The Neocon Reader ed. Irwin M. Stelzer. Grove Press. 2004 p. 239


51 In general, for neoconservatives countercultu re was inevitable because its cause were internal, originating from America’s late st secular and humanist inclinations.139 American modern humanism provided coun terculture with a new found agency to improve our political and social conditions, to construct virtue in terms of the civic. Neoconservatives were apprehensive; the libe ralism of this period for them, all too suggestive of the modern problem – that our conquest over nature would undoubtedly direct us towards relativism. Platonic Elitism – Affirmation of Religious/Cultural Orthodoxy The origins of neoconservatism are rooted in their perceived developm ent of crisis during the 1960s and 1970s, but this is not where it ends Neoconservatism was not interested in being a mere witness to history but wanted to change it. It was, after all, a movement itself. Neoconservatism emerged as a fo rce to combat the effects of countercounterculture. Podhoretz has stated: “Neoconservatism came into the world to combat the dangerous lies that were being spread by the radicalism of the sixt ies and that were being accepted as truth by the established liberal institutions of the day.”140 The neoconservative movement worked to combat the crisis in American culture and politics – but how? The answer lies in the nature of th eir crisis, the egalitarian imperatives and hostilities towards reli gious and nationalistic orthodoxy. This is illustrative, again, of Strauss’s influence on th eir determination to revive a shared sense of origin and destiny through traditional religious and Am erican values; the use Plato’s noble lie. Kristol has stated: “Countercultures are dangerous phenomena even as they are inevitable. Their destructive power always far exceeds their constructive power. The delicate task 139 Irving Kristol “Countercultures,” Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press) 136-137. 140 James Nuechterlein “The End of Neoconservatism,” First Thing May 1996


52 that faces our civilization today is not to reform the secula r rationalist orthodoxy, which has passed beyond the point of redemp tion. Rather, it is to breathe new life into the older, now largely comatose, religious orthodoxy – wh ile resisting the counterculture as best we can, adapting to it and reshaping it where we can not simply resist.”141 This is where we can evidence the Platonic elitism in neoconservatism; to “breath new life” into the relig ious orthodoxy, to revive religious traditional my ths. Michael Lind writes: “For the neoconservatives, religion is an instrument of promoting morality. Religion becomes what Plato called a “noble li e.” It is a myth which is told to the majority of the society by the philosophi cal elite in order to ensure social order.”142 However, this only provides us with the neoconservative’s missi on, it does not answer what tools they would use or how they w ould “breath life” into the older orthodoxy. They would do so through vari ous publication especially The Public Interest In 1965, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Da niel Bell, and Dani el Patrick Moynihan started The Public Interest with the intention of providi ng program and policy analysis. They originally voted for Lyndon Johnson and expected the Great Society to eliminate poverty and fix education. However, their dise nchantment with the culture wars and the general direction of the country caused th em to reflect on their previous political priorities, their original views of human nature and thus their mission at the Public Interest As examined above the problem wasn’t policy, it was culture. David Brooks, in his article about the Public Interest wrote: 141 Irving Kristol “Countercultures,” Neoconservatism: An Autobiography of an Idea (New York: The Free Press) 146 142Michael Lind, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of Politics of Fear ; available on http://www.informationclearin 038.htm; accessed December 10, 2008


53 “It occurred to several of the editors that they had accepted a simplistic view of human nature. They had thought of huma ns as economically motivated rational actors, who would response in relatively straightforward ways to incentives. In fact, what really matters, they decided, is culture, ethos, character and morality. By the 1970s, the Public Interest was pub lishing as many essays on these things as on quantitative social science”.143 The Public Interest was concerned not only with pol itical and economic matters but became committed to that which it thought was at the heart of politic s and economics; the publication considered culture, our shared sens e of morality and meaning, to be the most consequential and urgent matter. Thus the Public Interest was a return to myth. “The Public Interest examined violen ce on campuses, the increasing numbers of unwed mothers, failures in education a nd the persistence of poverty, and saw not just economic or political phenomena, but cultural phenomena reflecting deeply ingrained beliefs or behaviors.”144 Addressing social problems then was no l onger limited to contri buting political and economic policies but working to reinvigor ate religious orthodoxy in society. Brooks recalled what James Q. Wilson, contributor to the Public Interest wrote about the publication in 1985: “At root in almost every area of public c oncern, we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchil dren, applicants for public assistants, would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials.”145 The Public Interest evidences the neocons ervatives’ Platonic el itism in the 1960s and 1970s by illustrating how the contributing social scientists constitute d a Straussian elite whose agenda was to revive a traditional sense of virtue and religious orthodoxy. In 143 David Brooks “40 Years of Character”, in The New York Times March 5, 2005 144 Edward Rothstein “Mission Accomplished, a Journal Folds”, in The New York Times May 9, 2005 145 Ibid


54 general, it was through these socials scientis ts’ writings that neoconservatives were transmitting noble myths to society. The Cold War “Yet what Straussians and neoconservat ives were actually committed to doing during the Reagan administration was defending and reinvigorating democracy: first by altering the unsatisfactory status quo of dtente with hostile ideologies”146 This section will demonstrate the neoconservativ e fears of relativism through their role in politics during the Cold War. Straussian a nxieties towards liberalism will be evidenced through the neoconservative fear of negating th e political. Liberalism’s tendency towards moral relativism would potentially negate the po litical, and thus blur distinctions between our particular metaphysical and existential identities. Such an erosion of particularism would usher in a new era of liberal cosmopolitanism, weltanschauung and thus an erosion of existential and moral identity. Platonic elitism will be evidenced through neoconservatism’s affirmation of the political I argue that their affirmation of the political would ultimately bring Strauss’s c oncept of the ‘regime’ back into foreign affairs as the core of the political rather than friend/enemy distinctions. Hostilities towards Liberalism – Aversion to Dtente As stated previously by P odhoretz, anti-communism wa s the “ruling passion” for neoconservatives in foreign affairs. For th em, the Soviet Union was the most urgent threat to the American way of life and one that could not be contained. They viewed Kissingerian dtente as wea kness; “it legitimized Soviet communism and allowed the Soviet Union to keep itself on a military par with the vastly more productive United States.”147. Neoconservatives did not see dtente as pe ace between nation s but rather as 146 Douglas Murray, Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (New York: Encounter Books, 2006) 62. 147 Gary Dorrien, Imperial Design: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana (New York: Routledge, New York) 49.


55 uneasy coexistence between antagonists. For them conflict was inevitable and even necessary. According to soci al scientist Gary Dorrien: “To portray the Soviet Union as a co mpeting superpower was to undermine America’s will and capacity to fight communism. It was the tragic legacy of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations to have undermined America’s life or death mission”.148 Neoconservatives described the Cold War in te rms of ‘us and them’ narratives. For them the Soviet Union was an existential ‘o ther’ understood as our direct opposite and therefore each mutually suspicious of th e others intentions. Kirkpatrick wrote: “We did not doubt that American Societ y could be improved but we believed it first had to be preserved. We believe d moreover that ther e were important differences between democracy and dictator ship, and that the greatest differences of all were between democracy and totalitarianism. We could not therefore be indifferent to the spread of Soviet power or to the human consequences of seeing new tyrannies established.”149 Here is where the case of the Cold War pr ovides another link betw een Straussianism and neoconservatism. Both “understood politics as a conflict between mutually hostile groups”150, but more importantly, bo th understood the reasons as to what makes groups different and thus hostile, each groups unique character. As Kirkpatrick points out, the threat posed by the Soviet Union did not arise from its mere ‘otherness’ but rather that which made it the other and esse ntially different from America, that being its ideological character, a totalitarian state. Kirkpatrick’s concern for this differing character correlates with Strauss’s warning that liberalism “assu med that social progres s could be achieved through external or institutional means rather than through ‘the formation of 148 Ibid 11-12 149 Jean Kirkpatrick, “Neoconservatism as a Response to Counter-Culture” in The Neocon Reader ed. Irwin M. Stelzer (Routledge: Grove Press, 2004) 240. 150 Shadia Drury “Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq”; available on http://www.informationc tm; accessed December 10, 2008.


56 character’”.151 Neoconservatives thus elevated the Cold War outside of balance-ofpower-politics into an ideological war, wh ere dtente would surely fail in securing America’s character and sense of ‘rightness’ By forfeiting realpolitik strategies to engage the Soviets ideologica lly, neoconservatives would no longer depict the Cold War as between the U.S. and the Soviet Union but rather as a fight between democracy and totalitarianism, a cause “greater than ourselv es”. Brigitte and Peter Berger wrote: “We believe that the most important political and moral challenge of our time is the struggle for the survival of freedom. In the interna tional context this struggle has its focus in the resistance to the sp read of Soviet-sty le totalitarianism.”152 Brigitte and Peter Berger illustrate the urge nt threat that totalitarianism posed to the survival of democracy leaving the only option to aggressively engage the Soviets. Like Straus, the neoconservatives portrayed conflic t between states as a result of conflict between their characters, and the political world was not simply bellicose but rather morally preoccupied where war was a struggle for a sense of rightn ess. A depolitical world meant that we were losing our convictions. It is for this reason that neoconservatives were concerned with dtente, because it was a negation of the political. Da niel Patrick Moynihan, cofounder of The Public Interest with Kristol, Bell, and Glazer, illustrates the neoconservative concerns with the Soviet Union and dtente the best. Vehemen tly against the idea of anything positive in a totalitarian society he said “I will not split the difference between a totalitarian society and an open one, or suggest that there is good to be said on both sides”.153 For him it was this absolute and decisive attitude that was needed in foreign affairs that American diplomacy lacked. He told the New York Times : “I don’t think we’re very good at ideological argument.”154 In 1978 after serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN, Moynihan 151 John Gunnell, “Political Theory and Politics: The Case of Leo Strauss and Liberal Democracy”, in The Crisis of Liberal Democracy: A Straussian Perspective ed. Kenneth L. Deutsch and Walter Soffer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987) 77. 152 Stefan A. Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge University Press, 2004) 76. 153 John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1994 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996) 79. 154 Ibid 79


57 argued this point again sayi ng that we could no longer act wholeheartedly upon our convictions. He would refer to this as a “failure of ne rve”. John Ehrman recalls Moynihan diagnosing this “failure of nerve”: “Yet more than ever, he argued, the West was failing to stand up to the Soviets; the failure of nerve, he told Ben Watte nberg in April 1978 wa s affecting foreign policy ‘more so now than a few years ago wh en I originally sensed it.’ Moynihan continued to be especially irritated w ith those ‘former cold warriors…who…have decided that the country really is hopeless, that it has no capacity to resist the advance of totalitarianism, and that the best thing to do is accommodate and appease.’”155 The reason for this failure of nerve, again as neoconservatism picks up its queues from Strauss, is traced back to liberalism. A ccording to Moynihan, liberal moral ambiguity had sapped America’s will to fight for that which was at one time virtuous. Edwin Warner of Time Magazine wrote: “For all his scorn, Moynihan does not want to quit the U.N. or ignore it; on the contrary, he insists on taking it more serious ly as a forum to advance U.S. values and interests. He faults the American liberal intelligentsia for its reluctance to do ideological battle, for what he calls its failure of nerve.”156 Like Strauss’s concerns that liberalism leads to relativism which then leads to nihilism, so too did Moynihan fear that ou r liberal intelligentsia lack ed the moral conviction and courage to defend and advance America’s inte rests. The effects of such diplomatic passivity would be disastrous. An excerpt from Time Magazine in 1976 read: “As a result, Moynihan says, there are today no more than two dozen genuine democracies remaining in the world, and indeed he has suggested gloomily that 155 Ibid 93 156 Edwin Warner, “War of Words”, in Time Magazine Dec. 18, 1978


58 liberal democracy in the 20th century ma y be the kind of vanishing phenomenon that monarchy was in the 19th. As a consequence, the U.N. has become ‘a locus of general assault’ by the majority of socialist nations ‘on the principles of liberal democracy.’”157 He feared that the world would perceive Am erica’s diplomatic passivity and lack of moral courage, especially after the attacks on American values by counterculture coupled with its defeat in Vietnam, as losing an ideological war to totalitarianism and Soviet expansionism. “The United States was the only power w ith the moral and military resources to guarantee freedom and security in the worl d. If the United States let the Vietnam experience sap her self-confidence and da mage her will, the fragile forces of freedom would be vanquished.”158 Neoconservatives were concerned that Ameri ca was losing its moral convictions in a modern world where morality is relative, and that it was noticeable in foreign affairs. The next section will discus s the neoconservative solution. To combat relativism and passivity, they would affirm the political whic h would ultimately reaffirm our morality. By standing up for America’s interests and moral leadership in foreign affairs, neoconservatives were affirming democracy’s moral necessity in the world, thus affirming America’s moral right ness and national destiny. Platonic Elitism – Affirm ation of the Political The Cold War would witness a major rise of the neoconservatism, especially under the Reagan administration. Jean Kirkpatric k was a member of Reagan’s cabinet and ambassador to the UN. Richard Pearle b ecame Assistant secretary of defense for international security policy. Michael Novak became U.S. Ambassador of the UN 157 “A Fighting Irishman at the U.N. ”, Time Magazine, Jan. 26, 1976 158 Mark Gerson, “Security and Freedom: Making th e World Safe with Ronald Reagan”. ed in The Essential Neoconservative Reader March Gerson (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc. 1996) 161.


59 Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Elliot Abrams served as an Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. Paul Wolfowitz be came assistant secretar y of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Norman Podhor etz served as an adviser to the U.S. Information Agency. Robert Kagan was a spee chwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz. Reagan’s White House served them well because they were attracted to his staunch anti-Sovietism. His aggressive foreign policy resembled that of the neoconservative’s failed anti-communist pres idential nominee Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1972. Only this time they were on the winning side and, with Reagan, were now in a position to advance anti-Sovietism to the top of America’s priorities. According to historian, John Ehrman: “In Reagan, the neoconservative believed that they had a president who shared their view of the world and, especially, of the overriding importance of resisting Soviet Expansionism and Third World le ftism…The neoconservatives, especially Norman Podhoretz, hoped to consolidate this success and build popular support for a foreign policy that would go beyond mere containment. Echoing the conservatives of the early 1950s, they ca lled for actively working for the rollback and eventual defeat of Communism.”159 Reagan’s foreign policy adopted the neoconser vative’s hard-lined and ideological stance towards the Soviet Union and challenged its place in the world unlike his realist predecessors who desired balance of power and mutual security.160 Dorrien wrote: What was needed was a courageously ideological leader who recognized the implacable hostility of the Soviet state and faced up to the necessity of making life intolerable for it.”161 Reagan was that ideological leader. In 1983 before the Na tional Association of Evangelicals he dubbed the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire’: 159 John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intell ectuals and Foreign Affairs 1945-1994 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995) 137. 160 Gary Dorrien, Imperial Design: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana (Routledge, New York, 2004) 11-12. 161 Ibid 11.


60 So, I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiorityS o, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all a nd label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggr essive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant mis understanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.162 Reagan was that ideological leader wh ich would provide neoconservatives the opportunity to affirm their moralism thro ugh foreign policy. Both Abrams and Wolfowitz were hostile towards the popular l iberal internationalism and pushed for a foreign policy that made an ethical dist inction between the USSR and the United States.163 Abrams wrote of the im portance of an ideologica l response as well as a military response: We will never maintain wide public suppor t for our foreign policy unless we can relate it to American ideals and to the defense of freedomOur ability to resist the Soviets around the world depends in part on our ability to dr aw this distinction and to persuade others of itOur struggle is for political liberty. Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote Dictatorships a nd Double Standards, an essay that some consider to be the greatest neoc onservative anticommunist essay.164 Her essay was very critical of Carters foreign policy and argued that by hastening liberalization in autocratic countries such as Iran and Nicaragua Carter inadvertently lost those countries to groups even more anti-American before.165 However, she was not attacking Carters 162 President Reagan's Speech be fore the National Association of Evangelicals. Available on 163 Greg Grandin, The Im perial Presidency, the Legacy of Reagans Central American Policy, in Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America ed Michael J. Thompson. (New York University Press, 2007) 204. 164 Mark Gerson, Security and Free dom: Making the World Safe with Ronald Reagan. ed Mark Gerson, The Essential Neoconservative Reader (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc, 1996) 162. 165 Jeane Kirkpatrick, Dictatorships and Double Standards in The Essential Neoconservative Reader ed Mark Gerson (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc, 1996) 163-189.


61 idealism for she too “believed that a convic tion in the righteousness of U.S. purpose and power was indispensable in the execution of effective diplomacy”.166 What she was arguing against was Carter’s a pplication of that idealism Autocratic regimes are protective of their own power and resources but leave most of life untouched and perhaps even preserve institutions that democracy can be built upon. “Preci sely the opposite is true of revolutionary Communist regimes” which “claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society” thus infiltrating and de stroying those institutions necessary for democratization. She accused the Carter administration of a double standard by not applying the same rhetoric of demo cratization to communist countries.167 Kirkpatrick advised Reagan both morally and intellectually and “began the synthesi s of the realist and idealist traditions of American di plomacy into a powerful synthesis.”168 Despite their hopes with Reagan, many ne oconservatives, especially Podhoretz, became disenchanted with him, and argued that his ideological and m ilitant rhetoric was producing nothing more than a “throwback to the Basic principles of Dtente of 1972”.169 Despite their disenchantment, the end of the Cold War would lead many neoconservatives, especially William Kristol, son of Irving Kristol, to claim that it was not containment that defeated totalitarian ism, but rather “unapologetic, aggressive militarism”.170 Neoconservatives solidified their role in politics during the first term of the Reagan administration when they were able to assert their affirmation of the political. This is important because, as it is illustra ted that the neoconserva tive philosophy is linked back to Strauss, they have based their affirm ation on the “belief that the internal character 166 Greg Grandin, “The Im perial Presidency, the Legacy of Reag an’s Central American Policy”, in Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America ed Michael J. Thompson. (New York: University Press, 2007) 204. 167 Jeane Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards” in The Essential Neoconservative Reader ed Mark Gerson (Addison-Wesley Publishing Company Inc, 1996) 163-189. 168 Greg Grandin, “The Im perial Presidency, the Legacy of Reag an’s Central American Policy”, in Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America ed Michael J. Thompson. (New York: University Press, 2007) 201. 169 Gary Dorrien, Imperial Design: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana (New York: Routledge, New York) 12. 170 Greg Grandin, “The Im perial Presidency, the Legacy of Reag an’s Central American Policy”, in Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America ed Michael J. Thompson. (New York: University Press, 2007) 199.


62 of regimes matters and that foreign policy mu st reflect the deepest values of liberal democratic societies.”171 Fukuyama writes: “The early neoconservative anti-Stalinists saw the Cold War as a struggle over ideology and values, a fight that continued into the Reagan years over how to deal with the Soviet Union. The Straussian current in neoconservatism also saw the regime as a central organi zing principle of politics.”172 Neoconservatives used their positions of power to affirm the political but for the reason that the regime should govern foreign affair s. This was “Strauss's restoration of a political science that places the re gime in the forefront of analysis.”173 However, with the end of the Cold War a nd with no ideological other, the regime would no longer be the center of our political science. Fukuya ma brings this problem to light in his “End of History”. This is an important book as Nicholas Xenos points out that Fukuyama’s understanding of the regime and readings of Strauss “reveals more about Straussianism and its central place w ithin neoconservatism than he realizes.”174 Fukuyama wrote in the beginning of America at the Crossroads that he was a “student of Allan Bloom, himself a student of Leo Strauss and the author of The Closing of the American Mind ”. “That lineage is important, because it links three books th at are central to understanding the place that Straussianis m has assumed within neoconservatism: Strauss’s Natural Right and History Alan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind and Fukuyama’s own bestseller, The End of History and the Last Man ”175 171 Francis Fukuyama, “America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale: University Press, 2006) 48. 172 Ibid 48. 173 Steven Lenzner and William Kristol, “What was Leo Strauss up to?”. The Public Interest No. 153 (Fall 2003) 19-39 174 Nicholas Xenos, Cloaked in Virtue: Unveiling Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy (New York: Routledge, 2008) 139. 175 Ibid 139.


63 Fukuyama argued in The End of History and the Last Man that humankind’s ideological evolution has reached its apex with the constr uction of liberal democracy. According to him: “What we may be witnessing is not just th e end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolu tion and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”176 Though this is not nece ssarily bad news for Fukuyama, hi s Straussian influences are quick to remind us of the dangers of relativism inherent in liberalism. “They [democratic societies] cultivate th e culture of toleration, which becomes the chief virtue in democratic societies. And if men are unable to affirm that any particular way of life is superior to another, then they will fall back on the affirmation of life itself, that is the body, its needs, its fears.”177 Fukuyama’s affirmation of ‘lif e itself’ is referencing Niet zsche’s “Last Man”, he who “schooled by Hobbes and Locke, gave up prideful belief in his or he r own superior worth in favor of comfortable self-preservation.”178 He explains this through the notion of the thymos the prideful part of our “soul” that struggles for re cognition by placing values and meanings to life. It is a necessary part of who we are; it is the “driving force of history”.179 However, the social contract demands equal recognition for all based on their mere “person-ness”. By universalizi ng recognition, liberalism has made one’s recognition indistinguishable from another, th us devaluing it. If history ends with liberalism, then there is no more struggle leaving the thymotic part of our soul dissatisfied with life. Fukuyama writes: 176 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History”. The National Interest Summer 1989 177 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press. 1992) 305. 178 Ibid 301. 179 Ibid 162-164.


64 The end of history would mean the end of wars and bloody revolutions. Agreeing on ends, men would have no large causes for which to fightHuman life, then, involves a curious paradox; it seems to require injustice, for the struggle against injustice is what calls forth what is highest in man.180 Much like Schmitts concept of the political, where the affirmation of the political is the affirmation of the moral181, Fukuyama argues that liberalism, as the end of history, universalizes recognitio n, stripping man of his megalothymia and depoliticizing him into the Last Man. Fukuyama and other neoconservatives woul d then question whether the defeat of the Soviets was actually a victory for America. The Cold War provided America with an ideological other and now, as Kristo l noted, the enemy is us, not them.182 They feared that the triumph of liberalism over all othe rs would usher in a new order of ethical universalism, cultivating relativism and sending us into crisis. Allan Bloom wrote in response to Fukuyamas article: This fifty years of opposition to fascism and communism provided us with clear moral and political goals, but they were negative. We took our orientation from the evil we faced, and it brought out the best in us. The threat from outside disciplined us inside while protecting us from too much depressing reflection on ourselves. The global nature of the conf licts we were engaged in imposed an unprecedented uniformity on the world. It has been liberalism--or else.183 This lack of ideological struggle would follo w the end of the Cold War in, what Charles Krauthammer would call, the Clinton Doctri ne of morality and universality. His humanitarian efforts at their worst, refl ected hypocrisy; at be st, extreme naivet.184 180 Ibid 311. 181 Tracy B. Strong, Forward: Dimensions of the Ne w Debate Around Carl Schmitt in Carl Schmitt. The Concept of the Political (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) xviii. 182 Douglas Murray, Neoconservatism: Why We Need It (New York: Encounter Books, 2006) 66. 183 Allan Bloom, Allan Bloom: Response to Fukuyama's End of History and the Last Man. Internet Archive.; accessed 1 December, 2008. 184 Charles Krauthammer, The Clinton doctrine., March 29, 1999. /time/1999/03/29/doctrinehtm l; accessed 1 December, 2008.


65 This coupled with the preoccupation for economic growth lacked, for the neoconservatives, the moral clarity needed to guide America through the end of history. Corey Robin says it best: For neoconservatives, who had thrilled to the crusad e against communism, all that was left of Ronald Reagan's le gacy after the Cold War was a sunny entrepreneurialism and market joie de vi vre, which found a welcome home in Bill Clinton's America. While neocons are no t opposed to capita lism, they do not believe it is the highest achievement of civilizationtoday's conservatives prize mystery and vitality and are uncomfortab le with rationalism and technology. Such romantic sensibilities are uneasy about the market but friendly to politics, particularly at moments when politics is consumed with questions of war.185 Americas concerns needed to be refocused. New neoconservatives would emerge into power as evidence by Kristol and Kagan calling for a neo-Reaganite agenda of American benevolence and hegemony. Th e end of Bush seniors administration, witnessing the break up of the Soviet Uni on and the cease fire with Iraq, provided Wolfowitz with the opp ortunity to write a new Defense Planning Guidance of 1992. This Wolfowitz Doctrine recognized the U.S. as the victor of the Cold War and the sole superpower; it argued in favor of military action, against multilate ralism, and praised American exceptionalism.186 Neoconservatives would work hard to replace the Clinton Doctrine with the Wolfowoitz Doctrine. Mo st of them would focus their concerns on Iraq. The most obvious example of this is the PNACs Letter to President Clinton on Iraq. It urged for military action as containment of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding. The Wolfowitz Doctrine is key, not only because it redirected our attention away from economic prosperity to foreign policy dangers, but because it was also the framework from which the Bush Doctrine would be designed.187 185 Robin, Corey. Endgame: Conservatives After the Cold War Boston Review, February/March 2004. http://www.bosto nreviewnet/BR29.1/ robin.html; accessed 1 December, 2008. 186 James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bushs War Cabinet (Londong: Penguin Books, 2004) 208-210. 187 Ibid 208-214.


66 Conclusion This chapter attempted to link neoconservatis m to Straussianism th rough the culture wars and the Cold War. The culture wars link neoconservatism to StraussÂ’s conception of culture. Strauss believed societies need to be founded on strong religious and nationalistic convictions that constitute a culture. Neoconservatives saw those convictions breaking down in the face of relativism which was all too suggestive of StraussÂ’s crisis of modernity. They assumed the role of the educated elite which, through their writing, they would rea ffirm and transmit traditional values ushering in a new confidence for American culture. For Strauss, culture would inform the type of regime to rule. The regime could only view foreign affairs, then, through th e lens of its own virtues. StraussÂ’s understanding of this would th en change what was at the core of the political from SchmittÂ’s friend/enemy distinction to the nature of the regime. Neoconservatives believed they were witnessing an erosion of the political because dtente no longer placed the regime as a determining force in foreign affairs. Neoconservatives, then, diagnosed our indifference to regime as a result of the moral, cultural, and political relativism breeding in AmericaÂ’s lib eral intelligentsia. In the end, with their rise to power in the Reagan White House, they would bri ng the regime back into politics by engaging the Soviets ideological. The next chapter will expl ain how neoconservatism has been epitomized in the Bush Doctrine, especially in its fear of relativism and by extension the emphasis it places on the regime.


67 Chapter 4: The Bush Doctrine Introduction This chapter will assess of the basic themes of the Bush Doctrine and the themes make this doctrine distinctively neoconservative. Neoconservatism, as discussed in the previous chapter, promoted a sense of moral absolutism in American culture and stressed the character of the American regime as a guide for foreign policy principles. This chapter will demonstrate how the Bush Doctrine became the defining context of neoconservative politics by exposin g its moral absolutism and the role it places on regime in foreign affairs. While neoconservatism remained dorma nt during the Clinton years, it would reemerge under the Bush Doct rine. Many neoconservatives would enter the White House under the George W. Bush administration. Do uglas Feith served as the Under Secretary of Defense. Zalmay Khalilzad served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Elliot Abrams served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the Nationa l Security Council for Near Ea st and North African. Seth Cropsey served as the director of the Intern ational Broadcasting Bur eau. Paul Wolfowitz served as deputy secretary of defense. Abra m Shulsky served as th e Senior Adviser to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Iranian Directorate a nd would direct the Office of Special Plans. Rich ard Pearle served as Chairman of the Board for the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. Both neoconservatives and Straussians, whether inside the White House or the media, would reorganize around a new existentia l threat. However, this next generation of neoconservative were somewhat differe nt then their Cold War predecessors; neoconservatism became more volatile and more militant. Older neoconservatives, such as Irving Kristol and Jeane Kirkpatrick, were reluctant to endorse the idea of an Iraq invasion while the younger generation, led by William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Joshua Muravchik, Charles Krauthammer and others were first to support the idea of using


68 American power to transform the world. Just like the older generation, they too were ‘culture warriors’ but the m easures they took would be more extreme. For them, the outlook of the West in a modern era was more urgent than ever. They would view the Bush Doctrine as America’s salvation. This chapter will explain what makes the Bush Doctrine so distinctively neoconservative but first will provide a critique of the Bush Doctrine’s main themes. The Pillars of the Bush Doctrine George W. Bush would be elected in 2000, reveal his fore ign policies at his commencement speech at west point in 2002, and three months later, make public his National Security Strategy. The strategy would make use of the main points in Wolfowitz’s 1992 plan, especially in terms of preemption, hegemony, and Wilsonian idealism.188 These would be the dist inctive qualities of what would later be called the Bush Doctrine, and as Krauthammer put it: “t he Bush Doctrine is, essentially, a synonym for neoconservative foreign policy.”189 This section will critique the basic elemen ts of the Bush Doctrine. What makes the Bush Doctrine so contr oversial are its underlying themes There are four prominent themes synonymous with the Bush Doctrine th at Robert Jervis ha s highlighted. These themes are democratization, militaristic pr imacy, preemption, and unilateralism. Below is an explanation of each of these. Democratization Probably the most important theme of the Bu sh doctrine is its emphasis on democracy. The introduction to National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS) began with the opening state: 188 James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (London: Penguin Books, 2004) 328-329. 189 Charles Krauthammer, “The Neoconservative Convergence”. The Wall Street Journal; accessed 1 December, 2008.


69 “The great struggles of th e twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the for ces of freedom – and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.”190 Democracy and freedom are justified, not only as the better way to govern, but because democracy emerged victorious in “the great struggles”, an ideological struggle between democracy and totalitiarism, deeming it as ideol ogically right. To further make this point the NSS claims that “the United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere.”191 This statement, claiming democracy’s ideological truth, tr ansitions us to the next point, that it is true “for all people everywhere”. It is not enough to mere ly practice democracy, it must be promoted and exported. Written in the NSS is: “Finally, the United States will use th is moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, an d free trade to every corner of the world.”192 The Bush Doctrine holds democracy to be ‘tru e’ but more importantly universally ‘true’ which justifies the promotion of democracy across the globe. The Bush Doctrine goes further, though, by translating this justifica tion for the promotion of democracy into an obligation. Bush said in an interview “that we understand history has called us into action, and we're not going to miss this opportu nity to make the world more peaceful and more free.”193 Promoting democracy abroad is necessary to counter competing ideologies in a world not yet completely receptive to democracy. The NSS writes: 190 The White House. “The National Security Strate gy of the United State of America”, September 20th 2002; available at ; accessed 1 December, 2008. 191 Ibid 192 Ibid. 193 Bush George. “President, Vice President Discuss th e Middle East”. White House Press Release, March 21, 2002; available at ; accessed 1 December, 2008.


70 “Throughout history, freedom has been thre atened by war and te rror; it has been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the evil designs of tyrants; and it has been tested by widespread poverty and disease. Today, humanity holds in its hands the opportunity to further fr eedom’s triumph over all these foes. The United States welcomes our responsibili ty to lead in this great mission.”194 Attempts by the Bush Doctrine to put its de mocratic principles into practice can be evidenced through the administration’s efforts to conduct free electio ns in Iraq. The White House now claims that the objective of the Iraq war was to promote democracy in the region, expecting a domino effects and the eventual coll apse of undemocratic regimes such as Iran and Syria. However, democra tization can only take pl ace through the use of power, which leads to the second theme. Militaristic Primacy The Bush Doctrine recognizes America’s unmatched military power. “Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled milita ry strength and great economic and political influence.”195 Again, this primacy is necessary fo r the security of freedom and peace. “It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. We must build and maintain our defense beyond challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United States…The unpa ralleled strength of the United States armed forces, and their forward presence, have maintained the peace in some of the world’s most strate gically vital regions.”196 However, the Bush Doctrine is a departure fr om traditional foreign policies given its view of what the role of America’s military is in th e world. That role is no longer one that acts as passive deterrence. 194 The White House. “The National Security Strate gy of the United State of America”, September 20th 2002; available at ; accessed 1 December, 2008. 195 Ibid 196 Ibid


71 “We know from history that deterrence can fail; and we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy—whether a state or non-state actor.”197 Rather, the Bush Doctrine would use military stre ngth as an agent of change. This is best illustrated in the introduction to the Nationa l Security Strategy: “History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.”198 Here we witness the enterprising nature of the Bush Doctrine thr ough its advocacy to reshape the world. In its ambitions and desires for transformation, the Bu sh Doctrine presents itself as a paradigm shift in foreign policy, a departure from our more realist approach to world affairs. Traditional foreign policy would promote demo cracy through trade or by example while the Bush Doctrine would engage the U.S in an active and aggressive exportation of it. The passivity of deterrence woul d be replaced with the empl oyment of military might and the right to engage preemptively. Preemption As states previously, the Bush Doctrine assu mes that deterrence is not a solution to all problems and may fail at times; “we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred.” The Bush Doctrine, therefore, is willing to “exercise our right of self defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country”. However, the Bush Doctrine’s notion of preemption border along the lines of preventative warfare. Wh ere preemption is a response to an obvious threat to security and protected under international law, preventative warfare is an attempt to stop a potential threat before it turns into one. This flirtation with prevention is evidenced in this passage: 197 Ibid 198 The White House. “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America”, September 20th 2002; available at ; acce ssed 1 December, 2008.


72 “Legal scholars and international juri sts often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an immi nent threat – most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.” We must adapt the concept of imminent thre at to the capabiliti es and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do no seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction.”199 Despite the problems associated with preven tion, such as calculating actual threats and responding militarily to each one, the Bush Doct rine deems this to be necessary for its own survival. “The United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.”200 Unilateralism The Bush Doctrine is indeed action oriented. However, it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to move the rest of the internat ional community to action. In such cases where action is deemed necessary for survival the Bush Doctrine hol ds the right to act unilaterally. “While the United St ates will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone”.201 This statement is clear about the U.S.’s intentions concerning unila teral action when it deems appropriate. It claims that unilateralism is effective when diplomatic efforts fail. This theme also works well with preemptive strategies because multilateral approval for preemption is difficult to reach. Overall, the Bush Doctrine is incredibly Wilsonian, but as Mearsheimer put it, “Wilsonian with teeth”. To achieve its ends, it believes in the use of strength thus “it is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength” and to “build and 199 Ibid 200 Ibid 201 Ibid


73 maintain our defenses beyond challenge”.202 Such militaristic primacy would allow the U.S. to address the threats of the 21st century, more specifically those who “hate the United States and everything for which it st ands” and “harbor, support, and use terrorism to achieve their political goa ls”. Now the enemy looks an d works differently, they are “shadowing networks of individuals that can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores”203, it is justified to use preemptive, even preventative, strikes. However, adjusting to these new threats may take time and other states may not agree with the use of preemption, in which case the U.S. “should not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against terrorists”.204 These measures provide the teeth for the Bush Doctri ne, but at its core is its Wilsonianism, its idealism, and the assumption that these ideals are absolute and universal. It is the end of the Bush Doctrine to “extend the benefits of freedom across the globe.”205 Relating the Bush Doctrine to Neoconservatism It is important to understand the Bush Doctri ne as a departure from traditional more realist approaches to foreign policy. After the turn of the millennium we witnessed new realities and horrors of security outside any model’s predictive capacity with the attacks on the World Trade Center and the War on Te rror. What was needed was a paradigm shift, a new approach to foreign policy that could address the threats of the 21st century by understanding the source of those threats as a clash of ideals. The NSS claims that, “For most of the twentieth century, the worl d was divided by a grea t struggle over ideas”, which paints conflict between nations as c onflict between ideologies. This document’s view of history paints the cu rrent conflict the same way by saying “this is a struggle of ideas and this is an area where America must excel.” Neoconservatives found that Bush was quite open about his ideals dictating his foreign policy. This was refreshing given their disenchantment with his father’s realpolitik inclinations. Thom as Donnelly, deputy director for the PNAC, was more than 202 The White House. “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America”, September 20th 2002; available at ; acce ssed 1 December, 2008. 203 Ibid 204 Ibid 205 Ibid


74 happy to hear Bush speak of “American he gemony” and the “Victory of American ideals”. He said that “It is encouraging to hear a political leader who does not shy from the responsibilities of preeminence”206 This exposes what is at the heart of the Bush Doctrine, that which makes it di fferent from previous more r ealist approaches, that which makes it neoconservative – that being its shifting focus away from reality and toward morality. Consistent with its previous hos tility towards dtente and realpolitik, the neoconservative architects would fram e security struggles of the 21st century as ideological. The Bush Doctrine would shift pol itics from the reality of balance of power phenomena into the moral. Morality was no l onger exogenous but rather central to policy decisions and self-legitimating. Such moral imperatives could be cited in Bush’s State of the Union Address, claiming that Iraq, Iran and North Ko rea “constitute an axis of evil”.207 Later that year with his commencement speech at West Point he stated: “Some worry that it is somehow undiplom atic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.” The rhetoric of the Bush Doctrine denotes no t only a moral authority but an obligation to uphold its virtues. In sum, Robert Kaufman states it best in his Defense of the Bush Doctrine that conformity to ‘moral democratic realism’ is justified through the “cardinal virtue of prudence, as St. Thomas Aquinas de fined it – “right reas on about things to be done” – ought to serve as the standard for eval uating the best practi cable American grand strategy.”208 Such moral guidance can be evidenced in U.S. foreign policy towards Iraq. Bush would engage Iraq outside of balance of power realities. The Bush Administration, and the neoconservatives outside of it, directed their hostility at Saddam in such a way that 206 Gary Dorrien, Imperial Design: Neoconservatism and the New Pax Americana (New York: Routledge, 2004) 73-74. 207 The White House. “President Delivers St ate of the Union Address”. available at ; accesse d 1 December, 2008. 208 Robert Gordon Kaufman, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2007) 3.


75 undermined traditional assumptions of heads-of -state as rational actors and engaged him on moral grounds. Bushs radio address on March 15th 2003 would state: We know from recent history that Saddam Hussein is a reckless dictator who has twice invaded his neighbors without provocation -wars that led to death and suffering on a massive scale.209 Later on March 17th Bush would state: Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again -becau se we are not dealing with peaceful men.210 Many neoconservatives, such as William Kristol, Joshua Muravchek, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, etc, were vo cal about their support for an invasion, describing Saddam as suicidal, irrational, and evil. As Mearsheimer, a critic of neoconservatism, describes it: [Neoconservatives] believe that the world devides into good states and bad states and that the democrac ies are the white hats.211 By painting the world into good and bad the neoconservatives leave it void of rationality and calculation, making it possible to describe Sadda m as a reckless dictator or as thwarting peaceful efforts. This leads to the Bush Doctrines prescription that being its Wilsonianism. On March 16th, Bush stated that after the rem oval of Saddam that we would be: committed to the goal of a unified Iraq, with democratic institutions of which members of all ethnic and religious groups ar e treated with dign ity and respect.212 On March 22nd Bush stated on a radio address to the nation that the mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom is: to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass dest ruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.213 Democratization, for th e Bush Docrtrine, as well as neoconservatives, works as a panace a. More importantly, democratization allowed for neoconseravtive, as it did in the Cold War, to frame the Iraq war into an ideological one. According to Norman Podhe retz, the Iraq War is World War IV (the Cold War was three) and just how WW III was ideological, so too is this war. The Iraq 209 The White House. President Discusses Iraq in Radio Address. March 15, 2003. 5.html; accessed 1 December, 2008 210 The White House. President Says Saddam Huss ein Must Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours. March 17. 2003. 211 John Mearsheimer, Hans Morgenthau and the Ir aq War: Realism Versus Neo-conservatism. 21-042005. www.openDemocracyne t; accessed 1 December, 2008 212 White House. President Bush: Monday "Moment of Truth" for World on Iraq. March 16, 2003, http://www.whitehouse .gov/news/releases/200 3/03/20030316-3html; acc essed 1 December, 2008 213 White House. President Discusses Beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. March 22, 2003, 2.html; accessed 1 December, 2008


76 war, for neoconservatives, is not America ve rsus Iraq but rather democracy versus Islamofascism. The neoconservatism in the Bush Doctrine inclined to frame the war morally and ideologlically. Neoconserva tism’s militant valorization of American traditions would materialize through the Bush Doctrine’s ideological and political nature as well as its inclination towards democratization. Here we understand that at the core of, not just the Bush Doctrine, but neoconseravtive foreign policy in general, is a fusion of ideali sm and realism. The policy celebrates the American tradition where its moral authority is derived from its juxtoposition from the “other”. The ideological wo rld that Strauss ha s illustrated from Schmitt demands this celebration of traditions unless we are to welcome relativism. Thus we understand why a security strategy would be “based on the distinctively American internationalism that reflect s the union of our values and our national interests”, which nonetheless, exemplifies how regime guides foreign policy. However, the fear of relativism translates these W ilsonian values as absolute and therefor non-negotiable. This point is important in noting why the neoconservatism resists modern notions of legitimacy. Why Neoconservatism Resists Legitimation The U.S. legal argument for military action demonstrates instrumental action, most obvious through its assault on ‘tru thfulness’. This is because the Bush Doctrine does not see international legitimation as necessary but rather governs according to its own moral absolutism which is self-legitimating. The Bush Doctrine, organi zed ideologically and around moral imperatives, when informing the administration’s decision-making, would thus filter ideology and morality into their policies. Frank Gaffney wrote: “The reality is that the sa me moral principles that underpinned the Bush appeal on ‘values’ issues like gay marriage, stem-ce ll research, and the right to life were central to his vision of U.S. war aims and foreign policy.”214 214 Jim Lobe, “Neocon Agenda: Iran, China, Ru ssia, Latin America...” November 8, 2004.; accessed 1 December, 2008


77 This is an important statement that moral principles were central to U.S. war aims and foreign policy? It is thus im portant to reiterate what the m oral principles (or idealism) of the Bush Doctrine are, those being its Wilsonian nature and its emphasis on democratiziation. In other words, The Bu sh Doctrine assumed the universality of democracy for all. Under such assumptions of the Bush Do ctrine, democracy should then be exported to where it is absent, which would entail regime change. The idea of regime change in Iraq was not a new idea to neoconservatives. William Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote a lette r representing the interests of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) to Bill Clinton in 1998. This letter outlined the case for preemptively attack Iraq by warning Clinton that the policy of containment of Saddam Hussein has been stead ily eroding over the past se veral months and proposed the removal of Saddam Husseins regime from power.215 This letter was signed by many neoconservatives am ong who many would serve in George W. Bushs administration including, Elliot Abrams, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Zalmay Khalizad, Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. All of these individuals, once appointed to serve under the president would turn re gime change into a very real possibility. These foreign policy advisors played right into his [Bushs] thinking according to McClellan.216 That was certainly the case with Iraq. Bush was ready to bring about regime change, and that in all likelihood meant wa r. The question now was not whether, but merely when and how. Although I didnt realize it at the time we launched our campaign to sell the war, what drove Bush toward military confrontation more than anything else was an ambition and idealistic post9/11 vision of transformi ng the Middle East through the spread of freedom217 215 Project for a New American Century. Letter to the President on Iraq., January 26, 1998. ; accessed 1 December, 2008 216 Scott McClellan,. What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washingtons Culture of Deception (New York: Public Affairs, 2008) 128-129. 217 Ibid 128-129.


78 James Mann’s account of the Bush administra tion’s decision-making wrote that even if Saddam Hussein “handed over large amounts of chemical and biologi cal weapons stocks, this would not have been sufficient” to st op an invasion. Mann also reported Khalilzad answering what the conditions for refraini ng from an invasion would be, Khalilzad answered: “it was literally that Saddam Hussein would have to leave the country.”218 What is important to note is that regime change was a major ambition driving the decision to invade, but what is more important is the reason for regime change; the most obvious choices for the American regime to tr anslate its sense of morality into foreign policy was through Wilsonian idea lism and democratization. This can be evidenced when Bush compared the Iraq war as modern “moral equivalent” to the war against the Japanese imperialism during WWII. Bush compared the success of Japans democracy to the possi ble success of Iraq’s democracy but does so through the lens of morality. He argues it was not only the pragmatic thing to do but the moral thing to do.219 In general Bush has stated several times, when asked about the Iraq war he said that “it was the right thing to do” and that “I didn’t sacr ifice my core beliefs to satisfy critics or satisfy pundits.”220 However, the Bush Doctrine’s sense of moral rightness is based on such an absolutism that it trumps legality. Ari Flei scher said, in response to Kofi Annan warning the U.S. to abide by the UN charter, that “from a moral point of view” the UN should support the United States. Richard Pearle firs t stated when Baghdad fell that ''a general recognition that high moral purpo se has been achieved here.”221 He would later acknowledge that the war in Iraq was in fact il legal but this did not change his attitude. He said, “I think in this case internat ional law stood in the way of doing the right thing.”222 218 James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (London: Penguin Books, 2004) 348. 219 Peter Baker and Josh White. “Bush Calls Iraq War Moral Equivalent Of Allies' WWII Fight Against the Axis”, available on http :// 08/30/AR20050830010 78.html; accessed 1 December, 2008 220 Mark Silva, “Bush Regrets Rhetoric, Not Iraq War”. June 17, 2008. available at; accessed 1 December, 2008 221 Maureen Dowd, “Perle’s Plunde r Blunder”. March 23 2003.; accessed 1 December, 2008 222 Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger “War critics astonished as US hawk admits invasion was illegal”. November 20 2003.; accessed 1 December, 2008


79 What Perle has illustrated in the previous statement is the reason why neoconservatism is incompatible with the le gitimation process. For him ‘law’ stood in the way of ‘right’. As the previous chap ters have illustrated, neoconservatism has inhereted a Straussian fear of relativism and as a result has affirmed time and again a moral absolutism through culture to counter relativism. However, the international legitimation of law requires democratic delib eration to take place where participants bargain and compromise on a sense of right. For neoconservatism however, consensus is not necessary to determine a sense of right. Krauthammer has siad: “But when some nations are not with you on your enterprise, including them in your coalition is not a way to broa den it; it’s a way to abolish it. At which point, liberal internationalists switch gears and appeal to legitimacy--on the grounds that multilateral action has a higher moral standing. I have always found this line of argument incomprehens ible. By what possible moral calculus does an American intervention to liberate 25 million people forfeit moral legitimacy.”223 Rather for neoconservatism such a process expo ses the absense of absolutism, or that if any does exist it does so only within a human capacity and carry no universal or transcendant weight, which means no weight at all. John Bolton dem onstrated this when he said that, “There is no such thing as th e United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”224 For Bolton, the UN is nothing but a “mindless creation”. This further illustrates the suspicions of liberalism thr ough hostility towards egal itarianism. Not only does neoconservatism argue virtue to be inde pendent of human creatio n but also that the U.S. is the only nation invested with such virtue, which explains American exceptionalism and the right of the U.S. to act according to its virtues without consent of the international community. This exceptionali sm parallels the cultural elitism necessary 223 Charles Krauthammer, “Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World”. February 12, 2004; available at; accessed 1 December, 2008 224 Roland Watson, “Bush deploys hawk as new UN envoy”. March 8, 2005.; accessed 1 December, 2008


80 for transmitting myths to the masses, except this is projected on the international stage. Muravchik argues for such elites in the worl d otherwise egalitiarian imperatives allow the extreme and radical to influence the world. He claims that the UN will never take a stand on terrorism because the Organization of th e Islamic Conference contitutes 30% of UN membership.225 225 Josuha Muravchik, “The U.N.'s terrorism gap”. Sept. 20, 2005. available at; accessed 1 December, 2008


81 Conclusion The main argument of the paper was to explain how and why the Bush Doctrine undermined the UN in the decision to inva de Iraq. The 'how' was explained by demonstrating that the U.S. legal argument for war could not satisfy validity dimensions required to reach understanding and consensus. Furthermore, the U.S. was in outright breach of the charter when it decided to invade Iraq without a second resolution. The 'why' demonstrated that the Bush Doctrine, as a neoconservative document, has inherited philosophical anxieties concer ning moral relativism, and by extension, projects a war on modernity that casts doubts on liberalism and attempts to reestablish ancient modes of power and control. To summarize, chapter one introduced the concept of legitimacy and demonstrated how the Bush Doctrine has resi sted against modern legitimation processes. Chapter two introduced Strauss's modern problem and his prescription to empower educated elites so that they may bring order to the masses through particular notions of truth. Chapter three linked these Straussi an philosophies to the neoconservative movement by exposing neoconservative fears of relativism. Chapter four then evidenced how this neoconservative movement climbed to power in the White House and provided the basic principles for the Bush Doctrine. This chapter then concluded by demonstrating how a foreign policy that harbors anxieties of relativism, outright resists collective efforts in the legitimation of international rules and action. Resistance takes place through the inability of neoconservatism to meet validity re quirements due to its efforts to reestablish its moral particularism as universal. The prospect of a future neoconservative doctrine having the ability to engage properly in a legitimation process is w eak. What makes a doctrine distinctively neoconservative is that it projects a war on modernity on the international level which comprehends legitimacy in pre-modern term s, thus it works to reestablish ancient structures of power and control. However, a good amount of the world has seemed to embrace our modern project and doesn't desire history to reverse itself.


82 The election of President Obama marks America's petition for change, and while this new initiative is a departure from the Bush era, the foreign policy community can expect a reconstitution of the neoconservati ve movement. Robert Kagan's and William Kristol's new Foreign Policy Initiative is a new and ambitious foreign policy organization ready to assert its agenda on the world stage which demons trates persistence in the neoconservative movement. Neoconservatism is not dead and Po dhoretz's eulogy is premature. Neoconservatism, at the apex of its power in the Bush White House, transformed America and worked to reshape the world in its image. The c ountry must then reflect on the consequences of this intellectual persuasion. An American foreign policy that assumes exceptionalism, acts unilaterally, and exacerbates hostilities between nations, not only undermines its own mission to share democracy abroad, but it isolates itself from the modern world it hopel essly tried to undo.


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