'World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism' – Bookreview by Ian Buruma (NYRB)

If Irving Kristol is the godfather of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz is the patriarch. Podhoretz himself might not see all neocons as his intellectual offspring, although his son John has certainly followed in his footsteps. In fact, Podhoretz has a rather narrow definition of neoconservatism. He talks about "repentant liberals and leftists," mostly Jewish, who broke ranks with the left and "moved rightward" in the 1970s. "Strictly speaking," he says, "only those who fitted this description ought to have been called neo- (i.e., new) conservatives." Those who mimic the views of their parents (John P., say, or William Kristol) cannot be called "new." True, but simply to call them conservatives (or vieux cons, as the French would say) would not do justice to the Napoleonic radicalism of their project.

Since he brings the matter up himself, it is worth pondering why Jews have played such a prominent part in the short history of neoconservatism, despite the fact that most American Jews would still regard themselves as liberals. Much has already been written on this topic, some of it scurrilous; conspiracies and so forth. Could it have something to do with an old attraction to utopian visions of universal liberty, which once drew many Jews to the left? Or with the traditional appeal of strong, benevolent empires, from the monarchy of Franz Joseph to George W. Bush’s republic, as shields against bigots, racists, and tyrants? Of course, the specter of 1938, of not nipping a mortal danger in the bud, has special resonance among many Jews. Then there is the matter of Israel. Podhoretz, for one, felt deeply betrayed by the American left, not to mention "the Europeans," who became critical of the Jewish state after the 1967 war, and even more so after the Yom Kippur War in 1973…. ‘World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism’ – Norman Podhoretz’ book reviewed by Buruma (NYRB)


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