When the Neoconservatives Realized That Government Schemes to Help the Poor Were Helping No One

Nowadays, the term neoconservative is bandied about to refer to those who believe in the projection of power abroad in order to deter disorder, or else more cheaply it can mean either “a conservative I don’t like,” or, even more invidiously, a Jewish conservative. But the group of mostly—but not exclusively—Jewish writers and thinkers to whom the term was originally applied in the 1970s had a discrete set of ideas pertaining primarily to domestic policy. Theodore Kupfer explains how they came to these ideas, and their relevance to today’s ideological battles:

Nineteen sixty-five, the historian Justin Vaisse submits, is the earliest plausible year that neoconservatism can be said to have been born. That was when Daniel Bell, then a professor at Columbia, and Irving Kristol, then a professor at NYU, started The Public Interest, a high-brow public-policy magazine with limited circulation. Bell and Kristol had technocratic ambitions. They wanted to use cutting-edge social science to explore the intractable problems of the era. In the first issue, editors Kristol and Bell summarized their intended approach: “It is the nature of ideology to preconceive reality, and it is exactly such preconceptions that are the worst hindrances to knowing-what-one-is-talking about.”

The statement of purpose recalled Bell’s 1960 The End of Ideology, which declared that totalitarian political projects such as Fascism and Communism had run out of steam and that the future lay in a humbler, more pragmatic approach to governance. It also reflected Kristol’s recent encounter with Leo Strauss’s exposition of Aristotle, charting an approach to politics that, instead of interpreting the world through abstract universals, would grapple with facts as they came.

By 1967 The Public Interest began moving from case-by-case evaluation of public policy to the data-driven skepticism that became its hallmark. “Managing social problems was harder than we thought,” reflected Nathan Glazer years later, because “people and society were more complicated than we thought.” . . . . And the magazine began publishing pessimistic assessments of federal programs. Glazer wrote a 30-page analysis of Great Society housing policy, concluding, in a characteristic formulation, that “It has done little for a substantial minority of poor families who have not had the resources to achieve what the society considers (and they do, too) minimally desirable housing.”

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Read more at City Journal

More about: American Jewish History, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Neoconservatism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy