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.”

Read more at City Journal

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


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security