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

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy