Our friend Sidney Smith sends us this to continue the recent discussion:
Thank you very much for your critique and extraordinary insights.
At least in my opinion, the vision underlying economic "shock therapy" is the same as that leading to "shock and awe" as well as that which has resulted in the color-coded revolutions cheered on by the neoconservatives.
As mere speculation…I’ll offer the following for your consideration: that this vision is the same as that of the esoteric Straussian club. Or to word differently, the worldview of the Straussian club embraces these economic, political, and military revolutions and therefore they offer a way to define exactly what is the "fire in the mind" of the Straussian neoconservatives, if such indeed does exist.
The symptomatic manifestations of this vision — as the Peter Murrell suggests in his work — are glaringly apparent and point to one thing — a type of elitism that aspires to impose radical change. Economic shock therapy entails top down changes by an elite of technocrats who, in essence, foster a revolution and not an evolution. In the political realm, we have witnessed "revolutions", such as the cedar revolution, so wildly cheered on by the National Review crowd. And certainly Rumsfeld and the Pentagon architects reflected the same approach to the prosecution of the Iraqi war.
And just as the name "shock therapy" infers, the aim of this vision appears oriented towards erasing the collective memory of a people, along with their institutions. At least so far, the application of shock therapy –no matter whether it takes place in the economic, political, or military realm — has lead to extraordinary pain for the volk involved. As Larry Summers perhaps unwittingly suggested, it is a type of eugenics program writ large.
At least to me, a worthwhile inquiry, therefore, is to define this vision. What is the genesis of this vision and why the vision? And while I’m still taking notes of your descriptions of the various historical forces involved (thank God for Wikipedia), these historical tributaries you mention all seem to flow together to lead to your conclusion: " [i]t is the same perverse secularisation of Christian concepts which underlies, and have found its nemesis in, the invasion of Iraq.
But I would like to offer the following for consideration: the vision is much broader and encompasses more than a perverse secularisation of Christian concepts.
And with that, the first part of your post — directed towards M. Murry — illuminates other historical forces at work and actually now roiling within Judaism and Zionism. Increasingly, Jewish intellectuals have detected ominous changes when examining the moral compass of Judaism and are taking individual stands that run counter to the prevailing Fox news view . You mention Judt, Karon, Weiss, Birnbaum. I would just like to add Richard Ben Cramer — who took it upon himself to write, How Israel Lost. And of course the work of academicians, primarily in Israel, broaching a movement of "Post Zionism" also signals the recognition that the circle can no longer hold and we are in a time of what Weiss has called "ideological disarray". To employ one line from Yeats. The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
It seems to me that the searing pain and immense rage, along with existential fear, brought on by a centuries old pattern of state-sponsored pogroms and culminating in the holocaust certainly caused different Jewish intellectuals to respond in different ways to antisemitism, all with the aim of "never again". And luminaries of the Jewish intelligentsia of the second half of the 20th century did exactly that…and with great brilliance…as certainly their creativity was motivated by an incomprehensible tragedy that triggered the very deepest part of the survival instinct. As an example, Rothbard’s application of the Marxist dialect against the State, I contend, is motivated by a aim, at least in part, to decrease the possibilities of a State apparatus institutionalizing antisemitism.
But Rothbardianism is not in ascendancy. Strauss is. Or more accurately, those who have interpreted or misinterpreted his works are in power. Nonetheless, the same assumption arises — Strauss too was responding to the horrors of the holocaust. And the endpoint — the one of never again — justifies whatever means necessary, including that of the noble lie.
When you look at the work of American neoconservatives as well as that of Natan Sharansky, evidence seems to suggest that they believe — and rightly so in my view — that the American model is the best paradigm that leads to the lowest probability of institutionalized antisemitism. As a result, the impetus becomes to spread American democracy with revolutionary zeal around the world — meaning from the top down, elitist, and ultimately based on the Comintern mission. The end — meaning the end of antisemitism — justifies the means.
But what about the Zionism of neoconservatives? What is the endpoint? Their bizarre alliance with the rapturists perhaps offers a way to discover this aspect of the vision. No doubt, the rapturist movement springs forth from an antisemitic impulse. I am yet to find any work by a rapturist that empathisizes or suffers with the Jews in the "upcoming" Armageddon. There is no Edith Stein of the rapturist mvoement, best I can tell. After all they are raptured away beforehand. Convenient.
So to identify the Zionist goal of these post modern — and more importantly post Six Day War — neoconservatives, it becomes necessary to find the point where their goals intersect with that of the rapturists and other Christian Zionists. And Gershom Gorenberg, in my view, has done exactly that in his courageous book The End of Days. It is the Temple Mount and the desire to build the Third Temple with human hands. And the end justifies the means. Once again, Arab Muslims own real estate that Herzl’s Zionists desire.
You write…"Commonly, [Jews] are tied to Israel by a complex mixture of emotions — among them residual fear and that very deep loyalty people often have to the dead." But the neoconservative alliance with the rapturists suggests, perhaps, that more is at work now.
Is it possible that the Straussian vision of the neoconservatives is one that entails spreading American democracy with the zeal of Trotsky and based on the Comintern mission as well as striving for the ultimate goal of building the Third Temple? If so, then Herzl’s Zionism has completely rejected Buber’s notion of "I and Thou" (Ich und Du) –if it ever was part of Herzl’s Zionism to begin with — and now fully embraces a revolutionary spirit of what you referred to as "Blut and Boden" — a horribly distorted secularization of Judaism that is the "fire in the mind". Sidney Smith