Jacobins, not Jacobites

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I am asked what "Jacobins" might be —

"In the context of the French Revolution, a Jacobin originally meant a member of the Jacobin Club (1789-1794). But even while the Club still existed, the name of Jacobins had been popularly applied to all promulgators of extreme revolutionary opinions; "Jacobin democracy" for example is synonymous with totalitarian democracy. In contemporary France this term refers to a centralistic conception of Republic, with a lot of power vested in the national government, at the expense of local governments." Wikepedia – The Free Encyclopedia

In the present context, I think, (as do others) that this is a more accurate description of the group of people who are variously called; "neocons," "Vulcans," "neo-imperialists," etc.

These people do not want anyone to think of them as a group, much less describe them as a group.  They react with hostility to the term, "neocon," often playing the "anti-semite" card as Eliot Cohen did with me once, saying that this was code for "foreign policy Jew."

Nevertheless, I think the Jacobin tag is useful in understanding them because they are not, in fact, conservative as John Adams or Margaret Thatcher would have understood the term.  Rather, they are radical revolutionaries descended more or less directly from the thinking of the radicals of the French Revolution through European influence in the 20th century.  They strongly believe in the use of force and cunning in forging a dominant role for the US in world affairs.  They believe in strong central government at the expense of the states and are not terribly concerned with citizen rights if they think such rights interfere with their "larger" goals.  They have a simplistic belief in the universal curative powers of "pure" democracy which the framers of our constitution never entertained.  It is for that reason that our constitution is carefully constructed to prevent the attainment of more than indirect power by the "masses."

They are foreign policy oriented. Domestic conservative issues largely bore them unless the political "backblast" from failure to attain the goals of heartland conservatives is thought politically "dangerous."

The best possible reason for not calling them "neocons" is that there is nothing conservative about them.  The closest that one could get on that "tack" would be to call them radical right wing revolutionaries.  pl

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13 Responses to Jacobins, not Jacobites

  1. J says:

    Colonel,
    if you will notice, most or all of them have ‘never’ worn the uniform, never stepped in the mud, the blood, and the beer so-to-speak. the closest most of them have gotten to combat let alone a war zone was from the end of their oak desks or a movie theater. and these people are advising strategy and tactics. while using academia to help plan strategy and tactics, we need in additon to their cushy types, those with battlefield experience to round out the mix. to depend on academia alone, which is what the current D.C. policy makers are doing, spells trouble on the battlefield.
    the above is my personal opinion.

  2. ismoot says:

    J
    Well, you can guess my opinion on this. pl

  3. RAM says:

    I heard the elderly, but extremely sharp, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee this summer on Wisconsin Public Radio, and in a throw-away line, he noted the neocon philosophy was developed by former Trotskyites. It’s interesting what you find when you Google neocon and Trotskyite.
    Given their roots in Trotskyite philosophy, the Colonel’s observations about neocons seem to make a lot more sense. I think these guys see themselves as a bunch wearing long leather coats riding armored trains all over the world stamping out the people they find inconvenient.
    The Constitution? Bill of Rights? International treaty obligations? If you want to make an omlette, you’ve got to break eggs.

  4. ismoot says:

    RAM
    I didn’t want to say that in so many words but you have captured the thing. Thanks.
    pl

  5. avedis says:

    There is something about the modern day jacobins (neocons) that I just don’t understand. Are they so self-confident and so removed from reality that they really are not capable of forming and implementing effective policy….or are they cynical manipulators; operating from the fundemental of “the noble lie” espoused by their mentor?
    If the former, how could they ever have so ensconced themselves within the right-wing policy aperatus?
    If the later, how they not know that, ultimately, their lies would be exposed? They would have built policy on the lie and then allowed it to be put to the acid test of harsh reality.
    I supopose a third alternative is they they simply do not care. A fourth may be that they are insane.
    And a fifth may be that they were just way off target; wrong as wrong can be.
    No matter how I slice it the loaf looks really moldy….. this is our government and there are lives and money and our national security and future on the line.
    I find the whole situation more than disturbing.
    What, colonel, is your opinion as to the source of their error?

  6. ismoot says:

    avedis
    I think that the core group are simply delusional in the way that core members of any “vanguard party” usually are. All that Straussian baloney about “wisemen” and “gentlemen” and esoteric readings of Plato was probably deeply corrosive of clear thought when fed to post-adolescent minds in university. As a former college teacher, I know well how malleable such minds often are.
    There are, of course, many enablers who are just cynical opportunists who see the main chance and pursue it. I would put Franklin in that pile. The same people will jump another way and then lead the persucution of the Jacobins if they fall from power.
    The “noble lie” business is largely tactical and leads to a willingness to distort or simply lie in furthering their “higher” goals.
    Lastly, I think that their various obsessions obstruct analysis of the real world since they do not live in it. From this comes the foolishness that led them to believe that Iraq was what they thought it was, that it was “the Iraq of their dreams.” pl

  7. J says:

    Colonel,
    I’ve a great idea, let’s round them up, load them on the next C-130 headed for Baghdad (not a comfy 757, but a up-n-down C-130). make sure that they have enough barf bags so they don’t miss their lunch. once they get to Baghdad, give them no more than 8hrs in the rack, then load all of them up in personnel carriers, trot them off to the nearest supply point, issue them M-16, helmets, vests, ammo, and Humvees. once they’re all issued up, put them on 12 hr patrols without any bodyguards. let them have at least two weeks of 12 hr patrol duty with no days off. ‘if’ they survive that, then we ask them if they’ve changed their minds, or if they still have an attitude problem.
    our guys could sure use the break time, put the architects of the war in the frying pan for a short spell and see how they like it.
    just an idea.

  8. RJJ says:

    But who gave the dreamers a real country to test their theory on, and WHY.
    Dick Cheney is no Straussian.

  9. ismoot says:

    RJJ
    Not sure what he is. There seems to be a real disconnect between what he was as SecDef and what he is now. pl

  10. J says:

    Colonel,
    it’s called power, Cheney is ate up with power and by his actions appears to believe he is omnipotent.

  11. J says:

    Colonel,
    I believe what Cheney has is called the ‘Caligula syndrome’.

  12. ismoot says:

    J
    Caligula, Commodus, etc.
    pl

  13. Thomas says:

    It is an insult to the Jacobins to compare them with the neocons.
    What about the indefinite perfectiability of man and all the extreme Republican ideals of the Jacobins and others like Adam Weishaupt?
    Their philosophy has nothing to do with neocons or Bush, so why insult great individuals with such analogies?

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