Stop the Straussians Before They Lie Again

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Mr. Leckie is an independent scholar.

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Back in the 1980s a conservative mantra was, "Ideas have consequences." It still is among the intellectual advisers to the administration of George W. Bush, for whom ancient history matters. They seem to want to take on what Atlantic correspondent Robert D. Kaplan calls a "warrior politics"-in a book of that title bearing an elegant, ancient Corinthian helmet on its cover--and assume the pagan ethic of Greece and Rome in our postmodern times, though most of them have never worn a helmet and packed a rifle themselves, and ancient politicians and philosophers like Socrates were authentic battle veterans.

At the core of their thinking is the idea of lying to achieve their goals. The ideas they maintain are those of a viciously repressive regime supported by an occupying foreign army that briefly dominated ancient Athens after it was defeated by Sparta 2,400 years ago, not those that reflect a prosperous, victorious democracy, but few seem to want to call them out on it. It's time all of us did, loudly.

For no group on the right are ideas more important than those who style themselves disciples of the University of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss, whose admiration for the political philosophy of ancient Greece-and especially Socrates-has been a hallmark.

Emerging as an influential network during the Reagan Administration, the Straussians have drawn increasing attention in the aftermath of the war in Iraq because of their role in promoting the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. Seymour Hersh, writing in the May 12 New Yorker magazine, links Straussians to the cooking of intelligence reports about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a major basis for justifying the administration's use of the doctrine of pre-emptive war.

Prominent among the Straussian advocates for vigorous military engagement abroad have been Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Abram Shulsky, who heads the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans; Stephen Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence; Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board; and William Kristol, editor of the conservative journal the Weekly Standard.

Their role has also has gained attention because central to Straussian ideas about governance is contempt for democracy and the necessity for deception at home as well as in war and diplomacy abroad. Strauss, who died in 1973, taught dozens of students who formed almost a cult around the man at Chicago, and they and their followers can be found in universities, the law, and in government promoting his ideas.

Despite the attention paid to the Straussians as a group, and especially to their elitism, mainstream journalists have neglected examining the thought of Strauss himself to see where it came from and whether it really has any substance. It ought to concern us that men with such influence in our democracy follow a thinker who embraced a notion of "universal fascism." That's a slogan derived from Strauss's colleague in the late 1920s and 1930s, a quasi-revolutionary, neo-Hegelian Russian émigré in Paris, Alexandre Kojeve, who influenced the "end of history" idea fashionable on the right after 1989. It's currently touted by Straussian camp-follower Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute.

I agree with the conservatives that ideas matter, though I find it odd they should think so and embrace lying-whether to invade Iraq, or hype the president on the carrier Lincoln or in front of Mount Rushmore, or promoting tax policy, or changing the labels on boxes at a St. Louis courier company to mask "Made in China" ones when the president spoke there! It is vital we look at the thinking of an influential man whose career was aided by Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, and who found appealing such philosophers as Friedrich Nietzsche and the Nazi thinker, Martin Heidegger. It amazes me that avowedly fascist intellectualism flourishes in our government and our press and public stand for it.

Maybe the neglect is because Strauss is almost impossibly dense reading (I find him more than occasionally incoherent, but then, I'm not one of the Straussian Elect or on a mystical ladder to Gnosis). However, since Straussian ideas shape our policies abroad and their stamp can also be seen on the domestic agenda of the administration as well, intellectual laziness is no excuse. In the case of the Straussians, ideas about ancient history matter if democracy is to survive in the 21st century United States.

In fact, in my view it's the Straussians who are intellectually lazy, too. And here's why: Strauss distorted the politics and history of ancient Greece, and of classical Athens specifically. He has interesting things to say about much later philosophers, especially Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, but he takes the anti-democratic ideas of conservatives who conspired with the enemies of classical Athens and even misrepresents them.

Maybe that's because one of his central tenets was that a true philosopher can't openly say what he means for fear of popular outrage, as Socrates found out when the Athenians executed him. But then, after telling us that, how can we believe any of his followers? And there's more than arrogance in telling us they're lying and expecting us to go along with those who really know that will-to-power is all that counts, and it's all over if the masses find out. A true Straussian philosopher is he who can bear the knowledge that comes with awareness of Truth: there is nothing but power and so the necessity for order to protect the rich and powerful. The philosopher's role is to whisper advice in the ears of gentlemen fit to rule the unwashed and unenlightened by deceiving them into believing in things like…."traditional values" and that an elite is always right, that we should be told things like the "Noble Lie" made famous by Plato's Republic in order to accept the status quo as the natural order of things. And-following the "political theology" of Schmitt--there's nothing like war to keep a society in line.

Far from following his alleged hero Socrates, the real model for Strauss's political philosophy should be a renegade pupil of the old philosopher, an aristocratic intellectual named Critias. Critias led a junta-the Thirty Tyrants, as they are known--that ruled Athens after its defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. Supported by a Spartan garrison, Critias and other Athenian oligarchs murdered their opponents and looted the city. Socrates defied them. His leading accusers were former supporters of the Athenian tyrants who were shifting the blame for Critias' actions from themselves to the ruthless oligarch's former teacher after Athenian democracy had been restored in 402 BCE.

When we hear voices in the administration and in conservative media attacking those who would question the Bush administration, we are hearing an echo of those who attacked Socrates for his irritating questions. Oddly these patriotic flacks, who resemble the demagogues scorned by authentic Athenian conservatives, are allied with an exclusive cult that draws on the surviving impressions we have of the political ideas of ancient, aristocratic men who in a time of war betrayed their city, democratic Athens, for oligarchic, militaristic Sparta. Lest we forget, it was Athenian ambition for empire--resembling the quest for an American imperium hailed by the Straussians with sympathy from classicists who should know better like Victor Davis Hansen and Donald Kagan (historian of the Peloponnesian War)--that led to her humiliation and the bloody regime of the Thirty.

Not much is left of Critias' writings, but as a philosopher and playwright, he'd have been convivial company in Strauss's University of Chicago circle. From the fragments that remain, it is clear he thought that without violence to enforce order, humans would live "at the level of beasts." There were no "truths" that could be maintained without force. Rather than having any reality to them, the gods and human values-nomoi, customs and laws--were invented "as punishers" and to support elite rule.

My hero Socrates went on a quest for knowledge of real justice, relentlessly questioning mostly wealthy Athenians whether they knew what virtue was. Though a conservative, he was not a ruthless cynic like the pupil who disappointed him. To incredulous and even threatening aristocratic interlocutors, he argued that to harm an evil man morally injured a retaliating victim even more, and made a bad man worse. Even during the long war with Sparta, the Athenian leader Pericles spoke of his city as "a school for Hellas," because it was the role of the city to give every citizen-not just an elite few--the chance to achieve their arête, or virtue. In one famous dialog, Meno, Socrates demonstrates that even a poor slave boy has the same knowledge of truth available to him as the most noble of Greeks. One of the common formulations of ancient Athenian citizenship was that every citizen should metechei tes poleos, "share in the polis." That included the right to step up to the bema, the speaker's platform before the Assembly, and participate in debate before all, in a common public sphere.

That is not the vision maintained by the Straussians and their ideology born in early 20th century European nihilism and reaction. Indeed, a corruption of the lessons of the classics and a fascination with ancient Greece was an aspect of that era's German authoritariansm, too. Intellectual fascism in ancient Athens was a product of defeat and occupation. It now presides over a nation at continuous war, deeply divided at home by increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity, declining voter participation and corruption by money of our political system, without a common arena for debate. The Athenian notion of free speech was not our liberal one. Parrhesia, as it was termed, required a speaker to take moral responsibility for the publicly spoken word. Ideas have consequences for us all, not just intellectuals, and classical ideals aren't just ancient history. How far will we let the Straussians take their irrational and irrationalist version of them, with its nihilism and "universal fascism," without holding them morally, as well as intellectually and politically, accountable?

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More Comments:

Lyndon Martin Wendell Beharry - 8/9/2009

For Strauss and the Neo-con/Nazi resurgence in the U.S.:
Ernst Roehm: Quote:
'Since I am an immature and wicked man, war and unrest appeal to me more than the good bourgeois order.'
All revolutions devour their own children.

To my way of thinking, this is the supreme danger to Republican Democracy.

Dr. Mumbo - 11/9/2003

I have a suggestion. Similar to the 'Big Mac' index of the Economist. How about a reparations index? What is it? (I will tell you) Based on recent cases of monetary reparations for lives taken, along with ethnic/religious identity, we make an index. An index of worth. 1000 dollars for an Afghani man whose 10-member family is 'carpet bombed' (is that 100 per agrarian? per afghani? per muslim? - let the 'experts' figure it out! it's too hard for me!) 10 million for a victim of lockerbie (is that per European? Christian? per individual who has heard the term '401k'?)

The point is, we could make law the standards already in place. Don't make sense? Well, remember: it doesn't have to! (similarly, why have coherent writing style? me dunno!) I know logic, I know some history (not all). But I haven't figured out how to apply the 'obvious' standards that make Americans, Europeans, Israelis so valuable.

Funny thing about these issues: you have to argue them in a coherent way. Somewhat of a paradox, since there is no moral logic to it. Like, I mean, you can't even, like, apply the dictionary definition of ethnic cleansing, because that would include Israel. So, like, what to do? That's why I leave it to the experts. People who can 'find' the 'connections' between history and the present. A truly worthy endeavor? (Try arguing THAT on the senate floor!)

I know, desultory. Not worth comment. I have come to the conclusion, after a long career of historical research spanning 4 decades and appointments in universities from Paris to Berkeley to Istanbul, that (it's a lie, i'm not really a professor, and don't know anything) that the reason that books are printed is because they contain pages. Praise be!

You can't write like this, though, because it needs to make sense. The bombs make sense, I tellya! 3000 dead americans. 7000 dead iraqis. 4000 dead afghanis. on the reparations scale, we're just getting started! i thought of a good add for too:
Zion Ethnic Cleanser: easy on your conscious!
with special blue crystals to wipe away irrational dirt! approved by the U.S.!

About the americans ("Us") - don't worry about them. despite all your scholarship, and all your heated arguments. the sales numbers for Grand Theft Auto 3 simply 'blow you away' in significance: not only economically, but culturally, and in influence on the future of this country. what about 'american idol'? you know, they interview the 'survivor' cast-offs every week on the NEWS! riveting! just protect the americans, so loving of freedom are they. what know-how! well, at least the kids have their extreme wresting bouts, blow off some steam at least. It'll make the carpet bombing of 2031 a little easier, no?

is this a true rant? well, i'm just glad i have a choice between democrat and republican, and can listen to valuable commentary like you all's. i'm just glad i have cable, and my kids are in a private school.

what's the logic of the arena? i mean this arena? when we die, will we be brought before a judge, or a panel? oh, that ultimate vindicator of rational thought, the panel of peers. deem me this, deem me that -- just deem me! ok, so time to watch pbs and npr. new scientific studies. the great and fascinating cultural experiments.

sorry for the bad quality of my writing and argumentation. i guess i need to be 'liberated'. gotta go, gwine git down to bidness, main!

Dr. Jumbo Mumbo III
burger flipper and dilletante

syed ahsani - 11/2/2003

Dear Sir,
Unrelated is a question from Prof. Lecklie. We are told that Saint Louis V, King of France proposed in 1250 AD in his eddict that a western state should be created in the Middle East-Israel.As I have failed to find reference on internet, kindly research from the following:

As desired, the details of the references given in the book:













With kind regards.
Syed Ahsani
210 Parkmead Ct, ArlingtonTX 76014

Bryan Murphy - 9/16/2003

LaRouche is a worse offender than ANY straussian. He actually IS a machiavellian trying to become president through deception. The only good thing, he's a convicted felon. He couldn't vote for himself, let alone get elected president. LaRouche has a lot sloppy research and his followers ARE a cult. I personally think hes a rightwinger trying to discredit any inquirey into the Straussian philosopher of American political leaders.

Bryan Murphy - 9/16/2003

We're getting more and more organized by the day. There are several communities online where liberals are trying to get more and more people involved. The most active I've seen is http://www.democraticunderground.com. The admins are on the DLC take obviously but there is a good community of people there in spite of it. And is there really any better opponent to Strauss, who is really just a bizarre(maybe normal) platonist, then Karl Popper. If someone wants to know WHY the Straussians are wrong, than Poppers The Open Society and its Enemies is the best resource for them. And thankfully one of Poppers students himself has been doing a pretty good job of fighting the good fight. George Soros and his Open Society Institute have been doing wonderful things. In fact I think hes given more foreign aid to some countries than the US does. He has a foreign policy of his own, and enough money to make it work. He also recently gave $10 million of his own money to ACT(Americans Coming TOgether) and anti-bush soft money operation thats going to be active in key swing states as a voter registration/information drive. And hes also sponsering nation wide debates on foreign policy.


The Open Society Dialogues, hosted by the Washington office of the Open Society Institute, is a new monthly forum exploring the issues that are fundamental to open societies. OSI's Washington office is headed by Morton H. Halperin, who has held national security posts in the Clinton, Johnson and Nixon Administration and was director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.


So belive me Mr. Leckie, WE'RE TRYING. Its an uphill battle for kids who until a short time ago were relatively well protected from the realities of a very twisted philosophy.

Mike Finley - 6/17/2003

The fact is that Sharon has been involved in numerous massacres. The Palestinians know this man:

1) "In 1953, he formed "Unit 101," a secret death squad within the IDF that committed several mass murders of civilians. In October 1953, Sharon's "Unit 101" massacred 66 innocent civilians during a cross-border raid into the Jordanian West Bank village of Qibya. Under intense machine-gun fire, local residents were driven into their homes, which were then blown up around them, killing the occupants by burying them alive in piles of rubble. On Oct. 18, 1953, the U.S. State Department issued a bulletin denouncing the Qibya massacre, demanding that those responsible be "brought to account."
2) "During the 1956 joint British, Israeli, and French invasion of the Suez Canal, Sharon and Rafael Eytan, carried out another war crime: In three separate incidents, Sharon- and Eytan-led units murdered Egyptian prisoners of war, as well as civilian Sudanese workers who had been captured. All told, 273 unarmed prisoners were executed and dumped into mass graves. When the story broke, nearly 40 years later, in the Aug. 16, 1995 London Daily Telegraph, it nearly ruptured Israeli-Egyptian relations."

His history has followed him. At the Dome incident, he was accompanied by 1,000 IDF troops and military police. It was meant to be a deliberate provocation.

Quoted form EIR, 5/17/02 (A LaRouche publication)

NYGuy - 6/16/2003


What is your answer? You put money above integrity? And you want people to listen to you.

GW is a genius. Relax all will be OK.

The American People

Don Williams - 6/16/2003

financial disaster? Which is worst --Bill Clinton screwing Monica or the Republicans sodomizing the middle class to the tune of $73,000 per household?

Don Williams - 6/16/2003

1) Consider Ralph Nader's vanity campaign -- as a result of which George Bush was elected and a $1.8 trillion has been taken from the Trust Funds (Social Security, Medicare,etc) in order to pay for Bush's income tax gift to the rich. That's a huge sum --equal to
$16,914 taken from every one of America's 106.417 million households (2000)

But many of those households are too poor to spare the money --so an even greater burden falls on blue collar workers and middle class workers making in the range of $30,000 to $80,000.

As I explained earlier, Bush's IOUs will have to be paid off by taxes on baby boomer 401K/IRAs withdrawals starting in 2011.
(Recall that 401K/IRAs are "before tax" assets). There is no other source of revenue of the required scale. However,
In 2000, there were 38.120 million households with income less than $30,000 a year.
See http://tiger.berkeley.edu/sohrab/politics/income_00.txt.
Those households will not have any 401K/IRA assets for retirement that can be taxed to pay off Bush's IOUs. Hence, the money will have to be collected from the remaining 68.297 million households ( assuming that the 22.393 million households with income above $100,000 are stupid enough to put money into the 401K/IRA money trap-- I don't think they will be but let's assume they are.)
$1.8 Trillion divided across 68.297 million households equals

As I noted, most of those households are in the $30-$80,000 income bracket (45.904 million ). In exchange for a Bush income tax cut of $400 to $1000, that group got $26,355 of federal debt (owed by the rich) dumped onto them. How is Ralph Nader going to fix that?
It was clear during the election what Bush was up to in spite of Bush's deceit and dissimulation about fuzzy math. Is Ralph Nader not just as responsible as Bush for helping bring about the above disaster? Is not Zell Miller and the Democratic senators who supported Bush also responsible. So why does the Democrats not declare war on those turncoats?

The situation is actually far worst than I depicted. Bush's budget indicates that the Trust Funds will be holding $5 Trillion in false IOUs as "assets" by 2008. The baby boomers begin retiring in 2011 and the IOUs have to be paid off.

$5 Trillion spread across 68.297 million households equals $73,209 per household. Do all those households in the $30,000 to $80,000 have the money to make that tax payment in addition to paying existing taxes (for ongoing federal operations?).

Plus we recently heard that an additional $7 Trillion is needed for Social Security and $34 Trillion more is needed for Medicare in order to provide promised benefits -- and that Bush concealed that shortfall when submitting his budget and asking for yet another tax cut for the rich.

NYGuy - 6/16/2003

Don and William,

Relax help is on the way. First GW restored pride in the White House and confidence in the American people and investors. The stock market is recoving and we are benefiting from the "Wealth effect." Then he put through his tax cut. This one-two punch will produce the greatest era of prosperity for the U. S. Meanwhile his actions are restoring peace to the world.

I think the reason you don't understand GW is because he is a genius, i.e. someone who sees a target no one else sees and hits it.

Have faith, after all you are living in the greatest country in the world.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/16/2003

Mr. Williams--

I agree with your assesments, with one exception.

While I certainly think the current administration is informed by genuinely authoritarian ideas and impulses, I don't think an "Adolph Hitler" is in the wings I think that the ideological motives fuelling the NRA go well beyond gun ownership, that in fact an armed populace is part of the Orwellian mystique of the kind of regime we're seeing evolve.

Let's put it another way: Throughout the 20th century, there were regimes that we label "totalitarian" and "dictatorships." But in a way, we don't "need" guys like Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, and the Milosovecs and Mugabes and Castros. Maybe not altogether consciously, one reason we toppled Saddam was because "we" didn't need him anymore after the Cold War--after all, he was our boy.

Authoritarianism US style certainly contains very reactionary elements: a spiffed up Southern social, political, and economic agenda, to which one must add evangelical Protestantism. But remember, the media concentration you dislike so much is a capitalist project fuelled by consumerism. Awhile back, I wrote that we don't need tanks and troops on every streetcorner because we have Walgreen's--or Burger King, Blockbuster, or Home Depot; we are and have been since about the mid-1950s radically reorganizing our urban space in totalizing, uniform ways. Instead of citizens, we have passive consumers.

We have also "displaced" or isolated anarchy and violence in inner cities or projected it against usually vulnerable societies abroad.

The idea of an armed populace resisting the equivalent of an 18th century monarch is really old hat, and besides, it was an ideal assumed by those who would protect the--then--limited privileges of property. Do you honestly think the same Whigs who happily greeted disarming the Scots Highlanders would've wanted a musket in every miserable flat in a London slum?

But my point is that despite the reactionary elements--including mass spectacle (also now "privatized" both in participation and production, and "depoliticized" as entertainment on the tube)--what we're seeing is something that is arguably new, requires different analytical language to understand, and can only be resisted by by doing two things: organizationally and tactically playing the same kind of hardball, but doing it in ways that are deliberately anarchic, unpredictable, off-the-radar, that piss'em off, foul up the gears, are as creative legally as say the right and its lawyers are.

Alas, the opposition is on the whole more reasonable than the bad guys, and fails to understand that the only way to deal with, say, a Tom DeLay is to treat him with the contempt he deserves, mock him as the idiot he really is....Oh! and cook meals at home don't even think of eating a Big Mac! Shop local. Vote for aldermen, school board candidates, in campaigns that develop aggressive local leadership and that go door-to-door. Don't listen to Clearchannel stations. Because they advertised on Limbaugh's propaganda staion, I wouldn't own a Bose if someone gave it to me. Make fun of private security.

Laugh at the bastards, because, alas though they have power and do damage, the one thing they want you to do is take them seriously--take, God help us all, a cue from Limbaugh and crudely mock. In other words, deprive them of the consent that gives them their legitimacy.

But don't own a gun.

Don Williams - 6/16/2003

1) I have clearly noted how the Republicans have inflicted misery
on the people of this country. The ill effects won't be totally noticeable for a few years but they are inevitable.
The Republican apologists here have not refuted my indictment.
2) The Republicans have not been held to account for their actions because the people depend on the news media for information and the media has withheld much information from them, as I've also shown.
That is a development that James Madison never anticipated -- that ownership of the news media would become tightly concentrated and that the people would be lied to , day in and day out, by a deeply corrupt industry. Plus there's an entire cottage industry of conservative pundits, who earn a lavish living by misleading the people -- distracting them with rants against matters of little moment while great crimes are committed.

NYGuys comparison of a populist revolt to Hitler's Blackshirts reflects his ignorance. In the late 1920s, the people of Germany were deeply angry at the morass into they had been led: 50% unemployment, loss of life savings, worthless money,etc. The wealthy industrialists of Germany helped strongman Hitler gain power --in order to protect their wealth from the popular unrest.
To gain power, Hitler initially disguised his corrupt form of fascism as a socialist movement.

We have millions of people out of work. A few months ago, Bush's budget projected a federal debt in 2008 that will be $3 trillion higher than what he promised only two years ago. This country is heading toward disaster and the Republicans only care about helping the wealthy patrons steal as much as they can before the storm hits. The social pathology that hit the employees of Enron and Worldcom is about to hit the incredulous citizens of this nation -- because our Republican leaders are nothing more than pale imitators of corrupt CEOs.

Homeland security and the "war on terror" are being used to create a police state that will restrain social unrest as the full effects of Republican policies hit home. I don't know who our Adolf Hitler will be but I know he will be put in power by the Republicans in order to maintain "law and order".

That's why I support the Second Amendment and why I think Democrats have been stupid to alienate blue collar workers --resulting in lost election after lost election -- with ill-advised attempts at gun control. But I think the Republicans will ,in time, betray the NRA -- just as they did in 1994 when they let the assault rifle ban pass in order to stir up Republican support from enraged NRA members.

NYGuy - 6/16/2003


You say:
....and yes, they oughtta get their teeth kicked out at the polls, but alas, I fear they--the GOP--won't.

Sounds like a peace movement slogan. You are saying the people are behind GW and his Straussians.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/16/2003

We'd argue ferociously over the Second Amendment, but I think think that'd be the sort of thing that makes a civic life worthwhile....I take it you read the Mailer interview in AC....and yes, they oughtta get their teeth kicked out at the polls, but alas, I fear they--the GOP--won't.

NYGus - 6/16/2003

I repeat from an earlier post following your recommendation to read an article by Seymor Hersh:


"You guys are all over the place in moving from theory to practice. Don told me to read Hersh who goes all over the lot with comments, insinuations, like a french painter with a little dab here, a little dab there and expects the reader to draw the conclusion that he is making a meaningful staement about our government and Strauss. Meanwhile after his long winded expose of our intelligence effors, which are different than the naive efforts of Clinton, he says:

"How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious."

As I read more of the articles being cited I see a vast "left wing conspiricy to undermind our intelligence effort."

This does not mean I oppose having an investigtion so we can see what was done right and what was done wrong, rather then some theoretical discussion of a philospher who has been dead for 30 years and never experienced what we are experiencing today.

As I said I don't dispute your article, I do question the application to today difficult world envirnment. After all the Democrats and the republicans did approve the action in Iraq and I am still trying to find out who are the Straussians."

I understand that you studied Hitler and the blackshirts. Your comments that you are:

"a charter subscriber to Pat Buchanan's "The American Conservative".
While I've voted Republican years ago due to Democrats' gun control efforts, I think the Republicans deserve to get their teeth knocked out with a baseball bat in next year's elections."

As one who studied Hiter's regime, are we to interprete from your remarks that you are a fascist?

Don Williams - 6/15/2003

a charter subscriber to Pat Buchanan's "The American Conservative".
While I've voted Republican years ago due to Democrats' gun control efforts, I think the Republicans deserve to get their teeth knocked out with a baseball bat in next year's elections.

Don Williams - 6/15/2003

1) Polybius, writing circa 120 BC, attempted to determine why Rome had been so successful. One of his insights (an elaboration of Aristotle's ideas ) was that the three major forms of government -- government of the one, of the few, and of the many -- tend to degenerate into despotism and to be replaced by one of the other forms. A benign monarch will be succeeded by an unworthy son who becomes a tyrant and is overthrown in time by a revolution led by the aristocracy. The aristocracy, in time , becomes a selfish oligarchy and is overthrown by a democracy. Democracy, in turn, becomes mob rule --the tyranny of the majority.

Polybius argued that Rome's strength laid in a mixed constitution , which combined elements of all three forms so that each form would check the excesses of the others. Polybius went on to argue that that nations face a choice between internal stability vs empire. He noted that Sparta gained long term stability based on a form of socialism and military service to the state. Sparta could never expand to empire because she could never accept outsiders as citizens. Rome's rapid growth, by contrast, was driven by a greedy mercantilism and a willingness to freely grant Roman citizenship to foreigners.

Polybius's ideas were repeated almost verbatim by Machiavelli in his Discourses. During the American Founding, James Madison studied classical history and concluded that a Confederacy form of government never survives. (See Madison's "Notes on Ancient and
Modern Confederacies." --the lessons for the European Union are clear)

In designing the US Constitution, James Madison incorporated Polybius's checks and balances but also developed innovations -- e.g. federalism as a way to create a large republic along with the idea that large republics are more likely to preserve the rights of the minority.

While Madison was a Federalist when it came to creating a central government , he was quick to turn against the Federalists in 1790 as they attempted to create an plutocracy. (The Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton basically felt that the "Country should be run by those who own it.") The country is fortunate that Madison and Jefferson formed the Democratic-Republicans (later shortened to the Democratic Party) and destroyed the Federalists -- although the Federalists , like crabgrass, have continually cropped up through out US history.

Bush and the neocons don't realize that their attempt to establish an American empire is doomed to failure and will bring disaster upon the citizens of the US.

One outcome is that experienced by Great Britain ,Spain, and other empires -- nation bankruptcy because the costs of maintaining military control exceed the possible profits and the relative military advantage that created empire is undermined by technology transfers that accompany global trade. (Although a favored few will profit.)

A far worst result -- the Roman Empire --occurs if Bush and the neocons succeed. The same forces that caused the Roman Republic to collapse into the military dictatorship known as the Roman Empire will work upon the US. Any universal global government will inevitably become a tyranny.

Edward Gibbon explained the resulting world best in his book, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire":

"The division of Europe into a number of independent states, connected,however, with each other by the general resemblance of religion, language, and manners, is productive of the most beneficial consequences to the liberty of mankind. A modern tyrant, who should find no resistance either in his own breast or in his people, would soon experience a gentle restraint from the example of his equals, the dread of present censure, the advice of his allies, and the apprehension of his enemies. The object of his displeasure, escaping from the narrow limits of his dominions, would easily obtain, in a happier climate, a secure refuge, a new fortune adequate to his merit, the freedom of complaint, and perhaps the means of revenge.

But the empire of Romans filled the world, and , when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies.

The slave of Imperial despotism, whether he was condemmed to drag his gilded chain in Rome and the senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus , or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being discovered , seized, and restored to his irritated master....

.."Wherever you are" said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus "remember that you are equally within the power of the conqueror."

Herodotus - 6/15/2003

"One thing that consistently disappoints me on these lists is a failure to develop serious discussion--in this case, of the relationship between ideas and politics. "

No kidding. You could do more to advance this.

Herodotus - 6/15/2003

I think I've finally figured it out:

You're a person who thinks he's arrived, except that he hasn't.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/15/2003

Mr. Williams is absolutely right, and he and I have certainly read the same more recent sources. In fact, I was taken aback that folks from somewhere--maybe on one of the moons of an outer planet--were so shocked, absolutely shocked, that I would summarize what's so very widely known and demanded exqusitely scholarly apparatus to defend my case. But then, judging from many of the postings, those folks don't read very well, or watch Fox and the screamers, and so have very short attention spans, and certainly didn't get past the headline.

I am not sure--I did look for it elsewhere--but maybe the only original contribution I made was to conjure up the person of Critias. Actually, I hoped some respondents would want to write about classical political philosophy and history, and the "warrior politics" of Republican draft dodgers in flag-waving militarists' clothing. In the old days of real classical policy, a politician led his troops on the battlefield. At least Critias had the guts to fight--and was indeed killed on Mounykia in Piraeus fighting resturned democratic exiles. Charbides--also killed on that steep hill--marvels at Socrates as a soldier in SYMPOSIUM.

Not our neocon "warrior politicians!" Can you imagine Newt Gingrich huffing and puffing in formation? Tom deLay, after all the insecticide exposure, probably couldn't pass the mental exam. Mike Ledeen, I think it was, wrote a neocon tract on Machiavlli not long ago, but I knew him back when he was just past draft age and as far as I know never wore a uniform, yet Machiavelli would be appalled at the mercenary US army comprised of working class kids instead of a broad, citizen-wide one, a la a republican militia.

As to Mr. Williams' second comment: I agree with that one, too. See, I'm what might be called (this is a term of opprobrium or used to be in postmodern academia)a "left conservative." Heck, Norman Mailer's calling himself that, too. A foundationalist, O heresy of heresies! A Great Books Man who actually kinda liked The Closing of the American Mind, though I was captivated by the irony of it all--Bloom's indignation that consumption meant the democratization of the philosopher-king's solipsism (after all, if he can claim access to knowledge no one else can understand, why, logically, can't anyone so claim and lead a life of appearances and deception, of self and others? Of an arbitrary aesthetic, though I'll admit Tommy Hilfiger raises some problems for my thesis).

I actually see no PHILOSOPHICAL distinction between a Straussian or a gangsta rapper; little distinction, if any, between say a Wall Street investment banker and a streetcorner drug dealer, not just cellphones in common, except that the latter, with some exceptions I stumbled across who were exceptions that proved the rule, as it were, have the good taste not to play golf!

Don Williams - 6/15/2003

If one simply looks at Republican actions -- as I've described below -- one can come up with a simpler explanation than Strauss's philosophy.

Onc can argue that Republican leaders' thought processes do not rise above the level of low animal cunning, that they are sociopaths for whom the words "duty, honor, country" mean nothing, that they are motivated by nothing more complex than simple greed, and they cite morality merely as a means of deceit. One can imagine , for example, New Gingrich's and Livingston's mistresses convulsed with laughter as they watched those gentlemen preach "family values" and criticize Clinton on the floor of the House.

Suggesting that a pack of cowardly hyenas are motivated by anything like a "philosophy" is probably a stretch.

Don Williams - 6/15/2003

I really don't understand NYGuy's continual whining "Who are the Straussians"?

In his article, Mr Leckie noted:
"Prominent among the Straussian advocates for vigorous military engagement abroad have been Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Abram Shulsky, who heads the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans; Stephen Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence; Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board; and William Kristol, editor of the conservative journal the Weekly Standard. "

The New York Times and New Yorker articles I cited rounded up the usual suspects:
"Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, has been identified as a disciple of Strauss; William Kristol, founding editor of The Weekly Standard, a must-read in the White House, considers himself a Straussian; Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, an influential foreign policy group started by Mr. Kristol, is firming in the Strauss camp. "
"The director of the Special Plans operation is Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert in the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss. Shulsky has been quietly working on intelligence and foreign-policy issues for three decades; he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Com-mittee in the early nineteen-eighties and served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation....
...Shulsky’s work has deep theoretical underpinnings. In his academic and think-tank writings, Shulsky, the son of a newspaperman—his father, Sam, wrote a nationally syndicated business column—has long been a critic of the American intelligence community. During the Cold War, his area of expertise was Soviet disinformation techniques. Like Wolfowitz, he was a student of Leo Strauss’s, at the University of Chicago. Both men received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Strauss, a refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, was trained in the history of political philosophy, and became one of the foremost conservative émigré scholars. He was widely known for his argument that the works of ancient philosophers contain deliberately concealed esoteric meanings whose truths can be comprehended only by a very few, and would be misunderstood by the masses. The Straussian movement has many adherents in and around the Bush Administration. In addition to Wolfowitz, they include William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who is particularly close to Rumsfeld. Strauss’s influence on foreign-policy decision-making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership.

How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious. As it happens, Shulsky himself explored that question in a 1999 essay, written with Gary Schmitt, entitled “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)”—in Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality. In the essay, Shulsky and Schmitt write that Strauss’s “gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness . . . may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John le Carré’s novels.” Echoing one of Strauss’s major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America’s intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment.

The agency’s analysts, Shulsky and Schmitt argue, “were generally reluctant throughout the Cold War to believe that they could be deceived about any critical question by the Soviet Union or other Communist states. History has shown this view to have been extremely naïve.” They suggested that political philosophy, with its emphasis on the variety of regimes, could provide an “antidote” to the C.I.A.’s failings, and would help in understanding Islamic leaders, “whose intellectual world was so different from our own.”

Strauss’s idea of hidden meaning, Shulsky and Schmitt added, “alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.”

Robert Pippin, the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago and a critic of Strauss, told me, “Strauss believed that good statesmen have powers of judgment and must rely on an inner circle. The person who whispers in the ear of the King is more important than the King. If you have that talent, what you do or say in public cannot be held accountable in the same way.” Another Strauss critic, Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York University, put the Straussians’ position this way: “They believe that your enemy is deceiving you, and you have to pretend to agree, but secretly you follow your own views.” Holmes added, “The whole story is complicated by Strauss’s idea—actually Plato’s—that philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians.”

NYGuy - 6/15/2003

Having nothing to say the usual suspects regress to their infantile behavoir.

We are here to discuss Mr. Leicke's article titled, " Stop the Straussians Before They Lie Again." No one has identified who the Straussians are and who is lying.

Looks like the debate is over. This article is merely an exercise in ivory tower logic and has no relationship to daily life. Had Leicke stopped before his conclusion it would have been a worthwhile contribution. Everything does not have to be a rant against GW.

If you really want to attack GW and his fellow's why don't you read Ruth Rosen's sentimental memory of her father to see how the pro's do it.

Elia Markell - 6/15/2003

I said you wouldn't like the source. Too bad. I note, with disappointment, however, that your diatribe about it includes absolutely NOTHING to discredit the statements reported by it. Therefore no need for me to reply.

As for the reasons for Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, who cares? As I said, he had cleared it with the PA. So what if it was politics? So what even if it was an attempt to provoke something? I've given you the evidence that it in fact did NOT provoke anything but merely at best supplied the pretext for it. But in any case, am I seriously supposed to accept the idea that nearly three years of violence now, including untold numbers of infants, children, etc. DELIBERATELY targeted for vicious and gruesome deaths (and, yes, all the dead Palestinians as a result of Israel's responses to this barbarism) are to be explained away by the offense taken at a symbolic visit to a holy site by one man who, let's be blunt about it, was insulting to the true believers simply because he is a JEW? Forget it. The excuse is beyond being just funny.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/15/2003

You're very welcome!

I love hearing their little gears squeak, and besides, they need to be yelled back at. Can you imagine louts like Limbaugh and O'Reilly without the corporate money behind'em? As GW has told us, he'd be sitting in a redneck bar in Texas, prob'ly whuppin' Laura ever' night when he got home from th' chicken plant, and they'd be with'im.

NYGuy - 6/15/2003


What is your point? Congress voted to go to war with Iraq. Leckie, you nor anyone else have identified who are the Straussians, the democrats, the republicans, the American people. So what are you celebrating. Intelligent people want to know.

You guys are all over the place in moving from theory to practice. Don told me to read Hersh who goes all over the lot with comments, insinuations, like a french painter with a little dab here, a little dab there and expects the reader to draw the conclusion that he is making a meaningful staement about our government and Strauss. Meanwhile after his long winded expose of our intelligence effors, which are different than the naive efforts of Clinton, he says:

"How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious."

As I read more of the articles being cited I see a vast "left wing conspiricy to undermind our intelligence effort and raise the anti-war slogan of Bush=Hitler." Nothing new nor original.

This does not mean I oppose having an investigtion so we can see what was done right and what was done wrong, rather then some theoretical discussion of a philospher who has been dead for 30 years and never experienced what we are experiencing today.

As I said I don't dispute your article, I do question the application to today difficult world envirnment. After all the Democrats and the republicans did approve the action in Iraq and I am still trying to find out who are the Straussians.

VJ - 6/15/2003

Thanks Mr. Leckie for sticking around and giving the usual cast of conservative cranks and malcontents here a run for thier money.

VJ - 6/15/2003

Thanks Mr. Leckie for sticking around and giving the usual cast of conservative cranks and malcontents here a run for thier money.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/14/2003

Will continue offlist!

But I cannot resist agreeing with you about what's happened not just to epee, but also foil and sabre.

Interestingly, in sabre, it's all forward motion, a rhino-like collision and swatting. Even in foil now, the idea is "superior will," which is a resurrection of the doctrine of elan--and we know how it wound up in the trenches after 1914 and resurrected itself in fascism. But enough!

Don Williams - 6/14/2003

Is that the same Jerusalem Post owned by Conrad Black and with Richard Perle as a Director?

The paper where, according to
William Dalrymple, "Black's propensity for bullying was starkly demonstrated when nearly half the journalists on the Jerusalem Post were sacked when they showed what he judged to be an unhealthy enthusiasm for Palestinian rights. "

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4153113,00.html
and http://www.freedomsite.org/colum/collins39.html

Do you have any other sources?

PS Explain again-- why did Sharon, a Likud legislator, feel it necessary to go through the third most holy Islamic Mosque with several hundred armed bodyguards at a sensitive moment in the peace talks?? Did Arafat invade a Jewish synagogue in the same manner? Don't these infuriating attempts to provoke, excused by two-faced hypocrisy and posturing, show a tendency toward amoral deceit? Why do we support such a person?

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

Strauss wrote to Schmitt (I paraphrase) "the only way to unite humans is to unite them in hating other people"

Schmitt then, ironically? turned around and wrote many of the anti-Semite laws of the Third Reich.

I loathe the entire panoply of mypoic dictatorial thinkers, from Hobbes to Machiavelli to Marx to Strauss.

Two of those guys are Jews, but so what? All of them stand for the rights of the Strong (which Marx thought was the working class, the dope) to do what they will.

Thucydides' Melian dialogues, Veblan's idea that the Engineers would take over, it's all the same mess. The Melian adventure brought down Athens, as the Hirohito's slaugher in Manchuria made it so we hated them, as Hitler's aggressive wars damned him on the world stage.

Who is on the opposite side?

Montesquieu, Kant, maybe Grotius. I can only speak on Montesquieu's "The Spirit of Laws"(1757?) with any familiarity.

The last printing of it (1977) even leaves out some of the most powerfully sections, (well, it was edited down to 1/3 the original length) on the corruption of Aristocratic Republics (which, since we have elections, he would have called us).

If American Aristocratic-Republicanism is to be reclaimed, I suggest that all the elites who will make a difference will be familiar with Montesquieu, not these fear-mongers.

Montesquieu was quite clear, and history has born this out, that nations based on fear are tyrannies.

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"
"Code Orange for the next two weeks"

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

The only valid part of Strauss I see is that how he decries how a passionaite (rather than coldly calculating) public does go overboard.

The decades long, veto-proof majorities of the Democrats in both houses of Congress led to excess. A certain air of infallibility always creeps in, in such situations.

The fact that most of the time our nation wasn't mired in recession, and was never attacked militarily, meant that the public had little interest in delving into policy specifics.

There wasn't a "liberal bias" in the media during the 70s, it was a pro-government bias. The media does (no one can deny) cover the government's proclamations and actions with particular assiduity. the government, mostly Democrats then, released "democrat's" papers, and passed "democrat's laws"

And if you wanted a leak next week, you had to play at least a little ball, and not concentrate on any corruption any Dem might be involved in.

Sadly, the media pounces hardest on a group that loses power (a la Hannah Arendt). Nixon, who did things plenty of other Presidents have basically done, was caught, and lost power, and became a symbol of evil. Concision, of course, on the part of the media, helped this. The "truth" (or a sufficiently close approximation) was time-consuming to put-in-context, and difficult to face, once known.

The claims of Homer Simpson FORCED me to explain this. His absurd rantings about the "right" being a party based on equal justice under the law is was just TOO absurd :)

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

You ask if he is being deceitful or ignorant.

I would also through in the possibility "used."

Wolfowitz is certainly "used" by this administration.

Few of you would guess that Wolfowitz has had a lifetime, vocal aversion to allying ourselves with dictators in order to achieve our goals. (That would certainly include Eritrea, if not Uzbekistan and Pakistan).

When it is useful for him to cry out how evil a dictator is, they trot out Wolfowitz.

But the contradiction between his desires to see dictators overhtrown and the administration polciy of working with any (expletive deleted) willing to help the US do it, well, it isn't probed.

O'Neill was the same way. As long as he was trying to mystify congress and the public with the really mundane topic of the third derivative of US export/import differences, he was AOK.
But if he goes off to England and gives his own ideas (corporatsion should not be taxed at all), he gets sent on a pan-African tour with Bono.

Perle is definitely a, well, what's the nice word? Pro-Israel?


I dunno.

If that position is currently useful, Perle is trotted out, otherwise, shhh!

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

Ah, fencing. I did it myself, for a year in high school, and fooled with a bit in college. The best student fencer I saw was in a perpetual feint. He violated the regular stance of Epee, and constantly held his left hand out as a target. None could resist, constantly amusing. But fencers don't need more than a perfect wrist. Our instructor, a friend of some greats, had advances of three inches, and lunges of six, and yet not one student ever scored a point on him.

I just happened across this Fencing+Germany of Strauss article, it's nice.


Is it any wonder he hated liberal democracy, when everything seemed so golden under the government of his birth? That's what I would like to talk to you about, actually, Strauss and the Second Reich.

They had a "pre-emptive strike" doctrine, and, well, considering the King's trumping of Parliament, resembled more of depostic, than constitutional, monarchy.

I would send you a link to a "Left must read, and, where possible, keep secret from the bloody hands of the Right" article.

It's the finest piece I have yet seen on the web.

E-mail me for it, josh@narins.net


Elia Markell - 6/14/2003

Evidence on the Temple Mount excuse. I am sure "goyim" (man, they are coming out of the woodwork now, aren't they?) will not trust this link. Let him sort it out. The rest of us can see with our eyes. (As for the massacre of unarmed goyim, I leave it for goyim himself to unravel that one).

Bargouti: Sharon's Temple Mount Visit Didn't Cause War

Arutz Sheva News Service http://www.IsraelNationalNews.com
Wednesday, June 13, 2001 / Sivan 22, 5761

Marwan Bargouti, secretary-general of Arafat's Fatah movement in Judea and Samaria, told the Jerusalem Times last week, "the intifada did not start because of Sharon's visit," but that the violence "began because of the desire to put an end to occupation and because the Palestinians did not approve of the peace process in its previous form."

Other similar statements of the past few months (assembled by the ZOA):

* PA cabinet minister Imad Faluji said at a rally in Lebanon on March 3, 2001 that the violence "had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David..." (Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2001)

* PA cabinet minister Ziyad Abu Ziyad was asked by the Lebanon's ANN Television on April 19, 2001, "Does the PA have a tactical or strategic plan regarding the conduct of the conflict with Israel, or is the issue just a daily improvisation and response to Israeli activity?" He replied: "Had we not had a plan, we would not have endured so long. Whoever improvises becomes confused and loses his balance and his way. Our path is very clear ... Whoever follows the events can see that there is a clear Palestinian track. The events on the ground are neither spontaneous nor an improvisation."

* Mustafa Bargouti, head of the PA's Palestinian Medical Relief Services, told the on-line "Palestine Report" (May 2, 2001) that large numbers of paramedics were given emergency medical training on the eve of the violence: "Some institutions, such as the Medical Relief Services, made prior plans for emergencies. Before the Intifada, we trained a first aid team of 11,500 paramedics. These people did an excellent job during the Intifada."

* U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Edward Walker was asked at a March 2000 Congressional hearing if it is reasonable to conclude that the violence was planned well before Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. Walker replied: "They said as much. So I think a reasonable person could assume that." (Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2001)

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

NY Guy,

This isn't like the movie "Canadian Bacon" or "Wag the Dog."

There were a lot of reasons on might have wanted to oust Saddam Hussein. One of the best, that gets no mention, is that we have a responsibility to get rid of the monster, since he is OUR monster. I think this might have been _part_ of the logic behind removing Noriega from power. (Note: We didn't have him executed to shut him up, we just removed our drug-dealer from the Throne)

There is one central argument, "national security," which has covered _all_ attempts to find out what evidence existed to launch either war. The sixty-three pieces of evidence that allegedly prove Osama was behind 9/11 were never shown to anyone. As Sovereign of Afghanistan, would you turn over one of your wealthiest citizens to another, hostile nation, one that refused to show you any evidence?

The Bush administration loudly claimed that this was not a war on Islam, or Arabs(most of whom are Christian, in any event),but on terrorism. But it was only Middle Eastern Arabs who were rounded up on technical Visa violations. Even I got nervous watching a middle easterner act "suspicious" on a train. , however much I hated myself for it.

Strauss wrote to Schmitt that the only way to unite people was to unite them in hating other people. Despite soft words, the hammer of death is only striking brown people sitting on oil fields, and that's the "reality" that people notice.

Now, to Iraq. What evidence existed that Saddam still had WMD? You've never seen it, neither have I, but, includng the fact that the last 12 years (Democrat and Republican) have seen these ideas repeated again and again, made them "true" to the American Public (as if the Democrats and Republicans had no common ground, so any agreement equals "truth!").

The evidence was protected on National Security grounds, some of which was believable. If forces inside Iraq were secretly working with the US, funneling out information, they might well be killed if our evidence was revealed.

No one in America had any proof the Bush clique (Strauss's daughter says "Cabal" has anti-semitic overtones. The Kabbalah is a great Jewish "mystery" religion, I see no insult, but I think Clique has more Cache anyway) was lying. They had already stated (the "pre-emptive strike" speech at West Point) that there was a "better safe than sorry" approach on the books.

No American COULD disprive the Bush thesis, that Saddam was hiding weapons, as Bush could not prove that he isn't hiding those same weapons himself, intent on parcelling them out secretly to "allies" that he can't legally supply with weapons (a la the Boland Amendment). We couldn't go to Iraq easily, and even if we did, what could we do? Look around? Ask Saddam where they were? Ha.

The truth was trapped in Iraq, like a sealed bottle, and the echo chamber in America said "In the bottle lies the Nuclear Genie!"

Do you know what one nuke would do to America? I don't, but, you can bet your sweet behind it will make current cries of "police state" look like lunatic ravings.

Finding 1,000 Historians (none of whom, it must be noted, have even YET seen any evidence of the WMD) to support an idea in a fact-vacuum was too easy, we all must agree.

What hard evidence was there? Certainly if any "Iraqi Insiders" were helping us, they are free to come out in the open now? Certainly if the evidence was hidden for National Security rasons, they are not relevant to National Security now?

Strauss's ideas are based on people who know, and people who don't. It is true that the elites of the world will always know more than the dolts, and that's what makes them elites.

Do you know why Marcus Garvey was pardoned in the 1930s? You might have a guess, but the real answer is still a classified State Secret of the United States Government.

Today's Americans aren't the WWII generation. I just saw "To Hell and Back" (Audie Murphy's story, which, according to some Historians, was toned down from the more heroic truth).

The soldiers, on leave in Naples, are watching kids root through a grocer's garbage for food.

"I just can't watch any more. Those kids didn't start Hitler's war!"

"Yeah, well, neither did we," says another Soldier.

This time, we can't say that.

Ask Bush to see even one piece of the hard evidence he has that showed Saddam had a nuclear program. Even if the program has been moved, hidden, destroyed, at least demand to see that we were well-intentioned, or, at lesat, honest.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/14/2003

Alas, I'm in St. Louis, though I love convivial dinner conversation and appreciate the thought!

After engaging the munchkins of malignity all week, though, I shall shortly retire to an elegant 19th century park where the city's classical fencers gather.

They "fence as if they were sharp," and view the conventions of their art as far from arbitrary--a good phrase d'armes, a conversation of the blade, is also a seeking after truth, but with honor, opponents saluted as equals. Authority--that of another's skills--is always challenged in a dialectic of lethal steel.

I can imagine a "Straussian" fencer; in fact, such actually exist among Olympic-style sport fencers, who do things like flick their blades to make a scoring light go on rather than deploy skill to achieve the equivalent of a lethal thrust, who think form and discipline are arbitrary, and who rarely perform feints to engage opponents to discern actual intentions. As Richard Cohen has recently argued in his book By the Sword, cheating is also rampant among sport fencers. I've seen them throw fits when they lose, too!

It'll be a relief to enjoy the park!

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

Do they call the female willing dupes of Strauss "Ladies?"

He defended liberal democracy, she says?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Her only defense might be that her father lied to her.

Josh Narins - 6/14/2003

I loathe where we are going, but Bush is also just suffering from the classic White House syndrome, that of alienation.

Who does he see and meet all day? People? ha!

The class of characters he has "conversations" with are a small group of rather blandly uniform ideas.

He doesn't even hear about, nor see, protest, they keep it away from his eyes.

Please remember that Bush grew up feeling very inadequate, his father wasn't just a stronger man than himself, wiser, too, he was also the President. Bush had the Secret Service do research for him on the lives of Presidential children (see, he's not all dumb), and he found out it is a miserable life for almost all of them, and a few went on to hit-or-miss political careers.

He chose the latter.

But the echo chamber he lived in, the world where young George felt "out" while the big boys talked, could have been no more extreme than in any family in the world. His efforts to follow along with the mysterious conversations he heard (undoubtedly not every conversation was perfectly candid) probably re-inforced his Strauss's idea that some people "get it," while others "don't" (more accurately "get it" or "get it hard")

He doesn't know hunger, poverty, want, disease w/o hope, any human sufferings.

William! You near NYC? I'll buy you the best dinner in town for a chance to talk :)

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

I don't need to "prove" it all over again. It's been done, widely discussed, in scholarly and journalistic print. The only original thing in my piece was--perhaps--the suggestion that Critias and The Thirty were better models of the consequences of Straussianism in action than a mystification of Socrates.

While I suggest, also, that you guys on the Right will find excuses to squeal about anything you don't like (especially if you hide behind a pretentious pseudonym), start with these and do some real reading, follow the citations, instead of childishly reacting, although I must confess I find it irresistable to taunt the ilk, and you'll find what you claim to need:

Kenneth L. Deutsch and John A Murley, eds., Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the Study of the American Regime (Bowman and Littlefield, 1999).

Shadia Drury, Leo Strauss and the American Right (Griffin, 1999).

Well-informed as you must be, you are surely familiar with Drury's early study of Strauss's political thought, have read Strauss's work yourself, and have sufficient grounding in the classics, as well as Hobbes and Machiavelli.

Oh--while we're on it, though it's not immediately at hand and I don't want to waste my time loking the details up--if you want an intro to the Kojeve connection, take a gander at Allen Bloom's intro to the English edition of the Kojeve book on Hegel

On the other hand, I did characterize the Straussians--and I suppose the rest of the Right--as intellectually lazy. Most authoritarians are because they already know they and they alone are....right. My impression of Strauss is that he knew better.

cyboman - 6/13/2003

It might be unfair to characterize Leo Stauss's work from hearsay, but it does seem to be true that he was an elitist who thought that lying was necessary, that every philosophy has an inner and outer teaching, and that demcocracy doesn't work. In this there is nothing new -- philosophers have been philosophizing for over 2500 years, and never have gone anywhere, except round and round in circles. Of course, the corpus of Western Philosophy can be a sort of enormous Whitman's Sampler that people can delve through in order to find the emolient truths by which to live their lives.

Bertrand Russell's essay, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" is, in part, a classic treatment of the monumental sillinesses philosophers down the ages have had to propound in order to make their theoretical construtions plausible. He also points out how they get it wrong on the basics. Example: Aristotle was convinced that women had fewer teeth than men, and that all he had to do was to look into Mrs. Aristotle's mouth in order to prove his own thesis.

Regarding Leo Strauss, he seems never to have anticipated that in the modern world it is much too easy to find out a liar and his lies to make it possible for liars to get away with their lies for very long.

Beyond that, whether or not democracy works or not as a political culture the word can mean much more than that, including a resolute conviction in a country's elite that its interests are best served by an educated, informed and politically interested citizenry.

Finally, let us mention the philosophical doctrine of fictionalism, propounded most prominently by Hans Vaihinger, who in his philosophy of the As-If, pointed out that the human world -- not just the world of those who are not members of an elite -- could not exist without fictions.

Besides, nowadays, in addition to philosophy and history, we have the experience of over a century of anthropologists, psychologists, ethologists (so that we can compare ourselves with our furry friends in the animal world) and sociologists to guide us as to what is the best way to manage the human world.

goyim - 6/13/2003

Mr. EM asserts that he has evidence from "Palestinian officials" that the intifida was planned in advance of Mr. Sharon's "walk" with hundreds of armed agents who, by the way, massacred many unarmed goyim that day. What is that evidence?

Herodotus - 6/13/2003

"Straussians have big influence in the Bush Pentagon."

Prove it.

In a way that a serious historian would consider acceptable enough to be published in a serious academic journal or in a major national press.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Dumb as a post, smug, rather thuggish, too, and managed by by experts before a bought and cowed media and a public depoliticized (no matter how entertaining the talk shows), distracted by consumption, and parochial.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003


One thing that consistently disappoints me on these lists is a failure to develop serious discussion--in this case, of the relationship between ideas and politics.

I happen to agree with a wonderful sermon MLK gave in Detroit back in the 50s about justice and natural law: If, he said, we don't jump out of airplanes because of the laws of nature, to violate God-given natural law had just as dire consequences.

That simply puts my fundamental disagreement with both the Straussians and, by the way, contemporary skeptics who'd be horrified to be identified with the Right.

On that level alone, I suspect that engaging the Right has become a serious problematic: In an era in which skepticism reigns (and it has on the "right" since before Hume, actually), on what persuasive basis can we speak and act?

You're right of course about LaRouche, but hey! When the Stepford Chorus sings, you gotta keep things on point!

Mike Finley - 6/13/2003

The reason Bush Jr. goes along with the Straussian philosophy shouild not be made too complex - he is dumb. He cannot see the distinction between power and justice. In fact, justice can only reached through power. Hence, truth and justice are the instruments of power. But is it any different for almost all the American population? These people are elected. The real problem is the corruption of the population.

Mike Finley - 6/13/2003

William - The fact that LaRouche is pushing this "track" is probably one reason no one else is talking about the fascist connection. Why is a connection with him name to be so feared? As far as I can tell, he and his organization are the only ones that have been fighting the neo-cons and this tendency in the American public for quite some time.

The reason for fascism has been the same all along. The Weimer Republic went through the same process. Weimar Germany was destroyed thorough financial means. Brutal austerity measures were imposed and the economy went into hyperinflation. The culture was destroyed and people lost hope. There was no effective resistance (early on, Hitler was elected into office) to the Nazi's as they rose to power and only after they had secured their position, did people begin to realize what had happened.

Ultimately in history, fascism becomes predominant when power and truth are equated. For the Straussians, when the truth is imposed and others come to believe it, it is not a lie. I believe, as MLK did, that truth and justice must be connected. Humans naturally seek truth, but the philosophical underpinnings determine the effect.

What we are in now is no less than a crisis of civilizations. Cynicism and pessism are predominant. The reason the liberals cannot, and will not, mount an effective battle against the universal fascists is because they have no alternative. Take for example the budget crisis gripping ALL US states. I've talked to legislators and they think we can solve the problem by either cutting the budget (Republicans) or raising taxes (Democrats). Now, we know that programs FDR instituted created millions of jobs and improved the economy. But legislators not dare talk about that. It's too "big government" - an ignorant and dangerous response. Of course, the alternative is to stick with the two alternatives and cut all social programs and tax people more, effectively destroying the economy and the people with it. It's insane!

Here we are today going through the same destructive cycle again (I imagine some academic or think tank in the near future is going to argue that this is a cyclical and a totally natural process). Where will we end up? Hopefully in a new renaissance. What choice do we have?


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

How old are you, NYGuy? Your comments are those of someone very young, and so I hesitate to reply sharply, but think of it this way:

Straussians have big influence in the Bush Pentagon.

Lots of other people, though, seem to support the president. Or so they tell us on Fox News, though he got a minority of the popular vote in 2000. But this does not make them all Straussians, or liars, or even right. God help us if truth is a matter of polling.

Let's put it another way, though, without any fancy logical terms.

All men are mortal.
Socrates was a man.
So Socrates was mortal.

With us so far?

But does that also mean that:

Socrates was a mortal man.
All men are mortal.
So, all men are Socrateses?

Or, when you hear a Straussian or one of their allies in government say they believe in liberal democracy, does it make sense to say the equivalent of:

A Cretan says all Cretans are all liars, so when a Cretan speaks, you believe him?


Straussians are philosophical liars.
Bill Clinton gave Monica a cigar.
So, Bill Clinton must be a Straussian?

Whatta hoot! The problem with our right, NYGuy, is that it's so damned funny. Oliver Sacks tells of a patient of his, a woman who was an English teacher who suffered from an obscure neurological ailment--I forget the name--which made it impossible for her to detect emotion in people's language, but who nonetheless was very precise with grammar. Watching a Reagan speech with other patients, she declared--I think this is verbatim--"The man makes no sense at all!" In a way, our society is infected by a kind of opposite mental deficit: All it can pick up on is emotion, it seems.

A public captured in that way is well on its way to fascism. That's the only reason I don't laugh more.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Cain't see yore beak so I dunno fer shore what kinda bird y'are, but I do know my birdcalls.....

My point was, How can we fight'em? Even those awful liberals can't seem to come up with the gumption, because they get their money from the same boys the Great Crested Peckerwoods do.

Go back a few years to Weimar.

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


We finally found a Strassian. Thanks Eddie.

In your post: Why Straussian's Lie you said:

"The article's point that Straussians feel justified to lie to escape public reprobation is only partially correct. They lie, more precisely, because they are ideologically bound to see themselves as an elite that knows things that the rest of the population can never know."

Reading your comments on GW makes me undertand what a Straussian is.

Elia Markell - 6/13/2003

"we lack the kinds of interpretive categories necessary to analyze it."

What do you know, a Leckie phrase one can agree with.

But what to make of poor William's encounter with Straussian induced fascism. After bantering with a poor security guard, William takes his stand within that every so fashionable sense of irony of his

"Then I clicked my heels and stretched out my right arm: "Sieg heil!"
At least we can annoy the hell outta the peckerwoods! "

Now if only they'd though of that in the Warsaw Ghetto. Just think. No tunnels needed, no forged passports to get arms from outside the Ghetto, no hiding in cellars and closets, no buildings crushed by Nazi tanks, with old women hanging from the roof edges as the rubble descended. I mean it could have been easy. Then no Israel necessary, no need for suicide bombers, no copies of Mein Kampf floating around the Middle East like fading leaves in the gutters in fall in New England. And no Straussians having to led the U.S. into war. Just think. It could have all been so easy if we'd only had anti-fascist resistance a la Leckie.

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


You guys are all over the place in moving from theory to practice. Don told me to read Hersh who goes all over the lot with comments, insinuations, like a french painter with a little dab here, a little dab there and expects the reader to draw the conclusion that he is making a meaningful staement about our government and Strauss. Meanwhile after his long winded expose of our intelligence effors, which are different than the naive efforts of Clinton, he says:

"How Strauss’s views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering process is less immediately obvious."

As I read more of the articles being cited I see a vast "left wing conspiricy to undermind our intelligence effort."

This does not mean I oppose having an investigtion so we can see what was done right and what was done wrong, rather then some theoretical discussion of a philospher who has been dead for 30 years and never experienced what we are experiencing today.

As I said I don't dispute your article, I do question the application to today difficult world envirnment. After all the Democrats and the republicans did approve the action in Iraq and I am still trying to find out who are the Straussians.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Come in out of the fog, NYGuy. I list some names in my offering; don't you people read, or are we dealing with a Stepford Right?

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

I hesitated to take the tack I did because of the sad fact that LaRouche has been calling the spade and spade, too, and one characteristic of right wing responses is simple-minded guilt-by-association assertions. Likewise, it was not prudent--though I'll do it now--to link certain neocon sympathies to the surviving traditions of Jabotinsky's brownshirts back in the 20s and 30s.

As for Bush, well, I knew his ilk as a kid, I grew up virtually on one of the most repressive local despotisms in the state of Texas, and since I've gone on about Michael Lind's interpretation of him elsewhere on this list, 'nuff said.

But I also feel strongly that the authoritarian character of the Straussians needs to be highlighted. My view is that it flows directly from the man's philosophy and its sources. And even so, the sort of mystical elitism it seems to be encourages the sort of aboslutism we see on the populaist right--which after all, is merely trying to impose those ideas of order and right belief a really good Straussian would argue are appropriate to the US masses, if not those of India or China.

Hence I used the example of Critias.

But "fascism" 21st century US style is still a rather advanced breed of cat when compared to its continental predecessors, and I think we lack the kinds of interpretive categories necessary to analyze it. Part of the reason why is that--ironically--we share many of the same assumptions about history or "metahistory" or whatever you want to name it, derived largely from the 19th century, to understand large historical movements--indeed, those same ideas, in the hands of postmodernists--have been deployed to deny that we can even establish metanarratives.

Strauss would go along with that: Following Schmitt, too, he would--and did--argue that conventions, norms, values, are specific to a community. But "neo-fascist" at least I think the US right (and the Bush administration)and its mouthpieces are, and I, too, am stunned that opposition has been so poorly organized and ineffective. It's downright embarrassing that a man who, as a former exterminator has obviously inhaled too much of his own bug spray and is clearly an authoritarian, can achieve the congressional post he has, that no one except a handful of pundits are raising the alarm.

My hunch is that one reason is the influence of money in our politics and media, but it's not the only one. There are others--we tend to forget the civic impact of the massive post-WW2 spatial reorganization of our cities, the rise of consumption that came with it, the success of three generations of mobilization of society for "good citizenship" and war from WW1 on; the rise of the southern GOP--grounded in racism and reaction. Those are just a few, preliminary and informal suggestions.

But resist we should. At the local federal courthouse recently I had to show a photo ID to pass the rampart of security. "You flashed that too fast for me, William," said a guard.

"If you saw my name I didn't"

"Show it again, William."

"I didn't know we were on first name terms, sonny. There's a phrase in German---"

"I don't know no German."

"It's 'Dutzen mir nicht.' Don't get familiar with--"

"I told you I don't know no German, now do what I tell you."

"Yes you do." Then I clicked my heels and stretched out my right arm: "Sieg heil!"

At least we can annoy the hell outta the peckerwoods!

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


The article says the following:

"According to one school of thought, our most recent military adventure turns out to have been nothing less than a defense of Western civilization -- as interpreted by the late classicist and political philosopher Leo Strauss."

1. What are the other schools of thought. Who espoused them and what do they say.? Why did both the democrats and the republicans agree on this action. Are they both followers of Strauss.

2. Strauss has been dead or over 30 years.

3. The computer revolution is about 25 years old.

4. In the interim time and distance has been greatly shortened because of our technological capabilities.

5. The threat of nuclear proliferation has increased and involves countries all over the world.

5. Religious hatred has been rising and some wish to eliminate all non-believers, particularly the U.S.

6. Is the U. S. a western country in your view?

7. Was the U. S. attacked and her citizens killed.

8. Since the Western Countries, France, Germany and Russia did not support us how does one arrive at the conclusion that the U. S. action are, ""our most recent military adventure turns out to have been nothing less than a defense of Western civilization."

9. Do you really consider someone who says war is a "military adventure" a credible source. War is serious business.

I am still trying to find out the who are the Straussians.

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

See bottom half of article at http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030512fa_fact .

A Hersh's source raises interesting idea that Straussians told the Noble Lie to themselves --hee hee. Evidently the Straussians have a limited set of friends. Maybe they should get out more.

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

Ah, I found another copy of the Times article on the net --
see http://new.globalfreepress.com/article.pl?sid=03/05/06/1955200&mode=thread

Note: I pointing to the NYTimes article ,not endorsing globalfreepress.com

Mike - 6/13/2003

Bravo - this is the first time outside of LaRouche's expose I have seen the link to Kojeve and Schmitt. Strauss' facism is not subtle. People tend to want to make a link to Marx and Trotsky, but that is a deliberate deception. National Socialism is being revived, and we (US citizens) are embracing it.

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

For those who are interested, the New York Times had a recent article on Leo Strauss and the influence of the Straussians:
(Available online, but you have to pay for it:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30D16F93E580C778CDDAC0894DB404482 )

The Nation: Leo-Cons; A Classicist's Legacy: New Empire Builders

By JAMES ATLAS (NYT) 1790 words
Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Page 1 , Column 3

LEAD PARAGRAPH - ALL right, so weapons of mass destruction haven't yet been found in Iraq. And no firm link has been established between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. So what was the war in Iraq about, then? According to one school of thought, our most recent military adventure turns out to have been nothing less than a defense of Western civilization -- as interpreted by the late classicist and political philosopher Leo Strauss.

If this chain of events seems implausible, consider the tribute President Bush paid in February to the cohort of journalists, political philosophers and policy wonks known -- primarily to themselves -- as Straussians. ''You are some of the best brains in our country,'' Mr. Bush declared in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, ''and my government employs about 20 of you.''

eddie z - 6/13/2003

The article's point that Straussians feel justified to lie to escape public reprobation is only partially correct. They lie, more precisely, because they are ideologically bound to see themselves as an elite that knows things that the rest of the population can never know. Strauss maintained that a great books education was the crucible that changed an ordinary intellect into one that was capable of divining immutable truths about human organization and interaction. Thus, merely quoting a relevant passage in Plato, Machiavelli or Hobbes to illustrate the justification for your position would be a waste of good wisdom on us mere mortals with our state university degrees. Rather, Straussians see dissembling with the aid of patriotic symbols as the preferred route to action. To insure that action will overrun the muddled thinking of the masses, they speed the process along by the infusion of religious zealotry.
What remains a puzzle to me is how George W Bush fits into all this. I suspect he, himself, is not a Straussian, but just one of their convenient symbols like the firemen lifting the flag or the weeping eagle. Surely, the dyslexic chief executive cannot, despite his attendance at Harvard and Yale and membership in skull and bones, be considered a Straussian elite. George says he reads the bible daily (has Wolfowitz instructed him to do this?), but by his actions and statements, it's clear that he hasn't got through Deuteronomy yet and, at age 57, may never have the benefit of being introduced to the God of the New Testament. This, in my opinion, is what makes Bush doubly dangerous.
A Straussian might lie because he knows the truth, but has a higher truth or purpose as the stategic objective of the lie. I suspect that GW Bush may actually believe what he says and is therefore wedded to the lie, not to any higher purpose.
This Straussian elite bears a strong resemblance to the bolsheviks who took power in Russia in 1917. The dominance of a small intellectual elite wielding a closed ideological system is familiar. The mechanistic arrival at their theoretical foundation, Industrial England for Marx and Weimar Germany for Strauss, frames their critical postures toward liberal capitalism. What the Straussians are missing, however, is their own Lenin, a true philosopher king. The outcome of the dominance of this ideology has been to go straight to Stalin, the man of small understanding but great will who with the help of his Beria (Ashcroft)has set out to remake America in an image that Strauss had never dreamed of.

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


Sorry I was not clear. You are right they did ask that he submit his plan to congress and both the Democrats and Republicans approved.

We are just trying to separate the chaff from the wheat, "which party is the Straussians?"

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


1. If GW wore his uniform overseas you would call him an Emperor.
Sometimes you can't win.

2. Enron was on Clinton's watch, GW inherited the mess. (Remember the millions of profit the head of DNC made on his Hillary size investment).

I thought tax changes don't effect the economy. Then why is GW cutting them?

Again, the overbuilding of the telecom's and technology occurred on Clinton's watch. I thought his followers claim what a great job he did with the economy. Why didn't Clinton listen to Greenspan when he said the market was overheated and stop the boom-bust cycle that economist warned against.

3. Everyone who pays taxes gets money back. Now Bush is again trying to help the poor with tax credits which were cut out by the democrats when they cut his tax bill. GW is for the poor and downtrodden but the Democrats don't want to help these people and are dragging their feet.

4. Have you heard about the Twin Towers? They are gone.

Bush has inspired most Americans and investors are now benefiting from the "wealth effect." Now with his genius on the tax cut coming into play we have the one-two punch to have a roaring economy.

In addition, the Federal Reserve has just reported that 4 of the 12 districts are showing improvement and none were getting worse.

5. Are you saying, "The Jews run America," and do you support the idea that they all stayed at home on 9/11? Wow.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/13/2003

Dear NYG,
I don't know which 1000 historians you are claiming support the Bush administration. If you look more carefully, you will find that 1000 historians signed a petition that the administration must submit its plan for an invasion of Iraq to a congressional debate and authorization -- and did so at a time when it appeared that the Bush administration might act without congressional authorization. I doubt that you can claim that _that_ 1000 historians back the Bush administrations actions.

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

My complaints against Bush and the Republicans are as follows:

1) The Republicans have held control of Congress since 1994. During that time, they cooperated with Clinton in making major cuts in the military (40%) and in the intel community (25%)--major cuts that Dick Cheney and George H Bush started. The people who won the Cold War were thrown out on the street, with no significant assistance. Among those people were Gulf War veteran and Bronze Star winner Timothy McVeigh and DC sniper John Muhammand.

Then the Republican Congress turned around and raised the H1B visas limits in 1998 and 2000 to let US companies import over 1.2 million foreign workers for stays of 6 years. That’s why unemployment is so high.

But conservative pundits don't mention this backstabbing of the military-- they prefer photo ops of George Bush flying a long range airplane 20 miles across San Diego Bay and stepping out on a carrier deck in an aviation suit. None of the conservative pundits noted that George Bush has always been careful to wear his uniform within the safe confines of the continental United States.

2) The Clinton boom was killed by Enron's attack on Silicon Valley (remember the power blackouts?) , by loss of investor confidence due to the Republican Congress kneecapping the SEC (remember Phil Gramm?) , and by George Bush's huge tax cut. The recession has been prolonged because Bush and the Republicans don't really give a damn about high unemployment --which is much higher than the official 6%. The recession was not necessary but the technological engine of growth --high bandwidth networks -- has stalled because Bush and the Republicans are delaying FCC decisions in order to extort huge sums from the Baby Bells and long haul networks. Even the Wall Street Journal commented in a February editorial about the
Bush Administration’s indifference to the depression in the telecomms industry. Make that a depression in software and computer industries as well.

3)Conservative pundits have lied to the country by saying the 2000 income tax cut stimulated the economy and stock market. A tax cut to the middle class or workers would have helped --but they got little. The income tax cut for the wealthy simply led the wealthy to sock the money under the mattress, as they did in 1929. Why, after all, invest in factories/stocks for capital gains when the income tax on US and foreign bonds is so low -- why not clip coupons for a few years and let the rabble starve?

4) Meanwhile, Bush's projections for federal debt in 2008 are $3.3 Trillion higher than what he said just two years ago.
If you look at Bush's budget submitted in Feb 2001, it showed that federal debt in 2008 would be $6.1 Trillion, with $4.8 Trillion held as Trust Fund IOUs and only $1.3 Trillion held as public debt. See Table S-16 at the bottom of

If you look at the Bush budget submitted recently (Feb 2003) , it shows a 2008 federal debt of $9.4 Trillion --up $3.3 Trillion from what he stated only 2 years ago. Of that debt , $4.4 Trillion is held by the Trust Funds but public debt has now zoomed to $5 Trillion. Go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/hist.html and select the Excel spreadsheet in Section 7, labelled "Table 7.1 - Federal Debt at the End of Year" and look at the 2008 figures.

Bush's recent budget doesn't show the negative effects of the $300 Billion (actually $800 billion) recent dividend tax cut --which largely goes to the rich.

When I last checked the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, about 8% of the households owned 53% of the national wealth. This is the result of Republican policy, not economics.
Since the Reagan election, 6% of the national wealth has shifted from the workers and poor to the wealthy

Because they own such a huge chunk of the national income and wealth, the share of the Reagan-Bush debt owed by the top 5% was about 50% or $2.8 trillion. Bush’s income tax shifted about $1 trillion of that debt from the wealthy onto the Trust Funds (Social Security, Medicare) of the workers. His own budget shows that by 2008, the Trust Funds will be holding $5 Trillion of his worthless IOUs , up from the $2 Trillion when he took office. I say worthless because the only way future governments will be able to pay off the IOUS will be to raid middle class 401Ks/IRAs.

5) Re Sept 11, I already explained how Bush triggered that attack by pandering to Sharon in order to obtain
campaign donations from wealthy Israeli supporters -- see http://hnn.us/comments/13273.html

6) Of course, the Republicans whores on Fox TV are too busy lying to the country to provide factual data like the above.

Elia Markell - 6/13/2003

Exactly what is it about this speech that you think illustrates Leckie's concerns

Is it, horror of horrors, that he speaks of "Culture," rather than "multiculture"? Or is it that he holds up the "ideal" of democracy (as a "universal aristocracy" seeking virtue) instead of democracy "as it actually is," which he views as elite rule over the masses masquerading as mass rule? I guess I think the idea is worth thinking about. I mean do YOU think democracy can endure without virtue?

Or perhaps it's just this treasonous thought of Strauss's that worries you:

"Liberal education, which consists in the constant intercourse with the
greatest minds, is a training in the highest form of modesty, not to say of

Yes, I can see very clearly how that would disturb Leckie. But why anyone else?

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


I said:

One of the concerns mentioned on this board is that GW and his people were in power less than a year when we were attacked. What to do?

I did not ask for a smoke and mirror rehash of Strauss' life or his politics, or non politics as his daughter says.

Leckie wrote an article on Strauss, and then with no transition or facts concludes that certain people are Straussians.

I have shown that GW and his people have been supported by democrats, republicans, historians, the man on the street, etc. Do we then put everyone in one basket and call them Straussians? If we do, then why has Leckie been so selective and concentrated on the Bush administration. In the words of the "Clinton apologists", "Everyone does it."

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

The June 13 New York Times had an article by Strauss's daughter in which she defended him. From http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/07/opinion/07CLAY.html
The Real Leo Strauss

Recent news articles have portrayed my father, Leo Strauss, as the mastermind behind the neoconservative ideologues who control United States foreign policy. He reaches out from his 30-year-old grave, we are told, to direct a "cabal" (a word with distinct anti-Semitic overtones) of Bush administration figures hoping to subject the American people to rule by a ruthless elite. I do not recognize the Leo Strauss presented in these articles.

My father was not a politician. He taught political theory, primarily at the University of Chicago. He was a conservative insofar as he did not think that change is necessarily change for the better.

Leo Strauss believed in the intrinsic dignity of the political. He believed in and defended liberal democracy; although he was not blind to its flaws, he felt it was the best form of government that could be realized, "the last best hope." He was an enemy of any regime that aspired to global domination. He despised utopianism — in our time, Nazism and Communism — which is predicated on the denial of a fundamental and even noble feature of human nature: love of one's own. His heroes were Churchill and Lincoln. He was not an observant Jew, but he loved the Jewish people and he saw the establishment of Israel as essential to their survival.

To me, what characterized him above all else was his total lack of vanity and self-importance. As a result, he had no interest in honors within the academy, and was completely unsuited to political ambition. His own earliest passion, he confessed, was to spend his life raising rabbits (Flemish Giants) and reading Plato.

He was first and foremost a teacher. He did not seek to mold people in his own image. Rather, he was devoted to helping young people see the world as it is, in all its misery and splendor. The objects of his teaching were the Great Books, those works generally recognized as the foundation of a liberal education. But that alone was not a sufficient reason for reading them.

He began where good teachers should begin, from his students' received opinions, in order to scrutinize their foundation. At that time, as is still true today, academia leaned to the left; hence such questioning required an examination of the left's tenets. Had the prevailing beliefs been different, they too would have been subject to his skeptical inquiry.

Among the received opinions of the time was an unquestioned faith in progress and science combined with a queasiness regarding any kind of moral judgment, or "relativism." Many young people were confused, without a compass, with nothing substantial to admire. My father's turning them to the Great Books was thus motivated not merely by aesthetic or antiquarian interest, but by a search for an understanding of mankind's present predicament: what were its sources and what, if any, were the alternatives? The latter he found in the writings of the ancient Greeks.

Furthermore, he insistently confronted his students with the question of the "good life." For him, the choice boiled down to the life in accordance with Revelation or the life according to Reason — Jerusalem versus Athens. The vitality of Western tradition, he felt, lay in the invigorating tension between the two.

My father saw reading not as a passive exercise but as taking part in an active dialogue with the great minds of the past. One had to read with great care, great respect, and try, as he always said, to "understand the author as he understood himself." Today this task, admittedly difficult and demanding, is dismissed in fashionable academia as impossible. Rather, we are told, each reader inevitably constructs his own text over which the author has no control, and the writer's intentions are irrelevant.

The fact is that Leo Strauss also recognized a multiplicity of readers, but he had enough faith in his authors to assume that they, too, recognized that they would have a diverse readership. Some of their readers, the ancients realized, would want only to find their own views and prejudices confirmed; others might be willing to open themselves to new, perhaps unconventional or unpopular, ideas. I personally think my father's rediscovery of the art of writing for different kinds of readers will be his most lasting legacy.

Although I was never a student of my father's, I sat in on a class of his in the 1960's; I think it was on Xenophon's "Cyropaedia." He was a small, unprepossessing and, truth be told, ugly man (daughters are their parents' worst critics), with none of the charisma that one associates with "great teachers." And yet there was something utterly charming. One of the students would read little chunks of the text, and my father would comment and call for discussion. What marked this class was a combination of an engagement with questions of the highest seriousness (in this case, what is the best form of government) with the laughter of intellectual play.

It was magic. If only the truth had the power to make the misrepresentations of his achievement vanish like smoke and dust

Don Williams - 6/13/2003

I think this speech by Leo Strauss illustrates some of the characteristics which have concerned Mr Leckie. See

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


The concerns on this board are the conclusions that the current government are all Straussians since no evidence has been show they are.

GW and those who work for him were only in power for less then a year when we were attacked. Meanwhile, in April GW got hit with the Clinton Recession and inherited the accounting scandals which took place on Bill's watch. (Remember MacAulif' millions), and then in September the United States was attacked.

What to do? There may have been other ways of handling these problems but we will never know if they would have help or hurt us.

Meanwhile over 1,000 historians petitioned the congress, (democrats and republicans) to support GW, and he was petitioned by many other Americans who supported his actions.

Are we then to conclude that all these people are Straussians?

NYGuy - 6/13/2003


One of the concerns mentioned on this board is that GW and his people were in power less than a year when we were attacked. What to do? That is a valid question and there may be other and even better solutions. But the attempt of the US to protect itslef is something that the congress, (both Democrats and Republicans), over 1000 historian wanted Congress to make that decision, and most people in this country agreed with. So is everyone a Staussian?

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Yes, you do repeat yourself, and I grow weary of it. In fact, I'm weary of the right generally. To deny Straussian influence in the planing for the war in Iraq is silly; to deny that the ideas of Leo Strauss have no influence in a rightist US government is silly; my claims are anything but "vague." That the ideas of the Teacher as practiced by the Disciples might be quite compatible with the Christian Right might have occurred to you (in the area of foreign policy, of course, that might raise the anti-Semitism bugagboo. I've fought the right both in print and community and political organizing, and will continue to do so because I view it as a threat the humane values--unlike a genuine conservatism--and my experience has been that it lacks both intellectual integrity and honor.

Herodotus - 6/13/2003

Mr. Leckie, your piece does not cover the Straussians in the government. It makes vague claims about a number of people _being_ Straussians, for which there is some evidence to believe so, but you're not arguing just what makes them Straussians, or about the true extent of their influence, or about what the corpus of their thinking is. Nor are you demonstrating convincingly that their influence overwhelms, say, southern Protestant or Evangelical Christianity (a la Rice, Powell and Bush).

But I repeat myself.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

I alluded to what your final point seems to be much earlier on this list, and I also referred to an essay of mine on urban planning since the Progressive Era ("Moral Spaces in the Burckhardtian City, Journal of Urban History 28[November 2001] 81-97]in which an epistemologically and ethically skeptical--and aesthetic--view of "the city" was explored.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Thank you. You are absolutely correct.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/13/2003

Briefly: I wrote about the "Straussians" in government and how their ideas about policy flowed from Strauss's philosophical ideas. To take one other misconception you seem to have, Strauss's take on "natural rights" can be summed up in one sentence: the strong have a natural right to rule. It in no way resembles anything in the liberal tradition. Go back and read what is perhaps his best book, on Hobbes.

bystander - 6/13/2003

I followed the thread "a dangerous piece" and just wanted to note that I think Herodotus has done a fine job of pointing the weaknesses of this piece. I'm generally familiar with Strauss's philosphical position regarding classicism and modernism. I don't know much of anything about his more contemporary political views. My understanding is that he wrote very little on that subject. This article suffers badly from a lack of references and presents Strauss as some form of foreign policy guru when that isn't really what he was noted for in the academic community. Personally, I am a strong believer in Natural Law which Strauss was also arguing for. And I believe that there are times when it is defensible for the government to lie to its citizenry. But I think the latest Iraq War is quite indefensible on Natural Law grounds and so are the lies that were told to rally support for it.

Mr. L - 6/13/2003

This is all well and good, however I believe the Republic was meant to be allegorical, as in pertaining to an internal, not external conflict. Remember the part about the tyrannical soul? Anyone?
Justice comes from within, with each man recognizing how his desires and appetites are overcome by his reason and wisdom. The "system" is obviously meant to be ironic. Only a fool would follow the advice of 'one whose only knowledge is that he knows nothing,' at least in terms of political theory.

Kevin Carson - 6/12/2003

What neoconservatives mean by "liberal democracy" was pretty clearly spelled out in Sam Huntington's 1973 Trilateral paper on the crisis of democracy. Huntington said it was only the insulation from public pressure of the President and the bankers and corporation lawyers who advised him, that allowed the U.S. to function as "hegemonic power in a system of world order" after WWII.

The same notion is behind the attempts of the MacArthur regency in Baghdad to create an Iraqi "democracy."

What they want is specatator democracy. Every few years the people choose between contending factions of the elite. The two factions, half an inch to the left and right of center, respectively, share about 80% of their world-view (e.g. Clinton on GATT and Nafta, and a position on Serbia that was indistinguishable from Bill Kristol's). Once the people select one of these groups of men in suits, policy issues are safely in the hands of the "professionals" in the policy community.

BTW, Mr. Leckie, this is not necessarily a position of the "right." Neo-conservatism is the warmed-over corporate liberalism of Adolph Berle, Art Schlesinger, and Daniel Bell. Kristol's bellicose rhetoric about "crushing serb skulls" can easily be matched by that of the good "liberals" at the New Republic during Saint Woodrow's war hysteria.

Herodotus - 6/12/2003

I would like Mr. Leckie to advise us as to whether he has read the very balanced analysis of Strauss by Gregory Bruce Smith "Leo Strauss and the Straussians: An Anti-Democratic Cult," in PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 30, Issue 2, (Jun 1997), 180-189.

Or whether he just repeated spurious claims advanced by equally cranky "commentators"

Herodotus - 6/12/2003

"If Herodotus checked..."
How arrogant of you to assume I didn't know this if I'm discussing the subject of military affairs.

You are correct about the defense budget and its size compared to other countries.

If you read my comments, you'll see that I've only argued that the Perle quotation doesn't support your core argument.

You, however, are working from the premise that U.S. military forces stationed overseas is a "stupid state of affairs." It is, in fact, hardly a stupid state of affairs but the legacy of the past fifty years. The Europeans invited U.S. forces into Germany and western Europe to offset the Soviet threat; the U.S. has been systematically drawing down these forces over the past decade, and will continue to do so. We're trying to leave the Korean peninsula...and look at the screaming and shouting from the South Koreans about pulling off the DMZ. We eliminated Saddam Hussein, and now can remove the forces from Saudi Arabia.

Did _these_ facts escape you? The debate is more complicated than you would like it to be.

Bob Greene - 6/11/2003

dft says that the right is characterised by "demonization,contempt,insult,innuendo etc" and then goes on to deomonize, show contempt,insult, use innuendo and commits most of the sins he attributes to the right and fails to engage in substinative argument which he also accuse the right of. Therefore either he is a member of the "right" or he original assertion is in error. The reason could be ignorance, mendacity or stupidity. Perhaps, just perhaps all virture is not the monopoly of the left nor of the right. Perhaps there are well meaning people of differing political persuasions as well as scoundrels of various beliefs. Would it not be refreshing to occasionly debate ideas. Not as much fun I will grant you. I have certainly thrown invective back at those who have used it toward me. Oh well I realise this will get nowhere and we will go on bashing each other and accusing the other side of ill will and go on believe with moral certainty that we each hold the high ground.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/11/2003

Don Williams makes an excellent point: Thucydides did have remarkable insight, and the great historian's work--used often enough in our war colleges, military academies, and think tanks in the last two decades--is well worth pondering.

I mentioned the Athenian drive for empire precisely because it our neocon ambition seems so ironic, just as is the comparison of Athenian demagogues and right wing media screamers.

Thucydides was also concerned, as Josiah Ober has pointed out, with the limitations of public knowledge and decision-making; there was a tendency for the demos to always be wrong, never quite get it right.

But at the same time, he offers a critique of the limits of elite leadership as well. Mr. Williams mentions the Melian dialog; but the exchange between Cleon and Didotus over the fate of Mytilene in, oh, 428 I think it was?

What do the Melian and Mytilenian debates tell us about ehetoric, knowledge, and policymaking? I rather sarcastically introduced a contributor to this list to a precis of Straussian ideas; perhaps we should shift the discussion from Bill Clinton's sex life (migod, he must be a black leather pinup in every right wing male's locker!), ignore the nutcases, and take those two texts to explore what they might have to say about the relationship of "classical political philosophy" as expounded by Strauss to history?

While I haven't been able (much to my chagrin occasionally, but it's fun) to resist tweaking the munchkins, I also would love to explore the significance of Critias a bit more, or at least read some responses about the legacy of The Thirty.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/11/2003

Actually, Mr. Markell, I was sincerely trying to help you, though a little dash of sarcasm seemed appropriate!

But I'm not sure if you read Strauss the way you read me, you're up to it. The premise of my piece wasn't that Bush is a liar (though now you mention it....! but that deception by an elite to achieve policy goals is a feature of Straussianism.

Keep trying!

Don Williams - 6/11/2003

If Herodotus checked, he would see that Bush is currently spending more than the next 23 major military powers combined -- and most of those powers are our allies. See http://www.cdi.org/program/issue/index.cfm?ProgramID=15&issueid=34
and select "Last of the Big Time Spenders". The US spends $400 billion/year on defense, Russia spends $65 billion ,China spends $47 billion, and the NATO G7 spend on the order of 20-40 billion.

The US defense budget is obviously sized for global domination not homeland defense. That's why Sept 11 happened -- the US military is overseas protecting the investments of America's wealthy (and twisting a few arms on occasion.)

Instead of fixing this stupid state of affairs, Bush lied to the voters and said more money was needed. His own budget indicates that he's stealing $trillions from US workers' Trust Funds (SOcial Security, Medicare) in order to pay for his empire. The profits of that empire go to his patrons, the costs are dumped on the very workers whose living standards have been driven down by globalization.

I see two possibilities. One, Herodotus did not know the above. In that case, maybe he should do some studying to relieve his ignorance before commenting further. Two, Herodotus knew the above but made the comment about "eliminating two divisions" in order to mislead the readers here -- which, in my opinion, would be an example of the neocons' fondness for "the Noble Lie". If that's the case, why should we pay further attention to his comments?

Herodotus - 6/11/2003

It is intellectually irresponsible to judge someone or some idea by its followers alone.

If you follow your logic, then we should chuck Christianity out the window because of (a) the Inquisition, (b) the fact that some of the Renaissance popes were corrupt, (c) some Southern churches condoned slavery in the 19th century.

I don't think you'd really want to follow that logic.

Herodotus - 6/11/2003

well pointed out, Mr. Bilger.

And thus we have a Defense Department that is seriously discussing eliminating two divisions, and a Constitutionally-enshrined process by which Congress (representing the people) has to pass off on major military operations, as occurred last fall.

I think this removes the Perle quote as a serious contribution to Mr. Williams' argument.

dtf - 6/11/2003

What increasingly characterizes "the right" is the constant demonization, contempt, insult, innuendo, insinuation, name-calling, and general anger and hatred directed toward anyone and everyone who fails to agree with their opinions, and who fails to conform to whatever it is that they determine is acceptable "patriotic" behavior and political correctness.

Although it is "the left" which is most often accused of political correctness, they certainly have no lock on that approach. Those on the neo-con, anti-government, anti-liberal, anti-moderate right....and especially those whose conservative religious motivations lurk just behind their words....march (and judge) to their own tune of correctness. They just evade acknowledging it by hiding behind patriotic rhetoric, emotional bluster, and vitriolic accusatory innuendo and denigration of those who have the audacity to disagree with them.
In sum, what MOST characterizes "the right" in this country is their tendency to harp on what they don't like, who they disapprove of, who they hate and despise, and why they're so much smarter and more patriotic than anyone else. All in all, a bunch of pompous, self-promoting blow-hards with a collective messiah complex.
See. It's easy to insult people you disagree with. Much easier than engaging in tolerant and respectful dialogue, but of course for "the right," the notion of tolerant and respectful DIALOGUE is anathema, just as the idea of compromise is an unacceptable option.


Hepatitus - 6/11/2003

Of Bush Administration misinformation. Keep in mind that anyone who doubted the administrations claims about WMD was routinely denounced. It's from Counterpunch.com. it's not a complete list

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney August 26, 2002

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush September 12, 2002

If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer December 2, 2002

We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer January 9, 2003

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George W. Bush January 28, 2003

Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.
George Bush February 8, 2003

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George Bush March 18, 2003

Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.
Ari Fleisher March 21, 2003

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.
Gen. Tommy Franks March 22, 2003

I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.
Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board , March 23, 2003

One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.
Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark March 22, 2003

We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.
Donald Rumsfeld March 30, 2003

Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find -- and there will be plenty.
Neocon scholar Robert Kagan April 9, 2003

I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.
Ari Fleischer April 10, 2003

We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.
George Bush April 24, 2003

There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld April 25, 2003

We'll find them. It'll be a matter of time to do so.
George Bush May 3, 2003

I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld May 4, 2003

I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program.
George W. Bush May 6, 2003

U.S. officials never expected that "we were going to open garages and find" weapons of mass destruction.
Condoleeza Rice May 12, 2003

Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction.
Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff May 26, 2003

They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer.
Donald Rumsfeld May 27, 2003

For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Paul Wolfowitz May 28, 2003"

Joe Bilger - 6/11/2003

I also was struck by the irony in Perles statement when I read it--but you should have included his next two sentences: "People who live in democratic societies don't like to pay for massive military machines. Democratic societies don't empower their executives to make unilateral decisions to plunge countries into war."

Homer Simpson - 6/11/2003

Homer to the rescue!

No, Leckie, it isn't a shift to the right. Here's what actually happened. (Unlike most of the nerds on this site, I actually have a memory.)

In 1966, one was a leftist if he believed that people should not be judged by the color of their skin. In 2003, that same ideal brands one as a "rightist."

The insane passion for branding anybody who disagrees with the race, sex and class Marxists as a "bigot" has turned everything upside down. Plus, if you don't hate middle class America, that is proof that you are a "right-wing" ideologue. So, as the left has purged more and more people as "bigots", and identified white, hetero men as the enemy, the definition of a "rightist" has been dramatically transformed.

In other words, the Democratic Party seems intent on committing suicide in fealty to racial and sexual quotas, as well as its outspoken hatred of America.

You can see it right here. The contempt for middle class Americans spills out of this board like a wave of crap. The hatred for the religious, patriotic and hetero is overwhelming. At the very moment that Marxism has died, our intellectuals have become drooling idiots with a passion for communism in all its varied forms. Try reading "A Hero of Our Times" to try to understand this truly nauseating phenomenon.

God didn't die. Marx did. Get used to it.

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

One problem with tasking others for a failure to tell the truth is the high standard it imposes on those doing the tasking.

For example, take this beaut by Mr. Williams.

"Recall that Clinton's attempt to pressure Israel into making peace with the Palestinians was disrupted when Monica Lewinsky exposed her affair with him. "

Now perhaps I'm a stickler for detail, but let us recall that Lewinsky "exposed" (nice choice of phrase, that) her affair in 1998. The final push for a deal between Barak and Arafat took place in 2000 and at the very start of 2001. After that last, at Taba, Clinton himself told Arafat to his face that Arafat's decision to walk away from the best offer Israel had ever made rendered him (Clinton) a failure. He, at least, was honest enough at that moment not to blame the collapse on either Monica or Sharon.

By the way, Palestinian officials themselves are on the record, if that matters to anyone, saying Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount (cleared with the PA in advance) was NOT the reason for the restart of the Intifada, which was already decided on.

A much better explanation for the collapse of the Oslo game in summer of 2000 was the unliateral withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon (which has itself won Israel precious little). Probably the Palestinians were fortified by that in their belief (delusion) that the could get the whole ball of wax someday by continuing the violence indefinitely. That delusion still seems to bemuse them, tragically.

NYGuy - 6/11/2003


You have the wrong president, remember the one who got on TV and said to the world:

"I never had sex with that women."

While you rant about Bush you show nothing that Strauss says to support your conclusion. But it was a long and tedious rant so I guess that qualifies as scholarship.

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

Jerry, calm down. Don't you know when a guy is kidding. I mean, the Republic is simply nowhere near sex-obsessed enough for us neocons.

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

Everything you need to know about Don Williams screed is summed up in his conclusion.

"I suggest that Strauss be measured by the nature and character of his disciples."

This, after all, is precisely the same moral compass Bin Laden and crowd were flying by when, as Mr. Williams here cites, he reassured us "The Sept 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children" but at "icons." Too bad for those pesky women and children, however, but no need to mourn too much. After all, they deserved to "measured" by the nature and character of their president.

Nice also the degree to which Mr. Williams obsesses on Israel. Just seems we can't get away from Sharon, Kristol, Perle, and, as the BBC insists on prouncing it, "Volfervitz."

Don Williams - 6/11/2003

I don't think Paul Wolferwitz could have said it any better.

Don Williams - 6/11/2003

In his "History of the Peloponnesian War" , Thucydides
describes the aggressive imperialism of the Athenian democracy and how that helped provoke the Peloponnesian War.

In Chapter 17, he describes how Athens conquered the city state of Melos, massacred her men, and sold her women and children into slavery. Melos had protested the Athenian attack, arguing that she only wished to remain neutral and live in freedom. Thucydides gives the Athenian reply:

"For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences --either of how we have a right to our empire because we overthrew the Mede, or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have have done us -- and make a long speech which would not be believed ;

and in return we hope that you, instead of thinking to influence us by saying that you did not join the Lacedaemonians, although their colonists, or that you have done us no wrong, will aim at what is feasible, holding in view the real sentiments of us both;

since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must"

Of course, the aggression of the Athenian democracy united the rest of the Greeks against her under the leadership of Sparta. Athens was conquered and the Peloponnesian War so weakened her that she remained the subject of the Macedonians, the Romans, and the Ottomans for the next 2300 years.

In passing , note Richard Perle's hilarious assertion in this interview ( http://www.pbs.org/thinktank/transcript1017.html ) that "The lesson of history is that democracies don’t initiate wars of aggression, and if we want to live in a peaceful world, then there’s very little we can do to bring that about more effective than promoting a democracy "

It's hard to tell if Perle is terminally deceitful or terminally ignorant. History gives us not only the aggression of the Athenian democracy but also the tender mercies of Victorian Britain and Commodore Perry's "gunboat diplomacy" in Japan.

Jerry Mazzarella - 6/11/2003

"We base it all on a book no citizen reads any more, even those who think of themselves as smart because they went to college." We do not BASE things "on a book." You'd have to be a lunitic to do that. Rather, we base it on observations of the progress of things. If you see less government at one time and many years later you see 10 times that much, you'd have to be dense not to "get it." So the first basic is observation. Those who cannot do it are doomed to follow the herd, and be cast into oblivion with them.

Don Williams - 6/11/2003

Re Strauss's influence, I suggest in the post below --Re "that premise--that Bush is a liar" -- that Strauss be measured by the nature and character of his disciples. Would anyone want to claim
Richard Perle as a student?

Don Williams - 6/11/2003

1) On the contrary, the "premise" that Bush is a liar is a fact which has been demonstrated several times -- the Iraq invasion is just the latest example.

2) In his speeches after Sept 11, Bush stated that "we" (his administration) had "done nothing to deserve this". He stated that the attack occurred because "they hate our freedom" He also stated that he had been "secretly" working on a plan to create a Palestinian state in the weeks prior to Sept 11.

3)However, Bin Ladin indicated in an interview, published in a Pakistani newspaper called DAWN, why the Sept 11 attack occurred:

"The Sept 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America's icons of military and economic power. .....The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. "
(See http://www.dawn.com/2001/11/10/top1.htm )

Recall that Clinton's attempt to pressure Israel into making peace with the Palestinians was disrupted when Monica Lewinsky exposed her affair with him. An Israeli legislator, Sharon, then sabotaged the talks by going into the third most holy Islamic mosque with several hundred policemen. Sharon used the ensuring riots that he triggered to win election as Prime Minister and then hit the Palestinians hard. In spring of 2001, he even used F16s fighters bought from the US to bomb Palestinians, arousing the anger and condemmation of the world.

Bush, however, halted State Department criticism and encouraged Sharon by selling Sharon 52 more F16s in June 2001, several months before the Sept 11 attack. (See http://www.clw.org/cat/newswire/nw060601.html#State ,

For the June 20 , 2001 announcement of the F16 sale, go to here :
http://www.defense-aerospace.com/ , click on "Archives", select June 2001 from the list, and then search the resulting page for "Israel" or simply page down to the June 20 entries. )

Bush was pandering to Sharon because some of the largest campaign donors in the US are Supporters of Israel --Haim Saban alone gave $10 million in the past two years.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/pro-israel.pro-arab/index.asp , http://www.sptimes.com/2002/06/30/Columns/Jewish_voters_noticin.shtml

Bush is pandering to these donors at the expense of the national interest.

I recall Tom Friedman and Bill Kristol going on NBC's "This Week" a few weeks after the Sept 11 bombing and indicating that US support for Israel was not a factor--that Bin Ladin did not care about the Palestinians.

Israel and Bush needed to mislead the US people -- to prevent them from noticing that Bush's pandering had triggered the death of 3000+ citizens, $100 Billion in direct costs, and $1 Trillion in indirect costs.

Bin Ladin had given a series of interviews to TV networks in 1998 --where he cited unjust US support for Israel's attacks on the Palestinians as one of the three reasons for Jihad. See

Note that NBC News did not notify the viewers that what they were hearing from Friedman and Kristol was not objective analysis but misleading propaganda from two long time supporters of Israel.

Another facet of Bush's deceit was his suggestion in 2001 that the US should stand aloof while Israel and the Palestinians
settled the fight among themselves (i.e., while Sharon massacred the Palestinians.).

In fact, the US government has never stood aloof. What Bush did not tell the US voters was that Israel is the greatest military power in the Middle East because the US government gives Israel $3 billion /year in aid, has given Israel an estimated $91 Billion in the past decades, and has sold Israel advanced weapons systems like the F16s and Apache helicopters which Israel uses to attack the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile , the Palestinians have been left to rot in refugee camps for 50 years.

Still another facet of Bush's and the neocons's deceit are their ranting about Iraqi weapons --which they can't produce -- while failing to say anything about the very real 400+ nuclear bombs that Israel has produced in order to threaten her neighbors.

I suggest that Strauss be measured by the nature and character of his disciples.

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

"Everything being promoted today by the conspiracy is in that book"

See, that's how diabolic we are in "the conspiracy." We base it all on a book no citizen reads any more, even those who think of themselves as smart because they went to college. Thanks to our pathetically duped po-mo front groups (our very own "useful idiots"), college kids have for years all been out deconstructing Dick Tracey comics instead. Ha, ha. We come for you next.

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

"They need to be purged from power"

Sentiments of a man who actually thinks he's an ANTI-fascist defender of the " the principles our government was founded upon."

Herodotus - 6/11/2003

First you claim to "know" Strauss' arguments based on a selective reading of his materials, and to "know" the influence of his thinking upon a very tenuous belief in who "is" or "is not" a "Straussian" in the government.

Then you claim to "know" me and call me a conservative, using the tired old duck analogy.

Harrumph. You still have much to learn.

Jerry Mazzarella - 6/11/2003

Attached is an article I found as a link on a Libertarian web site. It just goes to show that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend. The fact that a Libertarian web site could recommend this article because it is anti-Staussian is astounding. Let me point out what I mean. The article says: "My hero Socrates went on a quest for knowledge of real justice, relentlessly questioning mostly wealthy Athenians whether they knew what virtue was. Though a conservative, he was not a ruthless cynic like the pupil who disappointed him." All we know about Socrates we get from Plato. Now Plato, in the Republic has Socrates as the protagonist of "Justice". The whole book has him in conversation discussing what is justice. In the process of doing that, plato builds the ultimate totalitarian state. It is an absolute power, controlling every detail of its citizen's lives. There is no real freedom there as the "state" controls all avenues of thought, even going so far as to license all the artists. Yet this author calls Socrates a conservative. I don't want to belabor the point, but if you want to see the model of the New World Order you have to look no further than Plato's Republic. Everything being promoted today by the conspiracy is in that book. By the way, the student that disappointed Plato was Aristotle, a philosopher far in advance of his misguided teacher.(Plato is the father of all error.) Jerry Mazzarella

Elia Markell - 6/11/2003

Mr. Leckie, in his last response to me, really, really does want us all to know he's read Strauss.

I feel no need to convince him I have also. Suffice it to say, Strauss recognized the flaws of democracy, a la Churchill's dictum ("except for all the others"),while of course opposing absolutely the totalitarian alternatives, about which he knew at first hand much more than Mr. Leckie appears to.

Strauss's crime apparently is that, in spite of his detestation of tyranny, he was also wary of democracy's pressures toward bland comformity. We can see this ready to hand today in the way herd-like pc thinking has infected so many of the trend-setters, ready as they are to run with every fashion -- one of the latest being the anti-Bush bandwagon's screetching glee about supposed adminstration lying about WMD.

One thing Strauss might have suggested to such as are doing this is to take a deep breath, think about it a bit, and question their own unexamined assumptions. If that is a recommendation for "the philosopher's claims" over the pressure of mere opinion, I am for it. Guess that makes me a Straussian enemy of the people also. But Strauss or no Strauss, the simple fact is that the entire premise of Mr. Leckie's original piece is wrong. That premise, that Bush is a liar, in particular (since no other real matter involving the idea of lying has come up under his watch) lying about the WMD, is utterly unproven and highly implausible. Mr. Leckie, bent on bashing both Bush and Strauss, apparently feels no need to ground his premise in anything substantial. Flickering shadows on the cave wall suffice.

NYGuy - 6/11/2003

Thank you for your reply. As I said I enjoyed your article but we disagree on the moral question.

This does not only apply to you, but to many who write for this board. An interesting article is written from a historical perespective and then the conclusion ends up with a current political spin.

Anyway, thanks for the article.

NYGuy - 6/11/2003

Thank you for your reply. As I said I enjoyed your article but we disagree on the moral question.

This does not only apply to you, but to many who write for this board. An interesting article is written from a historical perespective and then the conclusion ends up with a current political spin.

Anyway, thanks for the article.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/11/2003

Over the past quarter-century the rather fuzzy notion of a political center in the US has been shifted ever more toward the Right, in large measure as a result of well-organized and -financed pressure from that direction. The US Right has, with increasing volume, claimed--alas, successfully--that it represents the "center" or the "mainstream." Ironically, it has done so by consistently claiming a "conservative revolution" in American society. Having read your posts on HNN, you're a right-winger to me; as they used to say, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/11/2003

Even though I am no fan of Clinton's, I'll take his morals over those of the Straussians any day.

Hoi Polloi - 6/11/2003

Thank God the ideological roots of these fascists are being exposed.
They are on the defensive and rightfully so. Their's is a vile and elitist world view and incompatible with the principles our government was founded upon.

They need to be purged from power before they cause any further mayhem domestically and globally. Esposing their modus operandi is a step in the right direction.

NYGuy - 6/10/2003

I enjoyed your writings, but do not understand the following.

"How far will we let the Straussians take their irrational and irrationalist version of them, with its nihilism and "universal fascism," without holding them morally, as well as intellectually and politically, accountable?"

I thought we were supposed to stop talking about Bill (it is only sex, lying, and what is the definition of "is")Clinton. Your are right on point but you have the wrong president.

Herodotus - 6/10/2003

I'll elucidate, in anticipation of your next questions.

Who, exactly, is a Straussian, and how do you identify him or her in the administration? Having identified him or her, how do you specifically explain how his or her role shaped the planning, execution or outcome of the response to the attacks of September 11, 2001?

Listing a bunch of names, and asking us to take it on faith, is weak when you're trying to draw a direct causal link between an important intellectual influence on the administration and the actions of the administration itself.

Herodotus - 6/10/2003

you're not being criticised from the right. You're being criticised from the academic center. It's dangerous to mislead people about something and pretend it is serious analysis.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/10/2003

To write that Straussians have had nothing to do with Bush administration policies puts Mr. Markell in a strange universe, indeed.

Mr. Markell had better start reading a little Strauss; conventionally thought of, I suppose, as derived from al Farabi's Medieval work on Plato, and other esoteric writing, Strauss developed the idea of "esoteric" and "exoteric" writing, the former only available to those who know what a writer really meant (all of which makes the man's "philosophy" a matter of initiation and insulated from criticism.

From this--among other things--flows the idea that only the philosopher is able to receive wisdom beyond concrete definition--which deforms "esoteric" meaning, and those of us social beings live within restricted horizons determined by convention--we'll always be in Plato's cave. The individual seeking truth on his or her own--the fundamental unit of liberalism and the very atom of Modernity--is a futile and alienated critter with access only to opinion, always hostile to the philosopher's claims; it is, by the way, this condition Strauss sees as expressed originally in the Greek city state, defined by sacred boundaries and at war, with other cities and with itself--which is why elite intervention, of course, is required.

In The City and Man (1964) Strauss is explicit about the need for deception--and even force--to compel its citizens to accept their natural limitations and abide by conventions determined by whom? The gentlemen with the philosopher guiding the way? So, if we have a philosopher in touch with the Unutterable, he must nevertheless bring his revelation of Ur-truth to ground by urging those fit to rule to enforce the Noble Lie or Lies.

I've left out specifics about Machiavelli, Hobbes, Neitzsche, Heidegger (though there's a neat paralell between Heidgerr's famously original Greek etymologies and Strauss's critique of modern thought) and Schmitt; you can discover them for yourself; as Strauss himself would urge you, go to the texts, listed here with no dates because they are in various editions:

The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes
Thoughts on Machiavelli
The City and Man
What is Political Philosophy?
Liberalism Ancient and Modern

This is just an initial list, Mr. Markell. As you progress on your studies, we can add more and I'll introduce you to the secondary literature. But you need a little grounding first. We can expand our horizons into a detailed critique of Strauss in the next semester.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/10/2003

"A dangerous piece?" Thank you, Herodotus, for the highest possible compliment I could receive from the Right.

Elia Markell - 6/10/2003


You ask, "Am I to understand from this posting, Mr. Markell, that Strauss was Jewish and that criticism of a person who happens to be Jewish is ipso facto anti-semitism?"

I answer, I cannot even fathom where you even infer this in anything I said. I made no reference to Strauss's faith at all. To suggest this seems pure projection, given that it is a particularly virulent strain of the anti-Straussians who manage to make the point you charge me with. See my earlier note on the latest from Christopher Hitchens about the BBC's repeated pronounciation of Paul Wolfowitz's name as "Volfervitz." And this from those who are normally terminally sensitive to the Other.

As for criticism of Strauss, I have no objection to it if it is honest. Suggesting that Leo Strauss endorsed lying by rulers and held democracy in contempt is not valid criticism. It is a preposterous and politically motivated mangling of the man's thought, which has nothing at all to do with the Bush administration's policies and practices in any case. Those policies, in my view, have moreover been far less opaque and dishonest than those of Bush's predecessor (remember that Sudanese pill factory) and stake up pretty well overall compared with most other past presidents.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/10/2003

Am I to understand from this posting, Mr. Markell, that Strauss was Jewish and that criticism of a person who happens to be Jewish is ipso facto anti-semitism? By much the same line of reasoning, of course, criticism of Saddam Hussein would be anti-semitism.

Elia Markell - 6/10/2003

Just one more comment on my supposed "jaded" accusations of anti-Semitism. Regarding the latest bete noir of the anti-neocons and anti-Strausians, the irrepressible Christopher Hitchens (is HE too a Straussian?) starts his latest column of this way:

"'Yes that's all very well,' said the chap from the BBC World Service, 'but what about this man Vulfervitz who seems to run the whole show from behind the scenes?' For the fifth time in as many days, and for the umpteenth time this year, I corrected a British interviewer's pronunciation."

Pardon me for my jaded view of this, but it is what it is.

Herodotus - 6/10/2003

Is this supposed to be a work of intellectual history, or a bash on Strauss? I fail to see the successful link between specific elements of Strauss's ideas (he was, after all, one who encouraged critical thinking rather than a particular dogma) with specific ideas laid out by specific elements of the administration that are directly traceable. This bit about the lying philosophers is fun to play with, but to rely only one idea such as that would be a dangerous reduction of the corpus of someone who is, supposedly, so influential in the thinking of current policymakers.

What about the part of Strauss' thinking that sees liberal democracy as the best alternative among all the political ideas that have emerged in the last three hundred years, and sees it as essential to defeat competitive political philosophies like fascism and communism (both of which Strauss had strong exposure to).

Elia Markell - 6/10/2003

This is all very nicely obfuscating. What does it boil down to? You say elites lie and have for a long time -- since the Progressive Era even! Duh. Perhaps even longer a bit, who would have thought? What does bringing in Strauss have to do with it, then, or with the fevered images of right-wing corporate conspiracy that lace your analysis? I mean lying (Chinagate, Whitewhater, $100,000 stock scams, etc) was the hallmark of a recent non-rightwing administration, as I recall. And lumping all these rightwingers in with the po-mo jibberish of the academy to boot! That's a new one, I must admit.

As for my charge of McCarthysim, I stick by it. Here are two quotes of yours that indicate precisely what I mean.

"For the governance of a complex, technologically sophisticated state to be conceived in such a way is fascism, though not pure and simple, ... the genealogy of Straussian ideas is intertwined with some of the most nihilist ideas and destructive movements in the West."

"and the elite Straussians have their cheering squads on Fox and in the Weekly Standard, both financed by Rupert Murdoch."

Nice, that "though not pure and simple." It gets you off the hook of calling the Straussians and their supposed followers (you know, mindless numbskulls like Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney) fascists. But call them fascists you do, since most people know how to read for the meaning. Since the Black Book of Communism there is simply no excuse for hyperventilating about the intertwinning of conservative views with nihilist and descructive movements, as if the right's complicity is greater than anyone else's. As for today, I think the threat of nihilism and destruction is to be found elsewhere -- perhaps in one of those mass graves outside Baghdad with the children and their dolls, wouldn't you say?

As for the elite Straussians and their cheering squades on Fox and the Weekly Standard, does that include liberals Mora Liason and Juan Williams of NPR, who appear daily on Brit Hume's show? Even poor Mort Kondrake, the nicest moderate liberal you'd ever want to know. Just dupes of those pulling the strings, I guess. A bit like those poor liberals in their front groups back in the days of Tailgunner Joe, don't you think? Or the Weekly Standard being a cheering squad (have you ever read their many editorials on China policy for example?). And you call my accusations of McCarthyism jaded!

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 6/9/2003

Mr. Luker has nicely formulated the questions that need to be addressed; I would add another, which cuts across urgent problematics that have engaged philosophers since the encounter between the Platonic Socrates and the Sophists: If Strauss indeed argues that elite deception is essential to the maintenance of civil society, how can we guarantee elite accountability?

Whitehead's famous remark in Process and Reality that the history of Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato is on point. Our epistemological dilemmas--however sophisticated and technical today--all emerged from the crisis of the Greek polis, and specifically the Athenian one, in the mid- to late-5th century BCE, resulting from the Peloponnesian War. They developed from ethical questions--what is the good society? how do we know the good? how can we and who should see to the cultivation of the good?--in by our standards small, face-to-face societies organized for collective defense and religiously sanctioned. They were life-and-death questions. I think they still are.

My quarrel with Strauss is that he obfuscates and mystifies--in other words, irrationalizes--knowledge and gives us a philosopher beyond interrogation and openly dishonest with those who do not know. That is why I stressed, at the end of my piece, the role of public discourse; why I stressed the relentless questioning of the Platonic Socrates. For reasons not appropriate to explore here, I am not an epistemological or (as would follow) ethical skeptic or relativist; I do think that elite knowledge is vital; yet at the same time, it cannot--except at risk of grave abuse--be exempt from interrogation in a public arena.

In other words, we should question authority because authority is so vital. The transcendental perspective of the philosopher (or his elite disciples)is, as Karl Popper made clear long ago, totalitarian. In my view, it is inimical to true philosophy because it closes off questioning; and politically it is irrational will-to-power. Just as some on the right trumpeted an "end to history" lurking in the Straussian ethos is an end to philosophy, too.

For the governance of a complex, technologically sophisticated state to be conceived in such a way is fascism, though not pure and simple, and--while I can agree with Strauss about the importance of ancient philosophy, and am a dyed-in-the-wool Great Books man myself--the genealogy of Straussian ideas is intertwined with some of the most nihilist ideas and destructive movements in the West.

In a recent New York Times column, James Atlas relieved Strauss of responsibility for the consequences of his thought by suggesting his "disciples" were not carrying out his doctrines faithfully. I am not so certain but that the policies and actions of administration Straussians flow naturally from them. That is why I revived the memory of Critias and The Thirty.

Finally, it is clear that the recent attention paid to the Straussians in government and right-wing journalism is prompting a circling of the wagons. I think this is a good thing. The very strong terms in which I couched my posting were not only sincere, but but written with the hope that we can engage Strauss and the Straussians with the seriousness they warrant. I wrote with a sense of urgency because I think--and I've alluded to this in commentary threads in the past--we in the US are facing a historical development that threatens us as members of an open society.

This movement did not begin with the Bush administration or 9/11. In a long review essay, "Moral Spaces in the Burckhardtian City," Journal of Urban History 28(November 2001)81-97, I argued that our urban landscape had been shaped since the Progresive Era by a radically skeptical "elite moral and ethical stance that we have not yet adequately grasped." In many respects my assessment of American culture could be taken as quite compatible with that of Strauss, but I wrote of an "ironic conservatism" and while I took the figure of Burckhardt as the engine of urban design, at the core of the argument was a preliminary case for a self-policing capitalist authoritarianism.

And that brings me to Mr. Markell's jaded acusations of McCarthyism and anti-Semitism. I take them very seriously, since they are off the wrinkled cue cards of the right when trying to smother debate. It is certainly true that Strauss was Jewish and that a high proportion of visible Straussians and assorted neocons are Jewish.

However, I do not think either neoconservatism or the Straussians could have emerged without a conservative movement funded since the 1970s by non-Jewish corporate money and the rise of a non-Jewish, indeed stridently Christian and very Southern evangelical Protestant populism, in large part a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement. Neither do I think they'd have come out of the woodwork without a general intellectual climate--labelled "postmodern"--that drew on 19th century reaction in similar ways and rendered extreme epistemological skepticism, even solipsism, fashionable. Irony is layered on irony; some postmodernists cheer on a very neo-Burckhardtian post-liberal consumerism, and the elite Straussians have their cheering squads on Fox and in the Weekly Standard, both financed by Rupert Murdoch.

Further: I think Michael Lind in Made in Texas brilliantly ties the rise of Bush the Younger to the triumph of the social and political agenda of the post-Reconstruction South. Even better, I think he's right to link the social, political, and financial style of the administration to a Texan culture based on elite speculation, extractive economics whether in land, cattle, cotton, or oil, repressive labor policies, and despotic politics. Exploiting Protrestant evangelism and racial antagonism has been part of the mix that brought the GOP back as grandson of the old Slave Power, modernized in media and electoral technical finesse and given intellectual respectability in well-financed enclaves--think tanks--insulated from real debate, and enjoying electoral success from the very reorganization of social space and the spectacle of consumption Leo Strauss was supposed to be appalled by in "liberal" America.

More respectable critics can raise the anti-Semitic canard and I will respond head-on as appropriate. Meanwhile, let's take ideas and their contexts and consequences seriously, and discuss them like....dare I use the term...gentlemen. That does not mean gentle debate, by any means, but rather--as in fencing--the phrase 'darmes that seeks within the assault that out-of-fashion notion, truth, the lethal blow, in fact, between honorable opponents.

Ralph E. Luker - 6/9/2003

Mr. Markell,
You illustrate the point that labels like "anti-semitic" and "McCarthyite" often short-circuit any real engagement with the important issues at stake. You'll pardon me if I see no anti-semitism or McCarthyism in Mr. Leckie's essay. Try starting the discussion on a different note: Are the lies of the Bush administration the kinds of lies which Strauss believed an intellectual elite must tell the rest of us in order to rule? Or are those lies so patently obvious that they destroy the credibility of that elite and thus undermine its rule?

Elia Markell - 6/9/2003

I was going to comment at length myself on this disgusting McCarthyite assault on Strauss and all those who have actually read him, but Andrew Sullivan captures the point perfectly.

"THE TRUTH ABOUT LEO STRAUSS: There's a touching and good piece in defense of Strauss by his daughter in the NYT today. (Thanks, David Shipley, for bringing some real divsersity to the op-ed page again.) But a deeper account has been penned by Bret Stephens, the brilliant young editor of the Jerusalem Post. Like Bret, I too learned a huge amount from teachers who had imbibed Strauss' respect for classical thought and profound understanding of the weaknesses and foibles of modernity. I learned above all not to attach to some kind of doctrine, to question everything while not succumbing to complete skepticism, to think outside of the chattering box of contemporaneity. The attempt of some who haven't even read Strauss (let alone read him as carefully as he deserves) to smear his legacy and denigrate those who learned from him is a pathetic display of paranoia and ignorance. No wonder it goes down so well among some on the academic left. Paranoia and ignorance are their strong suits."

The only think missing from Sullivan's comment is the need to point out the rank anti-Semitism fuelling much of this paranoia -- hidden first behind the term "neo-conservative" and then that code word hidden yet again behind the label "Straussian." This aspect of the smear is properly dealt with by Robert Bartley in today's Wall Street Journal:


Get out of the LaRouchean "fever swamps" for God's sake!