REVIEW: They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons

Fathers and sons

To be neoconservative is to bear almost daily witness to the resurrection of Adolf Hitler. “Truly Hitlerian,” the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer pronounced Saddam Hussein’s saber-rattling before Iraq invaded Kuwait. Three days after the 9/11 attacks, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy defense secretary, opined that Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers “misread our system as one that’s weak, that can’t take casualties. … Hitler made that mistake.” Norman Podhoretz, the former editor of Commentary, said of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last spring, “Like Hitler, he is a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system.” In the same month, the defense analyst Richard Perle mused on whether it had been “a correct reading” of the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat “to believe that business could be done with him that would produce a result? I don’t think so. These are the difficult decisions. Diplomacy with Hitler. Chamberlain went to Munich, presumably on the theory that you talk to your enemies and not to your friends, and what did it produce?”

Just about the only place the neoconservative movement can’t locate Hitler is Nazi Germany. As late as 1944, the founding-neocon-to-be, Irving Kristol, publicly dismissed the “near hysterical insistence upon the pressing military danger,” Jacob Heilbrunn reports in his new book, “They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.” While the Nazis herded Jews into the gas chambers, Kristol, then a 24-year-old Trotskyist, held fast to his conviction that the Allies were no different from the Axis in their imperialism. Kristol took this view because he was “indulging in an abstract crusade for a better world.” [complete article]

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