Tuesday, July 13, 2004


An interesting paper on Leo Strauss just out from Claremont. It argues that Strauss was more in tune with traditional American isolationism than the neocons are. The argument centres on whether America's foreign policy should be solely centred on self-preservation (Strauss) or whether it should also be evangelical for democracy (Kristol and the neocons). Much of the rhetoric coming from the White House does give the impression that a neocon agenda is being followed but I am sure that GWB would have done nothing in Afghanistan and Iraq except as a way of protecting America from further terrorist depredations. So the neocons are just a sort of Greek chorus on the sidelines.

But arguing about theories of isolationism versus interventionism is to me a bit too reminiscent of Leftist devotion to oversimplified theories. I prefer traditional conservative skepticism about generalizations and an emphasis on each case being judged on its individual merits. Note that the conservative government of my country appears to be untouched by either Straussianism or neoconservatism and yet behaves in a similar way to the USA. It has twice recently intervened militarily in the affairs of neighbouring countries and done so with great humanitarian success by most standards. Neither country was any threat to Australia so the intervention was almost wholly altruistic. It sprang from conservative decency, not any grand theory. I am sure that both Australia and the USA will continue to be motivated by a mix of self-interest and altruism that will defy any theory to predict or describe it.


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