Ken Responding to Tom

by Kenneth Anderson


Thanks for that cordial response.  I did not mean to give offense, but wanted to be direct about my perception. I’m also under pressure for something else, so I won’t go on for too long.  

On the Israel-Palestinian conflict and its role in defining neoconservatism and, more broadly, the book’s thesis overall.  I take your writing very seriously indeed, always have, and the reason I reread the book a second time was because this was what jumped out at me the first time through.  I have read rapidly, as there wasn’t much time, so I will grant that I might have misread things.  I do not want to mischaracterize things, so if I have really misunderstood things, then my apologies to you and OJ readers who – I stress – should read this very important and, especially, complex book for themselves.  Particularly when Tom and I have strongly different take-aways.  That said, certainly I accept those passages, but I persist in thinking that this is a, if not the, core difference identified between neoconservatism and its approach to terrorism and what the book proposes as a liberal alternative.  But look, I will go back and reread this again, in light of your comments here.  Maybe I have landed on particular bits and blown them out of proportion; I have done that to my regret in the past, and if I have here, my apologies.  I will also be curious to see the reviews and see how others see this issue.  I want to leave that now, in order to go on to the other issue.

You are right that neoconservatism is thoroughly consequentialist.  Again, going back to the book, that is a very strong theme of it, and I think it is right, indeed, the most important thing I most learned from the book.  It seems to me the fundamental truth of the book and you are right to highlight it here.  I am not sure that I would attribute quite as much goodness to the liberal way of things as you do, but I think that characterization of the neoconservative position is correct.  The reason it strikes me especially now in light of our exchange is that it aids me in seeing, in a new and fruitful way, how – going back to those various characteristics of neoconservatism that I drew out of Fukuyama – the idealism connects to the aversion to social engineering that was a part of it domestically.  That is, I think you are profoundly right about the consequentialism, sort of in service to a form of idealism, whether about democracy or other things.

I apologize if I have mischaracterized the book and again suggest to OJ readers that they read it for themselves.  It is a greatly provocative book, with a writing style that Tom has honed over decades to be at once highly readable, never dull and never turgid, but which also invites provocative responses; the response might be misplaced, I grant.  But I leave that to OJ readers to figure out.  The book is a great read, and Tom, my thanks for taking part in the discussion with me here.  You’ve persuaded me – against my better time-management judgment, I might add! – to go back to it a third time.

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