Ken Responding to Tom
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.