Keeper of the Faith
How Irving Kristol helped craft the neocon hard line
The Neoconservative Persuasion:
Selected Essays, 1942-2009
by Irving Kristol
$29.95 List Price
Neoconservatism has not become a term of opprobrium. It has always been one. The socialist leader Michael Harrington deployed it in the early 1970s to disparage the intellectual backsliders from liberalism, and the word gained a currency it has never lost. Earl Shorris later published a scathing critique of neoconservatism called Jews Without Mercy. As neocon founding father Irving Kristol, who died in 2009, observes in an essay now collected in The Neoconservative Persuasion, his early abandonment of liberalism and vote for Richard Nixon were seen by many of his peers as "the equivalent of a Jew ostentatiously eating pork on Yom Kippur. It was an act of self-excommunication."
But if Kristol voluntarily exiled himself from the precincts of Upper West Side liberalism, he also ended up creating his own sect with its own rituals, one that routinely anathematized its detractors and itself experienced numerous schisms over the decades. Among the most remarkable aspects of neoconservatism, in fact, has been the steady march of defectors from the movement, including Daniel Bell, Theodore Draper, Francis Fukuyama, Walter Laqueur, Mark Lilla, and Michael Lind. They all had one thing in common, which is that they were the intellectual cream of the crop. Left behind were the operators, pamphleteers, and plain hucksters who rose to prominence peddling various brands of moonshine under the benignant gaze of George W. Bush. Now that the movement has gone into its supernova, adherents are scrambling to recover some of its former power, encircling Sarah Palin with an eye toward serving as