Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Conservative Chronicle

As a young academic-in-training, I partook in the political ethos of the group that considered itself Israel's elite - an ethos resembling European social-democracy, more or less, in the broadest meaning of the term including many components beyond daily politics. In retrospect my doctoral dissertation, which argued that the Nazi program of murder was less a result of circumstances and more a result of purposeful decision-making, was a fundamental departure from this ethos, though at the time it didn't effect the way I voted in elections. That departure had been a painful intellectual process, and happened over 3-4 years in which the large amounts of documents I was reading demanded of me that I recognize their content was different from what my expectations had been. I eventually published all this in Hitler's Bureaucrats.

The change in my voting habits came very abruptly, within the three months of November 2000-January 2001. This abruptness was caused by the Palestinians, as I described in Right to Exist. It was about then, say, in 2001, that I became aware of what Americans would call the conservative intellectual tradition.

Among Israelis there had always been a large number of highly and extremely highly intelligent and educated people who stood outside, even against, the reigning intellectual mainstream. Most of them, however, belonged to one of the various orthodox strands of Judaism, and they mostly didn't engage the secular thinkers at all: they were indifferent to them. The academia-media-secular elites had their shticks, the orthodox had theirs, and the two never touched (and each group observed the others mostly with disdain). As I looked around the new political scenery in early 2001, however, I needed secular intellectual voices on my new part of the field, and I remember my surprise and relief that in the US there were large numbers of them. Not everything they were saying was convincing to me, of course. I was, and remained, a graft between a centrist and a Querdenker (someone who holds opinions for their value, not for their political hue). Still, it was comforting to know they were there.

Anyway, what was novel for me was stale news for many people in the US. One of them, it seems, was Adam Bellow, whom I met in 2002 when he took upon himself to be the editor of Right to Exist. (He was a terrific editor). He recently published an article - or perhaps it's something of an intellectual memoir - about his life on the front lines of the American intellectual culture wars. You don't have to agree with all of his positions, but it's an interesting story.


Anonymous said...


Way back in the 1952 campaign for the American presidency, a woman, excited at meeting Adeli Stevenson, gushed "Every intelligent person in America is going to vote for you."

And, Stevenson responded "alas, that's not enough votes to win."

And, he lost to Eisenhower.

Politics is so strange. While academic politics these days, has most people thoroughly disgusted. As if winning the right to offer credentials has become very expensive monkey business.

While kids in general now postpone marriage; and look to college as an excuse to get sex and have beer. And, run up debt. While what really changed was the maturing factor of marriage in your teens that brought kids on board for you to care for.

So, yes. The world has changed.

While who knows what's gonna happen in Israel, now? Certainly Ben Gurion's dream of socialism and kibbutzim, has been challenged by events. Where the youth are being called on to "grow Israel" for the super religious; as if no one notices the fabric ripped.

Reality just doesn't taste as good as pipe dreams.

And, in SHUT UP I'M TALKING, the Canadian kid, Levey, found himself living in Israel (to work as one of Sharon's speech writers, before his stroke), and he wrote of how his young wife HATED Israel.

And, he also wrote, that while in Manhattan, talking to others about this offer to go to Israel to work for Sharon, Israelis told him he was NUTS. "He should go, instead, to a country that would be fun."

Meanwhile, no one writes like Sherlock Holmes; pointing out the obvious. The religious Jews in Israel are FURIOUS! First Arik Sharon blows up the Central Committee ... And, then?

The Central Committee has been showing the Israelis, and the rest of the world, too. JUST WHO IS "WHO'S WHO."

As if you can hide what the police are doing. And, blame Olmert ... that's the ticket. For things that happened was he was a member of the LIKUD.

So? First the parties go to war. And, then? All the people lose.

Too bad no lessons were learned from the American experience. Where the first 11 years of democracy left the states bickering; and George Washington's troops starving. Unpaid. And, without shoes.

So, yeah. By a miracle we won.

And, by a better miracle the FOUNDING FATHERS found away to divide polical powers ... instead of Ben Gurion's way. Sticking socialism front and center. And, forgetting about the selfishness that runs at the core of humanity.

Go look. All over the world.

And, Israel just shot itself in the foot.

You think Linvi saves the day? She's unwilling even to commit to Kadima if she loses her race with Mofaz.

While Olmert represents the best and the brightest. And, he really did try.

While the academics? The only one I can name who had any schmaltz, is Daniel Pipes' father: Richard Pipes. Who went from Harvard to Reagan's first administration. And, he PERFORMED. Wher most academics just suck their thumbs.

Nope. The world never gets any better.

But boy an history teach!

Anonymous said...


Adam Bellow? Any connection to Saul Bellow? If so, what an odd place to find a "conservative fellow."

While Bill Buckley, back in 1964 (though I could be wrong as to when his Man God at Yale, or whatever it was called came out) ... Buckley was out there "alone."

What else did you have? Barry Goldwater? He was actually real "conservative." But this wouldn't be recognized today.

While I find Ann Coulter very funny! It's her schtick. And it's not the "poison" others say about her. Since, if you get to laugh, you get to see her point of view. Different from other people's.

Her current article (which I read when I linked to it from Drudge), excoriates the press for not acknowledging John Edwards love child. A story that supposedly "only" in the National Enquirer. As if this is something on par with stories of space alliens. Well, nost people can tell the difference.

And, Ann pointed out how the mainstream couldn't fathom how they didn't keep the story a secret. And, here, you'd have to know about the Internet. Where the Internet "tells all." Or at least, lets you peek behind the scenery.

By the way, America has a sound tradition. It doesn't trust EGG HEADS.

What's an egg head, you have to ask? Adeli Stevenson was one. And, it's true. All intelligent people voted for him. So he lost to Ike, in 1952; and then he repeated this performance in 1956.

One nice thing about America is that it puts no stock in intellectual bullshit.

While poor Israel can't even vote, now, up or down, if they wanted Olmert to go. Nor do they line the streets demanding your prime minister resign.

The call? From intellectuals. Who are usually missing from the front lines when there are wars.

Except that George Orwell did go to fight in the war Franco won. So don't expect life to be fair.

Will anyone remember Bill Buckley in 20 years? And, didn't he owe his popularity to television? When intelligent people used to tune in the Sunday morning talk shows? I think he was watched because he was always attacking somebody in his superior monitone. But TV's impact has diminished some since RatherGate. And, Bush's blunders.

Where, this weekend, Bush is entertaining the prince of Dubai at Camp David. (Camp David. Once the get-away for FDR, and he called the place "Shangra-La.")