“Is U.S. foreign policy being run by followers of an obscure German Jewish political philosopher whose views were elitist, amoral and hostile to democratic government?
Suddenly, political Washington is abuzz about Leo Strauss, who arrived in the United States in 1938 and taught at several major universities before his death in 1973.
Thanks to the ”Week in Review” section of last Sunday’s New York Times and another investigative article in this week’s New Yorker magazine [to which I previously linked — FmH], the cognoscenti have suddenly been made aware that key neo-conservative strategists behind the Bush administration’s aggressive foreign and military policy consider themselves to be followers of Strauss, although the philosopher – an expert on Plato and Aristotle – rarely addressed current events in his writings.”
As for what a Straussian world order might look like, … the philosopher often talked about Jonathan Swift’s story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians. ”When Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect.”
For Strauss, the act demonstrates both the superiority and the isolation of the leader within a society and, presumably, the leading country vis-a-vis the rest of the world.
…(I)t is ironic, but not inconsistent with Strauss’ ideas about the necessity for elites to deceive their citizens, that the Bush administration defends its anti-terrorist campaign by resorting to idealistic rhetoric. ”They really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they’re conquering the world in the name of liberalism and democracy” …
— Jim Lobe, CommonDreams [thanks, walker]
Okay, so there are uncanny similarities between this rendition of Strauss’ principles and the pattern of Bush regime behavior, and it appears that a number of Strauss disciples are in pivotal positions to influence the decisions of our naive and credulous President. Many of us have long been convinced of, and outraged by, the centrality of deception in the dysadministration’s P.R. So, if this is Strauss’ influence, how does knowing about it help? It is not as if the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public is going to be won in university political philosophy departments. More bluntly, are most of the people who elect our next President going to grasp, or care, that an insidious pro-authoritarian philosophy is the altar at which the Bush zealots worship? What is to be done? Damned if I know. It does occur to me to regret that the relatively small segment of the population who did not believe there would be much difference between Bush and Gore, and thus voted for Nader (and who, by and large, might be sophisticated and interested enough to pay attention to the influence of an obscure and insidious political philosopher, and who are under no illusions about the power of a small covert inner core to so profoundly influence the direction of a nation’s policy) weren’t familiar with Strauss three years ago.
“Odd as this might sound, we live in a world increasingly shaped by Leo Strauss, a controversial philosopher who died in 1973. Although generally unknown to the wider population, Strauss has been one of the two or three most important intellectual influences on the conservative worldview now ascendant in George W. Bush’s Washington. Eager to get the lowdown on White House thinking, editors at the New York Times and Le Monde have had journalists pore over Strauss’s work and trace his disciples’ affiliations. The New Yorker has even found a contingent of Straussians doing intelligence work for the Pentagon.” — Jeet Heer, Boston Globe