Berkowitz Reviews Book on Neoconservatism for Weekly Standard

In his book Neoconservatism: Why We Need It, author Douglas Murray "takes on neoconservatism's harshest critics and does not yield an inch," says Professor Peter Berkowitz in a book review appearing in the October 23, 2006, edition of The Weekly Standard.

Against Relativism: A British way of looking at neoconservatism, The Weekly Standard, October 23, 2006. By Peter Berkowitz.

"Neoconservatism in America today, according to Murray, continues to do battle against relativism, which, he argues, fuels opposition to the global war on terror. To be sure, as Murray points out, there has been no shortage of voices echoing Noam Chomsky's incoherent assertion that U.S. support for Osama bin Laden against the Soviets in the 1980s, and for Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran during the 1980s, should disqualify America from fighting terrorists and the nations that harbor them. And there are plenty, he adds, who, glossing over the U.N.'s sorry record of coddling dictators and failing to prevent bloodshed, argue in the name of cosmopolitanism, democratic humanism, or the international community that Americans who put American interests and American ideals first pose a leading threat to world peace. Yet these criticisms of the war are less an expression of relativism than an expression of poorly reasoned moral disapproval of the United States and its role in the world.

"In addition to clarifying the connection between relativism and the resentment, envy, and arrogance that characterize so much progressive criticism of the United States and its fight against Muslim extremism, at least two other critical issues must be addressed to fill out Murray's introduction to neoconservatism. First, what lessons from the neoconservative critique of social engineering at home can be applied to the program for promoting liberty and democracy abroad? And second, what steps can be taken to minimize the tensions involved in seeking to conserve liberal democracy, a doctrine and way of life whose guiding principle--individual freedom--constantly struggles against the constraints of tradition, custom, and authority?

"Critics may chuckle with satisfaction at the perplexities neoconservatism confronts. But the price the critics pay is moral and political blindness. Not that neoconservative solutions are always the right solutions. But the perplexities they confront are inscribed in the American way of life. They partly define the challenges of securing liberty at home, which is not separable today (if it ever was) from promoting it abroad. It is not the least of neoconservatism's achievements to have brought these perplexities into focus."

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