Leo Strauss and the “Crazies in the Basement”

See excerpts of articles re: political philosophy

By Donald Archer,  OpEdNews Op Eds 4/24/2008

Excerpt

From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s….The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

Full text

There is no question that we are engaged in a war of ideologies, or that democracy is under siege.   But, contrary to prevalent misinformation and myth, the significant threat is within, not outside the halls of our government.

From the beginning of his presidency, George W. Bush has surrounded himself with radical neo-conservatives, with what his father, the first President Bush, called “crazies in the basement.”   They have advised him on everything from political strategy to foreign policy.   What they have in common is the warped worldview of Leo Strauss: a charismatic and influential professor of political philosophy at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 60s.

When he died in 1973, Strauss left what could be called a cult-following of obsessive acolytes, including former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, and Republican pundit William Kristol.

Strauss’ radical teaching pervades not only the Bush administration but many of the major conservative think-tanks as well—the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute, in particular.

Becoming familiar with Strauss’ philosophy sheds light on our current political crisis and brings the challenge to focus.   Above all, Strauss had contempt for the democratic process—he was an elitist who labeled the majority of human beings ‘the vulgar-many.’    His philosophy is an odd combination of the idealism of ancient Plato and the pragmatism of modern Machiavelli.

His ideal: the philosopher-king—The Decider, the authoritarian leader who knows what’s best for the befuddled majority.

His weapons: ‘the Noble Lie’ and perpetual war—empowered by a fearful and ignorant electorate, a deferential Congress, a lock-step Supreme Court, and a compliant media; in other words, the total breakdown of the constitutional system of checks and balances.

Leo Strauss believed that ‘mankind is intrinsically wicked’ and that it was up to the ‘wise-few,’ indeed it was their responsibility, to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world.     

Ironically, he was an atheist who promoted the practice of religion—one of his ‘Noble Lies.’   While Strauss taught that faith could control and subdue the ‘unruly masses,’ he believed that rulers need not be bound by it… A secular society, in his neo-conservative view, is most dangerous because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism—traits that encourage dissent and challenge the hierarchical authoritarian society he envisioned… Straussian worldview forever needs a devil, or an ‘axis of evil,’ to coalesce the masses.    Strauss wrote that “governance can only be established…when men are united – and they can only be united against other people.”

Straussians embrace the following principles:

  1. The Few Must Rule The Many.
  2. Virtue Is Defined By The Elite.
  3. The Strong Must Rule The Weak
  4. There Is Only One Natural Right: The Right Of The Wise Few To Rule Over The Vulgar Many.
  5. “The Rule Of The Wise” Is Unquestionable, Authoritarian, Absolute and Covert.
  6. There Are Three Classes: The Wise-Few, The Vulgar-Many And The Gentlemen.
  7. Religion Is Essential In Order To Impose Moral Law On The Masses.
  8. The State Maintains Omnipotence Through Militaristic Nationalism.
  9. Order And Security Are To Be Insured By A State Of Perpetual War.
  10. The Wise Must Maintain A Culture Of Deception And Carry On A Perpetual Confusion Campaign.
  11. The Many Are Told What They Need To Know And No More.
  12. Lies Are Held To Be Necessary And Noble.

If our most powerful leaders adhere to these principles, it should come as no surprise that the will of the majority is systematically ignored, that secrecy is paramount, that confusion is rampant, that lies have become the norm, that a state of war is constant, that the separation of church and state is attacked, that our constitutional system of checks and balances is all but myth, and that an increasingly unaccountable president considers himself ‘The Decider.”

The ideology of Leo Strauss and the neo-conservatives is the antithesis of the Enlightenment wisdom that inspired the ideal, if not the actuality, of the American Revolution and the modern constitutional democracy—a liberal society that promotes and is maintained by critical thinking, a well-informed electorate, and an open, transparent government.     This is the ideological war now being fought.

 


Bush-Era Tax Cuts Projected As Largest Contributor To Public Debt [CHART]

The Huffington Post by William Alden
First Posted: 05/20/11 Updated: 07/20/11

If the Bush-era tax cuts are renewed next year, that policy will by 2019 be the single largest contributor to the nation’s public debt — “the sum of annual budget deficits, minus annual surpluses” — according to new analysis from the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

These tax breaks, combined with the cost of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will account for nearly half the public debt in 2019, measured as a percentage of economic output, the CBPP’s analysis shows. Even the cost of the economic downturn, combined with the cost of the legislation passed to stem the damage, won’t be as burdensome as the weight of the Bush-era tax cuts, the chart below suggests. See if you can find the debt associated with the Trouble Asset Relief Program and the rescue of Fannie and Freddie:

link to chart

Tax cuts for the highest earners were renewed late last year, as part of a deal that extended tax breaks for middle earners and reauthorized unemployment insurance. In an April speech, President Barack Obama laid out a plan to reduce the nation’s deficit and debt, suggesting that he would strive to make sure the tax cuts for the highest earners expire naturally in 2012.

If tax cuts do expire as scheduled, that would win significant debt relief for the government, CBPP says:

[S]imply letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule (or paying for any portions that policymakers decide to extend) would stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio for the next decade. While we’d have to do much more to keep the debt stable over the longer run, that would be a huge accomplishment.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated in one instance that the tax cut portion of the chart refers to tax cuts for the top earners. In fact, the Bush-era tax cuts apply to a broader range of income levels.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/20/bush-tax-cuts-debt_n_864812.html

Tony Blair [and George Bush] should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu

Toby Helm, political editor, The Observer,  1 September 2012

Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond Tutu

Anti-apartheid hero attacks former prime minister over ‘double standards on war crimes’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hauled before the international criminal court in The Hague and delivered a damning critique of the physical and moral devastation caused by the Iraq war.

Tutu, a Nobel peace prize winner and hero of the anti-apartheid movement, accuses the former British andUSleaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction and says the invasion left the world more destabilised and divided “than any other conflict in history”.

Writing in the Observer, Tutu also suggests the controversial US and UK-led action to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003 created the backdrop for the civil war inSyria and a possible wider Middle East conflict involvingIran.

“The then leaders of theUnited StatesandGreat Britain,” Tutu argues, “fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre ofSyria and Iran before us.”

But it is Tutu’s call for Blair and Bush to face justice inThe Haguethat is most startling. Claiming that different standards appear to be set for prosecuting African leaders and western ones, he says the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict is sufficient on its own for Blair and Bush to be tried at the ICC.

“On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague,” he says.

The court hears cases on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. To date, 16 cases have been brought before the court but only one, that of Thomas Lubanga, a rebel leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been completed. He was sentenced earlier this year to 14 years’ imprisonment for his part in war crimes in his home country.

Tutu’s broadside is evidence of the shadow still cast by Iraq over Blair’s post-prime ministerial career, as he attempts to rehabilitate himself in British public life. A longtime critic of the Iraqwar, the archbishop pulled out of a South African conference on leadership last week because Blair, who was paid 2m rand (£150,000) for his time, was attending. It is understood that Tutu had agreed to speak without a fee.

In his article, the archbishop argues that as well as the death toll, there has been a heavy moral cost to civilisation, with no gain. “Even greater costs have been exacted beyond the killing fields, in the hardened hearts and minds of members of the human family across the world.

“Has the potential for terrorist attacks decreased? To what extent have we succeeded in bringing the so-called Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds closer together, in sowing the seeds of understanding and hope?” Blair and Bush, he says, set an appalling example. “If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth?” he asks.

“If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?”

In a statement, Blair strongly contested Tutu’s views and said Iraq was now a more prosperous country than it had been under Saddam Hussein. “I have a great respect for Archbishop Tutu’s fight against apartheid – where we were on the same side of the argument – but to repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.

“And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre. We have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.

“In addition, his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time.

“In short, this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.

“I would also point out that despite the problems,Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with the child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places likeBasra.”

• This article was amended on 2 September 2012 to remove an incorrect paragraph concerning ongoing criminal proceedings at The Hague

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/02/tony-blair-iraq-war-desmond-tutu