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Jewish World Review May 29, 2003 / 27 Iyar, 5763

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mobray
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'Neocon': Slang for 'Jew'? | Hitting at what may be a new low in the "neocon" code-word game, Business Week magazine recently ran a "news" story that practically screamed "Jew"--without saying the word at all.

In an article titled "Where do the neocons go from here?" Richard Dunham attempts to explain to a lay audience what a neocon is and where the "movement" is headed. As anyone who's participated in various political and policy struggles inside the Beltway over the past few years can attest, this is no small feat, as the word neocon has meant many things to many people at many different times. It wasn't too long ago, lest we forget, that to be a neocon meant supporting John McCain for president in 2000, which could have led a casual observer to conclude that the "neo" part meant "moderate."

But in the current era, there seems to be a strong tendency to use neocon as a label for someone who strongly supported the war in Iraq or to describe someone who is, well, Jewish. Mr. Dunham's Business Week piece at first only seems to be doing the former. Using neocon interchangeably with "superhawk," he further writes, "The close-knit intellectuals who make up the neoconservative movement have been called extremists, warmongers, American imperialists -- and even a Zionist cabal." Eschewing the traditional news reporting practice of countering criticism with praise, Mr. Dunham allows those shockingly harsh adjectives to go unchallenged.

After laying the groundwork of neocons as superhawks, the Business Week piece informs readers that the key members of the movement who advise President Bush are "Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith and Defense Policy Board member Richard N. Perle." Fair enough. All three have, at various times, been labeled neocons. But then, Mr. Dunham draws an interesting distinction. He describes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney as "key allies," but not as "neocons." In the remainder of the article, former Reagan administration official Ken Adelman and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol are identified as other "neocons."

What's the difference between members of a supposedly ideological movement and their allies? After all, to agree with someone's ideology--and in the case of Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Perle, that's almost all the time in the foreign policy realm--would seem to make someone not just an ally but an actual subscriber to that ideology. Someone who supports lower taxes, smaller government and market-based solutions on the domestic front, for example, is not an ally of conservatives--he is a conservative.

So how do Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney not make the "neocon" cut in Mr. Dunham's mind, when the two Bush officials hold the very same worldview as the people labeled neocons? The only difference between the two categories is not one of ideology, but religion. Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Feith, Mr. Perle, Mr. Adelman and Mr. Kristol--the "neocons" (or "superhawks")--are Jewish. Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney--the key allies (who interestingly were given no "super" in front of their "hawk" designation)--are not. Why did Mr. Dunham not list fellow ideological travelers such as Gary Schmitt, Max Boot or even Newt Gingrich? None is Jewish.

Ironically, nowhere in the article does one find "Jew:" or "Jewish," although Mr. Dunham did manage to cite unnamed critics who have called the neocons a "Zionist cabal." But that's par for the code-word course. People who mean Jew or Jewish carefully avoid use of either word, often allowing the word "neocon" to roll off the tongue, injected with a tinge of disgust. Just as with Mr. Dunham, those who assail the "neocons" in the administration fault the supposedly all-powerful "Zionist cabal" as militarily trigger-happy idealists who will overextend American resources.

To anyone who has taken the time to fully understand the worldview of so-called "neocons" like Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Perle, however, the word superhawk is silly. These two men in particular--regarded as visionaries by many, and who have inspired gentiles and Jews alike to follow in their ideological footsteps--believe freedom is a Divine-given right that cannot legitimately be denied by any government, just as our Founding Fathers believed. They don't believe in coddling dictators and they believe that the United States should engage freedom movements, not the dictatorships repressing them. What anyone, including Mr. Dunham, has failed to explain is what's so "superhawk"-ish about that.

It's possible Mr. Dunham didn't intend to portray being Jewish as a prerequisite to joining the "neocon" club, but it's difficult to fathom that that's the case. Maybe to avoid any future confusion, Mr. Dunham--and others--would be wise to simply abandon the use of "neocon" altogether.

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JWR contributor Joel Mowbray is the author of the forthcoming book "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security". Comment by clicking here.

05/27/03: Defense Dept.'s de-Baath efforts run into State's pragmatic view of party
05/21/03: Comments by State Dept. official reflects Foreign Service disdain for Bush and believers
05/14/03: Jesse Jackson's Latest "Outrage" is Outrageous
05/12/03: Saddam's doctor selected by State Department
04/14/03: Why we fight
04/09/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/07/03: State Department giving Baghdad to House of Saud?
04/02/03: Martha Burk's State Department adventure
03/31/03: State's bad deeds head to Baghdad
03/26/03: Human shields-turned-hawks
03/24/03: No such thing as a benign despot
03/20/03: Self-fulfilling tyranny
03/14/03: Gadhafi-State Department Alliance
03/12/03: Pushing "peace" pushes war instead
03/10/03: One last chance --- for the UN
03/03/03: Democracy domino theory
02/28/03: $1 Trillion tax cut?
02/12/03: Saudi Slavery in America
02/05/03: "We're Going to War"
02/04/03: State Department's idea of a "traitor"
01/27/03: State's cold shoulder
01/02/03: Canada: The Weakest Link
12/20/02: Real Story of Yemen's Scud Missile Purchase
12/18/02: Lott's got the Senate in the palm of his hand
12/12/02: White House moves closer to finding Iraq in "material breach"
12/10/02: A 9/11 plotter confessed
12/06/02: Saudi Spin doctors dodge U.S. marshals
12/03/02: Wild, Wild Web
12/02/02: Justice, finally, for terrorism victims
11/26/02: Sue McDonalds? I Lost 80 lbs With Fast Food!
11/25/02: The State Department's spin machine
11/22/02: Finally! No more open door for Saudis
11/20/02: A defeat for border security
11/18/02: Trial lawyers vs. homeland security
10/09/02: The visas that shouldn't have been
09/26/02: The "right" Miss America
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09/17/02: Freedom denied
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09/05/02: State's war on Americans
08/09/02: White House wants replace 'Visa Express' genius with woman accused of not helping free kidnapped American kids in Arab lands
07/23/02: Visas for suspected terrorists?
07/03/02: Saudis Fueling Mideast Terrorism
07/02/02: Dick Gephardt, Wannabe Deadbeat Son
06/26/02: Open door for terrorists still open
06/17/02: Open Door for Saudi Terrorists
06/11/02: Sacrificing liberty and safety
05/29/02: Coddling Castro
05/20/02: GOP running from social security reform?
05/09/02: Arab (sky) High Culture
04/24/02: Catholic Church's real challenge
04/17/02: How do you say 'media-bias' in Hebrew?
04/09/02: Sexually Explicit "Abstinence" Education?
04/09/02: A price on the heads of Americans overseas
04/02/02: Bush's New Version of Compartmentalization
03/25/02: Homosexuality a Factor in Sex Abuse by Priests
03/20/02: Government's "Candid Cameras"
03/14/02: Happy Abortionist Appreciation Day
03/07/02: Let dissent ring
03/04/02: Is Ted Kennedy a racist?
02/26/02: The Audacity to Be Black and Conservative

© 2003, Joel Mowbray. Adapted from the February 24 issue of National Review