Jonah answers

Made my debut in The Corner today. [Name withheld] as per usual Corner etiquette, but you can probably figure out which definition was mine. Here’s what Jonah had to say, and my subsequent reply.

Okay. Here’s just one of the basic problems with all of this. If Neocons love big-government, why does Pat Buchanan — perhaps the only self-described “paleocon” average Americans have ever heard of — want to expand the welfare state? As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out in a brilliant take-down of Buchanan, the man’s biggest complaint with Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” is that it’s a rip-off of Buchanan’s “conservatism of the heart.” Meanwhile I know literally dozens of allegedly well-known “neocons” who very much want to shrink the welfare state.

Meanwhile, the Buchanan crowd says National Review is a “neocon” magazine because it supported the war, while the mainstream press routinely says NR is “paleo” and the Weekly Standard is “neo” even though our respective positions on foreign policy are nearly identical — albeit from the vantage point of, say, a New York Times or Slate reporter. If being a neocon means being hawkish, then NR was always more neocon than the neocons because we were the ones championing rollback, not containment. And, oh yeah, why did Buchanan want to send the Sixth Fleet to defend Dubrovnik in 1991, if the Paleos are against foreign adventures. And why did über-neo Charles Krauthammer oppose getting mired in the Balkans?

I don’t suggest that Neocons love big government. If they did, they’d be left-liberals, after all. I merely suggest that Neocons consider it a perfectly viable tool whenever they feel it is desirable. It is this willingness to embrace big government, on occasion, that sets them apart from traditional conservatives. I believe that the self-professed paleocon whose definition you also mentioned was saying almost exactly the same thing, albeit in different words.

As for Pat, well, let’s face it. As strong as he is on some things – I’ve spent enough years in Europe to know that his Death of the West hypothesis is not the product of a fevered imagination – he can be all over the place. I respect him, but I don’t look for consistency from him. Those neo-cons you mentioned may well be willing to shrink the welfare state; my guess is that they’re perfectly willing to embrace expanding central state power in other areas more dear to their respective hearts, be it the drug war, Patriot II, or the Federal Reserve system. And, of course, your reply doesn’t even begin to defend the Bush Administration, which shows no sign of interest in reducing the welfare state, much less turning back the New Deal.

Maybe Charles Krauthammer opposed it because it was an obviously bad idea? Being a neoconservative doesn’t imply stupidity.