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Leo Strauss and the Neo-Cons

A recent New York Times Book Review article on a new book about Leo Strauss says that his conservative disciples who promoted the Iraq war as members of the Bush administration do not reflect his thinking. His neo-con disciples include Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, among others. (Perle has recently written an op-ed for the Washington Post and conducted an on-line discussion.)

They were among the most outspoken advocates of war with Iraq and had enormous power because they held important government positions or because they were well connected politically with senior administration officials. I don’t know enough about Strauss’ political philosophy to argue the point of whether he would have favored invading Iraq or not, but there is one element of his background in the review that is connected to Iraq: Strauss’ embrace of Zionism. It may not be an accident that his disciples who were most ardent in arguing for war with Iraq were also Jewish. Perhaps the main thing they took from him that influenced their feelings about Iraq was his Zionism, rather than his political philosophy. Israel was a big promoter of the war with Iraq, just as it is now a big promoter of war with Iran. (While Israel is trying to get the US to go to war with Iran, it is engaged in its own war with Lebanon.)

Was it the Zionism of the influential Jews in the administration — learned from or reinforced by Strauss — which led them to lead the charge for war with Iraq? We’ll probably never know, but it could well be. There certainly seems to be some link between Leo Strauss and the war.

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