Ian Buruma tries to understand how a form of conservatism could become so enamored of warfare and revolution:

The most articulate analysis of the obsession with power and violence was actually written by Podhoretz himself, in 1963, in his famous essay "My Negro Problemand Ours." Despite what the title might suggest, it is actually an argument against racism and in favor of miscegenation. When Podhoretz grew up in Brooklyn, the common assumption was that Jews were rich and Negroes were persecuted. This was not how things looked to Podhoretz on the playground of his local public school, where poor Jewish boys like him were regularly being beaten up by Negroes: "There is a fight, they win, and we retreat, half whimpering, half with bravado. My first experience of cowardice." Negroes, he goes on, "made one feel inadequate. But most important of all, they were tough, beautifully, enviably tough, not giving a damn for anyone or anything.... This is what I envied and feared in the Negro...." And then there were the effete snobs, "the writers and intellectuals and artists who romanticize the Negroes, and pander to them," and "all the white liberals who permit the Negroes to blackmail them into adopting a double standard of moral judgment...."

The key to Podhoretz's politics seems to me to lie right there: the longing for power, for toughness, for the Shtarker who doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything, and hatred of the contemptible, cowardly liberals with their pandering ways and their double standards. Since Podhoretz, himself a bookish man, can never be a Shtarker, his government must fill that role, and not give a damn about anyone or anything. And not only the US government, but Israel too.

I guess that's one theory for why so many leading intellectuals, almost all with an acute and justified sense of the evils of totalitarianism, could have signed on to torture techniques once the trademark of police states and dictators. How the descendants of victims of the Holocaust could find themselves defending and supporting text book Nazi interrogation methods still astounds me. I still cannot understand their moral compass on this. But maybe an intoxication with brute force helps explain it.

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