[sixties-l] The Ex-Cons: Right-Wing Thinkers Go Left!

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    The Ex-Cons


    Right-Wing Thinkers Go Left!

    by Corey Robin
    February 2001

    ACCORDING TO POPULAR MYTH it was Winston Churchill who said, "any man under
    thirty who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man over thirty who is
    not a conservative has no brains." He didn't say it, but his imprimatur
    turned a clever quip of uncertain provenance into an axiom of political
    biography: Radicalism is a privilege of youth, conservatism a
    responsibility of age, and every thinking person eventually surrenders the
    first for the second. From Max Eastman to Eugene Genovese, Whittaker
    Chambers to Ronald Radosh, intellectuals migrate from left to right almost
    as if obeying a law of nature.

    Or do they? After all, John Stuart Mill published his feminist classic The
    Subjection of Women when he was sixty-three. In the last ten years of his
    life, Diderot blasted France as the reincarnation of imperial Rome and
    hailed the American Revolution as a repudiation of European tyranny. And
    when George Bernard Shaw addressed the question of politics and aging, he
    suggested just the opposite of what Churchill is supposed to have said.
    "The most distinguished persons," Shaw wrote in 1903, "become more
    revolutionary as they grow older."

    SINCE THE end of the Cold War, several prominent conservatives have
    followed Shaw's prescription and turned left. Michael Lind, once a top
    editor at Irving Kristol's The National Interest, has denounced his
    previous allies for prosecuting a "class war against wage-earning
    Americans"; their market-driven theories, he writes, are "unconvincing,"
    their economic policies "appalling." Arianna Huffington, erstwhile
    confederate of Newt Gingrich, now inveighs against a United States where
    the great majority is "left choking on the dust of Wall Street's galloping
    bulls." Glenn Loury, an economist and former neoconservative darling,
    sports the signature emblem of left membership: He has become one of Norman
    Podhoretz's ex-friends. But today's most flamboyant expatriates are an
    Englishman, John Gray, and a Jewish migr from Transylvania, Edward Luttwak.

    In the 1970s, John Gray was a rising star of the British New Right. An
    Oxford-trained political philosopher, he penned prose poems to the free
    market, crisscrossed the Atlantic to fuel up on the high-octane
    libertarianism of American right-wing think tanks, and, says a longtime
    friend, enthralled his comrades late into the night with visions of the
    coming "anarcho-capitalist" utopia. But after the Berlin Wall collapsed,
    Gray defected. First he criticized the Cold War triumphalism of Francis
    Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis and counseled against scrapping
    Britain's National Health Service. And then in 1998, from his newly
    established position as professor of European thought at the London School
    of Economics (LSE), he handed down False Dawn, a ferocious denunciation of
    economic globalization. Assailing the "shock troops of the free market,"
    Gray warned that global capitalism could "come to rival" the former Soviet
    Union "in the suffering that it inflicts." Now he is a regular contributor
    to The Guardian and New Statesman, Britain's principal left venues. So
    profound is his conversion that no less a figure than Margaret Thatcher has
    reportedly wondered, "Whatever became of John Gray? He used to be one of us."

    And what of Edward Luttwak? He was one of Ronald Reagan's premier court
    intellectuals, a brilliant military hawk who mercilessly criticized liberal
    defense policies and provided the philosophical rationale for the American
    military buildup of the 1980s. Liberal critics called him Crazy Eddie, but
    cutting a figure that was part Dr. Strangelove and part Dr. Zhivago,
    Luttwak effortlessly parried their arguments, pressing the Cold War toward
    its conclusion. Today, he is disillusioned by victory. He finds the United
    States a capitalist nightmare, "a grim warning" to leaders seeking to
    unleash free-market forces in their own countries. Deploying the same
    acerbic wit he once lofted against liberal peaceniks, he mocks the
    "Napoleonic pretensions" of American business leaders, challenges the
    conventional wisdom that capitalism and democracy are inevitable bedfellows
    ("free markets and less free societies go hand in hand"), and decries the
    savage inequalities produced by "turbo-capitalism." He excoriates European
    center-leftists like British prime minister Tony Blair for abandoning their
    socialist roots and for their unwillingness "to risk any innovative action"
    on behalf of "ordinary workers." With their "disdain for the poor and other
    losers" and "contempt for the broad masses of working people," Luttwak
    writes, Clintonesque New Democrats and European Third Wayers "can yield
    only right-wing policies."

    In their original incarnations, Gray and Luttwak thrilled to two of
    conservatism's galvanizing passions, anticommunism and the free market. But
    since the fall of the Soviet Union, they have been posing questions about
    the market they once would never have dared ask.

    Yet for all their disgust with unbridled capitalism, Gray and Luttwak find
    it hard to embrace any of the established alternatives: The furthest Gray
    will go is to characterize himself as "center-left." Nor is the left too
    eager to claim either of them. One reviewer of False Dawn wrote in In These
    Times that Gray was merely a standard-bearer for the old regime, driven
    less by "a genuine hatred of inequality, injustice or poverty" than by "a
    deep fear of political instability." With communism in shambles and the
    market omnipotent, the agonistic passion that originally inspired Luttwak
    and Gray now finds itself without a home. They are today's most poignant
    exiles, lost in a diaspora of their own making.

    CONSERVATIVES usually style themselves as chastened skeptics holding the
    line against political enthusiasm. Whereas radicals tilt toward the
    utopian, conservatives settle for world-weary realism. In the words of
    British philosopher Michael Oakeshott: "To be conservative is to prefer the
    familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to
    mystery, the actual to the possible...the convenient to the perfect." But,
    in reality, many conservatives have been temperamentally antagonistic,
    politically insurgent, and utterly opposed to established moral
    convention. Ever since Edmund Burke, thinkers from Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    to Martin Heidegger have sought a more intense, almost ecstatic mode of
    experience in the spheres of religion, culture, and even the economy, all
    of which, they believe, are repositories of the mysterious and the
    ineffable. Indulging in political romanticism, they draw from the
    stock-in-trade of the counter-Enlightenment, celebrating the intoxicating
    vitality of struggle while denouncing the bloodless norms of reason and
    rights. As Isaiah Berlin observed of the French archconservative Joseph de

    "His violent preoccupation with blood and death belongs to a world
    different...from the slow, mature wisdom of the landed gentry, the deep
    peace of the country houses great and small.... The facade of Maistre's
    system may be classical, but behind it there is something terrifyingly
    modern, and violently opposed to sweetness and light."

    The battle in the twentieth century against communism and social democracy
    provided the perfect vehicle for these conservative sensibilities. For
    figures like John Gray, the Soviet Union and the welfare state were the
    ultimate symbols of cold Enlightenment rationalism, and the free market was
    the embodiment of the romantic counter-Enlightenment. But revolutionary
    romantics ultimately suffer the fate of all romantics: disillusionment. And
    so today, with communism in ruins and the free market triumphant, the
    dissident spirit that originally inspired Gray now fires an equally
    militant apostasy.

    Gray was born in 1948 and grew up outside Newcastle, a port city near the
    North Sea in a coal-mining region only fifty miles from Scotland. In a
    country where accent is destiny, one still hears faint traces of his
    northeastern working-class origins, about which he is slightly defensive.
    His father was a carpenter; his entire family voted Labour. Gray arrived at
    Oxford in 1968, the annus mirabilis for young leftists throughout Europe.
    Sporting the costume of the period"my hair was long, but everybody's hair
    was long"he traveled to London to demonstrate against the Vietnam War.
    After receiving his degree in philosophy, politics, and economics, Gray
    stayed on at Oxford for graduate school, writing a thesis on John Stuart
    Mill and John Rawls, both sympathetic to a liberal socialism that Gray
    initially found attractive.

    But as he muddled through Rawls' A Theory of Justice, Gray grew weary of
    the effort to extract socialist policies from liberal formulas. Part of his
    malaise was induced by Rawls's congested prose. "It's an almost unreadable
    book," he says. Rawls's plodding style seemed to mirror the deeper
    political ennui of social democracy. His work, says Gray, was "a
    transcendental deduction of the Labour Party in 1963." Like many New
    Leftists in the United States, Gray found the business of the welfare state
    dull and uninspired, the weak tea of colorless bureaucrats. As he would
    later describe it, the welfare state was the product of a "triangular
    collusion of employers, unions and government." It was a "colossal
    apparatus" extracting resources and energy from an enervated citizenry.
    Tepid compromise was the rule of the day; political leaders tried to be all
    things to all people. They refused "to admit the reality of conflicts,"
    that "one equality, one demand of justice, may compete with another." The
    welfare state, in short, was a far cry from the vital working-class
    radicalism that had produced it.

    In Thatcherism, Gray caught a glimpse of revolutionary eternity. "There
    was a revolutionary, indeed a Bolshevik, aspect to the Thatcherite project
    at the start which I thought was both exciting and necessary," he says.
    Thatcher assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party at just about the
    time of Gray's conversion to capitalism. She promised to liberate Britain
    from the stifling routine of social democracy, and the free market from the
    chains of state planning. Though no egalitarian, Thatcher stoked the
    ambitions of middle- and working-class voters who saw the free market as a
    vehicle of upward mobility.

    Her most impressive moment came in 1980, after her first year in power,
    when her policies seemed to be pushing the economy toward disaster. Having
    denounced her predecessor Edward Heath for executing his notorious
    "U-turn," when he capitulated to left-wing pressure after vowing a rollback
    of social democracy, Thatcher faced pressure from moderates within her own
    partythe Tory "Wets"to reverse course. Instead of retreating, she defiantly
    faced down her temporizing critics, memorably declaring, "You turn if you
    want to. The lady's not for turning." Conservatives were instantly smitten.
    Norman Barry, another Thatcherite and until recently a close friend of
    Gray's, recalls, "I had thought she was just an election winner who wasn't
    Labour. But when she lifted exchange controls, I thought, 'This babe knows
    market economics.' So then I thought, 'Yeah!' And then she began
    privatization and
    other things. And then she wouldn't do a U-turn, I thought, 'This is for

    Many Thatcherites thought of themselves as free-market revolutionaries, and
    Gray brought to their cause a romantic panache not often associated with
    neoclassical economics. In 1974, he began reading the work of Friedrich
    Hayek, the Austrian-born economist and fierce critic of state planning. Ten
    years later, Gray published Hayek on Liberty, which the master himself
    described as "the first survey of my work which not only fully understands
    but is able to carry on my ideas beyond the point at which I left off." The
    Hayek that Gray depicted was no antiseptic defender of property rights and
    low taxes. He was an exotic explorer of the subterranean, quasi-rational
    currents of human life, a Viennese voice that had more in common with
    Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Wittgenstein than with Milton Friedman or Robert
    Nozick. If Hayek on Liberty was an impassioned ode to the market, Gray was
    its yearning Byron.

    Whereas many conservatives saw in Hayek the logical fulfillment of a calm,
    quintessentially British tradition of political economy extending back to
    Adam Smith, Gray detected an "uncompromising modernity" in Hayek's vision
    of the free market. Intellectual ferment, political extremism, and social
    decay characterized fin-de-si'cle Vienna, the milieu in which Hayek was
    born. Out of this whirlwind came psychoanalysis, fascism, and modern
    economics. Each challenged old orders of knowledge and politics. In
    economic theory, wrote Gray, Hayek followed in the footsteps of the
    late-nineteenth-century Austrian school, claiming that "economic value, the
    value of an asset or resource, is conferred on it by the preferences or
    valuations of individuals and not by any of its objective properties."
    While classical economists from David Ricardo to Karl Marx believed there
    had to be something real, most important, physical labor, behind the
    mysterious veil of prices, Hayek argued that it was only the eccentric
    preferences of particular human beings that gave value to goods in the
    world. An almost hyperactive subjectivity, comparable to Freud's anarchic
    id, haunted Gray's Hayek, reflecting Vienna's "experience of an apparently
    inexorable drift to dissolution."

    Against philosophers who elevated theoretical reason to the highest form of
    knowledge, Hayek, wrote Gray, believed that rational understanding was only
    the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it lay a murky stratum of thoughts "rarely
    expressible in theoretical or technical terms," and it was the free
    market's particular genius to harness these premonitions to everyday
    economic activity.

    Entrepreneurs were the sublime mediums of such "tacit knowledge,"
    channeling its deep truths to other market actors. They were romantic
    heroes possessed by flashes of almost poetic vision. "Entrepreneurial
    insight or perception," explained Gray, was a matter not of book learning
    but of "serendipity and flair." It was "a creative activity insusceptible
    of formulation in hard and fast rules." Lying "beyond our powers of
    conscious control," the "entrepreneurial perception" appeared only
    infrequently, striking suddenly and without warning. When it did appear, it
    reordered the universe.

    The market, in short, provided a refuge for self-expression and creativity,
    a sanctuary for the rapturous counter-Enlightenment. Unimaginative writers
    were content to argue that markets "allocate scarce resources most
    efficiently" or that the market "allows for the motive of self-interest."
    But such defenses missed a more elemental truth: Markets allowed for the
    expression of a "whole variety of human motives, in all of their complexity
    and mixtures." The market supplied a theater for dramatic self-disclosure,
    a stage on which individuals could project their most irrepressible visions
    and strenuous desires.

    All love affairs come to an end, but Gray's breakup with the market has
    been particularly venomous. He now denounces it as the scourge of modern
    civilization. In the United States, he writes, the free market has
    "generated a long economic boom from which the majority of Americans has
    hardly benefited." Americans suffer from "levels of inequality" that
    "resemble those of Latin American countries." The middle class enjoys the
    dubious charms of "assetless economic insecurity that afflicted the
    nineteenth-century proletariat." The United States stands perilously close
    to massive social disruption, which has been held at bay only "by a policy
    of mass incarceration" of African Americans and other people of color. "The
    prophet of today's America," Gray claims, "is not Jefferson or Madison....
    It is Jeremy Bentham", the man who dreamed of a society "reconstructed on
    the model of an ideal prison."

    Even more appalling, writes Gray, global elites have sought to make
    American capitalism the model for the world. Even though market regimes
    vary by culture and country, the high priests of globalization impose a
    one-size-fits-all American model, with its minimal welfare state, weak
    business and environmental regulations, and low taxes. "According to the
    'Washington consensus,'" writes Gray, "the manifold economic cultures and
    systems that the world has always contained will be redundant. They will
    be merged into a single universal free market" based on the "world's last
    great Enlightenment regime, the United States."

    When Gray first uttered these heresies, many of his conservative friends
    were shocked. Like Gray, Norman Barry is a political theorist who has
    written on Hayek. A professor at the University of Buckingham, the only
    wholly private university in Britain, he was the best man at Gray's second
    wedding but now rarely speaks with him. Barry cannot shake the suspicion
    that Gray's political turn was motivated by pure opportunism. "I believe in
    a proposition of neoclassical economics: Everybody's a utility maximizer,"
    he explains. "It might have been a good career move to detach himself from
    libertarianism. I am speculating but not wildly. Libertarians don't get
    the best positions in universities." When Gray was only a fellow at a small
    Oxford college, claims Barry, "he used to say, 'Well, the way the world
    works I wouldn't get a chair.'... You don't get professorships at LSE if
    you're a free-market fanatic." The only continuity in Gray's position that
    Barry recognizes is his penchant for "philosophical promiscuity." Gray,
    says Barry, "was always flitting from person to person, philosopher to
    philosopher.... He couldn't form a steady relationship with any thinker. He
    tried a bit of Popper. Tried Hayek. Of course, he later dumped Hayek. Other
    writers he would try and dump."

    Gray claims that he changed his mind for two reasons. During the late
    1980s, he says, he began to suspect that political thinking on the right
    had stiffened into stale ideology, not unlike the dull Rawlsianism he fled
    so long ago. Gray had once thought of Thatcherism as tactically flexible
    and politically savvy, a movement sensitive to popular moods, its leader a
    Machiavellian virtuoso of political change. But he now believed that the
    movement had lost its artistry; supple thought had degenerated into rote
    incantation. Gray says, "What was striking about Bolshevism was that Lenin
    was so extraordinarily flexible. Then it hardened into Trotskyism. And
    similarly Thatcherism began to harden.... It was a habit of thought that I
    found deeply repugnant."

    The collapse of the Soviet Union also forced Gray to question his
    free-market faith. Until 1989, Gray says, it made sense to think of the
    state as "the principal enemy of well-being," which was the attitude within
    "the admittedly hothouse atmosphere of the right-wing think thanks." But
    after the Soviet empire fell, the former Yugoslavia spiraled into genocidal
    civil war, and Western free-marketeers applied shock therapy to formerly
    communist countries with disastrous results, Gray came to think that the
    state was a necessary evil, perhaps even a positive good. It was the only
    force that could prevent societies from sliding into total chaos, extreme
    inequality, and poverty.

    But there is a deeper reason for Gray's turn: By itself, the market could
    not sustain his affections. Without the Soviet Union and the welfare state
    as diverting symbols of Enlightenment rationalism, Gray could no longer
    believe in the market as he once had. The market, he now had to admit,
    sponsors a "cult of reason and efficiency." It "snaps the threads of memory
    and scatters local knowledge." He used to think that the free market arose
    spontaneously and that state control of the economy was unnatural. But
    watching Jeffrey Sachs and the International Monetary Fund in Russia, he
    could not help but see the free market as "a product of artifice, design
    and political coercion." It had to be created, often with the aid of
    ruthless state power. Today, he argues that Thatcher built the free market
    by crushing trade unions, hollowing out the Conservative Party, and
    disabling Parliament. She "set British society on a forced march into late
    modernity." Gray believes that "Marxism-Leninism and free-market economic
    rationalism have much in common." Both, he writes, "exhibit scant sympathy
    for the casualties of economic progress." There is only one difference:
    Communism is dead.

    In an unguarded moment, Norman Barry confesses that he simply cannot fathom
    Gray's shift. "Maybe I just misunderstood him," he says, "but I thought
    that he did believe deeply. Nobody could have read that amount of stuff
    without believing some of it, anyway. I wonder whether he ever did." Gray
    did believe, but his belief was different from Barry's. Barry loves the
    market because it operates according to "the iron laws of economics." As he
    puts it, these may "take a little longer than Newtonian laws. If I drop
    this disk, it's down in a second. If I introduce rent control, it would
    take maybe six months to create homelessness." But, he adds, "it's just as
    decisive." By contrast, Gray once believed in capitalism precisely because
    he sought an escape from the laws of Newton. Having realized that the
    market inhibits passionate self-expression, Gray has been forced to
    acknowledge the truth of Irving Kristol's dictum: "Capitalism is the least
    romantic conception of a public order that the human mind has ever conceived."

    BY THE TIME Edward Luttwak was in his early forties, he had outrun Nazis,
    escaped communists, and been shot at by leftist guerrillas in Central
    America. But to this day, he remembers his childhood move from Palermo to
    Milan as the most "traumatic" event of his life. Born in 1942 into a
    wealthy Jewish family in Romania, Luttwak grew up in southern Transylvania,
    which was briefly occupied by the Nazis in 1944. When he was five years
    old, his family fled an imminent communist takeover and settled in Palermo.
    It was winter, Luttwak recalls, and "Paris and London were shivering. There
    was a fuel shortage. Milano was shivering. Things were pretty bleak." But
    in Palermo "the opera was in full swing." It was "the land of oranges and
    lemons," he says, where people could swim and ski almost year-round. Five
    years later, Luttwak's family moved again, this time to Milan, the
    industrial center of Italy. "Stuffy and fog-ridden," Milan made Luttwak
    miserable. "There was nowhere to play. The parks were a disgrace. I lost
    all my friends from Palermo. I found myself...amid a bunch of very
    bourgeois kids." The good life on the Mediterranean had come to an end,
    done in by grim capitalists to the north.

    For most of his adult life, Luttwak waged a militant struggle against
    communism. Inspired by a strategic military vision that connected the
    Gallic Wars to the civil wars of Central America, he worked closely with
    the U.S. Defense Department as a consultant, advising everyone from junior
    officers to the top brass. But Luttwak was more than a cold warrior. He was
    a warrior, or at least a fervent theorist of "the art of war." Whereas
    generals thought victory depended on aping management styles from IBM,
    Luttwak made the case for ancient battlefield tactics and forgotten
    maneuvers from the Roman Empire. Luttwak urged the military to look to
    Hadrian, not Henry Ford, for guidance. It was an arduous struggle, with
    officers more often acting like organization men than soldiers. Once again,
    Luttwak found his preferred way of life threatened by the culture of

    Luttwak first gained notoriety in Britain, where he settled after receiving
    his undergraduate degree in economics at the London School of Economics. In
    1968, he published Coup d'tat: A Practical Handbook. The
    twenty-six-year-old author dazzled his readers with this audacious how-to
    guide, prompting a delighted John Le Carr to write, "Mr. Luttwak has
    composed an unholy gastronomic guide to political poison. Those brave
    enough to look into his kitchen will never eat quite as peacefully again."
    In 1970, Luttwak published an equally mischievous piece in Esquire, "A
    Scenario for a Military Coup d'tat in the United States." Two years later,
    he moved to the United States to write a dissertation in political science
    and classical history at Johns Hopkins, conducting extensive research using
    original Latin, German, French, English, and Italian sources. The result
    was the widely praised The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. While in
    graduate school, Luttwak began to work as a consultant to various branches
    of the U.S. armed services, ultimately making recommendations on everything
    from how NATO should conduct tactical maneuvers to what kind of rifle
    soldiers in the El Salvadoran military should carry.

    When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, Luttwak was at the top of his
    game. A fellow at Georgetown's Center for Strategic and International
    Studies and a frequent contributor to Commentary, he argued that the United
    States should accelerate the high-tech arms race, forcing the Soviet Union
    into a contest it could not win. Reagan's closest advisers eagerly welcomed
    Luttwak to their inner circle. Just after Reagan's election, Luttwak
    attended a dinner party in Bethesda, along with Jeane Kirkpatrick, Fred
    Ikl, and other luminaries of the Republican defense establishment. Richard
    Allen, who would become Reagan's first national security adviser, worked
    the crowd, pretending to dispense positions in the administration as if
    they were party favors. As The Washington Post reported, Luttwak declined,
    explaining over chocolate T"a Maria pie, "I don't believe scribblers like
    myself should be involved in politics. It's like caviar. Very nice, but
    only in small quantities." When pressed by Allen, he joked, "I only want to
    be vice-consul in Florence." Allen responded, "Don't you mean proconsul?"

    The prep-school gladiator bonhomie evaporated before the end of Reagan's
    first term. Luttwak may have been an invaluable asset when pushing for more
    defense spending, but he made enemies with his loud, and ever more
    sarcastic, criticisms of Pentagon mismanagement. In 1984, he published The
    Pentagon and the Art of War, where, among other things, he depicted Defense
    Secretary Caspar Weinberger as more of a slick used-car salesman than a
    genuine statesman. Military politicos struck back, dropping Luttwak from a
    roster of pro bono Pentagon consultants (he continued to do contract work
    elsewhere in the defense establishment). In 1986, Weinberger explained to
    the Los Angeles Times that Luttwak "just lost consulting positions from
    total incompetence, that's all."

    But it was more than Luttwak's criticisms of Weinberger in The Pentagon and
    the Art of War that got him in trouble with the Defense Department. His
    real mistake was to go after the military's conduct during the Vietnam War.
    Luttwak downplayed the armed forces' favorite explanations for their defeat
    in Vietnam, weak-willed politicians, the treasonous press, a defeatist
    public. He argued instead that America's warrior elite had simply lost the
    taste for blood. During the Vietnam War, he wrote, "desk-bound officers"
    were always "far from combat." Their penchant for "outright luxury" had a
    devastating effect on troop morale. Although Julius Caesar "retained both
    concubines and catamites in his rearward headquarters, ate off gold plate,
    and drank his Samian wine from jeweled goblets," when he was on the front
    lines with his soldiers he "ate only what they ate, and slept as they did,
    under a tent if the troops had tents, or merely wrapped in a blanket if
    they did not." By contrast, American officers refused "to share in the
    hardships and deadly risks of war."

    Pointy-headed bureaucrats also sapped the military's strength, according to
    Luttwak. Always looking to cut costs, Pentagon officials insisted that
    weapons, machinery, and research-and-development programs be standardized.
    But this only made the military vulnerable to enemy attack. Standardized
    weapons systems were easily overcome; having overwhelmed one, an enemy
    could overwhelm them all. When it came to the military, Luttwak concluded,
    "we need more 'fraud, waste, and mismanagement.'"

    Top generals were obsessed with efficiency partially because they learned
    the methods of business management instead of the art of war. For every
    officer with a degree in military history, there were a hundred more "whose
    greatest personal accomplishment is a graduate degree in business
    administration, management or economics." "Why should fighter pilots
    receive a full-scale university education," Luttwak asked in The Washington
    Quarterly, "instead of being taught how to hunt and kill with their machines?"

    The ultimate source of the military's dysfunction was its embrace of
    American corporate culture and business values. Like Robert McNamara, whom
    President Kennedy transferred to the Pentagon from Ford Motor Company, most
    defense secretaries were in thrall to "corporate-style goals." They sought
    the least risky, most cost-effective means to a given end. They preferred
    gray suits, eschewing "personal eccentricities in dress, speech, manner,
    and style because any unusual trait may irritate a customer or a banker in
    the casual encounters common in business." Officers were merely "managers
    in uniform," Luttwak told Forbes. But, he noted, "what is good for business
    is not good for deadly conflict." Although "safely conservative dress and
    inoffensively conventional style" might work in an office, they could be
    deadly on the battlefield; they squelched bold initiatives and
    idiosyncratic genius. Intimating that capitalism had colonized, indeed
    destroyed, spheres of society that were not strictly economic, Luttwak came
    perilously close to identifying himself with leading voices from the
    Marxist tradition, Jrgen Habermas, Georg Lukcs, even Marx himself.

    While the Soviet Union still existed, Luttwak was able to channel his
    contempt for managerial and corporate values into proposals for military
    reform. The struggle against Bolshevism fully captured his imagination,
    speaking to principles of individualism, independence, and personal dignity
    that he had learned as a child of Jewish atheists. Luttwak's parents taught
    him, he says, that "you wanted your shoulders out walking down the street.
    The master of your fate. Not to walk hunched, afraid that God will punish
    you if you eat a ham sandwich." He continues: "There was a certain contempt
    about piety. Piety was not seen as compatible with dignity." Dignity, he
    goes on, "is what we were defending in the Cold War. It was ideological. It
    was very fitting for me to be in the United States, to become an American,
    because the Americans were and are the ideological people. They were
    perfectly cast to be enlisted in an ideological struggle."

    But now that the battle against communism has been won, Luttwak has lost
    interest in most military matters; he no longer sees any compelling
    ideological reason to care about strategy and tactics. "Security problems
    and such have become peripheral, for all countries and for people, for
    myself as well. I don't engage my existence in something that is
    peripheral.... There was a compelling imperative to be involved. There
    isn't now."

    Luttwak does occasionally muster energy for a specific project. During one
    of our interviews, he speaks by phone with a State Department official
    about doing consulting work for the war against the Colombian guerrillas.
    But when I ask him if the Colombian government is worth defending, he is
    uncharacteristically hesitant, finally confessing, "I don't know if
    anything is worth defending, but I think the guerrillas are worth
    fighting." I ask him why, and he responds that the guerrillas are aligned
    with drug traffickers who "do everything from taking people's places in
    restaurants in Medelln on a Saturday night, people are waiting to take
    seats and these guys come in and they grab their tables, everything from
    that to murder."

    Military struggle may no longer hold any ideological allure for Luttwak,
    but his disaffection affords him the time and intellectual space to
    confront the enemy he has been shadowboxing his entire life: capitalism
    itself. "The market," he says, "invades every sphere of life," producing a
    "hellish society." In the same way that market values once threatened
    national security, they now threaten the economic and spiritual well-being
    of society. "An optimal production system is a completely inhuman
    production system," he explains, "because...you are constantly changing the
    number of people you employ, you're moving them around, you're doing
    different things, and that is not compatible with somebody being able to
    organize an existence for himself."

    Although Luttwak writes in his 1999 book Turbo-Capitalism, "I deeply
    believe...in the virtues of capitalism," his opposition to the spread of
    market values is so acute that it puts him on the far end of today's
    political spectrum, a position that Luttwak congenitally enjoys. "Edward is
    a very perverse guy, intellectually and in many other ways," says former
    Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, one of Luttwak's early champions during
    the 1970s. "He's a contrarian. He enjoys confounding expectations. But I
    frankly don't even know how serious he is in this latest incarnation."
    Luttwak insists that he is quite serious. He calls for socialized medicine.
    He advocates a strong welfare state, claiming, "If I had my druthers, I
    would prohibit any form of domestic charity." Charity is a "cop-out," he
    says: It takes dignity away from the poor.

    The only thing that arouses Luttwak's ire more than untrammeled capitalism
    is its elite enthusiasts, the intellectuals, politicians, policy makers,
    and businessmen who claim that "just because the market is always more
    efficient, the market should always rule." Alan Greenspan earns Luttwak's
    special contempt: "Alan Greenspan is a Spencerian. That makes him an
    economic fascist." Spencerians like Greenspan believe that "the harshest
    economic pressures" will "stimulate some people to...economically heroic
    deeds. They will become great entrepreneurs or whatever else, and as for
    the ones who fail, let them fail." Luttwak's other b'te noire is "Chainsaw
    Al" Dunlap, the peripatetic CEO who reaps unimaginable returns for
    corporate shareholders by firing substantial numbers of employees from
    companies. "Chainsaw does it," says Luttwak, referring to Dunlap's
    downsizing measures, "because he's simpleminded, harsh, and cruel." It's
    just "economic sadism." Against Greenspan and Dunlap, Luttwak affirms, "I
    believe that one ought to have only as much market efficiency as one needs,
    because everything that we value in human life is within the realm of
    inefficiency, love, family, attachment, community, culture, old habits,
    comfortable old shoes."

    THE DEFECTIONS of Luttwak and Gray suggest just how unkind the end of the
    Cold War has been to the conservative movement. It is increasingly clear
    that the fragile coalition of libertarians, traditionalists, and
    free-market enthusiasts once held together by the glue of anticommunism
    will no longer stick. The end of the Soviet Union "deprived us of an
    enemy," says Irving Kristol, the intellectual godfather of neoconservatism.
    "In politics, being deprived of an enemy is a very serious matter. You tend
    to get relaxed and dispirited. Turn inward." Notorious for his
    self-confidence, Kristol now confesses to a sad bewilderment in the
    post-communist world. "That's one of the reasons I really am not writing
    much these days," he says. "I don't know the answers."

    One might think the triumph of the free market would thrill right-wing
    intellectuals. But even the most revered conservative patriarchs worry that
    the market alone cannot sustain the flagging energies of the movement.
    After all, Reagan and Thatcher summoned conservatives to a political
    crusade, but the free-market ideology they unleashed is suspicious of all
    political faiths. The market's logic glorifies private initiative,
    individual action, the brilliance of the unplanned and random. Against that
    backdrop, it is difficult to think about politics at all, much less
    political transformation. William F. Buckley Jr. says, "The trouble with
    the emphasis in conservatism on the market is that it becomes rather
    boring. You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your
    life to it is horrifying if only because it's so repetitious. It's like
    sex." Kristol adds, "American conservatism lacks for political imagination.
    It's so influenced by business culture and by business modes of thinking
    that it lacks any political imagination, which has always been, I have to
    say, a property of the left." He goes on, "If you read Marx, you'd learn
    what a political imagination could do."

    But if conservatives are struggling to find a vision, can the
    ex-conservatives do much better? Unlike Kristol, who fled the left and
    launched the neoconservative movement, Luttwak and Gray have not formulated
    coherent alternatives, philosophical or political, to their former creeds.
    As Luttwak puts it: "Instead of proposing a whole counter-ideology, what I
    simply propose is society consciously saying that certain things should be
    protected from the market and kept out of the market." This, despite the
    fact that Luttwak remains temperamentally enamored, in his way, of the
    revolutionary impulse. "I prefer 'The Marseillaise' to the Mass," he says,
    "Mayakovski to the cross of St. George." He adds, "Revolutions are
    wonderful. People enjoying themselves. I was in Paris in 1968.... There was
    a wonderful feeling of possibility." But though Luttwak may long for a
    transformative politics, it remains beyond his reach, an object of
    nostalgia not just for him but for most intellectuals.

    Except, it turns out, for William F. Buckley Jr., the original bad boy of
    the American right. At the end of our interview, I ask Buckley to imagine a
    younger version of himself, an aspiring political enfant terrible
    graduating from college in 2000, bringing to today's political world the
    same insurgent spirit that Buckley brought to his. What kind of politics
    would this youthful Buckley embrace? "I'd be a socialist," he replies. "A
    Mike Harrington socialist." He pauses. "I'd even say a communist."

    Can he really imagine a young communist Bill Buckley? He concedes that it's
    difficult. The original Bill Buckley had the benefit of the Soviet Union as
    an enemy; without its equivalent, his doppelgnger would confront a more
    complicated task. "This new Buckley would have to point to other things,"
    he says. Buckley runs down a laundry list of left causes, global poverty,
    death from AIDS. But even he seems suddenly overwhelmed by the project of
    (in typical Buckleyese) "conjoining all of that into an arresting
    afflatus." Daunted by the challenge of thinking outside the free market,
    Buckley pauses, then finally says, "I'll leave that to you."

    Corey Robin is an assistant professor of political science at Brooklyn 
    College, City University of New York. His articles have appeared in The 
    American Prospect, Newsday, Social Research, and American Political Science 
    Review. He is currently writing a book titled Fear: Biography of an Idea.

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