464 PAGES OF OLD MEN PLEASURING THEMSELVES. That would have been a more appropriate title for Peter Beinart’s entirely too-kind review of the new cri de wars by Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen. While Beinart capably dismantles the two mens' war-porn, the review is shot through with his desire to maintain his reputation as a serious, reasonable liberal by treating conservative ideas as if they were serious and reasonable, and Podhoretz's and Ledeen's ideas are neither.
As Beinart points out, Podhoretz can't even be bothered to differentiate between the various groups in the Middle East, preferring instead to skip the boring research and move right to the part where he gets to sling accusations of treason (like everything else in the book, completely unsubstantiated, when not simply false) at his various political enemies. Beinart recognizes Podhoretz's "incessant use of violent imagery to describe American politics" but is unwilling to recognize that vicarious violence as a means of self-actualization is one of, if not the defining characteristic of neoconservative foreign policy.
Michael Ledeen serves as Exhibit Z in this respect. What more really needs to be said about a man whose national security "doctrine," as conveyed by self-described Ledeen acolyte Jonah Goldberg, is: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business"?
In what world is this kind of stuff even remotely acceptable? In the world of American conservatism, that's where. Nutty as they are, it's important to note that Podhoretz and Ledeen are not marginal conservative figures, but are considered learned sages. They occupy positions of real influence in think tanks and magazines. They advise presidents and presidential candidates, which tells us a lot about how we got here, bogged down in Iraq, al-Qaeda resurgent, America’s reputation in tatters. Their ideas have, in fact, been utterly destructive of American interests and American national security, and liberals need to stop being shy about pointing that out.