© AP Photo/The Weekly Standard
Father of US 'neoconservatism' Irving Kristol dies
(AFP) – 10 hours ago
WASHINGTON — Irving Kristol, the former Trotskyite who turned sharply anti-Communist and shaped modern US politics and foreign policy as the "godfather" of neoconservatism, died Friday at the age of 89.
The magazine edited by his son, William Kristol, announced his death on its Internet site.
"His wisdom, wit, good humor, and generosity of spirit made him a friend and mentor to several generations of thinkers and public servants," the editors of the Weekly Standard said in an unsigned message on the magazine's Web site.
Then-president George W. Bush awarded Kristol the presidential medal of freedom, the top US civilian honor, in July 2002.
The late writer did not comment much in public on the war in Iraq, while prominent neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush Administration played a major role in pushing for the March 2003 invasion.
Kristol, whose son William runs the Weekly Standard, often described his leftist youth, then a sharp rightward shift that led him to help found, but not name, the neoconservative movement.
In an August 2003 article, Irving Kristol said he preferred to describe neoconservatism as a "persuasion" and underlined that it had its roots among "disillusioned liberal intellectuals in the 1970s."
Kristol also once memorably said that neoconservatives -- a group identified and named by socialist writer Michael Harrington in the early 1970s -- were "liberals mugged by reality."
Kristol was born in New York's Brooklyn neighborhood, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. During World War II, he served as a combat infantryman.
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As the godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol blazed a trail. The progressive movement could use a figure like him
In the 1930s, he was a Trotskyite. Many a history exists describing the circle of formidable Jewish intellectuals who studied at City College of New York in Harlem – Kristol, Sidney Hook, Alfred Kazin, Irving Howe and many others. In those days, tables at the cafeteria were divided between Stalinists and Trots. Debates were ferocious, but it was assumed that one was on the left.
Things stayed that way for a long while. Even when Kristol was co-editing Encounter out of London with Stephen Spender in the 1950s, and even with that journal's infusions from the CIA, it was a magazine of the anti-communist liberal-left.(...)
Political writer Irving Kristol dead at 89
(...)Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a longtime admirer and former President George W. Bush, whose administration was heavily populated by neoconservatives, awarded Kristol a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, praising him as "a wide-ranging thinker whose writings have helped transform America's political landscape."
On Friday night, Bush called Kristol "an intellectual pioneer who advanced the conservative movement."
Kristol himself would regard neo-conservatism as a job well done, a "generational phenomenon" that was "pretty much absorbed into a larger, more comprehensive conservatism." But the Iraq War and the poor economy badly damaged the right's unity and credibility over the past few years.
With the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Kristol's son declared that the liberals were back in charge.
"All good things must come to an end. Jan. 20, 2009, marked the end of a conservative era," William Kristol wrote in The New York Times.
Unlike such earlier advocates of the right as Sen. Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, whose National Review journal Irving Kristol found "insufficiently analytical and 'intellectual,'" most neoconservatives were not lifelong Republicans. They were former Democrats, often academics, who broke with their party over Vietnam, race relations and what they regarded as the breakdown of civic order.
Kristol left his liberal views behind as he became increasingly disillusioned by the perceived failures of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, by the rise of crime, drug abuse and other problems that government programs were supposed to solve.
They shared the anti-communism of Buckley and others, but worried less about government spending than about moral and cultural issues, believing that people needed to change along with the system. Kristol, the old student rebel, was appalled by the long-haired youths of the late '60s.
"Suddenly we discovered that we had been cultural conservatives all along," he wrote. "This shock of recognition was to have profound consequences. We were bourgeois types, all of us, but by habit and instinct rather than reflection. Now, we had to decide what we were for, and why."
Ironically, "neoconservative" was not coined by a neoconservative, but is credited to socialist author-activist Michael Harrington, who used the term in a 1973 essay about Kristol and other former liberals.
Active in publishing for more than half a century, Kristol wrote essays and reviews for The New Leader and Commentary; released several books, including Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of An Idea, and co-founded a seminal neoconservative journal, The Public Interest.
He was a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, writing a series of essays in the 1970s that called on businesses to invest in conservative scholarship and counter the "permanent brain trust" of liberal politics.
With funding from Joseph Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife and others, the right created such think tanks as the Heritage Foundation. Kristol himself was a fellow at a key think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and at least two major conservative books, Jules Wanniski's supply-side manifesto The Way the World Works, and Charles Murray's anti-welfare Losing Ground, were published with Kristol's help.
Kristol also taught at New York University, worked for several years as a senior editor at the Basic Books publishing house and in the 1950s headed the anti-communist magazine Encounter, which turned out to have been funded - without Kristol's knowledge, he said - by the CIA.
Born in New York City in 1920, Kristol was at first similar to so many other children of Jewish immigrants - passionate about books and allied with the working class, a teenager during the Great Depression who "saw around me unemployed men eager to work but finding no jobs."
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