Home/Daniel Larison/Everyone Expects the Neoconservative Inquisition

Everyone Expects the Neoconservative Inquisition

Jennifer Rubin outdoes herself:

This is important to do on every subject of concern as a test of veracity and character. It is one thing to tell Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) privately that he feels bad about defaming American Jews and other senators (I’m not the senator for Israel); it is quite another to explain that accusations of dual loyalty have no place in American society and the notion that our security is not linked with Israel’s is flat-out wrong. The former requires no remorse (not even a personally drafted letter); the second is essential if he is to be placed in a top national security position.

What makes Rubin’s latest nonsense worth discussing is the heresy-hunting, inquisitorial character it takes on. The language of inquisitors crops up throughout the post. Rubin describes recent reports about Hagel’s views in terms of his supposed “serial recantation,” she insists that he must “renounce” his past views, and later implies that he must express remorse for them. Hagel is supposed to prove the sincerity of his “conversion,” and he must prove that he has “the emotional commitment to these views” that the hard-liners require. At one point, she states that this is necessary because “we expect the defendant to recognize and accept full responsibility for his misdeeds.” In this case, Hagel’s “misdeeds” amount to questioning hard-line policies and nothing more. Applying such absolutist, religious terms to policy differences is twisted, and it is proof of the fanaticism of Hagel’s critics.

It is not enough if Hagel ceases to support a policy that Rubin considers mistaken, and it is certainly not enough that Hagel correct the distortions of his record that his critics have circulated. According to this fanatical view, he is obliged to confess his wrongdoing and beg mercy of the people hounding him. Of course, this is not unique. This is standard procedure in responding to any Republican or conservative dissenter on foreign policy and national security issues. Hagel is simply the most high-profile example of the process in recent years.

It should go without saying, but when a U.S. Senator affirms that his first and most important duty is to the United States rather than to another country this does not defame or insult anyone else. The only person offended by such a statement is someone who thinks there is something wrong with an American politician stating that his responsibility is to his own country first. One would think that any politician that didn’t believe his first duty was to his country would be unfit to serve in government at any level.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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