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Lord, Save Us From The Anglo-Neocons

My colleague at Commentary Daniel Johnson has called the English columnist Geoffrey Wheatcroft the "British equivalent of Pat Buchanan" for this hose of abuse turned on the pronounced neoconservatism of the Tory party. Wheatcroft's style has always been one of … Read More

By / March 26, 2007

My colleague at Commentary Daniel Johnson has called the English columnist Geoffrey Wheatcroft the "British equivalent of Pat Buchanan" for this hose of abuse turned on the pronounced neoconservatism of the Tory party. Wheatcroft's style has always been one of provocation and an unabashed blood-and-soil Burkean conservatism, which parses slightly better on the other side of the Atlantic than it does over here. However, this latest Guardian essay does paint a baleful portrait of dual or triple national loyalties among the new wingers of Albion that recalls the worst Judeophobic bilge of the postwar English tradition — a tradition which, it's worth remembering, did not stop Anthony Eden from joining with France and Israeli in a disastrous colonial rescue operation in the Suez Canal in 1956.

Wheatcroft is an odd bird in several respects. He's written a highly engaging book called The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State, and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma, which argued that the conventional wisdom of Jewish subjugation of Palestine was far worse at Israel's founding — when there was wide international support for a Jewish homeland — than it is today. A distinctly un-Buchananite train of thought, which is perfectly cohabitable with a reactionary's desire not to see his bygone party of isolationism turn into the ward of Yank overseas adventuring. Wheatcroft hates Tony Blair and New Labour with a passionate intensity that overshadows his current intramural scuffles, whereas Buchanan's raison d'etre is to save American conservatism from the dread minions of Leo Strauss and Leon Trotsky that have hijacked it.

Here Wheatcroft sounds like Evelyn Waugh declaiming the inability of modern British conservatives to turn back the clock so much as a minute:

There was once a vigorous high Tory tradition of independence from – if not hostility to – America. It was found in the Morning Post before the war, and it continued down to Enoch Powell and Alan Clark. But now members of the shadow cabinet, such as George Osborne (whom even Cameron is said to tease as a neocon), vie in fealty to Washington – and this when US policy is driven by neocon thinktanks and evangelical fundamentalists, with whom Toryism should have nothing in common.

There was once… Lest we forget, lest we forget. Daniel Johnson expends a lot of energy in his contentions post trying to show that Alan Clark was a vicious anti-Semite and Hitler sympathizer. (Not being familiar with Clark's book Barbarossa, which Johnson uses as the basis for these accusations, I'll leave it to others to judge of their merits.) However, Powell is the more intriguing figure of the Tory old guard because he is plainly the one with whom Wheatcroft most identifies.

"Who's this English cunt?" was Kingsley Amis's first reaction upon seeing Powell's clipped and donnish mien turn up at Casa Lucky Jim one day. (Amis was friends with Powell's estranged and more literary brother Anthony, who pronounced the family surname differently — sounds like "pole" — and better captured the elegant and elegiac strands of Little Englander syndrome in his gorgeous Proustian novel sequence, Dance to the Music of Time.) That Kingsley was already well into his Falstaffian curmudgeon phase when this encounter took place, and that Powell still managed to come off too fusty by half, goes a long way towards explaining just how retrograde is Wheaty's moist-hanky treatment of the Righties of Old. (Would anyone more conservative than Margaret Thatcher have a penguin's chance in Sicily of getting elected? David Cameron may be an insufferable, eco-friendly wet, but he's no fool as PM-in-waiting.)

Powell was anti-immigrant and anti-"Them" with a bullet. He wasn't quite racist, however. His notorious “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968, which presaged a civil war in Britain between Anglo-Saxons and a growing (dark-skinned) immigrant class, has been taken up by much of the Anglo-American right in recent day to account for the very real threat of entrenched Islamism in London. Prophetic in Powell's speech was the following strophe:

The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is summed up in the word "integration." To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members. Now, at all times, where there are marked physical differences, especially of colour, integration is difficult though, over a period, not impossible. There are among the Commonwealth immigrants who have come to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction. But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

This is Mark Steyn's America Alone thesis in a paragraph.

Frankly, I much prefer to see the Wheatcroft/Derbyshire trend of opposing an automatic Atlantic alignment with the only liberal democracy in the Middle East than I do to seeing the American Conservative* deal with the issue. Buchanan's rag really does write "neocon" when it means to write "Jew" (how else to account for an entire article, by one Daniel McCarthy, that noted the remarkable fact that some neocons were — gasp — Catholics!)

Still, Wheatcroft's vices of hyperbole do him little credit:

Iraq might have made Tories hesitate before continuing to cheer the US, but Stephen Crabb does just that. The MP was in Washington at the time of Cameron's speech, where, he said, there was "disappointment expressed". Many would have taken that as a compliment, but not Crabb, who says in best Vichy spirit: "We do need to be careful about how the Americans see us."

See how the far right and the far left have merged when both openly compare the United States with Nazi Germany. The irony is that this merger suggests we're in a bit of Weimar moment right now, all the more reason to err on the side of political caution and avoid paranoid screeds about an ethnically inflected cabal's takeover of venerable institutions.

*Sorry, originally identified as The American Spectator. This was a mistake.

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