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88 book reviews

ANTI- coherent, organised political philosophy or wondering whether neo-conservatism is as


movement, but rather of a small coalition of intellectually bankrupt as it appears. Neither
T O TA L I TA R I A N I S M : former Trotskyites united primarily by their author examines the numerous philosophic
T H E L E F T- W I N G support for the State of Israel and its policies contradictions inherent in the movement. For
towards the Arab and Islamic states. example, how do neo-cons (many of whom are
CASE FOR A Obviously, one need not be a neo-con to Jewish American) explain the uneasy alliance
N E O C O N S E RVAT I V E support Israel and there are far more forged between evangelical Christians with
sophisticated and intellectually robust millenarian views on Biblical eschatology
FOREIGN POLICY explanations of Israeli foreign and security with modern Israeli security concerns? How
policy than those presented by Murray. would a self-proclaimed ‘conservative’
Oliver Kamm Whatever one’s views of Israel, the Iraq movement reconcile itself with President
London: Social Affairs Unit, 128pp., War or Iran, this book will leave advocates Bush’s collectivist and anti-market economic
ISBN: 190 486 306X, £13.99 (hb), 2005 of neo-conservatism disappointed by its policies? How do neo-cons who often support
lack of rigorous analysis and sceptics wholly non-coercive domestic policies within the
unconvinced that neo-cons have anything USA reconcile this with using the coercive
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman original or interesting to say. apparatus of the nation-state to achieve
once said there would have been no Iraq Oliver Kamm – a self-described foreign policy objectives? Finally, why would
War had you exiled a group of 25 influential ‘left-winger’ – offers more thoughtful and any rational observer embrace neo-
people to a desert island in late 2001. well-rounded arguments in defence of conservatism if the great ‘test case’ has been
The people he was talking about are the neo-conservatism. He traces the history of the problematic invasion of Iraq?
‘neo-conservatives’ or ‘neo-cons’ who sprang support for military intervention on the left Given the numerous inconsistencies
to prominence in the Bush administration and argues that the Iraq War is part of that embedded in neo-conservatism and the
and were the main proponents of war. The activist tradition. Kamm fails, however, to philosophy’s rejection of the ‘realist’ school of
popular stereotype of neo-cons is of a small address convincingly the economic and international relations thinking, its
group of pro-Israel intellectuals and policy- political variables that convinced the Bush supporters and advocates of the Iraq War are
makers who advocate a hawkish foreign policy administration to go to war. Despite the now reduced to the basic logical syllogism that
towards Iraq, Iran and other ‘rogue states’. absence (to date) of Iraqi WMD, the inability inefficiency and inconsistency in defence of an
The neo-cons believe that America should to establish a link between the Saddam ideal do not ipso facto invalidate the same. So
project its power through military means Hussein regime and the 9/11 attacks, the despite US mismanagement of the Iraq War,
and that the USA should avoid the failure of the Bush administration to plan for the conflict was morally justified since
temptations of non-interventionism. post-war state-building and security (often Saddam Hussein was a vicious authoritarian.
The books under review do little to against the advice of many senior US military While it is surely correct that the Iraqi leader
dispel the popular image of neo-conservatism officers), and the continuing sectarian was a ruthless thug, it does not necessarily
and seek to justify the Iraq conflict from a conflict in Iraq, Kamm concludes that waging follow that one must invade Iraq. The arguments
neo-conservative perspective. Despite the war was a fine and noble idea that was worth presented by both authors are more
political set-backs for the USA in Iraq and pursuing, regardless of the costs. appropriate for a university debating society
Washington’s difficulty in building What’s missing from both books is a sense or newspaper editorials than for formulating
international support for its policies, both of the political environment in Washington the foreign policy of the world’s surviving
authors argue that neo-conservatism is a wise policy-making circles over the past 15 years superpower. As for neo-conservatism’s
political philosophy and the correct one for and how it contributed to the decision to go applicability for Britain, if anyone offers
Britain to adopt. to war. Since the mid-1990s, there have been a such a policy prescription to Mr Cameron
Douglas Murray starts well by promising small number of influential analysts in and Mr Brown, both should run a mile.
a controversial argument against the ‘political neo-con think tanks who supported Lawrence Tal
correctness’ and moral relativism he suggests overthrowing Saddam Hussein and who Foreign and defence policy analyst
has plagued the Conservative Party for years. forged close relations with the Republican lawrence.tal@cqsm.com
Unfortunately, his case rapidly degenerates Party. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, this
into a hysterical rant that reinforces small group correctly argued that the moment
stereotypes of neo-conservatism and will be was right to attack Iraq since US popular A THRONE IN
unlikely to persuade sceptics. In a series of opinion would support such an adventure.
rambling and poorly edited chapters, the But they got it wrong when they (along with B R U S S E L S : B R I TA I N ,
author traces the history of neo-conservative discredited members of the so-called Iraqi THE SAXE-COBURGS
thought by examining the ideas of Leo opposition in-exile) predicted that a US-led
Strauss, Irving Kristol, and others. Murray intervention would be roundly popular with AND THE
then discusses neo-conservatism in practice Iraqis and would quickly lead to the creation B E L G I A N I S AT I O N
by explaining neo-con attitudes towards the of a pro-Western democratic political order in
Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Middle Iraq and in the wider Arab world. OF EUROPE
East before making the case for Western Moreover, both books raise more
intervention in Iraq. questions than they answer and leave those Paul Belien
The composite picture that emerges from seeking a serious examination of the origins Exeter: Imprint Academic, 384pp.,
the history of neo-conservatism is not one of a and trajectory of neo-conservative ideas ISBN: 1 84540 033 X, £25.00 (hb), 2005

© Institute of Economic Affairs 2006. Published by Blackwell Publishing, Oxford


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EUROPE AS EMPIRE: would be more flexible in economic policy Family-friendly policies are high on the
than the present EU. The answer of the agenda of both major political parties in
T H E N AT U R E O F T H E contemporary state to the challenges of Britain. Yet, are government policies effective
ENLARGED cohesion within an enlarged EU is regulation. in supporting families and do gender-equality
The neo-medieval proposal would be policies help reduce the pay gap and lower the
EUROPEAN UNION innovation, investments, entrepreneurship, glass ceiling?
flexibility and decentralisation – the spirit In Family Policy, Family Changes, Patricia
Jan Zielonka of the Lisbon Agenda. Morgan has studied the policies of three
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 293pp., Although new member states may countries – Sweden, Italy and Britain. All
ISBN: 0 19 929221 3, £45.00 (hb), 2006 naturally prefer the first solution, the second are members of the EU and economically
one should be better for them and more comparable but their policies and cultural
acceptable to old members. Transfers of traditions differ. There are some similarities
Would you prefer to live in a neo-medieval payments are not necessarily good for new in outcomes. All have a declining birthrate.
Empire or Belgium? In the opinion of Jan members; they need more innovation, Italy, a Catholic country that does not endorse
Zielonka and Paul Belien you probably competition, deregulation, as well as contraception, has the lowest birthrate at 1.2
already live in one of them. entrepreneurship education, ethics and culture. children per woman. Sweden, whose policies
If you would most likely choose Belgium, High social and environmental standards, are designed to encourage procreation, has
you can read A Throne in Brussels to learn limits to tax competition and convergence the highest proportion of births outside
every disadvantage of it according to Paul criteria are not helpful for new countries. marriage. Britain has the highest rate of
Belien. However, if you are afraid of living in a Belien’s long, pessimistic history of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe,
neo-medieval Empire you should definitely Belgium and the private life of its kings a decline in marriage, rising cohabitation,
read Europe as Empire to see the many concludes with the interesting hypothesis a growth in lone motherhood and a rise in
similarities between a neo-medieval Empire that the EU shares the main problems of stepfamilies. It also has the highest divorce
and the EU, as well as learn of some of the the country where its headquarters are rate in the EU.
possible solutions, according to Jan Zielonka. located. There are clear similarities, such as On gender equality, Sweden and Italy
Both authors attempt to set out the constructivism, economic socialism and appear to be at opposite extremes, with
historic identity of the ‘unidentified political corporatism. He claims that the EU as well Britain in the middle. Seventy-two per cent
project’ which is the European Union in the as Belgium are artificial systems of financial of women in Sweden are actively employed
opinion of its leading politician Jacques redistribution without common identities. compared to 39% in Italy. Britain is close to
Delors. Zielonka claims the EU is in fact However, long parts of Belien’s book the EU average at 56%. These statistics,
more similar to a medieval Empire than a about the dubious private life of the Belgian however, mask what is really happening.
contemporary state. Belien argues Belgium kings or the country’s shocking policy In Sweden, tax and social policies have ‘made
has been the prototype of the EU. towards Flanders, the Congo and the German just about the most concerted attempt in
Examining the nature of the enlarged occupation may be interesting but are history to engineer the freedom of women
EU, Zielonka finds similarities with a difficult to link to the current process of from child-rearing responsibilities and the
neo-medieval empire with a polycentric European integration. demise of the traditional family through
system of multilevel governance, different In conclusion, Zielonka’s Europe as economic manipulation, social pressures and
types of political units operating in a system Empire is an interesting and important work massive public re-education’. This includes
without a clear power centre and hierarchical, for understanding the construction of the changing the role of men as well as women
several and overlapping jurisdictions, as well European Union. Similarly, A Throne in and shifting from men as breadwinners and
as separated sovereignty. Brussels includes some interesting ideas on women as homemakers to a society in which
Zielonka rejects the dominant paradigm the similarities between Belgium and the EU, all tasks are shared. Parenthood is separated
that sees the EU as dominated by a monolithic but its arguments appear to contain many from marriage and subsidised child day-care is
central state. In his opinion the EU is now simplifications and controversial assertions. universal. The tax system treats married and
dominated by institutional engineering by Pawel Lisiewicz unmarried couples alike but high progressive
social democrats and Christian democrats; it Research Fellow taxation means that it is mostly impossible
represents the victory of the communitarian Institute of Economic Affairs to live on only one wage, forcing women out
model over the liberal approach that supports plisiewicz@mc.org.pl to work.
diversity. Yet despite these measures, as well as
Zielonka argues the EU, like all empires, rigorous equal pay legislation, Sweden has a
is more preoccupied with maintaining its F A M I L Y P O L I C Y, more gender-segregated workforce than
internal cohesion than in solving external almost all other countries, except those of the
problems. But it exports European forms of FAMILY CHANGES: Islamic Middle East and Africa. The expansion
economic governance to its neighbours. In his S W E D E N , I TA LY A N D of welfare occupations has resulted in women
opinion, the distinction between members being increasingly concentrated in clerical
and non-members of the EU is being replaced B R I TA I N C O M PA R E D and welfare work, which is often low paid.
by a typical neo-medieval cleavage between Many women are employed in looking after
Europe’s centre(s) and periphery. Patricia Morgan other people’s children and Morgan questions
Particularly interesting is Zielonka’s London: Civitas, 160pp., the economic benefit of this. Men still occupy
claim that a genuine neo-medieval empire ISBN: 190 338 6438, £14.00 (pb), 2006 the larger share of professional and

© Institute of Economic Affairs 2006. Published by Blackwell Publishing, Oxford