On June 9, The Institute of World Politics welcomed author Dr. Daniel D. Leger for a discussion of his book Reality Check: Neoconservatism, Realism and the Battle for How the World Really Is. He discussed the basis of neoconservatism in contrast to the moral relativism of modern political theory.
He began his talk with a description of neoconservative ideology. Neoconservatives, he noted, are not ashamed to associate moral correctness with the United States’ foreign policy goals. They often eschew intellectual abstractions, look for common sense in political investment, are distanced philosophically from moral relativism, and are opportunistic in their frontal assaults on policy. They differ from modern realists in that they do not focus as much on the material motivations of states and do not have as much appreciation for the moral issues involved with intervention in foreign policy.
A focus of Dr. Leger’s talk was the neoconservative stance in the arms control debate, beginning with the hard line approach they took towards the Soviet Union. Neoconservatives worked to discredit the theory of mutual assured destruction and the larger theory of détente as a whole. They worked from a strategic framework differing from that of Kissinger and Nixon, attacking the fallacy of mirror imaging. An arms control solution required recognition of the ultimate political goal of avoiding nuclear disaster. As such examples reiterated, neoconservatism finds moral relativism to be perverse. Common sense should dictate, and yet in the 20th Century common sense requires an explanation.
Dr. Leger moved on to discuss neoconservatism within the context of the ideas of Leo Strauss, Hans Morgenthau, and then more generally neopositivism. He noted that, if the goal is a hope for peace, the challenge is to allow the most useful theory to gain popular credence so that it becomes operative. This has historically been done through propaganda. Neoconservative and neopositivist ideas, which are often mired in academic jargon, should be conveyed using common sense and logic so that they appeal to the larger public.
Following his talk, Dr. Leger fielded a number of questions concerning the evolution of neoconservatism over time, as well as Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush’s roles in the theories behind the invasion of Iraq.
Dr. Leger holds a B.A. in Political Science, a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy and International Relations from the University of Notre Dame, and is presently the Head of Strategic Planning and Client Services for Akre Capital Management. Prior to that, he held business development and senior asset raising roles with a variety of companies, including BRI Partners, Ore Hill Partners, Steel partners, and Geosphere Capital Management.
Dr. Leger’s book Reality Check: Neoconservatism, Realism and the Battle for How the World Really Is is available at http://amzn.to/1FYza11.