Leo Strauss, Machiavelli and False Piety
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Thu Sep 07, 2006 at 05:43:24 PM EST

In 1512 Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that "a prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all things which are considered good in men, being often obliged, in order to maintain the state, to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion." He instructed rulers to act AS IF they were pious, because piety is valued by the populace, but warned against actually allowing these Morals to interfere with government's behind-the-scenes decision making and actions, stating categorically that is was NECESSARY to deceive the populace in order to govern effectively.

Leo Strauss, exile from the Nazi's, professor at the University of Chicago to many we know today as the Neo-cons, helped bring these teachings directly into modern American politics, but with a moral twist that both condemned and respected Machiavellian tactics simultaneously.

The importance of Leo Strauss's influence on both current far-Right Republican politics as well as far-Right Conservative Christian tactics to infiltrate the Republican Party cannot be overstated. As a grinning Ralph Reed has stated many times publicly, it's not important what people think about you, only that you operate quietly in the background and achieve your goals by any means necessary. What American Christian voters should be asking themselves is, "Are our values truly being heard, or are today's Republican Right simply pretending they are hearing us in order get our votes, remain in power, and instead continue their pro-corporate and pro-militaristic agenda?"

Leo Strauss's influence on current American political thought cannot be overstated. While teaching Machiavellian political science concepts in Chicago his students included Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol, Harry Jaffa and many other late 20th Century Neocons and Project for New American Century signers. His views influenced Grover Norquist, Jack Abramov and Ralph Reed in founding the Young Republican clubs in major univerities across the United States. So much of what is going on today in American politics has been described as either Machiavellian or Straussian, which is essentially the same thing.

Here are some quotes and resources on Strauss, which are numerous online:

"Strauss was neither a liberal nor a democrat," (Shadia Drury, author of 1999's Leo Strauss and the American Right) said in a telephone interview from her office at the University of Calgary in Canada. "Perpetual deception of the citizens by those in power is critical (in Strauss's view) because they need to be led, and they need strong rulers to tell them what's good for them... Secular society in their view is the worst possible thing," because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, precisely those traits that might encourage dissent, which in turn could dangerously weaken society's ability to cope with external threats. "You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty," according to Drury. (from The Strong Must Rule the Weak: A Philosopherfor an Empire Jim Lobe, May 12, 2003)

"Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was a student of philosophy in Germany and watched the Weimar Republic dissolve into chaos and then into tyranny. As a Jew, he was forced to flee Germany and he eventually ended up at the University of Chicago, where he developed a cult following from some the brightest students. For Strauss, the demise of the Weimar Republic represented a repudiation of liberal democracy. Liberalism, to Strauss, equals relativism, which necessarily leads to nihilism. Strauss longed to return to a previous, pre-liberal, pre-bourgeois era of blood and guts, of imperial domination, of authoritarian rule, of pure fascism.

These views resonated with Straussian disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol and Harry Jaffa. They took these ideas out of the classroom and translated them into actual political doctrine: the neoconservative manifesto of the Project for a New American Century. Straussian principles would be implemented on a global scale, and 9/11 provided the perfect pretext. Paul Wolfowitz, who attended Strauss's lectures on Plato, became the architect of the Iraq War, using hyped intelligence concerning WMD's as the "noble lie"." (from The Weimar Diaspora and American Political Thought at Blog Carnival)


Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the Neo-cons, and Iraq

Saving America: Leo Strauss and the Neoconservatives

Twenty Two Characteristics Of Straussism by Jan Allen

Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception

The Cult of Leo Strauss: Leo Strauss

Ignoble liars: Leo Strauss, George Bush, and the philosophy of mass deception

Straussians: Mass Murder at the Mall as Gospel

The Strong Must Rule The Weak

Neocons Dance A Straussian Waltz

Text and links from the page on Leo Strauss at my American Fundamentalists website.

Los Angeles-based artist Joel Pelletier is the creator of "American Fundamentalists (Christ's Entry into Washington in 2008)", an 8x14 foot painting depicting American religious, political and economic fundamentalists. He has been touring the US with the painting talking about "American Fundamentalism and the Threat to Democracy and Freedom of Faith" (more at americanfundamentalists.com)

In their new book about Karl Rove called THE ARCHITECT, James Moore and Wayne Slater repeat a conversation Rove had with a friend about being an Agnostic. Rove, the man who got Bush elected and is working hard to hold on to the Republican majority in both Houses, is a true Machiavellian, and has been responsible for the ties between the Bush Administration and conservative Christians, including Catholics (including setting up the "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives" as a form of political patronage and payback for votes). He appeals to their "Moral Values" for their votes, insisting the this Administration agrees with their "values," where in actuality he and most of the NeoCons are Agnostics and/or Atheists, for whom "values" means free markets and military world domination. For them, the ends justify the means, and morality is for suckers. Exposing these lies and misrepresentations should be an important task for progressives and moderates trying to change the tone in Washinton and America, both in politics and religion.

We are told that Americans are not happy when they feel they have been lied to, and Christian "Values voters" are being lied to on a daily basis by these political operatives as well as their Conservative Religious leaders. Let's help get the word out and find out if it's true!

by joelp on Thu Sep 07, 2006 at 06:01:32 PM EST

BTW, Rove attends a DC Methodist church for show - the same church as Valerie Plame and Ambassador Wilson. Rove has been quoted as saying he did not know her before the whole "Plamegate" incident, but they had met socially (if briefly) through their church before her name was leaked to the press (by Rove and others).

by joelp on Thu Sep 07, 2006 at 07:09:47 PM EST

I have my comments on my blog.  "Those who know me, know that I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings. One of the major themes that runs through the whole series is that the ends never justifies the means.... "

by perpetualstudent on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:39:52 PM EST

A bit of a tangent, but:

I know that Machiavelli advocated deception in the service of the state, and ruthlessness in a ruler.  Sometimes I wonder, however, if Machiavelli would have even liked the Neo-Cons, had he met them.  Take this Machiavelli quote:

<i>Republics have a longer life and enjoy better fortune than principalities, because they can profit from their greater internal diversity.  They are the better able to meet emergencies.</i>

This seems to suggest that he really didn't want a totalitarian state, run by a small cabal, like the Neo-Cons do. Maybe he was more of a ruthless guy that still wanted a republic, not an empire?

by cynical humanist on Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 03:19:02 AM EST

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