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Man who gave us Iraq war cares more about Beethoven than foreign policy

US Politics
on 5 Comments

When the Iraq war started I did a profile of Bruce S. Kovner, then-chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, for New York Magazine. Kovner was the godfather of neoconservatism, having provided sinecures at AEI to the stargazers who made their visions real, authoring “A Clean Break” for Netanyahu, the “Axis of Evil” for Bush, and “Shock and Awe” for the people of Iraq. I tried to butter up Kovner, who is a tree-lover, by sending him photos of my chestnut tree in bloom (an increasingly rare sight in America) but he shrewdly decided not to give me an interview. Now he has given a long interview to Arthur Brooks of AEI (published in the Philanthropy Roundtable), an inside job in which he comes across as a committed conservative on economic issues and vague on foreign policy. He mentions it twice. He cares a lot more about the arts. So does his wife.

Kovner loves music. This part is very moving and eloquent:

Before my teenage years, I had no involvement in the arts. But at the age of 15, I had a near-religious experience when I heard a piece of classical music for the first time. It was “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets.” My mother was driving me to school, and this piece of music came on the radio, and I remember stopping and saying, “What is that?” in wonder at the images it conjured up.

On that very day I began an exploration of classical music that never stopped. It has been the most consistent form of spiritual stimulation in my life for the past 55 years. Music increases empathy. It helps us think about devotion, brotherhood, tragedy, and loss. With Bach, you have a window into the transcendental. When looking for grace and beauty, it’s Mozart. For introspection, it’s Beethoven. When I want to feel the expansiveness of the world and the creation, it’s Bruckner. Shostakovich is about tragedy, and humor. Music is a universal language. It opens these experiences and ideals to everyone.

That’s the man who fostered the Iraq war! He has a soul, after all. It explains why Kovner has given so much to Juilliard and to young artists in NY.

Kovner and Arthur Brooks both sidestep the Iraq war mess that AEI helped create. There’s not much about foreign policy beyond this official statement–

I realized that AEI stood for two of the core principles in my life. First, defending the vision of America as a place committed to free enterprise and personal liberty. Second, the necessity of a serious and assertive military and foreign policy that would defend America in a dangerous world.

Yes, what was defensive about going halfway around the world to destroy an Arab society? Even Netanyahu admits now that Saddam Hussein was just a neighborhood bully.

And here is Kovner’s sharp, conservative insight about government:

In my view, complex coalitions lead to the most stable government, so I want a variety of opinions, ethnicities, and classes in each party.

This is precisely what is wrong with Israel, and why it is so unstable. It has an un-complex coalition with one ethnicity. Fully half the people who are governed by Israel are not represented in the government, in fact are discriminated against by the government. This is why so many of support democracy as a way out of tremendous bloodshed. If Palestinians were represented, everything would change: secular Palestinians would form a coalition with secular Israelis. Kovner knows this but he is doing nothing to effect it. He hasn’t told Netanyahu this, I bet, though they shared a table at the American Enterprise Institute the other night when AEI gave Netanyahu a big award. Kovner seems a bit offish, from the photo.

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5 Responses

  1. Boomer
    November 12, 2015, 1:57 pm

    “Music increases empathy. It helps us think about devotion, brotherhood, tragedy, and loss.”

    Such beautiful words, such ugly reality.

    ” . . . meet it is I set it down,
    That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

    I generally avoid Hitler analogies, for the obvious good reasons, but let us recall that he loved Wagner. Music may indeed be a moving experience, but what it moves one to depends on other factors.

    • JWalters
      November 12, 2015, 7:08 pm

      “[Classical music] has been the most consistent form of spiritual stimulation in my life for the past 55 years.”

      There’s no spirituality in Israel’s policies, that’s for sure.

    • John O
      John O
      November 12, 2015, 7:30 pm

      Hitler was quite keen on Bruckner too, which goes a long way to explaining why this great composer is only just beginning to be recognised as a true giant

  2. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    November 12, 2015, 3:42 pm

    The arts can be an effective bridge between people who otherwise see themselves as having little or nothing in common. Phil has something in common with – something he can admire about – the godfather of neoconservativsm. This is a good thing.

    The 4th sentence in the last paragraph has a typo, a random “of” I believe. Assuming it should read: “This is why so many support democracy as a way out of tremendous bloodshed.”

    I would substitute “western-style democratic republic” for democracy, since “pure” democracy can too rapidly devolve into unruly mob behavior. The checks and balances on democracy built into an enduring Republic are every bit as important as, and essential to, a country that can embrace and thrive on multi-culturalism. Israel lacks a written constitution, separation of religion and state, equal rights for all citizens, agreed-upon defined borders, commitment to international law. It needs to embrace all of these fundamentals in order to save itself, to be worthy of international support.

  3. echinococcus
    November 12, 2015, 11:11 pm

    “If Palestinians were represented, everything would change: secular Palestinians would form a coalition with secular Israelis.”

    Naive at best. “Secular” doesn’t mean anything in politics, while justice does. Justice is not a rhetoric device; it is an essential preliminary requirement for any lasting peace. “Everything” would only change in the window dressing done for Zionism.
    Under idyllic conditions of freedom and “equality”, it’s much easier to see secular Palestinians forming a coalition with non-secular ones to restore their rights and Palestine, and welcoming to it those almost-non-existent Herrenvolk inhabitants who agree.
    Anyway, good luck with all those utopias of peaceful coexistence with a formidably armed invader public whose zeal is documented to surpass any crowd madness ever seen in history. Those lemmings are firmly committed to drowning; no one from the Herrenvolk can except himself anymore, except by emigrating and joining antizionist resistance.

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