Is neoconservativism just ethnocentric millenarianism? The neocons tend toward the apocalyptic in their language and they always wear the mask of the righteous when discussing the issues they view as central to the narrative of their faith. You never hear a neocon say that “well, good people can disagree.” Instead, they describe those with whom they disagree as the epitome of evil, usually as agents of the current stand-in for you know who. Their lust for war suggests a strong desire to immanentize the eschaton.
We tend to think of suicide cults as groups of lonely losers, preyed on by a charismatic sociopath, who convinces them of the coming end times. They either come to the movement convinced that only a cataclysm can set things right or they become convinced by the teachings of the cult that the great reckoning is at hand. It’s fairly typical, according to people who study the phenomenon, for the people in these movements to see themselves as a put upon minority, operating as a sanctuary for the righteous.
While it is true that millenarianism tends to operate on the fringes of society, it is not a requirement. The prophets of the Jewish Bible are basically outsiders interpreting events in the context of an apocalyptic timetable, but Judaism itself is defined by such a timetable. Judaism is the belief in a Messiah, who will deliver Jews from their enemies and rule over a Jewish kingdom.¹ Christianity is founded on the idea of a second coming, when Christ will return to reign as king with the just, both living and dead.²
The point here is that a belief in the end times or a foreboding sense of a coming cataclysm is not necessarily fringe or crazy. In fact, it is common in human societies, suggesting it is a common tendency in people. Therefore it is not outside the realm of possibility that neoconservativsim is, at its root, a form of millenarianism. It certainly has a strong Levantine edge to it and the adherents clearly view themselves as an oppressed minority in the Biblical sense, despite their elevated status in the culture and politics.
In fact, it is a curious feature of neoconservativism today. When anyone notices that it was explicitly Jewish at its founding and is almost exclusively Jewish today, the neocon cries out, demanding the person noticing be punished. It’s as if noticing what is a defining feature, something the founders of the cult advertised, causes the adherents physical pain. What is often interpreted as subversive obfuscation, could very well be typical cult behavior. People in cults seek to disappear, which is why they joined the cult.
Just watch the body language in this interview of Noah Rothman done by Tucker Carlson the other night. What looks like a sociopath’s gambit, the lying by omission and half truths, can also be interpreted as a fear response. Rothman is promoting World War III with Russia, calling anyone not down with nuclear winter an agent of Putin, who is the current stand in for you know who. When Carlson focuses on what Rothman has written, putting the focus on him as an individual, Rothman physically recoils, like he is being assaulted.
Whether or not neoconservatism is a cult is debatable, but what is not debatable is the lust for the final great confrontation. For obvious reasons, neocons oscillate with rapturous enthusiasm whenever war in the Levant is mentioned, but they are obsessed with the great final conflict between good an evil. Their ancestral hatred for Russia is one element, but most neocons were weened on the belief that a nuclear war with Russian was inevitable. It is entirely possible that the belief has come to define them as individuals.
They also seem to think Trump is a sign of the coming end times, when the great battle between the righteous and the wicked will reach its denouement. So much so that guys like Noah Rothman argue it is time usher in that final battle. This from a guy who would soil himself in a physical confrontation. As Tucker Carlson has recently started to mention, hatred of Donald Trump is now bringing the neocons in league with the Progressives, by turning the Left into vocal advocates for violence against opponents at home and abroad.
It is tempting to write-off the neocons as lounge chair imperialists with divided loyalties, but the central theme to their warmongering is always Russia. Their general lack of interest in confronting China, which a real threat to the US, or Mexico, which is a collapsing narco-state on our border, suggests violence is not the core issue. We launch drone attacks all over the Middle East, we could certainly drone Mexican drug cartels. If the neocon just wanted blood, that would be a much more promising target, but they ignore it.
Their singular focus is Russia. Even their opposition to Trump is based on his unwillingness to talk about Putin as you know who. If you list all of the neocon wars and wish-for wars, Russia is the common theme. The defining characteristic of the neocon is a hatred for Russia, viewing it as the Mordor in the great battle between the righteous and the wicked. Their reason to exist, the point of their lives, is to rally the faithful in the final confrontation. Whatever it was, neoconservatism now functions like a death cult.