you [Neuhaus and Colson] use to describernthis country, especially your ownrnreference to Nazi Germany; by the seditiousrnmeasures you contemplate and allrnbut advocate; and by the aid and comfortrnyou for all practical purposes offer to thernbomb throwers among us.”rnRecriminations among neoconservativesrnarc always amusing, if only for thernpolemical nastiness with which they arernconducted, and the whole dispute remindsrnus that one of the great pleasuresrnof being a paleoconservative is that yourndon’t have to receive letters from NormanrnPodhoretz. Yet the significance ofrnthe controversy reaches well beyondrnmere irony. Its meaning was to some extentrnelucidated by an article in thernNovember 11 issue of the Weekly Standardrnby one of its senior editors, DavidrnBrooks, who generally sympathizes withrnthe Podhoretz camp. Entitled “ThernRight’s Anti-American Temptation,” thernarticle noted that the Neuhaus symposiumrnexuded “a tone of crisis, a sensernthat history itself is moving in the wrongrndirection,” and that this “is a tone mainstreamrnconservatives have not used in arnlong while.”rnOf course, what Brooks means byrn”mainstream conservatives” is neoconservatives.rnAmong paleoconservatives,rnthe view that history is moving in thernwrong direction is and always has been arncommonplace, from Whittaker Chambers’rnmordant jeremiads to RichardrnWeaver’s philosophical dissection ofrnmodernity. The very titles of the booksrnof major paleoconser’ative figures—e.g.,rnHayek’s The Road to Serfdom, Burnham’srnSuicide of the West, Robert Nisbet’srnThe Twilight of Authority, amongrnothers—suggest that the older school ofrnthe right never entertained a particulariyrnPolhannish view of history. One of thernbasic assumptions of almost all schools ofrnpaleoconservative thought has alwaysrnbeen that something—in America, thernWest, or the Modern Age—has gonernwrong.rnThis is not true for the neocons,rnwhose adoption of a species of conservatismrnis predicated on the essentialrnrightncss of modern American governmentrnand society, the direction of its historicalrncourse, and the Modern Age inrngeneral. Indeed, it was the anti-Americanrnthrust of the New Left that precipitatedrnthe neocons’ break with the left,rnand as Podhoretz’s letter and Brooks’ titlern(as well as several other remarks andrncomments bv other neocons over thernyears) make clear, the neoconservativesrnare unable to distinguish the anti-Americanismrnof the left from the conservativernand fundamentally patriotic critique ofrnAmerican history and culture mountedrnby paleoconservatives. At peace with therndirection of history, the neoconservativesrnemerge not as serious critics of the currentrnregime, but rather as its inveteraterndefenders and apologists. Thus theirrncontributions to political debate havernbeen largely limited to policy prescriptionsrnthat merely build on or seek tornameliorate the current structures of thernAmerican state and society, and anyone,rnon the left or on the right, who suggests arnmore radical deviation from those structuresrnis denounced as an “extremist,” arn”bomb-thrower,” and an “anti-American.”rnNeoconservatism is thus fundamentallyrna defense of the status quo, arnpolitical formula with which the dominantrnleft can be content because it doesrnnot seriously challenge the premises andrnpower structure that the left has constructedrnand uses for its own hegemony.rnWhen the neocons at First Things arrivernat the conclusion that something reallyrnis wrong in America, and when theyrnstart muttering about the possible “illegitimacy”rnof the “regime,” then, whatrnthey are driving toward is something veryrnclose to paleoconservatism. What therndispute reveals is the emergence of a paleoconservativerntendency among thernneoconservatives at Neuhaus’s magazine,rnand what the hysterical reaction ofrnthe senior neocons to the symposiumrnrepresents is a determination to squelchrnthis tendency before it begins to blossomrninto a full-blown paleoconservative defectionrnthat would leave the neocon sagamoresrnperched on the roofs of their ownrnwigwam while the waters of right-wingrndissidencc swirl ever higher and everrncloser to their noses. When Podhoretzrnwrites to Neuhaus that “I did notrnbecome a conservative in order to be arnradical,” that he has no intention of discussingrnthe legitimacy of the regime—rn”not again, not twice in a single lifetime,rnnot after going around and around thatrntrack 25 and 30 years ago”—he is notrntalking merely about his break with thernleft but also about his and his fellow neocons’rndecade-long effort to housebreakrnthe American right into a tame runningrndog of history.rnYet, to be sure, Podhoretz and hisrnfriends have a point. A good deal of therndiscussion of “legitimacy” in the FirstrnThings symposium is careless, if not outrightrnignorant, of elementary politicalrntheory. In the first place, the whole symposiumrnis couched in terms of the HenryrnDavid Thoreau-William Lloyd Garrison-rnMartin Luther King concept ofrnlegitimacy, whereby any deviation of arnpolitical order from a privately perceivedrnand vaguely defined “higher law” orrn”dictate of conscience” justifies disobedience,rnif not outright resistance.rnThroughout its pages the symposiumrnsports sidebars of quotations from Kingrnand Garrison, and several of the contributorsrnassume the validity of a dubiousrnequivalence between abortion and slaveryrnor segregation. Most of them seemrnto be unaware that in classical politicalrnphilosophy, such subjective standards forrnresistance are impermissible. Classical asrnwell as traditional Christian political theoryrnholds that disobedience is incumbentrnon the subject only when thernregime commands him to violate generallyrnknown and accepted divine, natural,rnor human law, and instances of such passiverndisobedience are known in bothrnhistory and literature—Socrates, commandedrnby the Thirty Tyrants to commitrnmurder, simply ignored their orderrnand went home; Antigone, in Sophocles’rntragedy, insisted on obeying the divinernlaw of burying her brother, despite Creon’srnexplicit command not to do so; SirrnThomas More, commanded to take thernOath of Supremacy to Henry VIII, refusedrnand was executed; and in our ownrntime one might cite the example of PrivaternMichael New, who, ordered to wearrna foreign military uniform, refused tornobey on the grounds that doing so wouldrnviolate his own oath of loyalty to the U.S.rnConstitution.rnIn none of these cases did any of thernprincipals maunder on about the “legitimacyrnof the regime,” try to instigate generalrndisobedience, or seek to raise rebellionrnagainst it. In all of them they didrnwhat they believed God and law commandedrnand refused to violate thoserncommands at the behest of earthly powers,rnand all of them were willing to payrnthe price of their disobedience. As Morernhimself put it on the scaffold, “I die thernKing’s good servant—but God’s first.”rnNowhere does the Neuhaus symposiumrndwell on the important distinctionsrnbetween these cases and those of contemporaryrnAmerica. Today, no one isrncommanded to have or perform an abortionrnor to suffer or perform euthanasia.rnThe laws to which the First Things symposiastsrnobject are permissive, not com-rnMARCH 1997/33rnrnrn