Leo Strauss, a "refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in the United States in 1937, was trained in the history of political philosophy, and became one of the foremost conservative émigré scholars." He taught at the University of Chicago. 
"He was widely known for his argument that the works of ancient philosophers contain deliberately concealed esoteric meanings whose truths can be comprehended only by a very few, and would be misunderstood by the masses. This has come to be known as the 'hidden meaning' thesis," Seymour M. Hersh wrote May 12, 2003, in The New Yorker. Similar arguments have been made by Hakim Bey regarding Chinese writings associated with Tongs.
- 1 Versus Democracy
- 2 Influence on U.S. foreign policy
- 3 Intelligence and Duplicity
- 4 Politics and deception
- 5 Integrity versus diplomacy
- 6 Prudence
- 7 Influence on Office of Special Plans
- 8 Published Works
- 9 Related SourceWatch Resources
- 10 External links
According to a 2003 analysis by Jim Lobe for the Inter Press Service, Strauss believed the world to be a place where policy advisers may have to deceive their own publics and even their rulers in order to protect their countries.
Shadia B. Drury of the University of Calgary, author of 1999's Leo Strauss and the American Right [ISBN 0312217838], says "Strauss was neither a liberal nor a democrat... 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. .. The Weimar Republic (in Germany) was his model of liberal democracy for which he had huge contempt," added Drury. Liberalism in Weimar, in Strauss's view, led ultimately to the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. 
According to Drury, Strauss like Plato taught that within societies, "some are fit to lead, and others to be led". But, unlike Plato, who believed that leaders had to be people with such high moral standards that they could resist the temptations of power, Strauss thought that "those who are fit to rule are those who realise there is no morality and that there is only one natural right, the right of the superior to rule over the inferior". 
For Strauss, "religion is the glue that holds society together", said Drury, who added that Irving Kristol, among other neo-conservatives, has argued that separating church and state was the biggest mistake made by the founders of the U.S. republic. 
"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. 
Influence on U.S. foreign policy
Abram N. Shulsky received his doctorate under Strauss in 1972. Shulsky's area of expertise was Soviet disinformation techniques. "The Straussian movement has many other adherents in and around the George W. Bush Administration. They include William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Stephen A. Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, who is particularly close to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld," according to Hersh. "Strauss's influence on foreign policy decision making (he never wrote explicitly about the subject himself) is usually discussed in terms of his tendency to view the world as a place where isolated liberal democracies live in constant danger from hostile elements abroad, and face threats that must be confronted vigorously and with strong leadership."
Intelligence and Duplicity
"How Strauss's views might be applied to the intelligence-gathering procedure is less immediately obvious. Shulsky explored that question in a 1999 essay, written with Gary Schmitt, entitled 'Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean Nous)'--in Greek philosophy the term nous denotes the highest form of rationality," Hersh wrote.
- Schmitt's essay was published in Kenneth L. Deutsch and John A. Murley, editors, "Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime", Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999. Paper. ISBN 0847686922.
"In the essay, Shulsky and Schmitt write that Strauss's 'gentleness, his ability to concentrate on detail, his consequent success in looking below the surface and reading between the lines, and his seeming unworldliness . . . may even be said to resemble, however faintly, the George Smiley of John le Carré's novels," Hersh said.
"Echoing one of Strauss's major themes, Shulsky and Schmitt criticize America's intelligence community for its failure to appreciate the duplicitous nature of the regimes it deals with, its susceptibility to social-science notions of proof, and its inability to cope with deliberate concealment," Hersh wrote.
Politics and deception
"Strauss's idea of hidden meaning, Shulsky and Schmitt added, 'alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.' In other words, what leaders say, is not what they do - and Niccolò Machiavelli was probably right to emphasize fear over being loved," Hersh wrote.
Robert B. Pippin, "the chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at Chicago and a critic of Strauss, says that 'Strauss believed that good statesmen have powers of judgment and must rely on an inner circle. The person who whispers in the ear of the King is more important than the King. If you have that talent, what you do or say in public cannot be held accountable in the same way," Hersh wrote.
Integrity versus diplomacy
Another Strauss critic, Stephen Holmes, the Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, "put the Straussian's position this way: 'They believe that your enemy is deceiving you, and you have to pretend to agree, but secretly you follow your own views,'" Hersh wrote. "Holmes added, 'The whole story is complicated by Strauss's idea--actually Plato's--that philosophers need to tell noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful politicians.'"
One of Strauss's staunchest defenders, Joseph Cropsey, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago, "about the use of Strauss's views in the area of policymaking," told Hersh "that common sense alone suggested that a certain amount of deception is essential in government. 'That people in government have to be discreet in what they say publicly is so obvious--'If I tell you the truth I can't but help the enemy.' But there is nothing in Strauss's work, he added, that 'favors preëmptive action. What it favors is prudence and sound judgement."
Regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "[s]ome former intelligence officials believe that Shulsky and his superiors were captives of their own convictions, and were merely deceiving themselves. Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of counter-terrorism operations and analysis at the C.I.A., worked with Shulsky at a Washington think tank after his retirement. He said, 'Abe is very gentle and slow to anger, with a sense of irony. But his politics were typical for his group--the Straussian view'," Hersh reported.
Influence on Office of Special Plans
"At the root of this effective manipulation of power is the teaching of a man named Leo Strauss (1899-1973). Leo Strauss was a brilliant German Jew who after studying in Europe on a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, became a highly paid professor at the University of Chicago. According to Robert Locke, who studied under Professor Strauss, he was an atheist and the purveyor of an esoteric philosophy which was critical of liberalism but supported Machiavellian deception and a ruling elite.
"Robert Locke lists among Strauss's students or those influenced by his students: Justice Clarence Thomas; Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Dundes Wolfowitz; former Assistant Secretary of State Alan Keyes; former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett; Weekly Standard editor and former J. Danforth Quayle Chief of Staff William Kristol; Allan Bloom, former New York Post editorials editor John Podhoretz; and former National Endowment for the Humanities Deputy Chairman John T. Agresto."
- Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, editors. "History of Political Philosophy". 3d edition. University of Chicago Press. 1963, 1972, 1987. ISBN 0226777103.
- Leo Strauss,. "Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy". With a Foreword by Joseph Cropsey. With an Introduction by Thomas L. Pangle. University of Chicago Press. 1983. Paper. ISBN 0226777006.
Related SourceWatch Resources
- Leo Strauss in the Wikipedia.
- Leo Strauss in the dKosopedia. Reflects material taken from the SW article above under GNU Free Documentation License 1.2.
- Leo Strauss Comprehensive Bibliography of Leo Strauss, straussian.net.
- Robert B. Pippin, "The Modern World of Leo Strauss," Political Theory, vol.20, no.3 (1992).
- Stephen Holmes, "Truths for Philosophers Alone?", Times Literary Supplement, 1-7 December 1989; reprinted in Stephen Holmes, "The Anatomy of Antiliberalism" (1996).
- Gregory Bruce Smith, "Leo Strauss and the Straussians: An Anti-democratic Cult?", PS: Political Science & Politics Vol. 30 No. 2 (June 1997).
- Ken Masugi, Book Review: "Leo Strauss's American Gang. A Review of Leo Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime," Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, Claremont Institute, June 22, 2000.
- Robert Locke, "Leo Strauss, Conservative Mastermind," Front Page Magazine, May 31, 2002.
- Christopher Hitchens, "Machiavelli in Mesopotamia. The case against the case against 'regime change' in Iraq," Slate, November 7, 2002.
- Alain Frachon.
- Jim Lobe, "US Foreign Policy and Leo Strauss," Inter Press Service, March 15, 2003.
- Pepe Escobar, "This war is brought to you by ....," Asia Times, March 20, 2003.
- Stefan Steinberg, "The ideological forebears of Washington’s 'neo-conservatives'," WSWS, March 26, 2003.
- Alain Frachon. The Masterminds of America’s Foreign Policy, Le Monde, April 15, 2003.
- David Tucker, Editorial: "Seymour Hersh, Leo Strauss and Victory in Iraq," Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, May 2003.
- Seymour M. Hersh, "Selective Intelligence. Donald Rumsfeld has his own special sources. Are they reliable?" The New Yorker, May 5, 2003 (posted); May 12, 2003 (issue).
- Jack Shafer, "The Leading Indicator That WMD Will Be Found. Seymour M. Hersh says they won't," Slate, May 6, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, "Strong Must Rule the Weak, said Neo-Cons' Muse," Inter Press Service (Common Dreams), May 8, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, "Neocons dance a Strauss waltz," Asia Times, May 9, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, "The Strong Must Rule the Weak: A Philosopher for an Empire," Foreign Policy in Focus, May 12, 2003.
- Spengler, "The secret that Leo Strauss never revealed," Asia Times, May 13, 2003: "If anything, the Straussians are dangerous not because they are Machiavellian but because they are naive."
- William Pfaff, "The Long Reach of Leo Strauss," International Herald Tribune (Common Dreams), May 15, 2003.
- Jim Lobe, "Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception," AlterNet, May 19, 2003.
- Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "Leo Lincoln?" LewRockwell.com, May 22, 2003.
- Gary Leupp, "Philosopher Kings. Leo Strauss and the Neocons," CounterPunch, May 24, 2003.
- Peter Berkowitz, "What Hath Strauss Wrought? Misreading a political philosopher," The Weekly Standard, June 2, 2003.
- Norman Madarasz, "Behind the Neo-Con Curtain. Plato, Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom," CounterPunch, June 2, 2003.
- Spengler, "Neo-cons in a religious bind," Asia Times, June 5, 2003.
- Justin Raimondo, "Trotsky, Strauss and the Neocons. War Party's leftist and elitist roots exposed," AntiWar.com, June 13, 2003.
- Brian Carney, "Strauss Was Right," Tech Central Station, June 18, 2003.
- "Philosophers and kings. A strange waltz involving George Bush, ancient Greece and a dead German thinker," The Economist, June 19, 2003.
- Francis A. Boyle, "'My Alma Mater is a Moral Cesspool' Neo-Cons, Fundies, Feddies and the University of Chicago," CounterPunch, August 2, 2003.
- Gerhard Spoerl, "The Leo-conservatives," Der Spiegel (New York Times), August 4, 2003.
- Shadia B. Drury, "Saving America: Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives," Evatt Foundation (Information Clearinghouse), September 11, 2003.
- Laura Rozen, "Con Tract. The theory behind neocon self-deception," The Washington Monthly, October 2003.
- Danny Postel, "Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq," openDemocracy (Information Clearinghouse), October 18, 2003.
- Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., 3-part series: "The Children of Satan" "The 'Ignoble Liars' Behind Bush's No-Exit War" (June 2003); "The Beast-Men" (January 2004); and "The Sexual Congress for Cultural Fascism" (June 2004). Links posted on the Vote for Lyndon LaRouche in 2004 website.
- Tom Barry, "A Philosophy of Intelligence. Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy," Right Web, February 12, 2004; also published in Asia Times, February 19, 2004.
- Nicholas Xenos, "Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of the War on Terror," Logos Journal, Spring 2004.
- Shadia B. Drury, "Leo Strauss and the Grand Inquisitor," Free Inquiry Magazine / Council for Secular Humanism, Volume 24 Number 4 (June/July 2004).
- Jim Lobe, "Attacking Neo-Cons From the Right," AntiWar.com, August 5, 2004.
- Shadia Drury, "Leo Strauss and the neoconservatives," Evatt Foundation, September 11, 2004.
- Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "The Ivy League Dissects the Neocon Cabal," LewRockwell.com, September 28, 2004.
- Matthew Rothschild, Interview with Shadia Drury, author of "The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss," The Progressive, 2005: "We discuss the thoughts of this father of neoconservatism, and the sway that neoconservatism has on the Bush Administration."
- Jim Lobe, "Losing Feith," Inter Press Service, January 27, 2005.
- Franklin Foer, "Intelligence Design," The National Review, November 14, 2005.
- Francis A. Boyle, "Neo-Cons, Fundies, Feddies, and Con-Artists," Global Research, December 17, 2005.