…by Jonas E. Alexis
Well, it depends on who you talk to. If you talk to the Neoconservatives in America, they will almost certainly miss his articles. This is why Neocon flagships such as Commentary promote his work without any reservation.
There are indeed some things that Sowell got right. I remember after I graduated from college back in 2002, I knew next to nothing about Neoconservativism. I was also a supporter of capitalism. I began to take Sowell’s work seriously around 2003-2004, when I picked up a copy of The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy in my local library in Florida. It was indeed an interesting read back then. Sowell wrote on the second page that
“assumptions are taken by so many people, including so-called ‘thinking people,’ that neither those assumptions nor their corollaries are generally confronted with demands for empirical evidence. Indeed, empirical evidence itself may be viewed as suspect, insofar as it is inconsistent with that vision.”
This is certainly true. And much of what Sowell has written over the years, including Education: Assumptions versus History and Affirmative Action: An Empirical Study, is true. I must admit that I had some rethinking to do when I first read his assessment on the issue of slavery as well. But Sowell is dead wrong about capitalism and the position he takes in the Middle East. He is essentially articulating what the oligarchic rule is saying. In fact, he is trapped in the Neoconservative worldview. Sowell declares in his 2010 book Dismantling America that
“With Iran moving toward the development of nuclear weapons, we are getting dangerously close to that fatal point of no return on the world stage…The Iranian government itself is giving us the clearest evidence of what a nuclear Iran would mean, with its fanatical hate-filled declarations about wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”
What was interesting about this extraordinary assumption was that Sowell provided not a single evidence for it, an intellectually embarrassing move which vitiated most of his own work. When I got done reading The Vision of the Anointed, I contacted Sowell and told him that I appreciate the work. To which he replied, “Thank you.”
But when I read Dismantling America and asked him to provide evidence for some of his assertions, he never responded. He keeps talking about “the fatal danger of nuclear Iran,” but there is no way of adjudicating those authoritative and indeed dogmatic claims because Sowell does not give us a shred of evidence.
Sowell is to the Neocons and warmongers in the United States what Charles Murray is to Neocon think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. In fact, both men complemented each other on a number of occasions. Murray wrote that Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles “gives us an intellectual framework that must shape an attentive reader’s way of looking at the political world forever after.”
Both men emerged from the Neoconservative establishment and capitalist system, which allowed them to posit authoritative statements about things of which they have little or no clue. Sowell states quite rightly in A Conflict of Visions that “those who believe in some visions view themselves in a very different moral role from the way that followers of other visions view themselves. The ramifications of these conflicting visions extend into economic, judicial, military, philosophical, and political decisions.”
But Sowell moves on to argue that those on the right always see things in a constrained way, in contrast to those on the left who fundamentally view things in an unconstrained way. This is categorically false. For example, was the war in Iraq viewed in a constrained way? Didn’t the Neocons beat decent Americans to death with lies such as Saddam had WMDs? Won’t the war itself cost America at least six trillion dollars? As Jordan Michael Smith puts it,
“In recent years both liberals and movement conservatives have shown themselves fond of nation-building and using force to change foreign societies. It would be difficult to imagine a policy matching the unconstrained vision more perfectly than the invasion and occupation of Iraq, with its intention of swiftly implanting liberal-democratic values in a region that has scarcely known them.
“Given his self-conception as the prudent man facing a society of overzealous social engineers, one might be surprised that Sowell, like nearly all other Republicans, supported the war. More than that, he criticized the very idea of a constrained foreign-policy vision. In a 2002 column called ‘Dangerous Restraint,’ he likened the ‘threat’ from Saddam Hussein to—what else?—that of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. ‘Caution is sometimes the most dangerous policy,’ he wrote. ‘And this looks like one of those times today.’
“By 2006, Sowell was suddenly re-embracing the constrained view. ‘Another concept whose bitter falsity has been painfully revealed in Iraq is ‘nation-building.’ People are not building blocks, however much some may flatter themselves that they can arrange their fellow human beings’ lives the way you can arrange pieces on a chess board.’ Like so many other contemporary intellectuals, Sowell does not so much subscribe to a political philosophy as adopt and abandon ideas whenever convenient to do so from a partisan standpoint.”
After supporting the invasion of Iraq for years, after writing about the positive progress in Iraq in books such as Intellectuals and Society, Sowell wrote in 2015: “Whether it was a mistake to invade Iraq in the first place is something that will no doubt be debated by historians and others for years to come.” Then this poison:
“But, despite things that could have been done differently in Iraq during the Bush administration, in the end President Bush listened to his generals and launched the military ‘surge’ that crushed the terrorist insurgents and made Iraq a viable country.”
Iraq is a viable country? Where has this man been living for the past ten years or so? One has to be morally and intellectually blind in order to come up with such nonsense. To cite again retired career officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army and military historian Andrew J. Bacevich:
“Apart from a handful of deluded neoconservatives, no one believes that the United States accomplished its objectives in Iraq, unless the main objective was to commit mayhem, apply a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding, and then declare the patient stable while hastily leaving the scene of the crime…
“The fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has exacted a huge price from the U.S. military—especially the army and the Marines.
“More than 6,700 soldiers have been killed so far in those two conflicts, and over fifty thousand have been wounded in action, about 22 percent with traumatic brain injuries.
“Furthermore, as always happens in war, many of the combatants are psychological casualties, as they return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs reported in the fall of 2012 that more than 247,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been diagnosed with PTSD. Many of those soldiers have served multiple combat tours.
“It is hardly surprising that the suicide rate in the U.S. military increased by 80 percent from 2002 to 2009, while the civilian rate increased only 15 percent. And in 2009, veterans of Iraq were twice as likely to be unemployed as the typical American.
“On top of all that, returning war veterans are roughly four times more likely to face family-related problems like divorce, domestic violence and child abuse than those who stayed out of harm’s way.
“In 2011, the year the Iraq War ended, one out of every five active duty soldiers was on antidepressants, sedatives, or other prescription drugs.
“The incidence of spousal abuse spiked, as did the divorce rate among military couples. Debilitating combat stress reached epidemic proportions. So did brain injuries. Soldier suicides skyrocketed.”
Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions starts with a philosophically incoherent premise. The question the book should have explored in great detail is that the world is essentially divided by two kinds of people: those who subordinate their will to the moral and political order and those who don’t. Intellectuals and philosophers, from the French Revolution and all the way to the Neoconservative movement, have refused to submit their appetite to the moral universe, and this has produced one disaster after another.
The ideological origins of political struggles do not lie in the “Left” vs. the “Right” matrix, as Sowell implicitly tries to argue. No, the ideological origins of political struggles lie in the inexorable fact that both the “Left” and the “Right” are excluding morality and practical reason in their project. (As we shall see in a future article this summer, this is where Darwin and his intellectual children fail miserably and pathetically.) It is immoral to use lies and fabrications to invade another country. It is immoral to kill a baby in the mother’s womb. Why?
Well, Kant would argue that those principles cannot be universalized! For example, why were the warmongers upset about Russia? Well, they thought that Russia meddled in the last US election. But the funny thing about all this is that the United States has been meddling in other countries since the beginning of time. Those warmongers could not see that meddling in other countries business without permission is universally abhorrent.
As an intellectual who has been writing about political ideologies for more than forty years, Sowell must know that the views he is articulating are existentially unlivable. The problem is that the Neoconservative ideology and the capitalist system have crippled his moral sense and have clouded his judgment. This is why he is totally out of touch with reality when it comes to Iran. He must know that Iran has been right in line with the international rule of law since the beginning of time. Iran signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Israel has not.
As Dismantling America progresses, it becomes obvious that Sowell has been completely lost in the Neoconservative matrix. He declares that “Iran, for example, has for years ignored repeated U.N. resolutions and warning against building nuclear facilities that can produce bombs.”
In 2012, Sowell wrote in the National Review that Iran was “well on its way to being able to produce more than the two bombs that were enough to force Japan to surrender in 1945.”
This mantra has been repeated over and over, but no one has been able to produce a scholarly and academic evidence for it. In fact, the scholarly documentation refutes this frivolous charge. Paul R. Pillar, academic and 28-year veteran of the CIA, declared that Iran is not a threat to peace. Pillar even made the unpopular claim that we can live with Iran’s nukes!
Sowell was very quick to write about Iran supporting terrorism with no evidence, but Sowell does not say a word about Israel supporting terrorist groups such as the so-called Syrian rebels and even ISIS and al-Qaeda across the Israeli borders. The man was even silent about Israel assassinating Iranian scientists. What was so funny about all this is that Sowell admitted in 2015 that Iran was fighting ISIS in Iraq!
Sowell proves that Andrew J. Bacevich was right when he said back in 2012 in an article entitled “How we became Israel”:
“U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This ‘Israelification’ of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.”
It was Sowell himself who said that “the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.”
Sowell was under the wings of the late Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago for years. In fact, Sowell has been the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, for over thirty years.
Sowell, as an economist and political philosopher, was also influenced by Adam Smith. We all wish that he would read E. Michael Jones’ voluminous work Barren Metal: A History of Capitalism as the Conflict Between Labor and Usury. We also hope that Andre Archie would pick up a copy of that book as well.
 Andre Archie, “Thomas Sowell’s Legacy,” American Conservative, July 12, 2017.
 Kevin D. Williamson, “Thomas Sowell: Peerless Nerd,” Commentary, December 1, 2011.
 Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 2.
 Thomas Sowell, Dismantling America (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 48.
 Quoted in Jordan Michael Smith, “Impaired Visions: Thomas Sowell’s Thinking Is Blinded by Partisanship,” American Conservative, May 23, 2012.
 Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York: Basic Books, 2007), 10.
 Ernesto Londono, “Study: Iraq, Afghan war costs to top $4 trillion,” Washington Post, March 28, 2013; Bob Dreyfuss, The $6 Trillion Wars,” The Nation, March 29, 2013; “Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study,” Huffington Post, May 14, 2013; Mark Thompson, “The $5 Trillion War on Terror,” Time, June 29, 2011; “Iraq war cost: $6 trillion. What else could have been done?,” LA Times, March 18, 2013.
 Smith, “Impaired Visions: Thomas Sowell’s Thinking Is Blinded by Partisanship,” American Conservative, May 23, 2012.
 Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society (New York: Basic Books, 2009), chapter 7.
 Thomas Sowell, “Who Lost Iraq?,” Jewish World Review, June 9, 2015.
 Andrew Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed their Soldiers and Their Country (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013), 94, 105.
 See for example Trita Parsi, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007); A Single Roll of Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
 Sowell, Dismantling America, 31.
 Thomas Sowell, “Democrats, God, and Jerusalem,” National Review, September 11, 2012.
 See Trita Parsi again.
 Paul R. Pillar, “Waltz and Iranian Nukes,” National Interest, June 20, 2012.
 Paul R. Pillar, “We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran,” Washington Monthly, March/April 2012.
 Sowell, Dismantling America, 59, 70.
 Thomas Sowell, “Who Lost Iraq?,” Jewish World Review, June 9, 2015.
 Andrew J. Bacevich, “How We Became Israel,” American Conservative, September 10, 2012.
 Thomas Sowell, “‘Intellectuals,’” TownHall.com, November 11, 2008.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the new book Zionism vs. the West: How Talmudic Ideology is Undermining Western Culture. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.