Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn provide an essay summarizing the history of the current influence of neoconservative thought and policy priorities on the Cheney-Bush administration: The Rise and Decline of the Neoconservatives Rightweb 11/17/06.

It covers some of the key conceptual documents of the neocons , including the 1992 draft Defense Planning Guideline (DPG), the Project for a New American Century's (PNAC) 1997 Statement of Principles, the 1996 paper "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" and the 2002 National Security Strategy.

Lobe and Flynn try to interpret the import of various personnel shifts and policy signals since the 2004 election. They see a gradual drop in the influence of the neocons since the end of 2003, when their model Iraq War was encountering unexpected complications, and the "realists" gaining. While I think that's largely true, it may be more the result of incompetence and drift than actual policy direction. In particular, they see the appointment of John Negroponte and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) as a sign of realist ascendency. Given Negroponte's Iran-Contra background, I'm not so sure of that characterization.

But they also warn that many key neocon players remain in the administration. And also, "There is no doubt that the top foreign policy priority for neoconservatives in the final two years of Bush's presidency will be to goad him into attacking Iran's suspected nuclear facilities, if ongoing diplomatic efforts to contain or roll back Tehran's nuclear program stall or fail".

Here's an example of neocon "idealism" from Michael Ledeen, who is a neocon true believer, an inveterate Iraq hawk and a player in the Iran-Contra affair that has served as one of the main templates of Cheney-Bush foreign policy:
US Foreign Policy and Democratic Revolution International Health Spring 2005. He wrote:

The tyrants hate the United States for what it is, not for what it does. Whether or not there are US troops in Saudi Arabia (now gone), whether or not a Palestinian state is created (now the official policy of the United States), whether or not Israel exists, and whether or not the United States supports it, the tyrants will attack, as they always have. So long as the United States is strong and successful, they will attack, as best they can. Anyone who reads the utterances of Osama bin Laden or Ali Khamenei or Bashir Assad will see very clearly that they aspire to expand their dominions at the expense of the United States and the West, to eliminate free and tolerant societies, and eventually to impose their will upon the world.
This bizarre level of threat inflation is characteristic of the neocons. Al Qaida or its imitators may be able to carry out terrorist attacks in the US, maybe even ones more deadly than 9/11. But to argue that they threaten the existence of the US, or that Al Qaida or Iran (Ali Khamenei) or Syria (Bashir Assad) has the capacity "to impose their will upon the world" is so inflated a claim that's it's hard to imagine that even the neocons actually believe it.

Bin Laden and his followers have talked about establishing a new caliphate to encompass all former and current Islamic lands. Lots of cult groups dream lots of impossible dreams. That the neocons, much less Bush himself, try to invest these ravings with the credibility of being a realistic threat is pretty pitiful. But have Iran's Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei or Syrian President Assad actual expressed even a vague desire to "impose their will upon the world" by eliminating "free and tolerant societies"? Anything's possible, I guess, but I haven't heard of it. There may be more than a little projection going on here, since the neocons and the Bush administration openly promote the goal of "regime change" against nations they see as being insufficiently compliant with American demands. That use of "regime change" is a key part of the Bush Doctrine.

Ledeen also suffers from the chronic neocon affliction of tossing out bad, superficial Second World War analogies. For the neocons, it's always 1938 and the quivering democracies are always on the verge of selling out Czechslovakia to Hitler. He writes:

In the Second World War, the United States recognized the political and ideological dimensions of the conflict, even if some of the nuances were open to debate. It was not necessary to believe that Japan, Germany, and Italy shared a single evil vision to know that spreading freedom was central to victory, or that freedom would be crushed wherever enemies prevailed. The Cold War was the ideological conflict between Western freedom and Soviet tyranny that Tocqueville had foreseen, but there was a significant difference: in the Second World War, the Axis regimes were very popular, and democratic revolution was not an effective weapon. Victory could be achieved only on the battlefield. In the Cold War, the United States decisively drew upon significant internal opposition to Communism, and the Soviet Empire ultimately imploded. There was no need to resort to armed conflict.
A lot could be said about that. Here, I'll just focus a moment on this idea: "It was not necessary to believe that Japan, Germany, and Italy shared a single evil vision to know that spreading freedom was central to victory ..." No one thought that the political visions of Fascist Italy, Nazi German and militarist Japan were exactly alike, though all of them were dictatorships. What they did share was an actual military alliance - unlike, say, Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Bin Laden's Al Qaida, who shared neither a common vision nor operational links to each other.

And the "spreading freedom" part - presumably the democratic reconstruction of Germany and Japan that was so dear to the hearts and propaganda of the neocons leading up to the Iraq War - took place in the context of the "unconditional surrender" policy of the wartime United Nations alliance which the US joined after Japan militarily attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the US immediately afterward. The idea that the US and the Roosevelt administration might have gone to war against Germany, Italy or Japan to remove their governments and replace them with democracies absent the overwhelming military threat they represented (did I mention that Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor?) is just a fantasy with no basis in the actual politics of the time.

No comments: