Friday, May 25, 2007

Cheneyist Trotskyism

Sidney Blumenthal did a book way back in the 1980s about the neoconservatives. Among other things, he looked at their intellectual reference points, of which the Marxism of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotski was a major one. His article in Salon about Paul Wolfowitz's downfall makes the irony of their perspective explicit (Wolfowitz's tomb 05/27/07) :
Paul Wolfowitz's doctrines are a summa of numerous failed political dogmas of the 20th century. His notion of politics was essentially Bolshevik, but less democratic in practice than Lenin's. Wolfowitz had no concept of mass politics. Nor did he have an idea of democratic centralism, the core of Leninism, by which the vanguard led the cells of the party. Wolfowitz believed only in the vanguard. The dutiful student of obscurantist authoritarian philosopher Leo Strauss operated as a solitary intellectual at the head of a single cell, the lone Wolfowitz. His view of international political dynamics was a strange concoction of the most heated, impassioned idea of Leon Trotsky - the permanent revolution - admixed with the most rigid, Manichaean metaphor of John Foster Dulles - the domino theory of the Cold War. Dulles' idea, applied to Southeast Asia, was a reaction to his mistaken understanding of Communist expansion as Trotskyist in conception. From this thesis and antithesis came the synthesis of Paul Wolfowitz. Welcome to the dustbin of history.
Readers familiar with Marxist theory will hopefully enjoy the symbolism of that one-paragraph polemic as much as I did.

That paragraph was polemical, but also accurate. The neocons were working from a genuinely radical outlook, one which the cold-blooded cynicism of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld put to less idealistic uses. Ideologues like Wolfowitz need grand goals, though obviously he wasn't averse to the more worldly goal of snagging some extra $$$ for his girlfriend.

For the Cheneys and Rummys of the world, killing foreigners in wars and playing the "Great Game" of seizing oil-rich countries were enough. All this grand talk about wars of liberation for democracy they were happy to leave to the intellectual apparatchiks.

Blumenthal's article is also a reminder of what a key role that "first-strike" nuclear strategyplayed in the preventive-war doctrine adopted by the Cheney-Bush administration, a connection too little appreciated. Andrew Bacevich in The New American Militarism (2005) explains that connection at some length.


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