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Sunday, August 17, 2003

WHO ARE THE NEO-CONS, AND WHY DO THEY HAVE SUCH INFLUENCE? PART ONE

Originally published April 24th, 2003, this two-part mini-series has been buried and lost forever in some distant, dismal pc-cemetery . . . or whever else hacked-into archives, killed off and lost sight of, end up in the next life. It is now reproduced here in mid-August, with part one of the series unfolding right now. Part two will follow in the hours to come.

Neo-conservatives, who are they, what do they believe, and why are they so influential these days in the Bush administration, especially in foreign and security policies? Right now, a front-burner topic. In particular, lots of journalistic speculation about them, some good, most not.

The buggy prof himself has talked about the neo-cons repeatedly in the past, all published in the gordon-newspost . . . the newsletter subscription that the he ran for four years until this February, when the current web site seemed a more appropriate outlet for his and others' thoughts on political, economic, and cultural matters. And especially when those thoughts happen to be politically charged --- full of significance for US foreign and domestic politics, the politics of foreign countries, developmental history and prospects, globalization, and in reciprocal fashion for philosophy and cultural life.



What Follows: A Brief Intro

As it turns out, this is an uncommonly long article that has five different commentaries, all of them focused on neo-conservatism as an ideology and its influence, plus some lengthy buggy prof comments. A quick survey of what follows might just be useful as an intellectual compass. (Hold it! As an after-thought, it just dawned on the buggy prof that it would be better to divide the article into two parts: part one today, part two later. That way, the attention-span of our visitors won't be strained. Still, what follows is the summary of all five parts, the latter three to be hived off and moved over to the next article.)
[1] First there's an extensive commentary on neo-conservatism that the buggy prof sent to his several hundred subscribers last October, fully updated to make it more relevant. Essentially --- a point worth getting across right from the start --- note that the pioneer intellectuals and policymakers who developed neo-conservative thought were all former anti-Communist liberals, influenced by three intellectual heritages that came together in the late 1960s. These three heritages are shared these days by moderate liberals too, who remain --- the does the buggy prof --- in the Democratic Party. No surprise. Neo-conservatism is anything but rigid primal conservatism of the pre-1980s stuff, and a liberal weekly of notable neo-con thought that is still oriented toward the Democratic Party --- mainly for domestic reasons --- is The New Republic. Here are the three heritages:

• A firm adherence to Wilsonian liberal traditions in foreign policy, which in the hands of FDR and Harry Truman (and afterwards in the JFK and Lyndon Johnson era) espoused waging ideological warfare against the totalitarian challenges of Communism, Nazism, and militarism --- not just managerial realism and diplomatic accommodation to them (AKA appeasement, a EU specialty by the late 1960s, if not earlier. Almost all the EU governments, whether their forerunners in the 1930s or after WWII, seemed only too happy to get along in managerial realist ways with brutal Communist, African, and Middle East regimes, and do profitable business with them;

• A related Wilsonian belief that democratic government has to be the ultimate solution for dealing with these totalitarian threats whenever and wherever it could be pushed. But not mindless crusaders --- like moralizing left-wing liberals or many radicals --- neo-conservatives have been careful to subject this ideological goal to competing interests in foreign policy: above all immediate security interests that might pull oppositely, and the concrete tradeoffs with them . . . such as the dangers of nuclear war, or the need at times to ally with unsavory allies for security purposes, which is what the US had to do in WWII when FDR had to forge an alliance the monstrous Stalinist Soviet Union in the struggle against the more pressing dangers of the even more monstrous Nazi and fascist threats from Germany and Japan, or what Truman and his successors had to do at times in the Cold War when the US supported anti-communist dictatorships in the global struggle with the Soviet and other communist countries.

• Not least --- ever since the New Left radicals emerged in the 1960s and implanted themselves as politically correct ideologues in academic life --- neo-conservative have fought back at the radical left's ideological excesses, fervor, and sheer hostility to middle class life, American capitalism, and our governmental institutions . . . along with its no less obvious contempt for civic discipline and the other restraints built into bourgeois civilization.



--- Those restraints traditionally include, it's important to stress, the demand that individuals take responsibility for their wrong-doings and crimes, a moral notion fundamental to all civilized life that the politically correct pulpit-pounders haughtily reject . . . especially for all the alleged victims of American capitalism, including privileged minorities. Neo-conservatives see all this as wrong, decidedly so. They reject the endless antinomian search for self-fulfillment and the corollary rejection of traditional social and civic obligations that politically correct radicals celebrate, for all their lofty rhetoric about socialism and a new community. Oppositely, at the other end of the US political spectrum, neo-conservatives have been at odds with the libertarian right, which is seen as celebrating a form of atomistic individualism of a narrow economic sort, indifferent to culture and social traditions built into the fiber of middle class civilization.

 

To clarify briefly: since the late 1960s, as we all known now, the politically correct pieties of these radical, anti-bourgeois militants have worked their way into the left wing of the Democratic Party and more generally throughout the US university system. In the upshot, they've created what the philosopher Richard Rorty --- now sharing the disgust of more moderate liberals and neo-conservatives with his former radical allies in the Academy, and the only powerful and creative thinker to have associated with them intellectually --- calls the School of Grudge and Resentment: politically useless, tiresomely self-righteous, and semi-literate in their aping of the absurdities, convoluted neologisms and syntax, and sheer pretentious crap that characterizes the original French post-modernists and their German inspirations like Martin Heidegger.

Nor for nothing, then, has Arts&Letters Daily --- the best website for keeping abreast of most intellectual currents in the humanities and philosophy (and to a limited extent the social sciences) --- awarded its annual "worst writing of the year" prize to the tangled, blatantly incomprehensible pishposh of post-modernist scholars, mainly found in politicized and mediocre disciplines anyway . . . such as English literature these days (not in the pre-1960s era) or ethnic studies or cultural studies or gender studies or sociology, with Judith Butler of UC Berkeley the well-deserved first recipient. Note in passing that the chief editor of Arts&Letters Daily is the philosopher Dennis Dutton, a former buggy prof student at UCSB, who found a congenial post at a New Zealand university. As for Butler's pompous rococo bafflegab --- incredibly windy claptrap that entangles itself from the start to the finish in a self-created thicket of impenetrable sham --- see the demolition-job of her boneheaded tomes, hundreds of pages of flapdoodled drivel that has made her Big Medicine in feminist and other post-modernist disciplines. The demolition-author is Martha Nussbaum, one of the most creative and influential philosophers of the age. "The Professor of Parody," (New Republic, November 28, 2001). If you have trouble accessing the New Republic original, see the gordon-newspost. It also has the Arts&Letters Daily Award for mangled obscurantism when it was bestowed on Judith Butler.  

 

[2] After these bugged-out comments, you'll find an article by Victor Davis Hanson, a gifted military specialist written back in October and still full of enlightened prescience to post-Saddamite Iraq. He has, with reason, become a favorite analyst within the Bush administration, and more's the credit to him: trained as a historian of the ancient Mediterranean world, he's a talented linguist and has roamed widely in several books of comparative military history over different eras and civilizations. Such work is doubly valuable to international relations specialists these days, quite simply because, alas --- what with the stress on formal modeling and statistical studies --- few IR specialists trained in the last 15 years or so have much grounding in political, diplomatic, and military history, or for that matter, if we're dealing with specialists in global political economy, much knowledge of developmental history, European, Arab, Latin America, China, Japan, India, or even the US's.

Can't be bothered by learning all these historical matters, you see: even when they're comparative and systematic in their analyses (most economic historians have been using their theories and quantitative methods for three decades now, but specifically aimed to illuminate the past with theory). Gotta learn the latest statistical technique, the latest twist in game theory. Well, with a Ph.D. in economics as well as political science --- having studied for that matter with some pioneer Nobel prizewinners and other world-class economists in the use of game theory in both economics and strategic studies --- the buggy prof is pretty good at such methods and hardly scorns them; but the neglect of systematic comparative history as part of the Ph.D. program in political science almost everywhere these days except at Columbia University is the biggest drawback in graduate training, and it will handicap more and more the present and emerging generation of innovative scholars --- always limited to about 5 - 10% of the discipline anyway (with about a fifth of them producing work that will survive decades) --- as the older generations trained in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s retire or fade off into the blue.

 

[3rd] In the next commentary, you'll find excerpts from an article published today in the New York Observer, which tries to explain to the general public who the neo-cons are. It's not profound, far from it ---but it's a useful fast top-skimming introduction: those who want more can find this at the neo-conservative home site.

 

[4] After that, the buggy prof will reproduce an commentary he sent out on gordon-newspost last year that explains the origins and nature of neo-conservatism as a new US ideological influence. The student, an Arab American, had heard that it was something of a Jewish plot --- a view widespread in radical left-wing and pro-Arab circles on one side, and on the other among the dinosaur right where anti-semitism still flourished, as in the long-standing commentaries of Pat Buchanan, the most prominent political leader and spokesman for the far right.  

[5] To round off this long set of comments on neo-conservatism, Professor Anthony O'Regan has sent us just two days ago some comments he made on an undergrad paper that help illuminate certain aspects of neo-conservative thought . . . more robustly relevant than ever to the world after the destruction of Saddamite Iraq.  

  THE PROFOUND NEO-CONSERVATIVE INFLUENCE IN THE BUSH JR. ADMINISTRATION

Earlier, we linked the provocative article by Stanley Kurtz, strongly in favor of knocking out the Iraqi totalitarian regime --- kept in place, up to now anyway, by a mix of moral pc-relativists, left-wing isolationists, radical anti-Americans, Gaullist opportunists in France (the terms opportunism and French diplomacy go together for decades now, and maybe longer), EU appeasers, realist managers, and frightened Arab despots --- but who worries rightly that democracy and Islam don't easily combine (if at all). We noted his criticisms and tried to refine them, at any rate regarding Iran . . . non-Arab, more modern before the Shia revolution, its young population full of hatred for Islamist fundamentalism, and pro-American.

 

The Problems of the Middle East Viewed by Neo-Consevatives and Others:

The dismal pathologies that mark the 22 Arab societies are numerous and easy to catalogue, all adding up to a dangerous status quo, fertile ground for Islamofascist revivalisms and know-nothing fundamentalisms and for recruitment into related terrorist networks like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaeda of the more dislocated and alienated young men in their societies. A successful pursuit of the war on terrorism needs to deal with this status quo, forcing changes in it through a variety of instruments --- coercive diplomacy and military force toward Saddamite Iraq first and foremost, then various diplomatic and non-military means to impose changes in the fascist-Baathist state of Syria and the clercial-fascist and non-Arab Iran . . . all three regimes active supporters of terrorism and pursuing WSM that will likely slip into the hands of these terrorists, sooner or later, and be used against us. (North Korea, a vicious Stalinist regime starving millions of its people, is a related problem: it has no exports other than weapons, and its regime would likely be willing to sell them to the highest bidder, including any Islamo-fascist terrorist network or state.)

Specifically, to focus our attention on the Middle East problems, recall the social, political, and economic patholigies just referred to:

Economic failure (even in the oil-rich ones, with unemployment in Saudi Arabia 25% among men alone). Hard as it is to believe, the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world in 57 countries have a total GDP smaller at existing exchange rates than Spain with 40 million people . . . Spain itself 25% below the EU aveage of $24,000.

Pervasive state-failure in delivering effective social services and maintaining a rule of law;

Ubiquitous despotisms, with the king or prince or sheik or dictator or President-for-Life clinging to power until he dies and a son takes over or he's killed in a coup and another clique takes over. At most, they vary in outright cruelty, terror, and blood-letting the main difference (Saddamite Iraq, Baathist Syria, the terrorist-state of Colonel Khaddifi in Libya (changing in foreign policy, not repression at home) and the genocidal state in the Sudan the worst by far. Saudi Arabia, though less violent in killing domestic opponents, has by contrast a pervasive secret police that is rivaled only by Saddam's regime, creating a rule of fear as a powerful set of repressive controls. In the end, all of the 22 Arab countries depend for their rule on the secret police. So too does clerical-fascist Iran, where the moderate mullahs and others in the electoral system have been forced on the marked defensive by assassination, arbitrary jailing, forced retirement, censorship, and other coercive means at the disposal of the hardline mullahs . . . who control the Guardian Council (it can overrule any parliamentary legislation), the courts, the police, the secret police, and the Islamic Republican Forces, not to mention the unlimited power given to the supreme ayotollah, who is specifically said in the Iranian Constitution to have the authority to do or pronounce on anything he likes, no opposition tolerated.

Massive corruption and nepotism, with a rule of law something as real as Linus's touching belief in the imminent arrival each Halloween of the Great Pumpkin in the "Peanuts" cartoon-series. ,

Technological and scientific backwardness, aggravated by the worst literacy levels in the world (worse even than much poorer tropical Africa), and by the striking fact, brought out in the UN Arab Human Development Report 2002, that in the last 1000 years the 280 million Arab peoples have translated fewer books into Arabic than Spain with its 40 million people does each year . . . Spanish itself, remember, spoken by over 500 million people.

Female subjugation, which varies only in the degree of hard-handed repression . . . The Saudis excelling at this in ways that are indistinguishable from the unlamented former rule of the Taliban fanatics in Afghanistan, themselves inspired in part by Wahhabi fervor that includes contempt and hatred of Shia Muslims

• And --- a source of the fundamentalist appeal to both the masses and discontented intellectuals alike --- widespread psychological dislocations caused by the above influences, and compounded by rapid population growth.  

Some Clarification and Evidence

The latter point needs some explanation. Thirty years ago, the Arab world had 120 million people. Today it's 280 million. In 15 years it will be close to 500 million. Already half of the Arab peoples are 15 years or younger, and unless major institutional changes in political rule and business and financial firms and literary and education are made --- not to forget a rule of laws --- unemployment, which is pervasive and generally over 20% for males alone in all the 22 countries except for the tiny oil-rich Gulf States, will mushroom. That's a figure for even greater frustration and rippling raw rage, as well as a stimulus to ever greater numbers of angry and alienated young men as candidates into the ranks of radical Islamism and their associated terrorist networks. Nor is that all. The shared attitudes of these Islamist networks reflect overwrought resentment and a related adherence to conspiratorial scapegoating as the causes of Arab and other Muslim countries' problems: the US, Jews, and Israel first and foremost, but also the West, Hindu India, and Orthodox Russia. Something else is shared by almost all the fundamentalist movements, save for the PK party in Turkey (now in power) and a handful of others elsewhere: either active support for terrorism and purifying violence against the foreign conspirators --- at times too against their local alleged Arab government tools (the expression of which is likely to lead to immediate secret police crackdowns) --- as the way to handle these problems, or at least manifest sympathies for the various terrorist groups and heroes.

The evidence?

The widespread belief, brought out in the Gallup poll taken in 11 Arab countries during the late winter of 2002, that Muslims weren't even involved in the 9/11 terrorism against American citizens and residents: 60% to be exact. The figure was even higher, astonishingly, in another poll taken in Egypt last September. Then, too, a secret poll carried out by the Saudi government not long after the 9/11 attacks, leaked to a US press source (for a bribe likely), which showed that 95% of Saudi men between the early twenties and 40 or so in age admired bin Laden. Or the so-called Arab street, agitating where they can for any demagogic figure --- most recently Saddam Hussein --- who promises to destroy the conspiratorial agents in outright battle.

 

What To Do?

How then to deal with the existing Arab and larger Middle East Status Quo? There aren't many alternatives.

[1] Among them, we can do what the overwhemlming number of EU countries do --- Britain the main exception, and in the run-up to the Iraq war Italy, Spain, Holland, and Denmark too on the war's need and legitimacy --- and opt for outright appeasement of these regimes, while continuing to do lucrative business with the most brutal: clerical-fascist Iran or totalitarian Iraq or the blood-splattered Mafiso regime in Damascus that destroyed all the inhabitants of Hama, a city of around 30,000, in a few days of military assault after a handful of Baathist party officials were killed by the Muslim Brotherhood there. At the same time, of course, the EU competes with the US to prop up the less brutal but nonetheless pro-Western regimes, themselves engaged generally in a double-dealing game of letting the fundamentalsts use their state-controlled media to vent their anger and hostility toward the West --- engines of hate, as Dennis Ross, our former Middle East envoy has designated them --- while doing all they can to maintain a repressive control over the masses and reap the benefits for their despotic family-clan-tribe, and the elite clientele given privileged access to the corrupt and nepotistic lucrative rewards

 

[2] Alternatively, the US government can become far more energetic in trying to shift that status quo and mold the changes in ways amenable to more decent human rights, effective governments and at least the makings of a rule-of-law (corruption will no doubt remain rampant no matter what, as it does in most of Latin America even in its democratic phase), and institutional and policy changes that bring the Arab peoples and Iranians into the modern world and encourage sustained economic development. Many of these Arab regimes have the potential for progressive change: Jordan, the small Gulf States, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria (assuming the still half-fuming civil war ever ends). Egypt is in between, but effective US diplomacy --- including manipulation more intelligently of our large financial aid to that country ($3.2 billion a year under the Camp David Accord of 1978, with Israel's aid slightly higher, but scheduled to end in 2005) --- has the potential to prod changes there. The same, we hope, would be the case for a liberated post-Saddamite Iraq.

Syria, a brutal bankrupt state, hasn't the oil revenue to continue its defiance of the US, and the posting of 65,000 or so US troops near its borders has already brought benefits to its closing the frontiers to Iraqi war criminals and stopping the flow outward into Iraq of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists. Headed by a western-educated Bashar al-Assad, the dead dictator's son, Assad's hands in reform could be strengthened too in dealing with the dozen or so other groups at the top of the Syrian Baathist Party, which have gain freedom for their own corruption and fleecing of the population since Assad-daddy started pushing daisies recently. There are also ways, obviously, to force changes in its active support of deadly terrorist networks like Hezbollah and Hamas, both condemned even by Canada and the EU now. And Iran, almost 70 million (same size as Egypt, the two the biggest countries by far in the Middle East), has the most pro-American population in the region. A survey carried out by the moderates last October showed that 91% detested the regime; 80% or so wanted a dialogue with the US; and --- astonishingly, after 24 years of censorship and propaganda --- almost half the population (45%) supported the Bush policy of criticizing and denouncing the regime, while practicing sanctions against it.

That leaves a pivotal state: Saudi Arabia, 20 million and choc-a-bloc with oil . . . the home of a repressive secret-police run royalist state, the extended family around 5000 princes, who have aggrandized almost all the three trillion dollars worth of oil sales for themselves, while leaving the country with a per capita income one-third what it was in 1980 and with an unemployment rate of 25% among men. It also is a state whose klepto-thugs try to camouflage their systematic mass stealing with the trappings of Wahhabi extremism . . . Wahhabism a Sunni extremist sect, founded in the late 18th century and exporting itself not just around the Middle East but world-wide for decades now, thanks to lavish oil money behind it. Rich Saudi families, including bin Laden (a son of a billionaire with his own fortune), have been financing various Islamo-fascist terrorist movement for years now, including extensive bribe money to Osama bin Laden for staying away from Saudia Arabia itself. Small wonder that most of the 9/11 terrorists hailed from there. A thoroughly repulsive police state, it has women-whippers who ensure that women remain essentially male property and publicly whip or execute violators (most are brutalized in private cells).

Does it have a capacity for reform?

Yes, not much probably; but some anyway . . . especially now that the chief Don of the Saudi Royal-Mafia is dying and a succession struggle is beginning. Prince Abdullah, a close friend of Bush Jr, has apparently committed himself to try to drag this know-nothing Kingdom of profligate multi-millionaire or -billionaire royalist playboys and their support for Wahhabi extremism --- even as they tend to live degenerate lives behind their citadel-palaces or on sprees abroad (in Majorca last summer, hundreds of the princes and princesses desported themselves, spending an average of $5000 a day according to local store owners) --- and commit it to reform and modernization. Already, as the war against Saddamite Iraq began, the government committed itself to some sort of legislative assembly, and while it's likely to be a token gesture, Abdullah himself likely wants more reform. Right now, he's struggling against the pro-Wahhabi princes and their followers. If he doesn't best them, or alternatively he does but refuses to follow through with major economic and political and educational reforms, then that regime too will enter the Bush neo-con list of targeted enemies against whom ideological warfare and coercive diplomacy will likely be waged.  

 

[3] Note that the liberal and radical left in this country, oddly, seems to favor the status quo in the Middle East --- anything better, apparently, than an American-led campaign to destroy Saddamite Iraq and force changes in Syria's and Iran's governments . . . peacefully, but through adroit coercive diplomacy and promise rewards for monitored changes, if possible. So do the traditional conservative realist-managers like Brett Scowcroft and James Baker and their crowd around Bush Sr. or the former half-realist, half-liberal former foreign policy managers in the Clinton administrations. That wasn't always the case.

 

 

THE HISTORICAL EVOLUTION OF NEO-CONSERVATISM IN FOREIGN POLICY

For decades, American liberals believed that the US had the power and appeal to spread democracy in the world: from President Woodrow Wilson and FDR through Truman and JFK. For that matter, in his energetic human rights programs, that was true of Jimmy Carter too (otherwise, alas, a man who feared, it appears, ever using force to fight nasty dictators, and who has courted them in his private diplomacy ever since 1981). But that was the liberal past. Since the early 1970s, Carters' hesitations even in office, never mind since, have reflected the left's own views after the Vietnamese war. As for the politically correct radicals in academia, they are suffused with anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and anti-force . . . even when it's directed at a brutal dictatorship: witness, at most, lip-service during the run-up to the Iraqi war and right throught it that, of course, Saddam's a bad guy, but American policies to destroy his regime of terror and fear are a danger to world peace and far worse. Not surprisingly, the slightest American sin in the war --- despite remarkable efforts to spare civilian lives --- was pounced on and highlighted as a sign of depravity and aggression, with nothing said about how Saddamite terror transformed the 20 million urban Iraqis into human shields, or the stationing of weapons in schools and hospitals, or the shelling of Iraqi civilians seeking to flee their human-shield cities in order to drive them back. And for two weeks we were treated to endless tirades about the Iraqis hating us and waiting to kill Americans in droves once our forces entered Baghdad. For that matter, three days of looting --- soon brought to an end, with no dead directly caused by them --- were treated as a failure tantamount, it appeared, to military defeat; and the inexcusable failure to protect the museum in Baghdad (where professional gangsters seemed to be at work) was treated as if it were the crime of the century.

 

Neo-Conservatism's Origins

Enter the neo-conservatives --- a group of intellectuals and policy specialists, originally all former anti-communist liberals in the 1950s and 1960s who recoiled, like the buggy professor himself, at the radical and even nihilistic tendencies of the so-called New-Left radicalism of the late 1960s and 1970s. Grouped around the Public Interest Quarterly and Commentary, then the National Interest, and eventually --- as the old-line conservatives died off or were replaced by ever younger conservative intellectuals --- the National Review that William Buckley had created decades earlier (and still owned), the most notable of these intellectuals were Irving Kristol (a professor at NYU) and Nathan Glazer and James Wilson and Daniel Bell at Harvard or Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, the neo-cons today have triumphed by virtue of their intellectual powers and talent and won over the Bush Jr administration almost fully, it seems. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are fellow neo-cons, though the intellectuals with the most influence are the assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, formerly a John Hopkins professor, and Richard Perle, formerly high-up in the Reagan administration, as well as Michael Ledeen (also in that administration), but not on the Bush team formally. Other neo-con intellectuals and policymakers: William Bennett, formerly in the Bush Sr. administration, Ben Wattenberg, Gertrude Himmelfarb (a distinguished historian), Hilton Kramer (a specialist on culture, the editor of the influential New Criterion), David Horowtiz --- like his former co-editor Larry Collier of Ramparts, once the bible of the 1960s radical left, disgusted and repelled by the radical and politically correct left's anti-capitalism and sheer overwrought anti-Americanism --- Frank Gaffney (formerly a high-level defense official in the Reagan era), Eliot Cohen (a prominent military specialist at John Hopkins), Elliott Abrams and William Kristol and David Brooks at the highly influential Weekly Standard, and Victor Davis Hanson (see the article of his at the end here)

Note that the neo-cons, who have their own website, group not just Republicans, but moderate liberals who remain in the Democratic Party, like the buggy prof himself.

All the while that he and other moderate Democrats combat the excesses and authoritarian methods of the politically correct left on campus --- with their speech codes, secret tribunals, kangaroo courts, encouragement or tolerance of student thugs who drive off campus any speaker to the right of Al Gore, or invade unfashionable professors' classes to try intimidating them (yours truly a recurrent recipient)and their activism in academic senates and in the administrations that serious scholars and teachers have little or no time for --- these moderate neo-cons hope that the kinds of reforms and changes Bill Clinton introduced to the party at home and now and then abroad would be sustained and expanded in the future.

As for the right wing of the Conservative Party, it's represented by Pat Buchanan and other second-rate types, Buchanan himself, along with others, actively opposed to US military intervention in Iraq and something of a race-baiter and anti-Semite (witness William Buckley's sustained attack on Buchanan precisely on this score in an entire issue of the National Review back in 1992). Buchanan has recently joined the radical left nuts, themselves now as inclined most of the time to engage in Jew-baiting as the extreme right, in nurturing the myth of a Jewish cabal in control of the neo-cons, which has subverted the Bush administration and imposed its anti-Saddamite policies on it. Oh sure: on George Jr and Dick Cheney and Connie Rice and Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld, none Jewish, thanks to the furtive power that crackpot extremists seem habitually addicted to attributing to Jews. Oddly, the New York Times --- by far the most influential American paper, which is owned by a Jewish family --- has been prominent for liberal criticisms of the Bush policies, both before and after the war, never mind during it.



 

The First Flowering of Neo-Conservative Influences in US Foreign Policy

Against this background, it was left to Ronald Reagan to go on the ideological offensive to contest Communist dictatorship --- remember, the evil empire designation aimed at the Soviet Union, denounced as ludicrously naïve by the bien-pensant left in the EU (as well as hardnosed nationalists there like in Gaullist France), just as Bush Jr's policies to promote democratic change in the Middle East are ridiculed today. On top of that, fortunately, the Reagan administration came as well to force Pinochet's Chile to hold free elections in 1989, to rid Paraguay of its brutal military dictatorship, and to force out the corrupt Marcos regime in the Philippines, a country that has been democratic for almost two decades now . . . as have the other two. As has post-Sandinista Nicaragua and the rest of Central America (since roughly 1990), and the rest of Latin America for that matter. Not to forget Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia (very shaky, to be sure), along with the Philippines.

Nor is that all.

Let us not forget the 13 former Communist countries in East Europe and the former Soviet Union, all actively supporting the US over Iraq, and all at various stages of democratic development . . . 3 of them already in NATO and 7 more scheduled now to join in 2003, with a majority of the 13 likely to join the EU in 2004 as well. That consolidation of democracy has been furthered by American initiatives --- above all, the expansion of NATO in the mid-1990s, one of Bill Clinton's biggest foreign policy successes, that initiative too denounced by the pulpit-pounding bien-pensant left and nationalists in the EU ("Oh, those wildly naïve Yanks! Will they never learn???") as well as by the realist-managers in this country now oddly embraced by the radical and pacifist wings of the left here as well. Where democracy triumphs, especially since 1945 --- in Japan and Germany first, then in Pacific Asia step by step, then in Latin America since the early 1980s and especially the end of the cold war (even in Mexico now, our neighbor with almost 100 million people), then in East Europe --- it has always had to be aided by US policies and behavior. Are our policies consistently aimed at that end? No, and they can't be. Human rights and regime change have to compete with security concerns and major economic interests. In WWII, for instance, we had to ally not just with Great Britain and Australia and Canada, three impressive democracies, but also the blood-soaked totalitarian Stalinist Soviet Union, one of the most monstrous regimes in world history . . . mainly to destroy the even greater menaces of Nazi Germany and militarist Japan. In the cold war, we sided at times with military dictators in Asia or in Latin America, and at times we intervened militarily as we did in Indochina with disastrous consequences. Where, however, security concerns and human rights and democratic encouragement mesh, then the US --- ever since 1945 --- has vigorously pursued those policies. Today, the same is true of the Middle East, including Iraq, Syria, and Iran, as well as the more pro-western states.

  ENTER VICTOR DAVIS HANSON

A prominent military specialist who has been influential in the Bush administration --- Victor Davis Hanson, a professor at Cal State Bakersfield (now at the Naval War College this year) --- unfolds a more robust neo-conservative argument in a recent article worth pondering: however risky the changes provoked by the downfall of Saddam --- with their almost certain domino effects --- might be in the Middle East region, the maintenance of the disastrous status quo in the Middle East (again, underpinned by the above weirdo combo of apologists, idiots, cynics, opportunists, relativists, and despots, plus the usual mixture of blame-America ideologues) is even more dangerous and fraught with future menaces that need to be dealt with now. He does note the costs or risks that are involved for this country in seeking to transform the dangerous Middle East status quo:

*using force to destroy the most menacing of the regimes, the evil-triad of trrorist-supporting states, ruled by brutal totalitarians or semi-totalitarians, starting with Iraq. That will set off the dominoes, followed by Iran spontaneously changing one way or another as time goes on, and dominoes falling are risky.

*staying for years in the Middle East (American troops are still in Germany and Japan decades after WWII, where they aren't needed . . . though Japan's government vigorously wants them these days in a region full of power flux and uncertainty, not to mention an erratic and brutal nuclear-arming North Korea. We can expect some help from the British and Australians, but not the opportunist French or Russians, and most likely Spain and Italy and Holland and Denmark, as well as lots of East European countries.

* accepting that anti-American howls and Arabstreet protests will come and go. *pressuring those Arab despotisms able to change and reform -- Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria if the truce holds, the small Gulf States, maybe Egypt, possibly Saudi Arabia if Prince Abdullah wins . . . otherwise, cutting loose from these dictatorships of klepto thugs.

 

A Neo-Conservative Strategy

Used originally as we noted by the Reagan administration with skill against the Soviet Union, this is a neo-conservative strategy with clear roots in Wilsonian liberalism. It manifests faith in democratic and open societies as the main cure for aggressive, warlike states, and believes in the need for ideological hostility to dangerous enemies of the US, including military action to destroy their regimes. Wilson was no appeaser of dictatorships like the EU countries today, or Canada, never mind the sleazy French opportunists in charge of French foreign policy for decades. He used force repeatedly in Central America and the Caribbean, just as he took us into WWI and tried to redo the basics of European-derived diplomacy with the League of Nations, democracy, and capitalism. Unfortunately, he failed in his waning health --- essentially incapacitated upon his return from peaceful Europe right after the end of WWI until he left office in 1920 --- to convince the US Senate to join the League and continue to pursue his liberal policies of democratization and market-oriented development. FDR and Truman carried on the legacy, as did JFK and, tepidly, without any willingness to use force, Jimmy Carter with his human rights policies. We noted that before. It's worth noting again.

Add in terrorism as an enemy of democracy to this list, and you have what the Democratic party mainstream stood for thanks to FDR and Harry Truman, and an assortment of Democratic Senators like Scoop Jackson of Washington State (a big influence on the buggy prof when he grew up in Washington in the 1950s), plus the core labor movement. The liberal camp, alas, came apart in the Vietnam war, and increasingly ever since, the Democratic party has been hijacked in foreign policy by Carter naiveté, pc-relativists, anti-Americans, timorous McGovernites, Harvard policy wonks, and Clinton hemming-and-hawing. There remain some old Jacksonian-Truman types fortunately, but not many. Some of us thought that Clinton had learned his lesson by 1998.

He navigated through Congress the resolution that pledged the US to support toppling Saddam's regime -- December 1998 -- after he described Iraq's government as "outlaw nation" in league with an "unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals." Sounds very Bush-like, no? It was ok for the Democrats in Congress to energetically support Clinton on this issue of regime-change. It was less ok for many when the war against terrorism underscored the dangers, plus four years of Iraqi defiance of the UN while its WMD programs proceed apace; and though in the end most Democrats came on board, it was, apparently, mainly because of election fears rather than out of conviction. Victor Davis's October 15, 2002 article in the Weekly Standard

"Democracy in the Middle East, Weekly Standard "

Victor Davis Hanson is author of "An Autumn of War" (Anchor, 2002) and visiting Shifrin professor of military history at the United States Naval Academy. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the academy.)

WHAT WILL our invasion of Iraq unleash? Our greatest challenge may be not the elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction but the subsequent reconfiguration of the Middle East. What happens inside Iraq on the day Saddam Hussein is gone will reveal American intentions, capabilities, and morality. What we do in Iraq will set the stage for success or failure in the entire region.

If we are to promote some quasi-democracy in post-Saddam Iraq, how will we do it? Iraq is a Muslim country with no tradition of consensual government or even an indigenous vocabulary for "democracy," "citizen," "secularism," or "referendum." The realists remind us that the seeds of constitutional government do not grow in soil that lacks a middle class and the rule of law. They point out that there has never been a truly free Arab democracy in 1,500 years. They are joined by the multicultural, moral relativist, and increasingly isolationist Left, which contends that we have no business dictating to any country the nature of its government. . . . "


 

To Be Continued in Part Two