Sunday, November 05, 2006

Project for a new neoconservatism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Kevin Drum has a great post up on "the neocon rehabilitation project," which is currently playing out in an article by David Rose in Vanity Fair (see Glenn Greenwald, too).

The neocons are looking for someone to blame, a scapegoat, but of course they have no one to blame for the fiasco in Iraq but themselves. The Iraq War is simply neoconservatism par excellence. As Iraq slides ever further into chaos and civil war, so too does neoconservatism's reputation and credibility.

Drum: "[D]espite their conveniently-timed hand wringing about incompetent execution, there's little evidence that the apologists would have done anything very different -- in fact, little evidence that they cared very much about anything beyond 'bringing down Saddam.'" Indeed, they pretty much got everything wrong. And the mismanagement of the war and subsequent occupation is their own fault. Both Cheney and Rumsfeld, after all, signed the PNAC's 1997 "Statement of Principles" along with the others. They all wanted the war. And they all botched it. Drum again:

The neocons have always been idealists, and their ideals saw full flower in the Iraq war. A show of force in one country, plenty of threats against its neighbors, a disdain for multilateral action, and an occupation designed to be a showpiece of conservative ideology rather than a serious attempt at reconstructing a society. That's what the neocons wanted, and that's what they got. The rest is details.

The failure of Iraq is inherent in the naive idealism and fixated ideology of neoconservatism, and shame on us if we let them get away with suggesting otherwise. This is one rehabilitation project that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks.

The blame game currently underway is nothing but an effort to shield neoconservatism and its adherents from historical damnation by assigning responsibility elsewhere. It is an effort to make the case that the war in Iraq failed not because of neoconservatism but because it wasn't neoconservative enough. Hence neocon high priest Bill Kristol's recurring argument that there needed to be, and still ought to be, more troops on the ground. Ultimately, though, the target of this rehabilitation effort is none other than the man they co-opted in the first place: George W. Bush.

After 9/11, Bush was the neocons' man in the White House, even if the pre-9/11 Bush was more like his father and his father's realist pals (Baker, Scowcroft, Kissinger) than the highly unrealistic neocons. No matter. The neoconservative worldview became Bush's post-9/11 worldview with little trouble. Afghanistan was the obvious first target of military action. But then it was quickly on to Iraq, long the neocons' stated target.

And the rest is history, leading up to where we are today: an Iraq in chaos, a Republican Party in disarray, a president turned on by his own disgraced puppeteers, and a movement pathetically struggling to rehabilitate itself through self-purification, through the purging of undesirable elements. Neoconservatism has always resembled Communism. Indeed, it grew out of American post-Communist leftism of the 1960s. The neoconservative purge today is a lot like the Soviet purges of old.

Neoconservatism won't go away, but, whatever the outcome of this purge, it is imperative that the failures of this failed ideology not be forgotten. Otherwise, America may find itself one day embroiled in yet another disaster like Iraq.

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