Posted by Brad @ 10:31 pm on February 27th 2007

Daddy, What’s a Neocon?

(warning: long)

So, I was paging through a New Yorker the other week (syncophantic lickspittle that I am), and in it came across a quote that nearly perfectly sums up the two competing Republican foreign policy worldviews. I often get pressed on that, in my criticism of the neocons, and in my vehement assertion that neoconservatism, of the Bush variety, is a lot of things, but conservative is not one of them. It’s an incredibly important question for Republicans…which is why I found it ironic that the quote I came across was between two Democrats–Chris Dodd, talking about Joe Lieberman:

“I think there was this assumption that democracy was just waiting to blossom,” Dodd said of Iraq. “Let’s assume the President believed this, that it wouldn’t take much to produce a democratic society in Iraq. I’m not opposed to that, and I think that may happen, but the idea that you could go from where they were was a leap of faith, and many took that leap. Joe took that leap. He thought this was one way to bring stability to the region.”

Dodd went on, “I’m in the Brent Scowcroft school, the world as it is.” Once, this would have been a surprising statement, particularly to Brent Scowcroft, who might be called a Republican fatalist. But Dodd said that the last four years had been “sobering” for him. “I’d love to see a democratic Middle East,” he said. “But you’ve got to be a coherent society before you can be a democracy.”

It’s rare that you see a political dialectic so perfectly summed up.

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D’oh

Compare that brief but piqued level of insight to the following anecdote, from Slate. For the record, the exchange purportedly took place in August, 2004:

Bush 43 still sometimes drew on his father’s wide knowledge of the world. Though he refused to read newspapers, he was aware of criticism that his administration had been excessively beholden to a particular clique, and wanted to know more about them. One day during that holiday, according to friends of the family, 43 asked his father, “What’s a neocon?”

“Do you want names, or a description?” answered 41.

“Description.”

“Well,” said the former president of the United States, “I’ll give it to you in one word: Israel.”

August, 2004.

In drawing that contrast I’m not just haw hawing at the president (although, obviously, I’m not passing that up either), but I am suggesting that there is a fundamental conversation that has been needing to take place within the Republican party since 2002, but never has (at least not on the level it needs to–mostly it’s been confined to peripheral figures like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, or in publications that have not entirely ceded their intellectual credibility to leader-worship and terror-hysterics, like the American Conservative). I’m also going to leave the entire Israel aspect aside for this discussion, not that it’s not important, more that I don’t want to touch it (and don’t really need to, for my purposes, anyway).

But liberals talk a lot about how the president was able to use the cloud of fear and grief and anger over 9-11 to essentially dupe the rest of the country into letting him chart a foreign policy course they never would have agreed to otherwise. They’re right, of course–self-evidently so, if you ask me. But what is being missed is that the same duping occurred within the Republican party, and within the ideological school of thought that is conservatism, generally.

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Neoconservatism: The New Old Marxism

I’m not going to (entirely) rehash the strict History of Neoconservatism, or give a who’s who accounting to its timeline, or a pedantic adherence to its labeling. If you want a very good primer on the History of Neoconservatism, here is a good start (required reading, in fact), or the writings of Michael Lind. But a couple of broad strokes, and most importantly, I want to give a brief mention to its inception. I am less interested in its adaptation from Scoop Jackson on, and more interested in its basest ideological roots, because they are certainly still operating today, and are indeed what continue to drive it.

My political interests and my interest in literary theory sometimes dovetail, and that’s certainly the case here. The first strains of neoconservatism were, of course, liberal. But liberal doesn’t quite get at it. Really, the first strains of neoconservatism were militantly liberal. The New School (from whence Irving Kristol came) was where neoconservatism was born, and its most important figure was Max Shachtman. These early neocons were nearly all of them Trotskyites, predominantly Jewish, New York liberal intelligensia who placed a heavy emphasis on being anti-communist, anti-counterculture, pro-war socialists.

That political identification led to obvious fissures with the Democratic party throughout the 20th century. The neocons (they called themselves the New Left in those days) frequently broke with the Democratic party on their lack of militancy, perceived lack of seriousness about upbraiding communism (the neocon criticism of communism is, itself, a subject well worth the time to look into, and has always struck me as utterly bizarre and about the ideological equivalent of an impossible figure, perhaps because they often gloss over how their own vision of the world isn’t all that different from the former Soviet Union’s in vision, just in mechanism), and for their inability or unwillingness to allow America to use her power to free the people of the world. They later became the “Socialists for Nixon” crowd (you heard that right), and eventually Reagan Republicans, and now, neocons. And, of course, along the way they adopted a constellation of “sorta” conservative ideas, like a distrust for counterculture, an enthusiasm for markets (but not in absolutes, rather in very specifically defined contexts–my favorite shorthand description of this is Lind’s, explaining neocons as “imperialists who give two cheers for capitalism”), a distrust of civil liberties, perhaps above all else the belief in a strong executive and an eschewing of federalism (and even basic democratic institutions, like “voting”, if in doing so you preserve “freedom”)(the pattern of this could best be described as America as the patriarch, the kind but stern father of the world that knows best, then the president as the patriarch of America, etc), and on and on. The result is the neoconservatism we have today, which would more accurately be called paeloliberalism, and is, for the most part, an incoherent hodgepodge, but which is, at its base, simply a militant, imperialistic, self-interested form of Marxism.

That last point perhaps is the important bit, because the specific school of Marxist thought that the neoconservative movement was born from is the Trotsky notion of permanent revolution, based in part on some observations originally borne from Marx and Engels (1850):

It is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. … Their battle-cry must be: “The Permanent Revolution.”

Trotsky’s mutation of this concept, to be practically applied in the revolution of Russia, was that in some “backwards” countries, a formally collaborative freedomification ™ might not be possible from the bottom up, and so compromises might have to be made to allow the proletariat and peasantry to get a leg up, to bypass or override the normal revolutionary process (such as that was). Intervention to allow this revolution to become instantiated where it might not otherwise spring up on its own, then, is a necessary part of the internationalist vision. Trotsky’s own summation:

“The Perspective of permanent revolution may be summarized in the following way: the complete victory of the democratic revolution in Russia is conceivable only in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, leaning on the peasantry. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which would inevitably place on the order of the day not only democratic but socialistic tasks as well, would at the same time give a powerful impetus to the international socialist revolution. Only the victory of the proletariat in the West could protect Russia from bourgeois resoration and assure it the possibility of rounding out the establishment of socialism.”

If you were to paraphrase a good bit of that into Crawford Texasese, the Marxism of the New Left circa WWII, and the Marxism of the New Cons circa Global War on Terror, aren’t very distant schools of imperialistic thought.

I don’t want to go too far down this “history of Marxism” road though–there are certainly a lot of people who know a helluva lot more about Marxism than I do (including dizzy)–but I do want that central concept to be clear (incidentally, a good primer on Trotsky can be found here). The point is that both socialist Marxist liberals in America through the 1950s and 60s, and their Trotskyite “New Left” counterparts, differ very little in the kernels of their beliefs. The difference was, the paleoliberal/neocons believed enough in their Marxist vision to determine that it was necessary to back up this permanent revolution with the muscle and hegemony and full weight of American foreign and military policy–indeed, it was a moral imperative. The ones that went on to be regular Democrats were equally Marxist, just bigger pussies.

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“They Will Greet Us As Liberators”

It’s important to remember that, though the neocon ideology is indelibly linked to Marxism (even more so, these days, than the American left, at least in terms of their internationalist framework), neoconservatism is not, or at least has not been, a core Republican party ideology. It certainly had it’s place in the Cold War, particularly during the Reagan administration, but it was never a natural fit with the GOP, and was certainly not ascendant until shortly after 9-11, when an inner cabal of the administration used the toxic shock of that horror as an enormous opportunity to finally reverse the course of more traditional Republican/libertarian isolationism, or Nixon/Kissingeresque “tinkering”, with the full brunt of the New School Marxism. I don’t feel it necessary to rehash that ascension here (one google keyword: PNAC), but it is important to realize how radically the GOP has changed course over the course of less than a decade. Just to give one snippet:

During a debate with then-Vice President Al Gore on Oct. 11, 2000, in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bush said: “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. . . . I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have a kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.”

Note how far from both Trotsky and Bush circa 2002 that simple and very politically popular no-brainer debate response was. It was, in fact, from the fall of the Wall on, the standard boilerplate Republican vision of America and her place in the world. The Libertarians have a great catch-phrase for that mindset: “Armed Neutrality”. Brent Scowcroft had his own ideas of what this vision for the world entails, but it isn’t substantively different. And now, of course, a mainstream Democrat like Chris Dodd expresses sympathy for it, and he’s not very far from the current pulse of the Democratic party on that (there are, of course, plenty of wrinkles there, frequently exposed, but that’s not this essay’s purpose). Of course, that notion of Armed Neutrality has never meant, strictly speaking, a total disinterest in the world. Self-defense remains critical (and how you define that remains controversial), and soft power is a tool that almost no Libertarian can pass up emphasizing when describing a Libertarian foreign policy–or, for that matter, a Republican conservative one (the reason, after all, that only Nixon could–and did–go to China). But it has more or less detached itself in any interest or belief in the ability of America to shape the world in its image at the point of a bayonet.

This belief, up until very recently a core principle of conservatism (at least in the American context), is now about as far from the dominant paradigm ruling the Republican party as you can possibly get.

At another haunt of Adam, Rojas, and I, discussion on the War in Iraq often comes back to liberals or anti-war folk generally refusing to believe that the War in Iraq or the War on Terror have anything to do with ideology, and is instead just a more or less random scatterplot of corruption, greed, incompetence, idiocy, and bad men wishing bad things and doing bad deed (badly) to get there. That is, and has always been, utter tosh. In my view, just saying they’re bad people doing bad things poorly lets them off the hook.

I believe, and have always believed, that the people running this country and its foreign policy, believe they are serving America’s interests. I believe that nearly all of them (with the possible exceptions of Rumsfeld, who is a monster egoist, and Cheney, whose tiny black heart pumps a solution equal parts coagulated turkey grease and motor oil), lay their heads on the pillow at night believing that they are serving America, that they are doing what’s necessary, and good. I absolutely believe that. They want what’s best for America, and the world.

But that doesn’t make them right. And, in my mind, the fact that they are driven not by transient interests ala Halliburton stock or Saudi Royal family connections or securing oil revenues (great job they’ve done with that), but by a driving ideology that leads them to believe they are absolutely in the right, is precisely the scary part. I would be much comforted if I thought they were just the usual corrupt morons (n.b. I am not saying that they AREN’T corrupt, or morons, or driven in part by stocks and connections, but that it isn’t the central facet that is needed to understand their foreign policy legacy).

To that end, there is much harping of famous Idiotic Utterances surrounding these wars and their executions. “Bring it on”, “Mission Accomplished”, “stuff happens”, the 16 words in the State of the Union address, etc. But the most emblematic, the one at the core of the problems inherent in this new Republican foreign policy schema, is the following:

“my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators”.

Along with:

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we池e not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don稚 think it痴 likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.

and…

When then-Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told legislators that such a mission would require several hundred thousand U.S. troops, his assessment had been immediately dismissed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as “wildly off the mark.” Wolfowitz explained that “I am reasonably certain that (the Iraqi people) will greet us as liberators.”

Central to understanding the War in Iraq, both in itself and as a centerpiece to the War on Terror and the Republican party, is the understanding that these lines were NOT flip. They were NOT just unthinking glib remarks meant to assuage trembles, or just fluffy talking points to be trotted out one week and forgotten shortly thereafter. They were (and are) quite the opposite–fundamental precepts on which our entire foreign policy construction was and is based. They were, and remain, the basis of our entire failure in Iraq.

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Liberalism at Gunpoint

That intellectual foundation of 21st century neoconservatism–as with 20th century Marxism–is amazingly simplistic, seductively so. If I had to make a shorthand conceptualization of it, it would be this: Scratch the surface, and you will find freedom. Overturn a rock and there will be revolution. The natural condition of man is freedom, therefore, all you have to do is decapitate the unnatural impediments, and freedom (Western style democracy, in the current conception) will flower and bloom. We could theoretically go around lopping off dictators left and right and the people, those teaming masses struggling under the oppressive yokes of artificial despotisms, will rise up and take control. It is, in the neoconservative (and Marxist) tradition, as fundamental and base as human nature itself. And, taken just a step farther, the process is enormously simple; easy, even. The United States of America will provide the scalpel with which to remove the tumors, and the body will heal itself, and grow strong. You don’t have to be there for any of that, it’ll happen on its own. You just have to be willing to make the first cut. Nature takes over from there.

Nearly all of the missteps and negligences of the War in Iraq can be seen through this prism. The nearly criminal lack of post-war planning (based on the notion that the hard part would be the war, the post-war would more or less take care of itself), the lack of American troops (and the stubborn commitment to not change that course), the inconceivably avoidable riots and looting and lack of basic order in the early days, the gobsmacking blindness to foreseeable problems and constraints and the almost willful disinclination to acknowledge or accommodate for them, the whole project itself (and why it was important enough that whatever else surrounding securing support for it could be fudged more or less as much as could be reasonably gotten away with), and its conceptual place as the center for the Global War on Terror (a free Iraq => free middle east => free world).

The problem, of course, is that the world doesn’t always work according to theory, even the most well-intentioned and even noble ones.

We’ve spent the last few years finding that out.

However, I am also acutely aware that my opinions on the fallacies of this permanent revolution aren’t shared by the GOP anymore (though even they haven’t been able to successfully stave off the impending and overwhelming reality, and the levee might be well and truly broke, even if most Republicans don’t want to publicly admit it yet (and of course it’s worth noting that neoconservatism looks to live on, should McCain or Rudy win the presidency, though to what degree and fervor remains an open question)). I believe the Democratic party has been leaning and sympathizing in the right direction in the last few years, as much out of reactionism as anything, but I am also well aware that my belief isn’t exactly the “liberal tradition”. And, as an important sidebar, I also recognize that on this point, many libertarians are themselves split. I don’t want to get too far down that rabbit hole, but I do want to acknowledge it. The Liberventionists, as they’re called, have certainly fallen out of fashion in the LP, but they’re still around.

A snippet from Freedom Democrats that sums up the position of the Liberventionists:

> Non-interventionism is the tradition of libertarianism

No, LIBERTY is the tradition of libertarianism (it’s even in the name).

Any intervention to increase liberty in the world is not only concurrent with libertarianism, it is DEMANDED by it.

The neocon variant might say much the same, but the kernel of the idea (if not the mechanism), for the neocons would be much more selfish than that. We are demanded to intervene to make the world more free, for our own interests. The key distinction is that the latter clause comes first, and of course it’s there that the old style Nixonian/Kissingerist/Cold War Republican foreign policy bleeds through a little bit, and it is also there that neoconservatism begins its split from liberterventionism. Because ultimately it is rarely, if ever, about freedom for its own sake. It was in the original Marxist conception, but it’s been too spoiled by its evolution through the Republican party (and it is here where I concede the points made by people that even if neoconservatism IS strictly ideology, it is also in practice riddled with the same corruption, selfishness, incompetence, and myopia that metastasizes through all human endeavors of this scope and magnitude and power. To put that another way, the Libertarian moral imperative is other people’s freedom for its own sake. The neoconservative moral imperative is other people’s freedom for OUR sake. That distinction may begin as an academic and pedantic one, but in practice, it turns out too often to be vitally important, and has all kinds of repercussions.

That is not to say that the freedom principle of pure libertarianism is a wholly altruistic thing either, mind you, far from it. But there is no compromise in freeing other people in libertarian theory, there is no 75%, and even if the motives are about 50/50 altruistic and selfish, the mechanism doesn’t buckle. To put that another way, the achille’s heel of neoconservatist interventionism is it either implicitly or explicitly creates a hierarchy. Our freedom first, then their freedom, to help further secure ours. When you start putting one person’s freedom above another person’s, right at the start, you’re doomed to failure, at least from a purist libertarian point of view.

But I digress.

If you want a good airing of this debate in a snapshot, circa 2003, check out “Can Liberalism Be Spread At Gunpoint?” from Reason, with the viewpoints of Ronald Bailey and Christopher Hitchens, against Ivan Eland and Christopher Preble. Hitchens has obviously changed his tune much since then, but the “pro” case in particular sure hasn’t aged very well.

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Whose Right?

So, where does that leave us today? What’s the answer to Bush 43’s question?

I think Chris Dodd has it right.

Most Republicans, pre-9-11, had it right also (including Bush).

I think you need a coherent society before you can have a free one.

And I think putting too much stock in utopianism (as Marxism surely is) will inevitably lead you to these kinds of problems, blindnesses, and mistakes.

I DO believe that the natural state of man is freedom. But I also believe that, to achieve that freedom, a lot of things need to happen, and more to the point, I believe that freedoms must be acquired by the people, not fiated to them, particularly in transitional societies (what Trotsky would call “backwards” nations). I believe that the only people that can secure their revolutions are themselves, from the ground up. I believe that you can wish it for them like you can wish sobriety for an alcoholic, but it’s not going to happen until they make the leap themselves.

On this point I diverge from many schools of political thought (the liberal tradition in the Democratic party, the neoconservatism ascent in the Republican one, and the liberventionist position among the libertarian purists). And, making the libertarian case for Armed Neutrality, or the Democratic case for Scowcroftianism (did I just coin that?), or the Republican case for jettisoning their brief but grand experiment with Marxism, are all posts for another time. What I did want to discuss though was the ideological underpinnings of it all. Hopefully I’ve done that without being too incoherent.

12 Comments »

  1. Hey Paint, I hope you can forgive me for focusing on a single sentence in an enjoyable post, but I really can’t let it pass by: the idea of freedom being the natural state of man. Seriously, that right there deserves an essay all unto itself. I don’t think it is at all self-evident that it’s true, regardless of my desire for it to be so. Part of the problem are the presence of not one but two amorphous words that, because of their positive connotations become polluted through constant co-opting and hence are catch-alls. I’m talking about ‘freedom’ and ‘natural’. Just to be clear, I don’t think you are mindlessly using them, but I do think you should spend more time saying exactly what you mean, since these words on their own can so easily mean quite little.

    As for me, off the cuff, I will take ‘freedom’ in this context to mean the degree to which one can act according to one’s will and ‘natural state’ to mean that state to which a society (we are dealing in those basic units here, no) will tend absent outside interference. So, rephrasing we have something like: Societies, over time, will tend to maximize the individual’s latitude to act willfully.

    On reflection, I think my real issue is with ‘natural’ (let’s just take it for granted that we can somehow measure ‘freedom’ objectively satisfying way, e.g. a survey that doesn’t actually suck). What is natural anyhow? Hunter-gatherer groups? Roving militaries? Dynastic monarchies? And on and on. It seems like we are swimming into cultural evolution territory which is just barely a science, maybe. I mean, what are you (and basically a whole shitload of other people in the West) basing this belief on? It seems to me like freedom it correllated with affluence and education, and one could make all sorts of arguments if I just introduced a redundancy there. Even if you disagree specifically you do admit that freedom is correllated with *something*: “But I also believe that, to achieve that freedom, a lot of things need to happen…”

    So, how ‘natural’ is that *something*? I’m not sure. It’s not clear to me that Western-style democracies must inevitably spread. Certainly, I agree, most definitely that we cannot enforce them. It’s an utterly ridiculous notion and moreso now than ever. I suppose, I’ve had this secret hope that the virus of culture will spread it, that the marketplace of ideas, or cultural evolution (choose your metaphor!) will demonstrate over time the better way to organize large societies. I’m just not convinced that a) it’s MUST happen b) what is our best strategy if we are to act from a position of enlightened self-interest.

    Comment by tessellated — 2/27/2007 @ 11:44 pm

  2. Yeah, I did use that sentence too superficially, and you’re right it does deserve notice.

    I suppose, just my own subjective lean, that I side with the last few sentences of your final paragraph. I don’t believe that Western-style democracies will inevitably spread, per se (and agree with you that they certainly can’t be fiated, though there are counterexamples to that the neocons trot out frequently (Japan, for one), although the “coherency” threshold of WWII Germany and Japan is a helluva lot different than modern day Iraq, North Korea, East African nations, etc), but I do believe that man (humans) will tend towards seeking out as free a state as they can manage (all sorts of wrinkles to even that, but we’re talking major generalities anyway). As one off the cuff measure, the amount of energy you have to exert to keep a population living under fascist despotism seems to me to likely be vastly more than the amount of energy required to keep up a liberal democratic population (meaning; keep them from anarchy or taking to the street with pitchforks and guns).

    I do believe in the virus of freedom, also. I believe that, all else being equal, in the grand marketplace of ideas, “freedom” in the Lockean sense will ultimately win out. Of course, it’s the “all else being equal” part that’s so troublesome, and controlling for the nearly infinite amount of confounds is problematic to say the least (and how you do that, or how far you go to do that, is the great American foreign policy question of the 20th century to present–the neocon Bush Doctrine position seems to be “kill people that get in the way, if possible”).

    All of that is enormously hard (impossible) to quantify, but then again I wasn’t meaning it as an objective truth, but my own belief (faith?). I don’t know that I would say it MUST happen either. I think I would be more comfortable saying it probably WILL happen, or at least WANTS to happen.

    Perhaps then the ultimate difference between my (our?) perspective and the neoconservatism one is simply that I have more faith in freedom, and the resiliency of it, and our resiliency in the face of the maelstrom of problems that come along with its birthing. I don’t view a failure to advocate a policy of preemptive war, or to hold an activist Marxist notion of fostering revolution around the world through targeted military action, as being an advocate of a “passive” policy per se, at least not in the pejorative sense. I don’t view it as “giving up” on freedom in the least, which is something I get accused of sometimes by neocons. But I do believe, like everything else worth having, it has to be earned by the people who wish for it, and I suppose I have, at core, an earnest optimism that, over time, it will be.

    I don’t think that answers your question. :)

    Comment by Paint CHiPs — 2/28/2007 @ 12:03 am

  3. Well, you did. It wasn’t like I was expecting some eureka moment. I suspect we all (you and me and a great many others) buy into this basic belief (myth perhaps?) that enlightened man free of the ignoble chains of ignorance, or poverty, or tyranny, or whatever will grasp the brass ring of freedom. It’s nice thought, a comforting thought, and certainly an admirable wish, right? But, we (people in general) really need to be more conscience about how beliefs drive our decisions. I agree very much that just because we don’t take an active role of intervention that somehow implies disinterest. The best lever to pull is not always the most obvious one.

    So what to do then? Try and repair foreign relations, reduce our military presence to only those missions of which they are capable of fulfilling, open up this country MORE not less to foreigners, relearn the art of soft power.

    Comment by tessellated — 2/28/2007 @ 12:22 am

  4. All those suggestions are good ones; they would top my list too.

    On the natural freedom bit, your point is a good one, and taken. I wish I could give a more satisfactory answer to it, but at least I can sit on my heels a bit because far, far better man than I have hashed over the question of freedom as the natural state of man hundreds of years before I was even a thought.

    America, incidentally, was founded on a homegrown revolution that took that idea as its core belief. The irony of that isn’t lost on me. I hope it’s not on the neocons.

    Comment by Paint CHiPs — 2/28/2007 @ 1:09 am

  5. You’re going to win a Pulitzer some day…if only you can find yourself a good editor with a sharp pair of scissors.

    Comment by weltschmerz — 2/28/2007 @ 2:49 am

  6. Didin’t read it Paint, I skimmed, looked ok I think. I’m currently reading Francis Fukyama’s “After the Neocons” which is quite a compelling read about how a new term needs to be found to describe neoconservatism (especially in foreign policy terms) because “neocon” has come synonimous with the Administration in which, ironically, there weren’t really any neocons as such in the highest positions.

    Comment by dizzy — 3/1/2007 @ 1:16 am

  7. I’m hoping that the neocons will descend to bickering amongst each other about who is a True Believer and who’s a fraud who has helped torpedo the neocon mission in Iraq and the greater Middle-East.

    Bill Kristol started in on this early; I heard him in an NPR interview 3 or so years ago ragging on the Bush administration for not sending enough troops.

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2007 @ 9:59 am

  8. The Fukyama book is great (I’ve only read excerpts), but his premise in that respect is wrong. It isn’t the highest positioned members of the administration that changed from neoconservatism, but Fukyama himself. Understandable, of course, that he’d want to take the label with him, but really he’s the one shifting position. He’s starting to backslide to the conservative position, or what I would call the conservative position. A great belief in many of the foundational beliefs of neoconservatism, but a big dose of skepticism for its methods and mechanisms, mixed in with a pinch of cynical isolationism. To me, part of the definition of a neoconservative would have to include its wide-eyed stupid optimism–indeed, it’s almost not neoconservatism anymore without the belief that the path to permanent revolution (perpetual war for perpetual peace) is to go around instantiating revolution wherever you see tyranny, and then just sitting back and waiting for the world freedom to start rolling in.

    But, certainly the neoconservatives would not elect me to speak for them on this score, much less define them as I see fit. Of course, they wouldn’t do so with Fukyama anymore either.

    Comment by Paint CHiPs — 3/1/2007 @ 11:38 am

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