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www.nakedcapitalism.comJanuary 27, 2016
By Andrew J. Bacevich, the author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History , which Random House will publish in April. Originally published at TomDispatch
To judge by the early returns, the presidential race of 2016 is shaping up as the most disheartening in recent memory. Other than as a form of low entertainment, the speeches, debates, campaign events, and slick TV ads already inundating the public sphere offer little of value. Rather than exhibiting the vitality of American democracy, they testify to its hollowness.
Present-day Iranian politics may actually possess considerably more substance than our own. There, the parties involved, whether favoring change or opposing it, understand that the issues at stake have momentous implications. Here, what passes for national politics is a form of exhibitionism about as genuine as pro wrestling.
A presidential election campaign ought to involve more than competing coalitions of interest groups or bevies of investment banks and billionaires vying to install their preferred candidate in the White House. It should engage and educate citizens, illuminating issues and subjecting alternative solutions to careful scrutiny.
That this one won't even come close we can ascribe as much to the media as to those running for office, something the recent set of "debates" and the accompanying commentary have made painfully clear. With certain honorable exceptions such as NBC's estimable Lester Holt, representatives of the press are less interested in fulfilling their civic duty than promoting themselves as active participants in the spectacle. They bait, tease, and strut. Then they subject the candidates' statements and misstatements to minute deconstruction. The effect is to inflate their own importance while trivializing the proceedings they are purportedly covering.
Above all in the realm of national security, election 2016 promises to be not just a missed opportunity but a complete bust. Recent efforts to exercise what people in Washington like to call "global leadership" have met with many more failures and disappointments than clearcut successes. So you might imagine that reviewing the scorecard would give the current raft of candidates, Republican and Democratic alike, plenty to talk about.
But if you thought that, you'd be mistaken. Instead of considered discussion of first-order security concerns, the candidates have regularly opted for bluff and bluster, their chief aim being to remove all doubts regarding their hawkish bona fides.
In that regard, nothing tops rhetorically beating up on the so-called Islamic State. So, for example, Hillary Clinton promises to "smash the would-be caliphate," Jeb Bush to " defeat ISIS for good," Ted Cruz to " carpet bomb them into oblivion," and Donald Trump to " bomb the shit out of them." For his part, having recently acquired a gun as the "last line of defense between ISIS and my family," Marco Rubio insists that when he becomes president, "The most powerful intelligence agency in the world is going to tell us where [ISIS militants] are; the most powerful military in the world is going to destroy them; and if we capture any of them alive, they are getting a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay."
These carefully scripted lines perform their intended twofold function. First, they elicit applause and certify the candidate as plenty tough. Second, they spare the candidate from having to address matters far more deserving of presidential attention than managing the fight against the Islamic State.
In the hierarchy of challenges facing the United States today, ISIS ranks about on a par with Sicily back in 1943. While liberating that island was a necessary prelude to liberating Europe more generally, the German occupation of Sicily did not pose a direct threat to the Allied cause. So with far weightier matters to attend to - handling Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for example - President Franklin Roosevelt wisely left the problem of Sicily to subordinates. FDR thereby demonstrated an aptitude for distinguishing between the genuinely essential and the merely important.
By comparison, today's crop of presidential candidates either are unable to grasp, cannot articulate, or choose to ignore those matters that should rightfully fall under a commander-in-chief's purview. Instead, they compete with one another in vowing to liberate the twenty-first-century equivalent of Sicily, as if doing so demonstrates their qualifications for the office.
What sort of national security concerns should be front and center in the current election cycle? While conceding that a reasoned discussion of heavily politicized matters like climate change, immigration, or anything to do with Israel is probably impossible, other issues of demonstrable significance deserve attention. What follows are six of them - by no means an exhaustive list - that I've framed as questions a debate moderator might ask of anyone seeking the presidency, along with brief commentaries explaining why neither the posing nor the answering of such questions is likely to happen anytime soon.
Ignim Brites, January 27, 2016 at 5:21 am
- The War on Terror: Nearly 15 years after this "war" was launched by George W. Bush, why hasn't "the most powerful military in the world," "the finest fighting force in the history of the world" won it? Why isn't victory anywhere in sight?
As if by informal agreement, the candidates and the journalists covering the race have chosen to ignore the military enterprise inaugurated in 2001, initially called the Global War on Terrorism and continuing today without an agreed-upon name. Since 9/11, the United States has invaded, occupied, bombed, raided, or otherwise established a military presence in numerous countries across much of the Islamic world. How are we doing?
Given the resources expended and the lives lost or ruined, not particularly well it would seem. Intending to promote stability, reduce the incidence of jihadism, and reverse the tide of anti-Americanism among many Muslims, that "war" has done just the opposite. Advance the cause of democracy and human rights? Make that zero-for-four.
Amazingly, this disappointing record has been almost entirely overlooked in the campaign. The reasons why are not difficult to discern. First and foremost, both parties share in the serial failures of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere in the region. Pinning the entire mess on George W. Bush is no more persuasive than pinning it all on Barack Obama. An intellectually honest accounting would require explanations that look beyond reflexive partisanship. Among the matters deserving critical scrutiny is Washington's persistent bipartisan belief in military might as an all-purpose problem solver. Not far behind should come questions about simple military competence that no American political figure of note or mainstream media outlet has the gumption to address.
The politically expedient position indulged by the media is to sidestep such concerns in favor of offering endless testimonials to the bravery and virtue of the troops, while calling for yet more of the same or even further escalation. Making a show of supporting the troops takes precedence over serious consideration of what they are continually being asked to do.
- Nuclear Weapons: Today, more than 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what purpose do nukes serve? How many nuclear weapons and delivery systems does the United States actually need?
In an initiative that has attracted remarkably little public attention, the Obama administration has announced plans to modernize and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Estimated costs of this program reach as high as $1 trillion over the next three decades. Once finished - probably just in time for the 100th anniversary of Hiroshima - the United States will possess more flexible, precise, survivable, and therefore usable nuclear capabilities than anything hitherto imagined. In effect, the country will have acquired a first-strike capability - even as U.S. officials continue to affirm their earnest hope of removing the scourge of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth (other powers being the first to disarm, of course).
Whether, in the process, the United States will become more secure or whether there might be far wiser ways to spend that kind of money - shoring up cyber defenses, for example - would seem like questions those who could soon have their finger on the nuclear button might want to consider.
Yet we all know that isn't going to happen. Having departed from the sphere of politics or strategy, nuclear policy has long since moved into the realm of theology. Much as the Christian faith derives from a belief in a Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, so nuclear theology has its own Triad, comprised of manned bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched missiles. To question the existence of such a holy threesome constitutes rank heresy. It's just not done - especially when there's all that money about to be dropped into the collection plate.
- Energy Security: Given the availability of abundant oil and natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere and the potential future abundance of alternative energy systems, why should the Persian Gulf continue to qualify as a vital U.S. national security interest?
Back in 1980, two factors prompted President Jimmy Carter to announce that the United States viewed the Persian Gulf as worth fighting for. The first was a growing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and a belief that American consumers were guzzling gas at a rate that would rapidly deplete domestic reserves. The second was a concern that, having just invaded Afghanistan, the Soviet Union might next have an appetite for going after those giant gas stations in the Gulf, Iran, or even Saudi Arabia.
Today we know that the Western Hemisphere contains more than ample supplies of oil and natural gas to sustain the American way of life (while also heating up the planet). As for the Soviet Union, it no longer exists - a decade spent chewing on Afghanistan having produced a fatal case of indigestion.
No doubt ensuring U.S. energy security should remain a major priority. Yet in that regard, protecting Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela is far more relevant to the nation's well-being than protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq, while being far easier and cheaper to accomplish. So who will be the first presidential candidate to call for abrogating the Carter Doctrine? Show of hands, please?
- Assassination: Now that the United States has normalized assassination as an instrument of policy, how well is it working? What are its benefits and costs?
George W. Bush's administration pioneered the practice of using missile-armed drones as a method of extrajudicial killing. Barack Obama's administration greatly expanded and routinized the practice.
The technique is clearly "effective" in the narrow sense of liquidating leaders and "lieutenants" of terror groups that policymakers want done away with. What's less clear is whether the benefits of state-sponsored assassination outweigh the costs , which are considerable. The incidental killing of noncombatants provokes ire directed against the United States and provides terror groups with an excellent recruiting tool. The removal of Mr. Bad Actor from the field adversely affects the organization he leads for no longer than it takes for a successor to emerge. As often as not, the successor turns out to be nastier than Mr. Bad Actor himself.
It would be naïve to expect presidential candidates to interest themselves in the moral implications of assassination as now practiced on a regular basis from the White House. Still, shouldn't they at least wonder whether it actually works as advertised? And as drone technology proliferates, shouldn't they also contemplate the prospect of others - say, Russians, Chinese, and Iranians - following America's lead and turning assassination into a global practice?
- Europe: Seventy years after World War II and a quarter-century after the Cold War ended, why does European security remain an American responsibility? Given that Europeans are rich enough to defend themselves, why shouldn't they?
Americans love Europe: old castles, excellent cuisine, and cultural attractions galore. Once upon a time, the parts of Europe that Americans love best needed protection. Devastated by World War II, Western Europe faced in the Soviet Union a threat that it could not handle alone. In a singular act of generosity laced with self-interest, Washington came to the rescue. By forming NATO, the United States committed itself to defend its impoverished and vulnerable European allies. Over time this commitment enabled France, Great Britain, West Germany, and other nearby countries to recover from the global war and become strong, prosperous, and democratic countries.
Today Europe is "whole and free," incorporating not only most of the former Soviet empire, but even parts of the old Soviet Union itself. In place of the former Soviet threat, there is Vladimir Putin, a bully governing a rickety energy state that, media hype notwithstanding, poses no more than a modest danger to Europe itself. Collectively, the European Union's economy, at $18 trillion , equals that of the United States and exceeds Russia's, even in sunnier times, by a factor of nine. Its total population , easily outnumbering our own, is more than triple Russia's . What these numbers tell us is that Europe is entirely capable of funding and organizing its own defense if it chooses to do so.
It chooses otherwise, in effect opting for something approximating disarmament. As a percentage of the gross domestic product, European nations spend a fraction of what the United States does on defense. When it comes to armaments, they prefer to be free riders and Washington indulges that choice. So even today, seven decades after World War II ended, U.S. forces continue to garrison Europe and America's obligation to defend 26 countries on the far side of the Atlantic remains intact.
The persistence of this anomalous situation deserves election-year attention for one very important reason. It gets to the question of whether the United States can ever declare mission accomplished. Since the end of World War II, Washington has extended its security umbrella to cover not only Europe, but also virtually all of Latin America and large parts of East Asia. More recently, the Middle East, Central Asia, and now Africa have come in for increased attention. Today, U.S. forces alone maintain an active presence in 147 countries.
Do our troops ever really get to "come home"? The question is more than theoretical in nature. To answer it is to expose the real purpose of American globalism, which means, of course, that none of the candidates will touch it with a 10-foot pole.
- Debt: Does the national debt constitute a threat to national security? If so, what are some politically plausible ways of reining it in?
Together, the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama can take credit for tripling the national debt since 2000. Well before Election Day this coming November, the total debt, now exceeding the entire gross domestic product, will breach the $19 trillion mark .
In 2010, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described that debt as "the most significant threat to our national security." Although in doing so he wandered a bit out of his lane, he performed a rare and useful service by drawing a link between long-term security and fiscal responsibility. Ever so briefly, a senior military officer allowed consideration of the national interest to take precedence over the care and feeding of the military-industrial complex. It didn't last long.
Mullen's comment garnered a bit of attention, but failed to spur any serious congressional action. Again, we can see why, since Congress functions as an unindicted co-conspirator in the workings of that lucrative collaboration. Returning to anything like a balanced budget would require legislators to make precisely the sorts of choices that they are especially loathe to make - cutting military programs that line the pockets of donors and provide jobs for constituents. (Although the F-35 fighter may be one of the most bloated and expensive weapons programs in history, even Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has left no stone unturned in lobbying to get those planes stationed in his hometown of Burlington.)
Recently, the role of Congress in authorizing an increase in the debt ceiling has provided Republicans with an excuse for political posturing, laying responsibility for all that red ink entirely at the feet of President Obama - this despite the fact that he has reduced the annual deficit by two-thirds, from $1.3 trillion the year he took office to $439 billion last year.
This much is certain: regardless of who takes the prize in November, the United States will continue to accumulate debt at a non-trivial rate. If a Democrat occupies the White House, Republicans will pretend to care. If our next president is a Republican, they will keep mum. In either case, the approach to national security that does so much to keep the books out of balance will remain intact.
Come to think of it, averting real change might just be the one point on which the candidates generally agree.fresno dan, January 27, 2016 at 7:22 am
Good list. Missing are questions about maintaining our entangling alliances in Asia, particularly with S. Korea and Japan.Torsten, January 27, 2016 at 8:30 am
Like the "richest country on earth" bromide, the slogans and soundbites that constitute our politics is interesting only in showing that Huxley's Brave New World is the more effective manner of oppression and the one used by our masters…uh, I mean leaders….
"Here, what passes for national politics is a form of exhibitionism about as genuine as pro wrestling."
Hey, pro wrestlers are real athletes. Even though what stunt men do in movies is fake, that doesn't mean that stunts are not dangerous and don't require great skill – same with pro wrestling. I think the average wrestling fan very well understands the entertainment value of pro wrestling and that it is scripted, and that wrestlers play a role. Bad guys fight dirty, cheat but often the good guy prevails.
Does the general public understood the scripted nature of our political debates? At least with pro wrestling, the public gets what it wants. But with politics, the bad guys are dressed as good guys and often prevail. I would say if ONLY our politics were as genuine as pro wrestling….PhilK, January 27, 2016 at 10:56 am
I'm afraid not. When I first arrived in DC, the clueless grad student who greeted me arranged my first night's entertainment -- a pro wrestling match at the now defunct Capital Center. He had convinced himself that the wrestling was real.
And the arena was *full*. One wonders how many of the attendees had similarly convinced themselves of this alternate reality–and how many of those had bet money on the outcome?Bethany Raymond, January 27, 2016 at 7:33 am
Professional wrestling is as "real" as professional ballet and professional opera.Spring Texan, January 27, 2016 at 10:23 am
Except for #6, an excellent list. The idea that our debt is a national security issue is ludicrous. Adm. Mullen needs to stick with what he knows and avoid commenting on economics. The author should know better, too. He needs to start reading NC!Deloss, January 27, 2016 at 11:23 am
Agree, #6 stuck out like a sore thumb.Phil Briers, January 27, 2016 at 1:36 pm
Agreed. Conservatives love to wave their hands in the air and rail about the national debt. But their cure for it never involves revenue. They only want to cut things, and they want to cut things like SS which keeps a lot of us out of poverty and which doesn't have anything to do with the debt anyway.Elizabeth Burton, January 27, 2016 at 1:41 pm
The debt is a strategic issue not because it impacts the budget for "toys for military boys", but because of who is owning the treasury bonds that finance it. China holds a huge amount of that debt and while in normal circumstances it would be foolish to sell them off, it is does give them leverage. Particularly if they decide not to buy future issues.Code Name D, January 27, 2016 at 8:10 am
Also telling, perhaps, that #6 was the only time the author chose to mention Sen. Sanders, and then only to criticize him as being no better than the rest of the pork-barrel packers. Agenda, much?Plenue, January 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm
For every missile recruited in the parade – is a missile not pointed at the enemy. It's true function is to prop up the leaders ego.jabawocky, January 27, 2016 at 8:18 am
Do they know though? I get that they're politicians and thus they lie constantly, but I think that to a large degree there is simple stupidity and ignorance going on as well. Economists as a whole can't be bothered with evidence or experiments, politicians just listen to their economic advisers, and media writers generally don't understand much of anything, spending most of their time reading style guides.hemeantwell, January 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm
A good list except 5 which only naively presents the reasons for American presence in Europe, which is mainly to prevent European alliance with Russia.Plenue, January 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm
there is Vladimir Putin, a bully governing a rickety energy state that, media hype notwithstanding, poses no more than a modest danger to Europe itself.
Bacevich continues to suffer from a cold war hangover. In his daze he just gestures at the mess that NATO made of the Ukraine as it tried to back oligarchs in favor of NATO expansion against the more neutral oligarchs Russia favored. He also ignores how the EU has been up to bullying its own members in the name of austerity policies favoring Germany and the banks. Although he's critical of the establishment candidates, Bacevich remains aligned with a NATOcentric view of the world.vegeholic, January 27, 2016 at 10:44 am
"In a singular act of generosity laced with self-interest, Washington came to the rescue. By forming NATO, the United States committed itself to defend its impoverished and vulnerable European allies."
Ahahaha, sure. And the Delian League totally wasn't an Athenian Empire.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Athenian Empire)
The Delian League, founded in 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Second Persian invasion of Greece.
Oh…Teejay, January 27, 2016 at 11:15 am
The always stimulating and usually correct Mr. Bacevich has once again swept away the irrelevant chaff and homed in on the issues our candidates and we should be discussing. One quibble with #3.
"Today we know that the Western Hemisphere contains more than ample supplies of oil and natural gas to sustain the American way of life…"
There are lots of supplies but current trends, in my opinion, indicate a divergence between the price that producers need to stay in business and the price that consumers can afford to pay. There used to be a big overlap between these two ranges. We now lurch violently from high to low to find a price which satisfies producers but does not kill the economy. We don't seem to be finding it. Maybe it does not exist. It may still be prudent to disentangle ourselves from the middle east, but the western hemisphere and the U.S. may need to renegotiate their "way of life".Steven, January 27, 2016 at 12:37 pm
Q7: Will a [your] administration continue to harbor war criminals as the Obama administration has done or will we live up to our creed that we are created equal that we are equal in the eyes of the law (domestically and internationally)?
Q8: Will a [your] administration continue to block Nigeria from carrying out its Interpol red letter notice for the arrest of Dick Cheney for his role as head of Halliburton in the $180 million bribery scandal to secure a billion dollar contract?fosforos, January 27, 2016 at 12:47 pm
I believe Mr. Bacevich forgot one – globalization. As a practical matter, how does a nation that has off-shored its capability to support a large scale 'conventional' war continue to get the world to except the 'toxic waste' produced by Wall Street and Washington short of threatening the use of its nuclear weapons to pull down the house (so to speak)?Mike G, January 27, 2016 at 1:41 pm
Bacevich is dead wrong about the importance of Sicily. The most important thing for Roosevelt and Churchill and Stalin was not the inevitable defeat of Hitler (strategically a done deal after Stalingrad and El Alamein) but prevention of a post-WWI type revolution once Hitler had collapsed (that is why the central political strategy of the Allies was "Unconditional Surrender" to be followed by military occupation of "liberated" Europe).
The crucial importance of Sicily is made strikingly clear by the names of the "subordinates" entrusted by the Allies with governing the island–the Fascist Marshal Badoglio as ruler of Italy and the Mafia capo supremo Charles "Lucky" Luciano as enforcer against any workingclass or peasant attempt at a democratic uprising. Thanks, then, to Roosevelt and Churchill for the Mafia dominance over Sicily and southern Italy that continues to this day.susan the other, January 27, 2016 at 3:33 pm
"last line of defense between ISIS and my family,"
Marco Rubio just told us he's a hysterical tool who is abysmal at assessing risks.
It is a shame that national security and economic reality questions are above the pay grade of the TV reporters asking the questions at the debates. I say this because they are a wasted resource – witness how Megyn Kelly demolished the Donald. No small feat. She flat-out nailed his misogynist chauvinism. I thought she was killer. She almost scared me. If Megyn had clear, straight information as her base she could do that will all the candidates blowing hot air. About national security. About our economy. About all of it. This isn't rocket science – it's just too tedious to attract viewers and run expensive ads. Business as usual.
The GuardianLuciano Giampaglia , 2016-01-26 04:42:15" Sanders the socialist dreamer and Clinton the seasoned doer. " Said the Author of this article.RusticBenadar jamiecanuck , 2016-01-26 04:29:46
Bernie sanders has the best record for moving bills through the house in its history. He is the "doer" Clinton is the one who takes $600 thousand from Goldman Sachs for cosy dinner chats then says she will be tough on wall-street.
Bernie sanders is the candidate who voted against every majore deregulation of the financial market over the past 20 years including the removal of glass steagle that helped crash the system. the only legislation he voted for was not infact a financial bill As mrs Clinton said during the last debate, but was a seperate bill that HER HUSBAND BILL CLINTON WROTE, and tacked on 15 minutes before the hearing. The rest of the bill was important containing various funding measures and sanders had no choice but to pass it with the inclusion.
the inclusion was the deregulation and removal of oversite for Credit default swaps. Bill wrote, she wanted, they played dirty, and now she blames sanders for it.
Bernie 2016. You will be saving my country as much as yours.True, but also, thankfully, living in not only the Age of Information, but in a world where generations have come to maturity and are now fluent with the powers granted by said Age, any establishment tar and feathers (its already being done) can be quickly dismissed as baseless defamations. Young people know all the cliché mass media gimmicks, and when it comes to the integrity of their democracy, and leadership, they are collectively sick and tired of establishment media politics-as-usual. The more desperately the cronies try to slander Sanders, the more inspired becomes his support- for they see the fight for the future is real, and the future is theirs.Maurice D Muhammad , 2016-01-26 04:05:23President Obama is not dumb at all he knows how to use language perfectly, now the question is why would he say this about Hillary Clinton she's "wicked smart" mind for policy. Now the word wicked is an adjective that describes the noun smart. Wicked means, evil or morally wrong, intended to or capable of harming someone or something, extremely unpleasant. Now the word smart means intelligence; acumen. Now let me talk about the mind because policy comes out of the mind of people. The mind is the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought. Now what kind of wickedness comes out of the mind of Hillary Clinton? She destroyed Libya and got Colonel Gaddafi killed and her famous statement was " We Came, We Saw, and He DIED" That is wicked.....Truth has come to you~ragonsmoke315 , 2016-01-26 03:37:53People need to wake up about the delusion that Hillary is more likely to get things done. The Republicans disagree with everything Bernie stands for, but they HATE Hillary. If she offered a cure for cancer, the Republicans would reject it.sickbayer Bruce Hill , 2016-01-26 03:23:47
If she is the Democratic nominee, the GOP will retain control of Congress. If she wins in November (and that is a big "if"), the Republicans' obstructionism will surpass even what they have done with Obama. Any cooperation with her would result in that Congressperson being defeated in the next GOP primary, and they know that.
Bernie Sanders is a traditional New Deal Democrat; he has called himself a "democratic socialist," but FDR was labeled a socialist, too, for proposing many of the same things. Hillary would attempt far less and fail to achieve even that.
The polls prove that Bernie is more electable, and his record shows that he is more trustworthy and committed to the people rather than to his own ambition. I pray that Americans do not once again choose to vote against their own self-interest out of fear and timidity.that is because 9 out of 10 republicans I meet in my field (construction) think socialism is communism. And these are the same people who are in a union too. All bitch about how expensive health care is yet willing to boot the affordable care act out to touch because the republicans say its unconstitutional.jamiecanuck Ernekid , 2016-01-26 03:23:35I don't think you can underestimate the power of the US establishment that has promoted the idea that any social enlightenment is that dreaded thing called socialism. If challenged, the establishment will tar Bernie with that brush up one side and down the other. Too bad.tigi sickbayer , 2016-01-26 02:47:21Here in Massachusetts it means something quite good, as in, "it's a wicked good beer"Bruce Hill , 2016-01-26 02:33:05Let's just cut to the chase. The Guardian is trying to downplay what was said, but what Obama is doing is making it crystal clear that he wants Hillary as the nominee. He didn't out and out endorse her but he may as well have. And he will eventually formally endorse her. He knows that if the Dems made the drastic mistake of nominating the socialist Sanders, all of his accomplishments would be for naught because the result would be a Republican president that would undo everything he's done.Al0612 notmurdoch , 2016-01-26 02:07:37Rubbish. Sanders was Mayor of a city, improving many aspects of local life, and was well-regarded by other mayors; he has been elected to Congress on many occasions (and American politicians are usually elected on their personal qualities), and while in Congress has had many proposals accepted by both Democrats and Republicans. His answers to questions on television are in-depth. He strikes me as a clever and decent man who would be good at the job.Al0612 , 2016-01-26 01:51:57
Corbyn has been elected several times in a constituency which would elect a bull terrier if it wore a red rosette, has never held any spokesman responsibilities, and associated with terrorists while they were actively engaged in bombing this country. On more than one occasion he has simply refused to take questions from journalists because he does not like being questioned. Frankly he strikes me as a halfwit.
Sanders and Corbyn are not alike, except in that they represent the left wing of their parties; we could do with our own Bernie over hereJust a thought. Hear me out on this one.MKB1234 , 2016-01-26 01:31:40
Imagine you are an American voter highly alienated from the political status quo . You are disgusted by the cosy relationship between big money and politics. You feel yourself getting worse and worse off every year. There is no candidate more representative of said status quo than Hillary Clinton, none at all. She is Wall Street's candidate par excellence . You do not want to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is articulating many of your beliefs, fears, and, yes, prejudices. You know that he has no truck with what you perceive to be America's corrupt path. So if the choice is Clinton vs. Trump, you vote for Trump.
Bernie Sanders identifies many of the same fundamental problems with Americans politics as Trump, but whereas Trump is, well Donald Trump, a demagogic blowhard lunatic who dreamed of marrying Princess Diana, not to mention a complete opportunist, Sanders seems principled and well-intentioned. There is also the fact that Sanders has achieved quite a few things in office (respected Mayor, successful negotiator in Congress, where he has served for a long time, unlike Trump, an actually very bad businessman, and Clinton, whose experience amounts to "married to Bill [for which she admittedly deserves the Victoria Cross] then did soe other jobs cos I was married to Bill, in neither of which I was particularly successful"). Faced with a choice of Sanders vs. Trump, you vote for Sanders.
This hunch- that people who support Trump are disillusioned voters who may be inclined to vote for Sanders- was borne out by polls which shows Clinton narrowly beating Trump, and Sanders winning by a larger margin.
Conventional wisdom- that a more "extreme" candidate (Sanders) is less electable than a moderate (Clinton)- does not really apply here. Conservative America has hated Hillary since those snide remarks about Tammy Wynette and baking cookies in 1992; ask my Tennessee country music friends. She isn't going to win any more votes than Obama has. Sanders, meanwhile, can tap into the real frustration of so many Americans, who would otherwise support Trump. And for those who compare Sanders to Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie doesn't have the baggage Corbyn does- at the same time as Jezza was making positive noises about the IRA, Bernie was turning Burlington into one of the best cities in America.
Want to elect a Democrat in November? Vote for Bernie Sanders.Not so hidden message, Obama wants Hillary to be president. Not such a surprise as both Obama and Hillary support the same ideals, have the same values and put corporations before people.1566Vortex 2miners , 2016-01-26 01:27:16He's not talking about socialism. He's talking about rules for the economy that apply to everyone.john ayres , 2016-01-26 00:16:15
It does require confrontation with interest groups that have held the reigns for too long.
This makes some people nervous, and they start blabbing about socialism.
The fact is, the economy only exists in any beneficial form at all because of regulations, rules, laws, and courts. Try doing any financial transaction without the laws on contracts in force. Whenever economies run without rules (enforced) they self destruct.
The labels are pretty meaningless; "socialism." It basically has no meaning, just like "free market." It's a word relating a concept with no existence in the real world.
Hopefully Mr. Sanders can reframe the debate.
Reasonable rules that apply to all creates prosperity.Obama benefited from a similar luxury. His florid speeches of the time suggested a revolutionary agenda which he had no intention of carrying out. Hillary as a dyed in the wool old school politician made up of money and ambition was no match. The outcome however did us no good. Hillary should at least pretend to have some principles and morality.nnedjo , 2016-01-26 00:12:46You know, sometimes I was interested in how it is possible that such tiny molecules such as DNA can cause the creation of even such giant creatures as elephants or whales, or create enough energy for such lightning reactions of a tiger or lion. And reading something about it, all I could figure out is that they're doing it over a catalysts.uniqueuserid ScuzzyKeirHardie , 2016-01-26 00:06:24
Thus, the DNA creates a biochemical catalysts that stimulate the production of specific proteins and other substances necessary for the normal functioning, growth and the creation of new cells. And in a broader sense, the catalyst is the name for a chemical compound that accelerates a chemical reaction, but does not enter into union with other compounds, nor he himself is changing.
So, keeping in mind the above mentioned, we can say that the role of a true political leader is to be a "catalyst" of the political processes, and that causes and accelerates the political reactions of the broad masses. Also, as every true political "catalyst", the true leader of the people must not change himself, or that he "turns as the wind blows", that is to say, the political leader must have integrity.
Therefore, if you ask me, who is more in line with this definition of the leader of the people as a "political catalyst," I would say that it's Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton.
Obama was once also a good political "catalyst", but in the meantime he lost a lot of its "catalytic" capabilities. And anyway he changed himself, even literally, as can be seen from its image, which is something that a true "catalyst" must not allow to himself.:-)
In fact, Obama has changed so much that now "he looks" more like Hillary Clinton than like he himself in 2008. So people are now asking themselves, "What for was such a big fuss in 2008?You're referring to his use of the term "Democratic Socialism"? Then you haven't the slightest clue what socialism is.linton Bush , 2016-01-25 23:41:50
Socialism is the other leg on which capitalism operates. Without a sound socialist base, capitalism cannot thrive. The worker pool is oxygen to capitalism, and by failing to account for the worker, it starves itself.
Equally, and opposite, without capitalism, socialism on its own cannot thrive, because there is no ever-reinventing free enterprise to generate wealth.
Socialism may be coupled with many other political ideals, but it is not, on its own, a political ideal.The elites both from the RNC and DNC are scared of Sanders. Circling the wagons to defend their rich pals who are milking this countrysomebodysomewhere crystalcastle , 2016-01-25 23:22:00
The establishment is holding tight. Obama is thinking of his own soft post Presidential landing. Hanging out with Clintons and their billionaire friends is good strategy. HRC will never win with Trump, but she will be less angry at Obama, when he leaves office. When Obama leaves, both clans can then make some good sweet money in return for their past services.red? as if. but on that note:eminijunkie Jezreel2 , 2016-01-25 22:08:09
'It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.' -- Mao Tse-tung, May 1939.
true that.Obama turned the entire health care reform process which was based on a previous Conservative health care Bill and implemented by Governor Mitt Romney, over to Baucus' team which then held up the Bill for nearly a year while negotiating with health care industry leaders and Big PhRma who literally wrote much of the actual Bill.Jezreel2 , 2016-01-25 20:57:37
Certainly explains why it is such a complicated mess. Got to protect all the profit interests ahead of the personal interests of the public.Like Hillary Clinton, President Obama operates in the vein of Third Way, Neoliberal, corporatist, Democratic politicians.sbmfc geniusofmozart , 2016-01-25 20:54:53
For example, during his first campaign, Barack Obama promised to include all stakeholders as he sought to reform America's health care system. He also released an ad called "Billy" in which he derided a congressional Bill that prevents Medicare from negotiating prescription drug prices and promised that if elected, he would to end that practice.
But once elected, Obama held closed door meetings with Big PhRma and other corporate lobbyists fighting to secure their lock on health care delivery and financing.
After the House passed health care reform legislation under Nancy Pelosi's leadership, which included the Public Option - previously subscribed to by Barack Obama during the campaign, the legislation stalled in the Senate where it was then secretly worked on by a so-called "gang of six" headed by Senator Max Baucus. Baucus, who had publicly come out against both the Public Option and universal health care met often with Obama's team and health care industry lobbyists to craft the final Bill. Obama turned the entire health care reform process which was based on a previous Conservative health care Bill and implemented by Governor Mitt Romney, over to Baucus' team which then held up the Bill for nearly a year while negotiating with health care industry leaders and Big PhRma who literally wrote much of the actual Bill. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_of_Six http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-blumenthal/the-legacy-of-billy-tauzi_b_460358.html Senator Byron Dorgan fought tirelessly to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and to allow the public to purchase re-imported prescription meds at reduced cost. Many Republicans crossed over to vote for his Bill. However, the Obama administration - which was secretly negotiating with Big PhRma to come up with a health care Bill they approved us - fought Dorgan's efforts tooth and nail - until the Bill was defeated. Following the defeat of his efforts to change how Medicare pays for prescription medications were defeated by the Obama administration, Senator Dorgan announced he would not seek reelection to office in 2010. http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/229397-republicans-senators-slam-obama-on-drug-reimportation https://moderateinthemiddle.wordpress.com/tag/dorgan-reimportation-of-prescription-drugs-amendment /
GivenMurder by drone takes the shine off.nnedjo , 2016-01-25 20:20:28zolotoy snakeatzoes , 2016-01-25 20:05:47And what Obama is weighed; Whether Hillary is more wicked or more smart?:-)
Obama weighs in on 'fearless' Sanders and 'wicked smart' ClintonCarter was a feckless president who chose bad advisers -- rather like Obama -- but unlike Obama Carter always had a fundamental sense of decency. Take away the ambition and Obama is an empty suit.zolotoy Bundle_ , 2016-01-25 20:02:27Obama pulled troops out of Iraq -- temporarily -- because of a withdrawal agreement his predecessor had signed with the Iraqi puppet government. In fact, Obama tried to keep the troops in Iraq in spite of the agreement, but the Iraqis would have none of it.zolotoy , 2016-01-25 19:58:42CarrickSnarlFace Marcedward , 2016-01-25 19:37:46
"There's no doubt that Bernie has tapped into a running thread in Democratic politics," Obama told Politico in a podcast, saying that thread asked: "Why are we still constrained by the terms of the debate that were set by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago?
How ironic that a self-professed Reagan admirer should ask that.She's just yet another garbage corporate candidateWhatsup12 , 2016-01-25 19:34:17Obama promised but didn't deliver. In the end resigning he couldn't change the system. Just because he gave up doesn't mean we the people give up. We are sick and tired of corporations and politicians hijacking the democratic system and enriching themselves in the process.nnedjo , 2016-01-25 19:26:20
Feel the bern!Carly435 , 2016-01-25 19:17:01I think that every man, before becoming president of the country, should assume office of the Mayor of a small town, to show what he knows and what he can do.
But he lauded her experience: "It means that she can govern and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice-president has ever been who aspires to this office."
Sort of like Bernie, who was mayor of Burlington, where he proved to be really good, as you can learn in detail from this article . Since there is no need to describe in detail the full article (you have the link and read it for yourself if you're interested), I will quote only this part from the end of the article:
Burlington is now widely heralded as an environmentally friendly, lively and livable city with a thriving economy, including one of the lowest jobless rates in the country. Burlingtonians give Sanders credit for steering the city in a new direction that, despite early skepticism, proved to be broadly popular with voters.
A growing number of cities -- including Seattle, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark and others -- are now led by progressive mayors. They are adopting municipal minimum wage laws, requiring developers to build mixed-income housing, strengthening regulations against corporate polluters, and enacting other policies to address the nation's growing economic inequality and environmental crises.Obama doesn't want to antagonize Sanders supporters, but his carefully worded comments can nevertheless be summed up as: one neoliberal hand washing the other.Nevis7 EssoBlue , 2016-01-25 19:02:23
Which doesn't matter since it holds little sway with the young. Bernie represents change, and he's going to win the primary based on a phenomenal turnout from the 18-29 voters.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nwRiuh1CugI mean I tend side with the Republicans more on immigration. Of course, I don't want to deport all illegal aliens, but I do think the US should actively defend our border and actually try and track/record those staying longer than their visas allow. But I do want to see a reasonable path to citizenship. I also side more with the GOP on gun ownership rights and taxation. Trump is absolutely a racism, sexist and everything else - totally agree with you on that. But perhaps the best thing he's done to this election is to allow for non-PC debate so that we can get to the core of the issues.Marcedward , 2016-01-25 18:34:15
In a lot of ways, I'd kind of like to see a Rand Paul / Bernie Sanders ticket. Impossible I know. But in so many ways, they're opposites and yet in other ways their ideas compliment each other quite nicely. For example, Bernie's stance on Wall Street nicely fits with Rand's stand on the Federal Reserve.
But it's a pipe-dream.He also gently suggested that Clinton's "wicked smart"nnedjo , 2016-01-25 18:32:55
Yep Hillary is so wicked smart she claims that she was tricked by George W Bush into voting for the Iraq War. Seriously? If she's dumb enough to be tricked by Dubya, she's not smart in the least, she's an easily tricked fool. Further proof?
How many times did Bill Clinton get away with cheating on her and she just went along with it? How many times did she believe "Oh no honey, it just looked like we were having sex, you don't understand"?
Hillary Clinton is just not that smart, she's been over her head for a long time now and should move on to the role of "grandma".Marcedward , 2016-01-25 18:21:05Of course that Bernie is authentic. Or more precisely, Bernie is an authentic American, because he has all the attributes of the original settlers and American pioneers.
and in a culture in which new is always better...
Sanders "has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, and great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless", he said.
Faith in God and in yourself, and fearlessness, what else was needed for the people who embarked on a journey to a new continent in search of a better life.
As for the "culture in which new is always better", it also does not go without fear. The guy who discovered America, Christopher Columbus, explained this to his sailors in a very simple way. He said, "Every man is afraid to do something for the first time. But those who overcome fear will rightly earn their reward."
You can watch it at 9:07 of this clip from the movie Conquest of Paradise .vasectomy , 2016-01-25 18:20:35
"Hillary is really idealistic and progressive," he said, adding that "they're both passionate about giving everybody a shot" on education, and about tax reform that does not benefit the richest.
Wow, what a total liar. Shame on you Obama, you should keep out of the primary race, you only discredit yourself. You would know "progressive" if you ate it and puked it out later than ate it again."...about tax reform that does not benefit the richest." It is not just about tax reform but more broadly about economic policy and lack of criminal prosecution of financial fraud that Obama's administration has fostered, which has been a windfall for the richest, which is hypocritical in the extreme.abe_herzog caradoccere , 2016-01-25 18:19:23The economic policies of the mainstream 'centrist' compromisers you seek would have been regarded as extreme rightwing by a Republican president like Eisenhower. (Whose New Deal consensus policies helped establish the largest and most affluent middle class the world has ever seen).EssoBlue , 2016-01-25 18:16:06But there is a difference. A big difference.somebodysomewhere domrice , 2016-01-25 18:15:35
Bernie Sanders's campaign is a genuine grassroots campaign. There are no corporate donors, expecting payback from their bought-and-paid-for candidate, once he achieves office. Bernie genuinely is a 'people's' candidate.
Hillary Clinton's campaign is the opposite. Big business donors galore, from Wall Street to the pharmaceutical industry, from private health insurance companies to big energy. Hillary is the corporate candidate of the Democratic race - and her funders will expect returns on their investments, were she to reach the White House.
Bernie 2016.Obama and the rest of his cabinet - both terms - are indeed tried and tested at representing the financial oligarchy.elaine layabout chiefwiley , 2016-01-25 18:11:59As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders "turned out to be a pragmatic and efficient administrator, one so fiscally conservative that some Republicans say he managed to 'out-Republican the Republicans.'"elaine layabout feeltheillinoise , 2016-01-25 17:55:17
By building coalitions among initially-unwilling City leaders, Sanders achieved much of the Republicans' cost-cutting, tax-lowering, and commerce-revitalizing agenda -- an agenda that they themselves had been unable to achieve. Little wonder then, that "after he won his fourth term in 1987, US News and World Report voted him one of the top 20 mayors in the United States."
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/10/31/socialist-even-conservative-could-love-burlington-mayor-sanders-was-able-out-republican-republicans/SCmh2TLifXxXRPFKC8NMjO/story.htmlYou can almost hear the President worrying that Bernie Sanders will use the people's mandate that he himself squandered and actually fulfill the empty promises of the Obama administration.OnlyOneView , 2016-01-25 17:49:16
I especially love the "I got nothing to lose" bit, since Bernie Sanders has repeatedly expressed that he has EVERYTHING to lose -- his everything being the best interests of the American people. Why the heck does the President think that Sanders is running as a Democrat and not an Independent? Why the heck has he repeatedly expressed his fear of running at all, lest he fail his progressive ideals and just further secure the status quo?If Clinton is that smart why is she being investigated by the FBI? Her problem is that she has always thought that she is smarter than she is. Her arrogance and sense of entitlement will finally catch up with her.domrice , 2016-01-25 17:46:55Obama is right. Hillary is indeed tried and tested. But do the results warrant her becoming president? What are her standout achievements as either senator or secretary of state?feeltheillinoise , 2016-01-25 17:31:14"Hillary is really idealistic and progressive,"Ernekid , 2016-01-25 17:22:24
She is neither of those two.
"His attitude is, 'I got nothing to lose.'"
No, it isn't. His attitude is a lifetime of authenticity. And anyway you have to have something before you can lose it. Not realising a potentiality is not the same as losing.
"Clinton's "wicked smart"" - emphasis on the wicked .
"It means that she can govern and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice-president has ever been who aspires to this office." - translation: she can do a great job maintaining things just as they are now.
"But he admitted that over seven years, he realizes theater has its uses: "And you know what, some of the presidency is performance."" - riiiiight... ok.I think that people under estimate Sanders. He's spent decades up on Capitol Hill and he knows the machinations of the House and Senate like the back of his hand. Like the Congressional veteran LBJ before him Sanders could prove to be a real 'sonofabitch' when trying to get his way through Congress if he finds himself in the Oval Office . He knows how American politicians think and work but he's never sold out his political soul for power.James Ferguson honey1969 , 2016-01-25 17:21:04He is playing coy while all the time supporting Clinton! It is very clear by his statements! This is NOT a surprise although as he is NOT a progressive himself!! He is as much a part of the established money machine as Clinton is! What he is failing to understand is that he got where he is today NOT because of that machine but in the same way as Bernie through the grass-roots support and contributions of US the PEOPLE something he forgot almost as soon as he took office!Nash25 , 2016-01-25 17:11:26No one is listening to "Barry" Obama, as he preferred to be called at university. He only became "Barak" when he entered politics.elaine layabout , 2016-01-25 16:59:34
The reason liberals are excited about Sanders and dislike Clinton is that they are disappointed with Obama, who promised so much, but did so little.
Obama and Clinton pretend to be liberals but their first priority is to serve the needs of the upper class, and provide only table scraps to the rest of us.
A good example is Obama's health care initiative. He allowed private insurance corporations to write the legislation, which is why it is so expensive and leaves millions with no access to health care.
And to Obama, this is his proudest accomplishment.funnynought , 2016-01-25 16:59:11
[A]lthough Obama said he understood Sanders' appeal, he downplayed any similarities between his upstart 2008 campaign and the 73-year-old senator's surprise popularity with diverse and young voters.
"I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot and just letting loose," Obama said.
And you did not, Mr. President -- you who had far less experience than Senator/Former Representative/Former Mayor Sanders?!
The fact of the matter is that, although you pretend to be fair minded and neutral, you are not. And you have not been since you appointed Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the chair of the Democratic National Committee.Out-of-character signs of intelligence from Obama. But he still doesn't dare speak the truth of oligarchical destruction of the American Way like Sanders does. Obama prances around words like this which make the entitled nervous.>
Feel the Bern!
October 10, 2012 | Right Web
In late September 2001, less than 10 days after the 9/11 attacks, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)-a group of prominent neoconservatives, liberal interventionists, and members of the religious right who advocated a host of U.S.-led regime changes in the Middle East-drafted a letter to President George W. Bush, commending his promise to "go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world" and offering a number of recommendations for the remainder of the president's term. The steps outlined in the letter were prescient in predicting Bush's foreign policy priorities (and to a lesser extent, the priorities of his successor, Barack Obama).
In addition to their advocacy positions on Iraq (invade immediately), Israel (support unconditionally), and military spending (abide "no hesitation in requesting whatever funds for defense are needed"), the signatories urged a tougher stance on Hezbollah, as well as its state sponsors in Damascus and Tehran.
In the letter, they argued that "any war against terrorism must target Hezbollah," and urged the administration to "demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism."
Today, as Syria remains mired in a seemingly limitless spiral of violence, the question arises-what has become of this attack-Syria coalition and what, if anything, has changed in its view of U.S. intervention?
Because of the many ties between PNAC and the Bush administration, it came as little surprise to close observers that the Bush administration eventually followed much of the letter's advice with respect to Syria. After supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, the Bush administration capitalized on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri to galvanize political opposition to Hezbollah (and Syria by proxy), culminating in the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanese territory.
Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defense, produced a "Road Map for Syria" proposing a number of military options for weakening the Syrian regime, including "docking an aircraft carrier within Syrian territorial waters" and "using proxies to undermine Syrian intelligence agents inside Lebanon." Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell presented Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad with a long list of U.S. demands, including that Syria cooperate in the "war on terrorism" in Iraq, end its support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, and withdraw its troops from Lebanon.
The administration's pressure was highly effective in the heady days after Hariri's assassination, and the Assad regime scrambled to provide the Bush administration with an acceptable counteroffer to prevent a second "regime change" in the region. Bahjat Suleiman, the chief of the internal branch of Syria's General Intelligence Directorate, took the unprecedented step of publishing an article in the Lebanese daily al-Safir, where he outlined a course of action that could be acceptable to the Syrian regime. In the article, he implied that Assad would be willing to rein in Hezbollah, control Palestinian armed groups and Salafi extremists in Lebanon, and secure Iraq's long border with Syria in order to guarantee the regime's preservation.
The offer fell on deaf ears. Fresh off the invasion of Iraq, U.S. neoconservatives and their allies were optimistic that strong and uncompromising force- and unconditional support for the enemies of their enemies-would be sufficient to reshape the regional order. "There's no reason to think engagement with Syria will bring about any change," said letter signatory Richard Perle in 2006. He argued that Syria "has never been weaker, and we should take advantage of that."
Backed into a corner and facing an existential crisis unlike any it had previously experienced, the regime chose instead to double down and force Washington's hand. Assad worked to subvert the U.S. experiment in the Middle East, exploiting Syria's proximity to Iraq and Lebanon to undermine the Bush administration's cornerstone projects. Syrian intelligence services suddenly began to wreak havoc along the Syrian-Iraqi border, while political machinations in Lebanon helped the regime regain the upper hand in the Lebanese parliament.
The tide quickly turned against Washington as an increasing number of complicating factors undermined its regional leverage. The implosion of Iraq, the rebounding political power of Syria's allies in Lebanon, the deteriorating state of Afghanistan, and growing discontent at home forced the Bush administration to retreat from its hardline anti-Syrian approach. Thus assured of its safety, Damascus quickly reverted to its old ways.
The neoconservative-led PNAC coalition that had once pushed for a unified and hard-fisted approach to redesigning the Middle East was also crumbling in the face of these and other failures.
Though much of the beltway intelligentsia originally supported the "war on terror" in all its iterations, ensuing disasters deeply undermined the neoconservative ideology as well as its liberal interventionist counterpart. Some of the original signatories of the letter, like  became deeply critical of the Bush administration's policies; others, however, maintained a strong allegiance to their hawkish worldview and continued to defend it against any perceived modifications by the Obama administration.
The ongoing crisis in Syria, however, has become something of a litmus test for these individuals, and the coalition has begun to resemble its old self. But the emerging consensus among Washington's Syria hawks belies the complexity of the circumstances surrounding Syria's spiraling civil war, the difficulty of pro-war ideologues to adapt to modern international conflicts, and the dangers of the zero-sum approach to Syria currently circulating through Washington.
PNAC's dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives-the ideologues most responsible for the formulation of the Bush doctrine-have mostly stayed true to the priorities laid forth in the PNAC letter, and they've found new energy in calling for regime change in Syria. Most of the signatories to that September 2011 letter-including the likes of William Kristol, Jeffrey Bergner, Seth Cropsey, Midge Decter, Thomas Donnelly, Nicholas Eberstadt, Aaron Friedberg, Jeffrey Gedmin, Rueul Marc Gerecht, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, John Lehman, Clifford May, Richard Perle, Norman Podhoretz, and Gary Schmitt-have largely kept their initial worldview intact, even if their earlier predictions for a Middle East "democratized" by American arms has proved dramatically off mark.
Many of these same individuals and their fellow travelers are at the forefront of the current push to escalate Syria's ongoing civil war, arguing that active U.S. support for Syrian rebels-or outright military intervention-would hasten the fall of Bashar Al-Assad and maximize U.S. interests. A recent New York Times op-ed by Max Boot, a frequent PNAC letter signatory, and Michael Doran, a Bush National Security Council member, is a case in point. In promoting direct U.S. intervention in Syria, the authors-remarkably-were unable to identify any negative consequences of such engagement, instead identifying a plethora of positive developments for U.S. interests, such as improving ties with Turkey, "diminishing" Iran, and "equipping reliable partners" within Syria's internal opposition.
In February, many of the same individuals who signed the September 2001 PNAC letter-this time operating under the mantle of successor organizations like the Foreign Policy Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies-penned a missive to President Barack Obama, arguing that the only way to "win" the civil war, and ensure that Syrian security forces do not regain the upper hand, is to supply the Syrian opposition movement with sufficient capital, weapons, and intelligence to overwhelm government forces on the battlefield. The signers urged Obama to "immediately establish safe zones within Syrian territory," as well as to "provide a full range of direct assistance, including self-defense aid to the [Free Syrian Army]."
The neoconservative establishment, along with a growing number of liberal interventionist allies, explicitly rejected all overtures for negotiation and compromise. They consistently mocked or undermined efforts by the United Nations and the Arab League to mediate the dispute and reach a diplomatic settlement, warning that "the United States cannot continue to defer its strategic and moral responsibilities in Syria to regional actors such as the Arab League, or to wait for consent from the Assad regime's protectors, Russia and China."
"If we were being serious in the Middle East," William Kristol recently said on Bill Bennett's "Morning in America" radio program, "we would be using air strikes in Syria [and] we would topple the Assad regime."
Though Obama has been reticent to embrace full-on militarization of the conflict-preferring instead an approach that relies more on diplomatic pressure and crippling economic sanctions-the continued stalemate has nudged policymakers ever closer to openly arming the rebels. Already the administration has steadily increased the military capabilities of the armed opposition elements, drifting away from its original policy of providing diplomatic support only.
Though this escalation has significantly narrowed the possibilities for any diplomatic solution to the conflict, foreign policy hawks have chided the administration for not going further. In a column for the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer lambasted Obama for seeking international support against Syria "as he stands by and watches Syria burn."
In an earlier column, Krauthammer wrote that "the fate of the Assad regime is geopolitically crucial" in the campaign to undermine Iran: "Imperial regimes can crack when they are driven out of their major foreign outposts…[and] the fall of Bashar al-Assad's Syria could be similarly ominous for Iran." As in the 2001 letter, he argued that all America's regional ambitions can be met, "so long as we do not compromise with Russia or relent until Assad falls."
Similarly, Rueul Marc Gerecht used the pages of the Wall Street Journal to chastise the Obama administration's inaction and advocate a "a muscular CIA operation…to pour anti-tank, antiaircraft, and anti-personnel weaponry through gaping holes in the regime's border security." Gerecht acknowledged that such a policy would mirror the Syrian regime's own machinations in 2006, when it "encouraged suicide bombers and other lethal cross-border trade against the U.S. in Iraq."
The parallels with Washington's approach to Syria in 2006 are both ominous and telling. In effect, the same approach of uncompromising militancy is being advocated by the same individuals, and all indications point to a similarly disastrous outcome.
The Syrian National Council, along with its supporters in Washington, has decided that there can be no compromise with the Assad regime. The Syrian government, as it did the last time it faced total intransigence in Washington, has adopted a similarly uncompromising stance. Faced with the prospect of annihilation, Assad has refused to acknowledge the demands of the protestors, and has met every challenge with overwhelming violence. In so doing, it has confirmed for the armed opposition that the Assad regime has no intention for dialogue, compromise, or reform, and the only remaining option is a zero-sum fight to the death.
Considering the scope and horror of the regime's massacres in the past two years alone, this conclusion may seem reasonable. But it overlooks-and in many ways undermines-alternative approaches that have been drowned out by the same voices that called for Syria's destruction less than a decade ago.
The illegitimacy of the Syrian regime is beyond question, but the manner and process of its ouster are not. The armed opposition appears to enjoy limited popular legitimacy, in part because it has committed its own share of atrocities and has been deeply compromised by its affiliations with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States.
Popular movements within the country have offered a number of alternative pathways out of the conflict. Syrians on both sides have put down their weapons and started channels of dialogue to find a way out of their current impasse. Even the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), the grassroots groups most responsible for organizing the uprising, have publicly stated that dialogue with the regime is the only credible way to pull the country out of civil war. A statement issued by the LCC in July emphasized "the importance of ending the military and intelligence solution and immediately transitioning to the political process."
The Syrian revolution remains one in which the vast majority of participants simply want freedom, dignity, and an escape from the brutality of the Assad regime. However, an overreliance on the military capabilities of an unrepresentative few is unlikely to bring about such an outcome. Instead it has produced an even more intransigent government and an opposition that is ever more dependent on the support of foreign powers, with both sides fully committed to the total annihilation of the other.
As the violence escalates, the window for dialogue narrows, and voices from the diaspora calling for maximalist objectives will only serve to narrow these opportunities further. The same individuals who squandered an opportunity to weaken Assad's grip on power in 2006 have embarked on a similar course of action five years later, with no real modifications but the same grand expectations.
The result, as before, is likely to be one in which everyone loses.
Samer Araabi is a contributor to Right Web.
David Friedman (St James, NY) See all my reviews
Original, Incisive, Nonpartisan, January 22, 2006
...The body of the book analyzes how the legitimate attempt to recover from the national trauma of Vietnam led ultimately to a militarism increasingly reflected in crucial aspects of American life. In religion he traces how a "crusade" theory of warfare has supplanted the more mainstream "just war" theory. In popular culture he discusses the rise of a genre of pop fiction and movies reflecting a glamorized and uncritical idealization of war (he examines "An Officer and A Gentleman", "Rambo: First Blood Part II", and "Top Gun" as examples).
In politics he identifies the neo-conservative movement as bringing into the mainstream ideas that "a decade earlier might have seemed reckless or preposterous"; for example the idea that the United States is "the most revolutionary force on earth" with an "inescapable mission" to spread democracy -- by the sword if necessary. Bacevich calls these ideas "inverted Trotskyism", and notes that the neo-conservative movement shares with Mao the assumption that revolution springs "from the barrel of a gun".
Jul 24, 2013 | Veterans TodayBut Bolshevism in its ideological form did not die out then. It has been reincarnated in two identical and Jewish revolutionary movements: Zionism and neoconservatism. Both are almost politically indistinguishable and, like Bolshevism, both seek to implicitly destroy Western civilization in all of its manifestations.
Bolshevism was evil but the mass hysteria did not fully grasp the extent of its evilness until it was almost too late. Zionism's evilness, on the other hand, is being displayed right in front of us, but no politician is brave enough to break its political power. For example, Joel Greenberg of the New York Times wrote way back in 1993 that
"Amnesty International, in a human rights report in July, said Palestinian detainees under interrogation are 'systematically tortured or ill-treated' by Israel. The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose representatives regularly visit Palestinian prisoners, has accused Israel of using interrogation methods that violate the Fourth Geneva Convention on treatment of civilians in occupied areas…
"Human rights monitors estimate that 500 Palestinian detainees are subjected to such treatment each month and that at least 30,000 have been interrogated since the beginning of the anti-Israel uprising in December 1987"
This massive brutality has been going on for decades and in many different forms. Just last year, nine Israeli teenagers were convicted of brutally attacking a Palestinian teenager by the name of Jamal Julani. When one of the convicted teenagers was asked how he would respond if Julani had died from the incident, he said,
"Great. Let him die. He's an Arab son of a bitch. What did he think, that he would curse my mother? When I attacked him I was going to stab him in the ribs to let him realize my mom is no child's play. He knows exactly why he is in the hospital." The other teenagers responded with a similar voice:
"We went to look for Arabs, to hit them and beat the crap out of them, and I went ahead of everyone and I met the Arab who was swearing. I got upset and yelled, 'Here's an Arab,' and some more guys came with me and then R. [the 15-year-old girl perceived as the instigator] got there and gave him a slap in the back. He tried to get up but I hit him with my foot in his pelvic area, and then all the guys beat him up. He had a face that required a beating."
He also declared, "You can't go by Damascus Gate without getting stabbed. So why do they come here? I beat him and I'd beat him again." A year later, Jamal was still undergoing medical care.
How many Americans do you think know about what happened to Jamal? Get a microphone and start asking the average American even at your neighborhood. The answer will surprise you.
In March 2012, a gunman by the name of Mohamed Merah went into a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France, and killed three Jewish children and one rabbi. My heart went out to the families of those killed. Everyone should sympathize in tragic situations like these, and these acts of evil should not be tolerated.
The story was covered by almost every major news outlet in the Western world and in Israel. Report after report followed the incident, almost nonstop, and some of those newspapers ran four or five stories of the same incident. One rabbi declared that the incident happened because of "jealousy" on the part of Gentiles about "God's chosen people."
Yet around the same time, hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans beat up Arab workers at the capital's Malha shopping center in what was called "a mass lynching attempt," but not one person was arrested.
The fans were even chanting "Death to Arabs," but one of the Arab workers declared that the police arrived more than one hour late. The police justified their decision not to arrest anyone by saying that there were no complaints, and therefore no arrests were necessary.
None of the major news outlets reported the story, except the Jerusalem Post, the Independent, and Haaretz. The Jerusalem Post only ran the story after some 150 protesters flooded the scene.
When Mohamed Merah gunned down the three children and the rabbi, Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post declared without any substantial evidence that Western elites were accomplices, claiming that these acts of evil formed "the physical and moral landscape of our time."
Where was Glick, then, when those Palestinians were beaten? Isn't this the "moral landscape" of Zionist ideology? (French officials said after investigation that there was "no evidence" linking Merah to Al-Qaida.)
Another incident-that even shocked former CIA operative Philip Giraldi-was the May 2012 riots in Tel Aviv, where African immigrants were targeted. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all stayed silent.
On May 28, five young Israelis smashed the door of an internet café owned by Yorusalem Mestun, a 22 year-old. They "pulled a knife on her, while her Jewish neighbours looked on. The police came, checked her visa and left, without, she said, offering help or sympathy."
Also in May, some Israeli settlers set fire to a West Bank village and shot some unarmed Palestinians. It was later discovered that during the incident, Israeli youth tied up and beat one Palestinian who was already wounded.
On May 24, 2012, Amnesty International released a report, declaring that Israel "frequently uses excessive, sometimes lethal, force against demonstrators in the West Bank and civilians in Gaza…Israel has engaged in the demolition of Palestinian homes and other facilities in the West Bank, as well is inside Israel itself, where homes of Palestinian citizens are destroyed in 'unrecognized' villages in the Negev desert."
None of those reports made it on the air on popular news networks in America. The only reason some of the reports saw the light of day was because they were making a stir throughout the Middle East. There were dozens of incidents in the spring of 2012 where Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces just stood there and watched.
What, then, are the Zionists telling us here? Simple: when Palestinians are killed, attacked and brutally maimed, life goes on and the West does not really need to know. And if the West does know, nothing is to be done.
But when even one Israeli is killed, this must be reported throughout the Western world. Meetings must be conducted, and the Zionist media must beat the Western world over the head about the news.
Do the Zionists Really Care About the American People?
Now here is one of the most disgusting things ever. The Zionist machine spends billions of dollars spying on Americans for years. They said over and over that their covert enterprise has actually saved lives.
Yet recently, "Al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Tuesday for simultaneous raids on two Iraqi prisons and said more than 500 inmates had been set free in the operation"
As a result of the incident, "20 members of the security forces were killed 40 wounded in the attacks." The incident also created a fear that a civil war could break out.
The NSA, the Israeli-run organization that can locate your cell phone even when it is off, could not locate actual terrorism. Again, what does that tell us about the NSA's covert activity? As Mac Slavo rightly puts it, the NSA
"spent hundreds of billions of dollars to monitor the activities of every single American by turning their listening networks on purported domestic terrorists operating in the United States.
"They know your underwear size. They know where you drove your car today. They know what you put up on Facebook, texted to your wife and emailed to your friends. And they've done it all in the supposed interest of 'national security.'
"If, however, you were an Al Qaeda terrorist coordinating a large-scale prison break to free senior members of your mid-east terror organization, you would have been able to operate with impunity.
"While our government is supposedly preventing terrorism by searching grandma at airports, , arresting kids for making jokes on the internet, deploying thousands of drones over America's skies, and looking for lone wolves, they have failed at their absolute top priority: stopping actual terrorists from doing what terrorists do"
Last May, the Assyrian International News Agency reported that the Syrian rebels/terrorists/jihadists
"attacked a village in Syria's Western province and slaughtered all its Christian residents on Monday. The armed rebels affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raided the Christian-populated al-Duvair village in Reef (outskirts of) Homs near the border with Lebanon today and massacred all its civilian residents, including women and children."
The only agency that intervened and killed those terrorists at the time was the Assad government.
Where was the NSA then? Where was Obama? Where was the Zionist regime? They were nowhere to be found. They were too busy supporting the Syrian terrorists and tracking down Edward Snowden.
After all, Congress has already signed off on army the Syrian terrorists, despite the fact that Assad has been willing to engage in peace talk. The only country that has loudly voiced his concerns about the United States arming Syrian terrorists is Russia.
Once again, Zionism supports terrorism and pretends that it is fighting terrorism. Anyone who supports terrorist organizations or terrorist cells ought to go to jail. But in the Jewish Century, supporting the Syrian rebels/terrorists is not a crime because those terrorists are friends of Israel.
Moreover, in the Jewish Century, if the Zionist gangsters perceive that you are a neo-Nazi and have children, more than likely they will try to take your children away from you. Listen to this report by the Daily Mail:
"The children of German neo-Nazis could soon be removed from their families and taken into care – in a bid to beat a rise in the glorification of Hitler and the Third Reich.
"German authorities are becoming increasingly concerned with the number of summer camps and special schools brainwashing youngsters into worshipping a movement that killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.
"A recent raid on one camp turned up jigsaw puzzles showing Germany's pre-World War 2 borders and colouring books where children were encouraged to crayon in the moustache of Hitler."
In a nutshell, Zionism does not care about the West's future. It only cares about dominating the world and taking good care of Israel. If 2,114 precious American soldiers die in Afghanistan, that is a small price to pay if you are protecting Zionism.
If military intervention in Syria could cost the U.S. one billion dollars every month, that again is a very small price to pay. If poverty has risen at an astronomical rate in nations like Greece and Italy because of the economic collapse, we still need to move on with perpetual wars in the Middle East.
Chuck Hagel recently said that "Our people are strong and resilient after 12 years of war, but they are under stress - and so are the institutions that support them."
Yes, perpetual wars are getting boring, and both the American people and our precious soldiers who are getting killed for Israel are exhausted. It is time for serious politicians to reexamine our unconditional support for Israel, America's greatest enemy.
I have been saying for months that Iran is not an enemy of the United States-our "allies" are. Just a few days ago, John Glaser of the Washington Times had this to say:
"Contrary to dominant thinking in Washington, Iran poses no immediate threat to the U.S. In fact, our Middle Eastern allies, eager to have America do their fighting for them, wildly inflate the supposed threat from Iran.
"The U.S. has built up various alliances in the Middle East since WWII in order to fulfill a larger strategy of controlling the flow of oil and preventing the emergence of another power in the region that would threaten U.S. dominance.
"In the course of building these alliances, Washington has signed security agreements with these countries, promising to subsidize their militaries and come to their defense. In essence, this makes their problems our problems.
"Our closest allies in the region, Israel and the Arab Gulf states, hate Iran for a variety of strategic, cultural, religious, and ideological reasons. As a result, they have hyped the threat of Iran and frightened Americans into thinking the Islamic Republic poses an existential threat to America.
"In an interview on CBS's Face the Nation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned us that Iran is 'building ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) to reach the American mainland in a few years,' adding that, 'they're getting closer and closer to the bomb," and "they have to be stopped.'
The problem here is that Netanyahu is exactly wrong. In reality, the current consensus in the U.S. intelligence community is that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and has made no decision as to whether to pursue the bomb.
'Recent assessments by American spy agencies,' the New York Times reported last year, 'are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier' and this 'remains the consensus view of America's 16 intelligence agencies.'
"Nevertheless, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials continue to go on national television and contradict U.S. intelligence findings in order to scare Americans into seeing Iran as more of a threat than it is."
Hopefully the American people will unanimously come to the same conclusion before it is too late.
February 16, 2010 | Second Vermont Republic
It has become increasingly obvious that the only difference between Barack Obama and George W. Bush is that the famous Bush smirk has been replaced by the Obama smile. The neoconservatism of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill O'Reilly has given way to the neoliberalism of Bill Clinton, Timothy Geithner, Bernie Sanders, and Chris Matthews. The differences between neoliberalism and neoconservatism are similar to the differences between Coke and Pepsi, virtually nil.
Neoconservatism is best defined by its foreign policy agenda which includes full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, nuclear primacy, the right of pre-emptive strike, and unconditional support for the State of Israel. Although neoliberals are much less bellicose in their rhetoric than their neoconservative counterparts, they passively acquiesce to the neocon foreign policy paradigm. They do little or nothing to end the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the annihilation of Palestine carried out by our close ally Israel. Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo was little short of a global call to arms couched in the language of the doctrine of "just war." Although neocons make it abundantly clear that they are military hawks, most neoliberals are closet hawks as well.
Consider the case of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the darling of the Left, who pretends to be a socialist, which he is not. Not only does Sanders support all military appropriation bills and military aid to Israel, but he is currently promoting the opening of a satellite facility of the Sandia Corporation in Vermont. The Sandia Corporation, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Company, develops, creates, maintains, and evaluates nuclear weapons systems. Sandia's roots go back to the Manhattan Project in World War II. Just what peace loving Vermonters need, a nuclear weapons manufacturer located in their own backyard.
Both neolibs and neocons are apologists for globalization and are steeped in the ideology that bigger, faster, and more high-tech make better. In their heart of hearts neolibs and neocons know that only the federal government can solve all of our problems, failing to realize that the federal government is the problem. Both embrace corporate socialism, socialism for the rich, and the social welfare state while pretending to be opposed to publicly financed social welfare. It's all about people of the lie.
Neoliberals pretend to be concerned about inequities in the distribution of income and wealth. Neoconservatives make it abundantly clear that they couldn't care less.
Both neolibs and neocons are authoritarian statists each with their own definition of political correctness. Politically correct neolibs are expected to be pro-abortion, pro-gay-lesbian, pro-affirmative action, pro-Israel, pro-gun control, anti-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-American Empire. Anyone who does not conform to this litany or who associates with those who do not, is at risk of being attacked by a left wing truth squad such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and accused of the likes of homophobia, racism, anti-semitism, religious fundamentalism, or even hate crimes. Politically correct neocons are more likely to be pro-life, anti-gay-lesbian, anti-affirmative action, pro-Israel, anti-gun control, pro-clerical, pro-big government, and pro-Empire. Both are vehemently opposed to secession.
Above all, what neoliberals and neoconservatives have in common is that they are technofascists. Benito Mussolini defined fascism as "the merger of state and corporate power." Technofascism is the melding of corporate, state, military, and technological power by a handful of political elites which enables them to manipulate and control the population through the use of money, markets, media and the Internet.
Neoliberals and neoconservatives alike march to the beat of the same drummer – the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, most materialistic, most racist, most militaristic, most violent empire of all time.
Ultimately the differences between neoliberalism and neoconservatism are purely cosmetic. You may either have your technofascism with a smirk or you can have it with a smile.
Americans have always had a conservative sense about themselves. Even in the torment of its founding, an optimistic belief in the principles of individual freedom moved colonists to create a nation based upon natural rights. Our Declaration of Independence embodies universal ideals, in a revolutionary statement. The inherent populism within our heritage declares that people matter and a healthy distrust of the State is prudent. Limited government, free enterprise and non intervention in foreign affairs is our tradition.
As the last century unfolded, internationalism crept into the halls of policy. The transfer into a country of perpetual intervention and permanent entanglements is best reflected in the corridors of power, known as the Council on Foreign Relations. The definition of "The Establishment" reads - CFR. In contrast to this entrenched group and culture of elite power manipulators, a crowd that claims the label neoconservative, emerged to infiltrate and usurp influence from the institutional policy makers. These NeoCons assert they are different, while they preach and act in similar fashion. So what exactly is their history?
In an exemplar essay, An Introduction to Neoconservatism by Gary North, the backdrop of those who populate this mindset, emerges as a portrait of perverse conservatism. The CFR has always championed a Wilsonian internationalism, a FDR New Deal and a MAD cold war mentality. As Dr North writes: "Liberal foreign policy officially has always been "butter and guns." Guns have always followed butter, but this has been seen as the unfortunate result of unexpected complications. Neoconservative foreign policy officially is "guns and butter." Butter always follows guns, but this is regarded as the inescapable price of American regional presence abroad."
Those of us who share a committed devotion to traditional conservatism, part company with the charlatans who looted a noble name and penetrated the seats of official policy. You already know many of the usual suspect, as the North article fills in the blanks for the who - with the when, where and why. Patience and diligent persistency are traits of the Fabian Socialists. The NeoCon fit the collectivist model to a tee. When they chastise "The Establishment" or acknowledge the failures of government involvements, they weasel their way into the positions of authority and predominance. All along the way, the principles of conservatism are distorted as much as any demented cold war warrior. Before long the CFR will fuse into an ooze of an even more rabid jingoist.
When Dr North states in his column: "that war is the health of the state, and a foreign policy based on non-intervention is necessary for keeping the state shrunk to non-messianic levels", we have the essential insight that the NeoCons reject. For when these aspirant emperors loose their clothes, their Marxist sympathies are exposed. They are reduced to avid Statists and would be Fascists.
Authentic conservatives have long been opponents of the Council on Foreign Relations. The one worlders didn't deserve the cover of a conspiracy to conceal their goals and conduct. Their policies and intentions were always publicized in such publications as "Foreign Affairs". Only the most gullible of the public buys into the 'good intentions' of this cabal. Only the most submissive of the sheeple will bow obediently to their policies. And only the most deranged fool will defend their tragic record of betrayal and deceit.
Now we have another dialectic to take the scam to the next level. The subtle merging of the mainstream CFR elites with their Trotskyists and subrosa NeoCon cousins, continues. Both are part of the same scheme - an enemy of America. In order to grasp the repulsive nature of this union, one should review the thinking of Stephen Schwartz, a resident polemicist for Horowitz's NeoCon - FrontPage. "I see a psychological, ideological and intellectual continuity," says Schwartz, who defines Trotsky's legacy to neo-conservatism in terms of a set of valuable lessons. By his opposition to both Hitler and Stalin, Trotsky taught the Left Opposition the need to have a politics that was proactive and willing to take unpopular positions. "Those are the two things that the neo-cons and the Trotskyists always had in common: the ability to anticipate rather than react and the moral courage to stand apart from liberal left opinion when liberal left opinion acts like a mob."
For paleoconservatives like ourselves, the ruse that an imaginary conflict exists and an immense struggle between the bulwark of "The Establishment", namely the State Department and the NeoCons is laughable. The supposed clash between Powell soft-liners and the Rumsfeld-Cheney-Wolfowitz hardliners that resulted in the dismissal of Mr Schwartz from his post as an editorial writer for The Voice of America, is a bogus deception. Like feuding 'commies', both factions are but mere branches of the same diseased tree.
Gary North is right-on when he cites this example: "I recall a 1963 essay by novelist and anti-Communist Taylor Caldwell, in which she complained loudly against the ex-Communists who were taking over the intellectual leadership of the fledgling conservative movement. She was greatly annoyed. She reminded her readers that she had never succumbed to the siren call of dialectical materialism. She basically labeled the newcomers as Johnny-come-latelies."
So too does this same insight apply to the phony differences between the CFR and the NeoCon pretenders. The real alternative is the Old Guard Conservatism that is our true American heritage. The only moral courage neoconservatives demonstrate is that of the slave master wiping a chained captive. Our country has been ruled under a foreign invader for well over a hundred years. Those aliens who command their army of occupation, may have been born on our shores, but certainly were not delivered by our universal mother - Liberty. The demise of the unholy union of elites and impostors, is the first order of business in restoring the spirit of our original Republic.
SARTRE - June 11, 2003
September 16, 2011 | Mises Daily[Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea • By C. Bradley Thompson with Yaron Brook • Paradigm Publishers, 2010 • Xii + 305 pages]
C. Bradley Thompson argues that neoconservatism stands in fundamental opposition to individual rights and a free economy.
To most of us, neoconservatism is inevitably associated with the Iraq War. A group of neoconservatives, including Robert Kagan and David Frum, played with consummate folly a major role in urging the Bush administration toward initiating that conflict. The movement, on that ground alone, has little to recommend it; but can one nevertheless make a case on its behalf?
After all, neoconservatism was not always associated with reckless foreign-policy initiatives. To the contrary, in its early days in the 1960s, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Daniel Moynihan offered in the neoconservative journal The Public Interest cogent criticisms of many aspects of the welfare state. If Kristol could only muster Two Cheers for Capitalism, is this not better than most fashionable intellectuals can do? Perhaps the good elements in neoconservatism can be detached from the recent foreign-policy madness. C. Bradley Thompson emphatically disagrees. He argues that neoconservatism stands in fundamental opposition to individual rights and a free economy.
Although neoconservatives have indeed challenged certain aspects of the welfare state, they have no quarrel with it in principle.
In what may be Irving Kristol's most shocking statement in defense of collectivist redistribution and statism, he has suggested that "the idea of a welfare state is in itself perfectly consistent with a conservative political philosophy - as Bismarck knew, a hundred years ago." (p. 29)
If this accurately describes their position, why do the neoconservatives criticize the welfare state at all? Aside from the technical deficiencies of particular programs, what concerns them is the way that some welfare programs encourage unvirtuous behavior. Welfare that rewards giving birth out of wedlock, e.g., arouses their protests.
This sort of criticism reveals a key fact about the neoconservatives. They have a very definite sense of the proper conduct that the state, or as they are likely to term it, the regime, ought to promote. Not for them is the libertarian view that each person, so long as he does not initiate force against others, is free to lead his life as he wishes. To the contrary, the leaders of the state have as one of their prime duties the development of the citizens' characters. Accordingly, freedom of speech most decidedly does not extend to pornography. Further, the government must inculcate patriotic sentiment among the people.
More generally, neoconservatives do not believe in individual rights at all, in the robust sense with which readers of the Mises Daily will be familiar.
On a deeper level, the problem with the [American] Founders' liberalism, according to Kristol, is that it begins with the individual, and a philosophy that begins with the "self" must necessarily promote selfishness, choice, and the pursuit of personal happiness.… A free society grounded on the protection of individual rights leads inexorably to an amiable philistinism, an easygoing nihilism, and, ultimately, to "infinite emptiness." (pp. 28–9)
Thompson mordantly remarks, "Thus the great political lesson that the neocons have successfully taught other conservatives … is to stop worrying and love the State" (p. 29)."Although neoconservatives have indeed challenged certain aspects of the welfare state, they have no quarrel with it in principle."
Thompson is not content with this devastating verdict. He maintains that existing studies of neoconservatism do not penetrate to the essence: they have not discovered the philosophical roots of the movement. He locates this essence in the thought of Leo Strauss, and much of the book is devoted to a careful exposition and criticism of his views.  (Even if one dissents from Thompson's intellectual genealogy of neoconservatism, the discussion of Strauss is of great value for its own sake.)
Thompson appears to have set himself a difficult task. Neoconservatism according to many of its proponents is a tendency rather than a developed body of doctrine.
Those who are willing to call themselves neoconservatives (and not all are) typically describe neoconservatism as an "impulse," a "style of thought," or a "mode of thinking." Its proponents have described neoconservatism as a way of seeing the world, as a state of mind and not as a systematic political philosophy. (p. 4)
If this is right, how can Thompson proceed with his plan to unearth the philosophical foundations of neoconservatism? Will not a view that repudiates system prove impervious to analysis?
Thompson neatly turns this difficulty to his advantage. The rejection of system manifests in this instance a related view that provides the key to understanding neoconservatism. A system is composed of principles that inhere in an ordered structure; but neoconservatives oppose fixed principles of politics.
For all their supposed concern for ideas and philosophy, there is something profoundly antiphilosophical about the neoconservatives. They eschew moral first principles in favor of a technique or a mode of thinking, and they scorn absolute, certain moral principles for what "works." (p. 32)
But in this very rejection of systematic morality lies concealed a philosophical doctrine.
But what has all this to do with Leo Strauss? To make good his case that Strauss's thought lies behind neoconservatism, Thompson must first establish that the neocons knew and studied Strauss. He does so by showing that the acknowledged godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, took Strauss as his philosophical master. Thompson places particular emphasis on a review by Kristol in Commentary (October 1952) of Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing."To inculcate virtue and to weaken the base tendency of people to put their individual well-being ahead of the common good, what better means than a properly conducted war?"
Remarkably, this document has never been brought to the attention of the general public until now. Kristol's confrontation with Strauss came as an epiphany. It was, as Kristol has intimated on several occasions, the most important intellectual event of his life. (p. 59)
From Persecution and the Art of Writing, Kristol absorbed the message that philosophers needed to conceal their dangerous doctrines from the masses. Philosophy undermines religious belief and shows also that morality lacks a rational foundation. But without religion and an accepted morality, the social order would be overthrown. Further, if the masses were to become aware of what the philosophers really taught, would they not suppress these dangerous thinkers? Philosophers form an intellectual elite, and they rank far superior to those lacking their wisdom.
The ancient philosophers, mindful of the fate of Socrates, kept always in mind the need to maintain their distance from the masses. The Enlightenment abandoned this antique wisdom.
Whereas Socrates-Plato recognized a wide and unbridgeable chasm between philosophers and nonphilosophers, the engineers of the modern world - men such as Bacon, Newton, Locke, and Jefferson - thought it possible to make all men reasonable, to bring light to a dark world through reason and science.… The Enlightenment therefore represented for Strauss the democratization and thus the degradation of the Western mind. (pp. 66–7)
Strauss rejected capitalism and individualism, which as he saw them rested on a low view of man. Instead of philosophical wisdom, confined to an elite, as the highest end of the regime, happiness and wealth for the masses became the order of the day.
Strauss argued that the modern liberalism of Locke and Jefferson had distorted the fundamental structure of human existence, that without a summum bonum to guide his life, modern man lacked "completely a star and compass for his life" and was therefore wrenched away from the natural ordering of society. (p. 115)
The Enlightenment taught a further false doctrine: universal human rights. Instead, Strauss believed, there are no unalterably fixed moral standards. The statesman, taught by philosophers, must be guided by prudential judgment about the particular situation he faces. Here precisely is a key point at which Straussian teaching serves to explain neoconservatism. As earlier mentioned, the neocons resolutely reject fixed moral rules and rights.
If Strauss rejected the Enlightenment, he by no means demanded the abolition of individualism and capitalism. To the contrary, the ancient arrangements of the polis could not in our day be restored; and the regime of the American Founding Fathers offered the best available bulwark against relativism and nihilism - if this regime was suitably controlled behind the scenes by philosophers instructed in Straussian wisdom.
What form would this philosophical guidance take? It is essential that the inferior masses develop virtuous habits, lest their unbridled appetites lead to undue disorder. To inculcate virtue and to weaken the base tendency of people to put their individual well-being ahead of the common good, what better means than a properly conducted war? War teaches self-sacrifice.
The moral component of this is straightforward. As we have seen, the neoconservatives' ethical prescription for ordinary citizens consists in a life of selfless sacrifice to others, in which the individual puts the needs and well-being of others above his own. (p. 180)
Thompson finds in this argument a principal motive for the neocons' support for the Iraq War. The neocons aimed not only to spread democracy as they conceived it to the benighted Iraqis: even more important, they saw the war as a means to discipline and educate the American people."Neoconservatives oppose fixed principles of politics."
Thompson and Yaron Brook, the coauthor of the chapter on foreign policy, resolutely reject this approach to foreign policy. To them, wars are justifiable only as a means to avert a genuine threat, and "a real post–September 11 risk assessment of the threat posed by Iraq would not have resulted in finding that Iraq was at the top of the list of potential targets." (p. 179).
Thompson's interpretation of neoconservatism must confront two fundamental challenges. First, does he show that Strauss's view really stand at the base of neoconservatism? A critic might object that what holds true of Irving Kristol might not apply to others in the neoconservative movement. Further, has Thompson correctly interpreted Strauss? Was Strauss an advocate of a particular philosophy in his own right rather than a historian of political thought; and if he did wish to convey a philosophical message, is it the one Thompson attributes to him? I strongly suspect that Thompson can successfully meet these tests. Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea is essential reading for anyone interested in either the neoconservatives or Leo Strauss.David Gordon covers new books in economics, politics, philosophy, and law for The Mises Review, the quarterly review of literature in the social sciences, published since 1995 by the Mises Institute. He is author of The Essential Rothbard, available in the Mises Store. Send him mail. See David Gordon's article archives. You can subscribe to future articles by David Gordon via this RSS feed.
 Thompson is an Objectivist, and accordingly believes as a general thesis that ideas determine history. Readers will not fail to recall Leonard Peikoff's endeavor in Ominous Parallels to trace the roots of Nazism to Kant's philosophy. I do not think this effort was entirely successful.
 Thompson mentions that Kristol's wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, also wrote about Strauss. One might also note that his brother-in-law, Milton Himmelfarb, had studied Strauss's works carefully and wrote about Strauss on several occasions. See, e.g., "On Leo Strauss", Commentary (August 1974).
 Strauss was influenced in his opposition to capitalism by his friend and academic patron R.H. Tawney, the eminent English socialist. Like Strauss, Tawney deplored what he called the "acquisitive society." See Simon Green, "The Tawney-Strauss Connection: On Historicism and Values in the History of Political Ideas", Journal of Modern History, June 1995.
 Ironically, in view of the Objectivist portrayal of Kant as the fons et origo of modern philosophical evil, Straussians such as Harry Jaffa denounce fixed moral rules as Kantian.
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In today's New York Times, William Kristol chastises Barack Obama for failing to mention military service as a worthy form of national service in his Wesleyan University commencement address.
Kristol is an outspoken and prominent supporter of the war in Iraq, has suggested bombing Iran, and is generally a full-throated supporter of war in general. One would think that his enthusiasm for all things military is a product of his own service. But, you'd be wrong. Like most neoconservatives, Kristol declined when given the opportunity to serve (he was of draft age during the Vietnam War).
So where does Bill Kristol get off chastising Obama and the graduates for not considering military service, when he rejected it himself?
And why hasn't the New York Times fired this guy yet?
The "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism
As far back as the mid 1980s, paleoconservatives were caustically commenting on the supposed "Trotskyist roots" of the neoconservatives. At an infamously raucous debate between conservatives held at the Philadelphia Society in 1986, the paleoconservative historian Stephen J. Tonsor expressed dismay that former Marxists had come to play such a dominant role within conservatism, and quipped that had Trotsky not been assassinated he would no doubt be working for the Hoover Institute and writing articles for Commentary.  But it was not until the Gulf War of 1991 that the tale about neoconservatism's "Trotskyist roots" took the form in which we know it today. Within weeks of the war ending, Leon Hadar of the Cato Institute laid out the now widely accepted view in an article in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
Among the major figures in the [neoconservative] movement were former Trotskyites who studied in the '30s and '40s at the then "poor man's Harvard," the City College of New York, a center for socialist activism. They included Irving Kristol, who in the 1950s launched an anti-Soviet CIA front, the International Congress for Cultural Freedom; Norman Podhoretz, the editor of the American Jewish Committee's monthly magazine Commentary, which he turned into a major neoconservative outlet; Podhoretz's wife, Midge Decter, the chairperson of the now-defunct Committee on the Free World; sociologists Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell; and Democratic Party pamphleteer Ben Wattenberg. 
The only problem with Hadar's account of neoconservatism's origins is that it is almost completely false. A simple check of biographical facts is enough to show that neither Norman Podhoretz nor Midge Decter attended CCNY in the 1930s or 40s, nor were they ever Marxists, let alone Trotskyists. Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell did attend CCNY in the late 1930s, but again neither was ever a Trotskyist. Glazer was a Left Socialist-Zionist, while Bell joined first the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) in the early 1930s, and then the ardently anti-communist Social Democratic Federation towards the end of the decade. For his part, Ben Wattenberg could hardly have attended CCNY in the 1930s or 40s since he was only born in 1933. He in fact did not attend CCNY at all, and was also never a Trotskyist. That leaves Irving Kristol as the only neoconservative among those mentioned by Hadar who was actually ever associated with Trotskyism -- and even that statement requires some qualification, as we will see below.
Outright fabrications aside, part of the reason behind the recurrent exaggeration of the "Trotskyist roots" of the neoconservatives lies in their frequent conflation with their parent grouping, the New York Intellectuals. As Alan Wald detailed in the most authoritative work on the impact of Trotskyism on the New York Intellectuals, The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930's to the 1980's (1987), many of the latter group did indeed pass through the different shades of Trotskyism available in the 1930s and 40s. From its different generations, one can list: Elliot Cohen, Sidney Hook (a brief and rather hesitant fellow traveler), Herbert Solow, Meyer Schapiro, Irving Howe, Saul Bellow, Harold Rosenberg, Dwight McDonald, and Clement Greenberg. There was also the infamous and fractious relationship between Trotsky and the founding editors of Partisan Review, William Phillips and Philip Rhav.
But the original neoconservative "brain trust" of the 1970s, as Alexander Bloom referred to it in his Prodigal Sons (1986), did not consist of any of the above New York intellectuals associated with Trotskyism.  Instead, it consisted of Kristol, Glazer, Bell, Seymour Martin Lipset, and Norman Podhoretz -- and of this group, only two were briefly involved with Trotskyism: Kristol and Lipset. We can even add here the names of two less influential neoconservatives, although eminent scholars in their own rite: the historian and wife of Irving Kristol, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and the late political scientist Martin Diamond. The result is a grand total of four founding neoconservatives who passed through the ranks of Trotskyism. If one considers the list of first generation neoconservatives mentioned so far, which includes Bell, Glazer, Podhoretz and Decter, none of whom were Trotskyists, and then one adds such prominent early neoconservatives as Daniel Patrick Moynahan, James Q. Wilson, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Michael Novak, Robert Nisbet, Peter Berger, Hilton Kramer, and Walter Laqueur (and indeed one could go on); in other words if one looks at the first generation of neoconservatives as a whole, its so-called "Trotskyist roots" are shown to be much smaller and weaker than paleoconservatives have so insistently claimed.
More recently, as the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion has taken an increasingly prominent place in paleoconservative polemics, the trend has been away from inventing fictitious Trotskyist pasts for first generation neoconservatives, and towards using insinuations that leave the question of who was a Trotskyist deliberately unanswered. And understandably so, as there is more mileage to be had in implying that all of the original neoconservatives were former Trotskyists than by continuously recycling the names of the four that actually were.
A good example of this vagueness is provided by the prominent paleocon historian Paul Gottfried. In 1988, Gottfried co-authored The Conservative Movement, a serious and measured historical study of post-war intellectual conservatism that focused on the neo/paleo divide, and in which he made no mention of the supposed "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism. Yet subsequent to the Gulf War, Gottfried added an awkward and unsubstantiated claim about neoconservatism's "Trotskyist residues" to a revised 1993 edition of the book.  Today he polemically decries on the LewRockwell.com web site a conspicuously unnamed "…Trotskyist ascendancy over the conservative movement that began in the seventies and eighties" in which neoconservatives, themselves a "leftist revolutionary movement", have "…dragged Trotskyist themes, along with other baggage, into the conservative movement".  No names are provided by Gottfried for the simple reason that it would be impossible to "expose" the Trotskyist pasts of any original neoconservatives other than the four mentioned above -- whose numbers hardly merit the claim of a "Trotskyist ascendancy".
The "Trotskyism" of Irving Kristol
If the "Trotskyist roots" of neoconservatism have been greatly exaggerated, what about those of the first generation who were involved with Trotskyism? How much of an influence did Trotskyism have on their thinking? Presumably on this level a more credible case could be made for a real Trotskyist influence on neoconservatism. But it is precisely here that the complete lack of substance of the "Trotskyist neocon" assertion emerges, for there is nothing in any of the neoconservatives' vast political, sociological, or cultural writings that points to the remotest influence of Trotskyism. Instead, those propagating the assertion have been forced to rely only on whatever anecdotal evidence is available to make their case. Thus Irving Kristol, who wrote an autobiographical essay entitled "Memoirs of a Trotskyist" and has sprinkled mentions of his youthful political dalliances throughout his writings, is more often accused of still being influenced by Trotskyism than Seymour Martin Lipset, who was also a Trotskyist but who has not made similar use of his own brief radical past.
For paleocon polemicists, it matters little that Kristol has spent almost his entire adult life as one of America's most prolific and high-profile intellectual proponents of democracy and capitalism. It matters little because as diligently reported by paleocon journalist Daniel McCarthy, Kristol had the temerity to write, and supposedly did so "with relish", that "I regard myself as lucky to have been a young Trostkyite and I have not a single bitter memory".  Just as incriminating is Kristol's claim to have learned how to construct an argument by reading Trotskyist theoretical journals! But if the lack of seriousness in the paleocon accusations is evident, it does raise the question of exactly how much of a Trotskyist Irving Kristol was in his youth. And if one takes a close look at his actual Trotskyist past, a very different picture emerges from the one that has been conjured up by the polemicists and to a certain extent by Kristol himself.
Kristol was involved in the late 1930s, still in his teens, in the milieux of the young Jewish intellectuals that frequented the now-infamous Alcove No.1 at CCNY. While there he became a fellow traveler of the small group of Trotskyist students who belonged to the youth wing of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), known as the Young People's Socialist League-Fourth International (YPSL-FI). While steeped in the world of hyper-intellectual debating at CCNY, Kristol was not an SWP or YPSL-FI member -- and much less a full blown Trotskyist ideologue, as is often implied by those seeking to exaggerate his Trotskyist credentials. Infamously, James P. Cannon, Irish-American leader of the Trotskyists, once admonished Kristol and his friend and fellow CCNYer Earl Raab for not joining the SWP. From Mexico, Trotsky himself cast a wary eye on the YPSL's and fellow travelers such as Kristol and Raab because of their "lack of experience" and, more damningly, for their "petty bourgeois" backgrounds. 
Despite Cannon's scoldings, Kristol never did join the "official" Trotskyists of the SWP, but rather the heretical offshoot led by Max Shachtman, the Workers' Party (WP), in 1940. More importantly, Kristol belonged to a small intra-party faction inside the WP known as the "Shermanites" which was led by future Sociologist Philip Selznick, and also included Lipset, Himmelfarb, and Diamond, i.e. the only other neoconservatives to have been associated with Trotskyism. What is key here, and what for the most part has been overlooked, is that the Shermanites considered not only Stalinism but Bolshevism, which in their context meant Trotskyism, to be "… bureaucratic, totalitarian, and undemocratic".  Decisive to Kristol and the others' rejection of Marxism and Trotskyism was Robert Michels' Political Parties, which was introduced to the group by Selznick.  This "premature" anti-communism was so anathema to Shachtman that after Kristol and the tiny band of Shermanites resigned from the Workers' Party in 1941, a mere one year after they had joined, they were then retroactively expelled. The journal that Kristol and the Shermanites briefly published after their expulsion from the Workers Party, Enquiry, far from providing "conventional Marxist fare" as has been claimed by one scholar, in fact consisted mainly of substantive critiques of Marxism, Leninism, and Trotskyism, all the more noteworthy for the youthfulness of those making them. 
A more sober appraisal of the historical evidence shows that, contrary to the claims of the paleocons, and even some of his own writings, Irving Kristol's Trotskyism was far too peripheral and brief for him to be considered a representative Trotskyist of that era, or even much of a Trotskyist at all -- something which applies just as much if not more to the only other "Trotskyist neocons": Lipset, Himmelfarb, and Diamond.
The question of "Shachtmanism"
While first generation neoconservatives are accused of having been Trotskyists, second generation neocons are usually charged with Trotskyism indirectly, by virtue of supposedly having been "Shachtmanites". Those meriting this accusation are the small minority of today's neconservatives who were members of the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation/Young People's Socialist League (SP-SDF/YPSL), and later the Social Democrats USA, in the late 1960s and early 70s. The supposed link with Trotskyism comes in the form of Max Shachtman, the leader of the 1940 split from official Trotskyism who would later go on to call the Socialist Party home and play a key role in that party's right-wing from the late 1950s to his death in 1972.
Shachtman occupies a fascinating place in the history of Marxism in the US for having moved, over the span of 20 years, all the way from Trotskyism to a fervently anti-communist version of social democracy. What makes this move particularly intriguing is that Shachtman carried it out while doggedly maintaining an orthodox Marxist phraseology that had increasingly little relevance to his actual politics. Since a small number of today's neoconservatives, such as Joshua Muravchik and Carl Gershman, played key roles in the Socialist Party, YPSL, and Social Democrats USA during the 1960's and 70's, there is a degree of truth to a connection between Max Shachtman and a handful of the current generation of neocons.
But what has conveniently been forgotten by the paleocons amidst their frantic references to Max Shachtman's "Trotskyism" is that Shachtman broke definitively with his unique version of that ideology in the mid 1950s, even before dissolving the International Socialist League (ISL, successor to the Workers' Party) and joining the Socialist Party in 1958. Even more, abandoning Trotskyism was a precondition set by the SP leadership for allowing Shachtman and his followers to join their party. Once inside the party, Shachtman and the former members of the ISL carried on squarely in the tradition of the right-wing socialist "Old Guard" of the party that had split away in the 1930s: staunchly anti-Communist, closely supportive of the established trade union leaderships, orthodox Marxist in official discourse, and crucially, oriented towards working within the Democratic party -- something even the Old Guard had not been willing to advocate. The historian Robert J. Alexander, who was himself active in the Socialist Party in those years, notes that after 1958 the ideological distinctions in the party between the ex-ISL cadre and the pre-1958 socialists basically disappeared.  While the former Shactmanites maintained close ties inside the SP, these ties were now based on a type of social democratic politics with deep roots in the right wing of American Socialism, rather than on a Trotskyism that had been consciously discarded.
None of this history matters to paleoconservative polemicists though. In modern Old Right folklore, not only does Shachtman remain a Trotskyist beyond the late 1950s, but the Socialist Party itself is somehow transformed into a "Trotskyite" organization. Only by means of such blatant fabrications can Srdja Trifkovic, writing in the on-line version of Chronicles, claim that second generation neoconservatives, "…including Joshua Muravchik, and Carl Gershman, came to neoconservatism through the Socialist Party at a time when it was Trotskyite in outlook and politics."  In reality, the Socialist Party itself was never "Trotskyite", nor did any Trotskyists play a role inside it after their expulsion from the party in 1937. For Socialists, Trotskyism was a political opponent by the time that Muravchik and Penn Kemble (together with Michael Harrington) led the party and its youth wing in the late 1960's. It was not even remotely an issue by the time Carl Gershman led the successor to the right-wing of the Socialist Party following the split in 1972, the Social Democrats-USA.
The very labeling of the few ex-socialist neoconservatives of today as "former Shachtmanites" is misleading, especially since the label is used to imply that they share Max Shachtman's historical connection to Trotskyism, which they do not. Justin Raimondo makes the motivation behind the label clear when he writes in Anti-War.com, that "…it was Shachtman's particular schismatic brand of Trotskyism, as advocated by the "Yipsels," as Comrade Muravchik and his fellow young commies called themselves, that over time was transmuted into a militant push for global "democracy."  Raimondo's polemics on the Anti-war.com website demonstrate that he is familiar -- if perhaps excessively preoccupied -- with the history of American Trotskyism. But the conspiratorial edge to much of his writing often results in presenting a skewed history. His attempt to link neoconservatives to Shachtmanism is a confused amalgam of eras and ideologies that is way off the mark, beginning with his curious labeling of the 1960s YPSL's as both "Shachtmanites" and "commies" when they in fact represented a uniquely American version of right-wing social democracy.
The main tenets of the actual "schismatic brand of Trotskyism" that Raimondo refers to, and that Shachtman adhered to in the 1940s and early 50s, were a revolutionary opposition to capitalism, a "third camp" orientation ("neither Washington nor Moscow"), the theory of bureaucratic collectivism, and support for an independent labor party in the US. It is this set of ideas that can most accurately be referred to as "Shachtmanism".  But not only was such Shachtmanite politics the furthest thing from the minds of Muravchik, Gershman, and the other young Socialists in the late 1960s and 70s -- none of whom was old enough to have belonged to the ISL, and for whom Shachtman was merely a charismatic anti-Communist elder statesman -- not even Shachtman himself still advocated those positions, having abandoned them more than a decade earlier.
Commenting on the all too common tendency of labeling those on the right wing of the Socialist Party as "Shachtmanites", Muravchik, who was National Chairman of the YPSL between 1968 and 1973, has put it succinctly: "I loved Shachtman's lectures, but what I learned from them had nothing to do with the Trotskyite arcana that had once been the substance of Shachtmanism. It had everything to do with the evil nature of communism."  It is the inability to distinguish between right wing social democracy and revolutionary Marxism that underlies the confused allegations hurled at today's neoconservatives -- a small number of whom were once socialists, but whose "former Shachtmanism" turns out to have even less basis in fact than the "former Trotskyism" of the first generation.
June 13, 2003
...But the punch-line for this joke of an argument is here:
"This is the ugly accusation an alert reader should suspect in encountering the word 'Straussian,' or these days even 'neo-conservative' in the context of the Iraq debate. Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle find their Jewish heritage a point of attack. But George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are gentiles. Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell don't look Jewish to me, but they also helped draft the basic statement of the Bush Doctrine, the September 2002 'National Security Policy of the United States.'"
In the Orwellian world of the neocons, where a new form of political correctness frames their every utterance, the language is contracting. Because the goal of totalitarian thought control is to make the expression of political incorrectness impossible, the goal of this Neocon Newspeak is the abolition of many now-common words. In this context, words are used, not to make debating points, but to end all discussion. There are no Straussians, we are told, and even the word neoconservative is to be flushed down the Memory Hole, along with shelves full of books, articles, and even one incredibly boring film detailing their intellectual and political evolution in minute detail.
The idea that the major media have been taken over by neo-Nazis, and that the campaign to identify who and/or what got us involved in an unnecessary and ultimately futile war is all part of "the new anti-Semitism," is the rather implausible theme of the neocons' defense. In a polemic that has all the hallmarks of having been written by an awful drunk – i.e., not only entirely lacking in logic, but also relentlessly subjective and anecdotal – Christopher Hitchens reveals the ultimate evidence for this worldwide anti-Semitic plot in all its sinister "undertones." Once again, the use of certain words – or, in this case, their correct pronunciation – is the issue at hand:
"'Yes that's all very well,' said the chap from the BBC World Service, 'but what about this man Vulfervitz who seems to run the whole show from behind the scenes?' For the fifth time in as many days, and for the umpteenth time this year, I corrected a British interviewer's pronunciation. You see the name in print, you hear it uttered quite a lot in American discussions, you then give a highly inflected rendition of your own. ... What is this?"
To any normal person, it is nothing at all. A simple mis-pronunciation. A defective ear. Perhaps Hitchens, through the thick syrupy haze of alcohol and self-regard, could not hear what this anonymous "chap" was really saying. But, no:
"This is not quite like old-line reactionaries going out of their way to say 'Franklin Delano Rosenfeld.' Still, I don't think I am quite wrong in suspecting that a sharpened innuendo is in play here. Why else, when the very name of Paul Wolfowitz is mentioned, do so many people bid adieu to the very notion of objectivity?"
It is Hitchens who has bid adieu to objectivity. He details all the various travails suffered by the hawkish Defense Department deputy secretary, but nowhere mentions the supposed ethno-religious factor until the very end of his rambling screed:
"Coming back to where I began, though, I think that there's genuine cause for alarm in the current vulgar conflation of 'Kabbalah' with 'cabal,' and with the practice of what, if anyone else were to be the target, the left would already be calling 'demonization.'"
The problem with this argument is that Hitchens is the only one making such a far-fetched conflation, but boozy narcissism is what usually takes the place of logic in the alcoholic mind. Hitchens' contribution to the neocon counteroffensive, then, is to add his own nominee to the growing list of forbidden words: Straussian, neocon, cabal…. Their campaign to constrict the parameters of political debate by eliminating words marches on.
Arnold Beichman was next up at bat, with his own nominee: in any discussion of the neocons and their influence, he wants any reference to Leon Trotsky or the influence of Trotskyism to be strictly verboten. Writing in National Review Online, Beichman is outraged at Jeet Heer's National Post piece detailing the Trotskyist roots of leading neocons, whose cocktail party chatter evidently includes abstruse references to Max Shachtman and the factional history of the Fourth International. I wrote about the Heer piece the other day (scroll down to "Notes in the Margin"), but, alas, the saga continues. Beichman contemptuously dismisses the ex-Trotskyist Hitchens' alleged influence at the White House. Apparently in response to ex-Trotskyist-turned-neocon Stephen Schwartz for affectionately referring to the killer of Kronstadt as "the old man" and "L.D.," Beichman launches a magnificent attack on the crimes of Trotsky, unfairly ripping into Heer for giving Schwartz a platform and for bringing up the Trotsky connection at all:
"But there is something more sinister at work here: to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents."
Schwartz responded the next day in National Review with what I think is the last word on this subject: his article is the definitive text that proves how right we paleos have been all along about this troublesome sect known as the neocons. Schwartz denounces "a group of neofascists" who supposedly claim that "neoconservatives are all ex-Trotskyists," but defends Heer's piece as serving another aim, that of describing "the very real evolution of certain ex-Trotskyists toward an interventionist position on the Iraq war" – i.e., his own evolution and that of his friends and associates in the neocon movement. It is okay for certain people to talk about the Trotskyist influence on neoconservatism, just as long as they have the right ideology:
"The U.S. neofascists who have thrown this accusation around use the term 'Trotskyist' the same way they use the term 'neoconservative:' as a euphemism for 'Jew.'"
But when he writes how "many of the original generation of neoconservatives had a background of association with Trotskyism in its Shachtmanite iteration" it's somehow not a hate crime. Schwartz is even allowed to observe, as I did in my 1993 book Reclaiming the American Right in some detail, that "the Shachtmanites, in the 1960s, joined the AFL-CIO in its best Cold War period, and many became staunch Reaganites." The point of Schwartz's rebuttal, however, is that he is proud of his Trotksyist past. He even gathers his co-thinkers together in proclaiming, in true Trotskyist fashion, that they constitute a semi-official faction, which some editor at NRO deemed "Trotsky-cons":
"The second issue at hand involves the actual ex-Trotskyists who engaged with the issue of the Iraqi war. I call this group, to which I belong, the 'three-and-a-half international,' which is an obscure reference I won't explain fully. But I use it to indicate three main individuals: Christopher Hitchens, myself, and the Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya, who all did indeed march under the Red Flag at some point…."
Here is where Schwartz descends into sheer hilarity, given that the best humor is always unintentional. He not only defends dear old Trotsky against Beichman's calumniations, but also red-baits Beichman, reminding him – and NRO's by this time utterly baffled readers – of Beichman's Stalinist past. Beichman was a fellow traveler of the Communist Party in the 1930s, when he worked for the pro-war, pro-FDR left-wing newspaper PM. It's all too funny, but one can only wonder what ordinary, garden-variety, un-prefixed conservatives think of all this sound and fury.
Here, after all, are the ex-Commies of yesteryear re-enacting the Stalin-Trotsky split in the pages of National Review – even as the magazine continues with its ridiculous campaign denying the very existence of neocons as anything but plain old vanilla conservatives. The magazine's online readers, such as they are, may be mystified by Schwartz's argument that Trotsky has a lot to say to the neocons of today, because his analysis of the Moscow Trials somehow impacts on the neocon analysis of Peter Arnett. (Say, what?) But I, for one, particularly enjoyed Schwartz's contention that the Beichman jeremiad represented an effort to "exclude Hitchens and myself from consideration as reliable allies in the struggle against Islamist extremism," or, as he proudly avers:
"Because we have yet to apologize for something I, for one, will never consider worthy of apology. There is clearly a group of heresy-hunters among the original neoconservatives who resent having to give way to certain newer faces, with our own history and culture. These older neoconservatives cannot take yes for an answer, and they especially loathe Hitchens. But nobody ever asked Norman Podhoretz to apologize for having once written poetry praising the Soviet army. Nobody ever asked the art critic Meyer Schapiro, who was also a Trotskyist, to flog himself for assisting illegal foreign revolutionaries at a time when it was considered unpatriotic, to say the least. Nobody ever asked Shachtman or Burnham, or, for that matter, Sidney Hook, or Edmund Wilson, or a hundred others, to grovel and beg mercy for inciting war on capitalism in the depths of the Great Depression."
Holding that Red Banner high, Schwartz declares war on the ex-Stalinists in the neocon movement – of which there are plenty, as he correctly points out – and proclaims his "Third and a Half International." It is almost too farcical to be taken seriously, but then the "conservatism" upheld by National Review since the purge of John Sullivan has never been serious, and this just underscores the sheer absurdity of its claim to be some kind of final arbiter.
Schwartz raises a perfectly legitimate point: if the ex-Trotskyists have to apologize for importing their particular brand of militarism into the neocon movement, then why don't the ex-Stalinists have to "grovel," too? I say let them both apologize for supporting some variant of mass-murdering commie totalitarianism, or stop pretending to be "conservatives."
The ideas that energize the neoconservative movement have little if anything to do with traditional conservatism. That this suspicion is now widespread among traditional conservatives, as well as journalists, is not to be undone by lame accusations of alleged "anti-Semitism." Paring down the permitted language of political debate is not going to work, either. It is clear beyond the need for further proof that the War Party bamboozled the American public into taking that first fateful step on the road to empire. We know who they are, and what they believe: it is not a "conspiracy," as the detractors of this theory insist, because there is nothing secret about it – and because the same people are urging us onward, to Iran, Syria, and beyond.
The esoteric elitist Strauss, the Leninist elitist Trotsky, Schwartz and his mock-operatic "Third and a Half International" re-fighting the inter-Commie faction wars of the 1930s with a gaggle of ex-Stalinists – this is the official "conservative" movement of today! No wonder Commissar Frum and his fellow neocons felt compelled to attack us antiwar, limited government types as "unpatriotic conservatives," going so far as to declare that they "turn their backs" on us. They turned their backs on authentic conservatism some time ago.
January 28, 2011 | Alex Jones' InfowarsDuring a Council on Foreign Relations speech in Montreal last year, co-founder with David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission and regular Bilderberg attendee Zbigniew Brzezinski warned of a "global political awakening," mainly comprising of younger people in developing states, that threatened to topple the existing international order.
Reading the full extent of Brzezinski's words in light of the global revolts that we now see spreading like wildfire across the planet provides an astounding insight into how crucially important the outcome of this phase of modern history will be to the future geopolitical course of the world, and in turn the survival and growth of human freedom in general.
For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive… The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination… The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening… That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing… The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches…
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well… Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious "tertiary level" educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million "college" students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred…
[The] major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.
It is important to stress that Brzezinski was not lauding the onset of this "global political awakening," he was decrying it. As one of the of the chief architects of the "existing global hierarchy" to which he makes reference, Brzezinski himself is under direct threat, as is the continuing ability of the global elite in general to control world affairs.
Brzezinski laments the fact that the Internet has made it almost impossible for the global elite to control the political environment, to control the thoughts and behavior of one million people, which is precisely why Egypt moved to shut down the world wide web yesterday in a desperate bid to prevent activists from organizing against the state.
As is routine whenever riots and revolutions suddenly appear as if out of nowhere, history warns us to not take what we see at face value, and to recall the numerous contrived "color revolutions" that have served little purpose other than to allow the IMF/World Bank global elite to overthrow a rogue power and seize the country via the backdoor through puppet regimes it subsequently installs.
However, the domino-like effect of the global revolution that has accelerated in recent weeks seems to be born out of a genuine, grass roots, organic yearning for real freedom, and an end to dictatorial regimes that the United States and the banking elite have helped to prop up.
The global revolt spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, having already touched Europe with the riots and strikes in Italy, France, Greece and the United Kingdom last year, is characterized as a backlash against dictatorship, police brutality, and political repression. These factors have been seething undercurrents of resentment for years, but only thanks to greater education and easier access to information and the ability to organize through the Internet has a new generation of activists finally said enough is enough. Spiraling food prices, fuel inflation, lower wages and high unemployment have also played a central role.
As Andrew Gavin Marshall writes in his excellent article, Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?, "We must not cast aside these protests and uprisings as being instigated by the West, but rather that they emerged organically, and the West is subsequently attempting to co-opt and control the emerging movements."
In the case of Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia, all three regimes have enjoyed the multi-decade support of the US military-industrial complex. All three were fully compliant vassal states for the new world order. There was no need for contrived or staged "color revolutions" to be prompted by the global elite in these countries.
Indeed, the die was cast when the Obama administration expressed its support for 30 year dictator Hosni Mubarak in the form of a PBS interview yesterday when Vice-President Joe Biden implied that the protesters demands were illegitimate.
"The reflex action of the imperial powers is to further arm and support the oppressive regimes, as well as the potential to organize a destabilization through covert operations or open warfare (as is being done in Yemen)," writes Marshall. "The alternative is to undertake a strategy of "democratization" in which Western NGOs, aid agencies and civil society organizations establish strong contacts and relationships with the domestic civil society in these regions and nations. The objective of this strategy is to organize, fund and help direct the domestic civil society to produce a democratic system made in the image of the West, and thus maintain continuity in the international hierarchy. Essentially, the project of "democratization" implies creating the outward visible constructs of a democratic state (multi-party elections, active civil society, "independent" media, etc) and yet maintain continuity in subservience to the World Bank, IMF, multinational corporations and Western powers."
Remember – any country that retains its own sovereignty, acts primarily in its own interests and attempts to build itself up as a strong, prosperous, and culturally strong state is an enemy to the globalists. The international hierarchy demands compliance, dependence, weakness and a dilution of heritage and culture in order for every nation to be enveloped within the sphere of global government control.
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Make no mistake about it, we are seeing a global revolution, the age of rage is falling upon us like dominoes reaching to every corner of the planet. Whether or not the outcome will topple the current global hierarchy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski fears, remains to be seen, but it will surely depend upon who controls the new governments that will replace the ousted rulers – the people who started the process of change, or the World Bank, IMF, NGO's and the rest of the global elite who are desperate to save their world government agenda from being derailed.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show. Watson has been interviewed by many publications and radio shows, including Vanity Fair and Coast to Coast AM, America's most listened to late night talk show.
The Independent Review, v. 14, n. 3, Winter 2010,
ISSN 1086–1653, Copyright © 2010, pp. 445–449. 445
The idea that American neoconservatives have conflated U.S. security interests in the Middle East with the international-security perspective of ardent right-wingers in Israel has generated inflammatory and angry reactions from pro-Israel quarters in Washington. It is academically and politically a dangerous contemplation, as Sniegoski recognizes and as analysts of recent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East know.
The brief and heavily footnoted assessment entitled "The Israel Lobby," by respected realists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (London Review of Books, March 23, 2006), not only was initially denied a U.S. publisher in 2006, but also gave rise to a sustained and somewhat hysterical smear campaign against both authors, replete with public accusations of anti-Semitism and calls for their removal from both academia and public life.
Far from a polemic, "The Israel Lobby" is a benign and politically dry review of the actions and impact of the various organizations that actively promote Israel's interests in Washington, including the Likud-leaning American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
Mearsheimer and Walt's report on the power that American advocates for Israel exert in shaping policy and increasing financial, military, and moral support for Israel reads much like any of the expository speeches given at the annual AIPAC policy conference held each spring in Washington. The difference, of course, is one of perspective. Rather than self-congratulatory and self-promoting, Sniegoski's perspective, like that of other critics of modern Israel-centric influence in U.S. foreign-policy making, leans to U.S. constitutionalism and traditional ideas of U.S. democracy. The Transparent Cabal is not a direct inquiry into the controversial role of the "Israel Lobby." Instead, Sniegoski specifically examines the rationale for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq; the sustaining philosophies of American neoconservatives; their role in "selling" the war to the American people, Congress, and the administration; and the degree of linkage between the neoconservatives themselves and the Likud Party and political Zionism. To carry out this examination, Sniegoski takes the reader on an eye-opening excursion into the history of neoconservatism in U.S. politics, exploring the evolution of security philosophy in Israel during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In tracking the political and academic evolution of neoconservatism, the author revisits the plethora of public statements, advocacy letters, and campaigns, as well as the numerous articles and books written by key U.S. neoconservatives, including Irving and William Kristol, Norman and John Podhoretz, Michael Ledeen, David Frum, and Richard Perle. More significant, and perhaps for the first time in a mainstream U.S. research report, Sniegoski also tracks what was going on contemporaneously in Israeli politics and security strategy. This aspect of The Transparent Cabal is the most fascinating and represents the author's most significant contribution to the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East. With a degree of detail not found elsewhere, Sniegoski reviews the infamous 1996 "Clean Break" document written by prominent American neoconservative Jews for Israeli politician and present- day Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu. He also explains how the disruption and destruction of Arab states, scattering them into sectarian and ethnic "statelets," can be seen-and has been seen for decades by Likud and other right-wing Zionist parties in Israel-as good for Israel's security (pp. 45–56). This unemotional, factbased, and heavily footnoted analysis is particularly useful for students of foreign policy because it places the well-known U.S. neoconservative language of Middle East strategy and objectives in relief against equally well-publicized but far less familiar Likud language regarding Israeli security. Beyond the contextual comparison, The Transparent Cabal closely tracks the political and rhetorical history of the George W. Bush administration's 2002–2003 promotion of the need to invade Iraq. Sniegoski systematically explains the neoconservative push for regime change that had been voiced and promoted since the early 1980s, throughout the Iraq-Iran War. Inasmuch as the United States overtly backed Saddam Hussein during this conflict, an effort to weaken Iraq was not national policy; as Henry Kissinger infamously observed, "It's a pity they both can't lose." At that time, Washington viewed secular Iraq under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship as a bastion against radical anti-American Shi'ism fermenting in Iran. Israel took Iran's side and opposed Iraq, seeing Saddam's Baath nationalism and industrialization as a greater security threat than the backward mullahs farther east, and worked militarily and economically to assist Tehran. Sniegoski reminds us that the same neoconservatives who today demonize Iran and advocate U.S.-led destruction of Iran's economy and government were appeasers of Iran's mullahs in the middle to late 1980s. He notes that the names of many neoconservatives employed by or close to George H. W. Bush's administration, including Michael Ledeen and Eliot Abrams, were already vaguely familiar to Americans who recalled the embarrassing and hypocritical Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration. When the Iran-Iraq War ended, the United States continued a diplomatic relationship with heavily indebted and economically devastated Iraq, to the extent that U.S. ambassador April Glaspie clearly indicated to Saddam Hussein that Washington would consider any action he took against Kuwait regarding possible slant drilling and economic gamesmanship over oil production as an internal matter. Sniegoski reminds us that neoconservative and pro-Israeli groups wrote and advocated in favor of a military response and that the Persian Gulf War was successfully promoted in the media and operationally successful, up to a point. In this examination of U.S. policy history, he reminds us of the many falsehoods (and their sources) leveraged by advocates of the 1990s war, including notoriously false congressional testimony and the use of doctored imagery within government channels used to convince the House of Saud to allow U.S. military basing in Saudi Arabia (p. 69). Falsified evidence, imaginative and oft-repeated reports of atrocities, and coordinated government and media storytelling are typical fare in research for wars of choice, whether a country is led by a king, a prime minister, a parliament, or a popularly elected and constitutionally constrained president. We study the public justifications for the Spanish-American War, the one-sided reporting of the sinking of the Lusitania designed to bring the United States into World War I, the Roosevelt administration's political agitation to join World War II and political foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and of course Nixon's unitary executive-style expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos.
None of these examples involved neoconservatism, yet all U.S. wars in the past century have been guided by forms of Wilsonian idealism, the muscular version of which is directly associated with neoconservatism. Ideas do matter, and language often matters even more. Sniegoski's thoughtful and calm analysis helps reveal both the ideological and the value-laden semantic roles played by political advocates for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and other U.S. military activities throughout the Middle East. Absent the threat of global communism, U.S. wars of choice in the Middle East have remained a hard sell for most Americans, and such wars have no substantial domestic economic or political interest to push for them. Some evidence indicates a cohesive advocacy of Middle Eastern wars within the oil industry (leverage and access), by the military-industrial complex (consumption and growth), and among some sectors of American fundamentalist, millennial, and Zionist forms of Christianity. Sniegoski assesses each of these potential centers of domestic advocacy and finds them lacking. Here students of the 2003 invasion of Iraq may look askance, in part because of the body of work that explores structural imperatives for the invasion, including William Clark's Petrodollar Warfare (Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society, 2005), Eugene Jarecki's The American Way of War (New York: Free Press, 2008), and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007). As many observers and analysts across the political spectrum have noted, the attacks of September 11, 2001, unified a large part of the U.S. populace (and, according to Sniegoski, steeled the resolve of a previously ambling and directionless George W. Bush).
The "war on terror" justification accurately explained the popularity of U.S. vengeance on Afghanistan's Taliban. Better than most analysts, Sniegoski explains not only why, but how the false linkage of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein and others was launched and promoted, and how popular American belief in that false linkage lasted just long enough to allow the destruction of Iraq as a single powerful Arab state (pp. 221–22). This revelation is both timely and of particular interest as Americans begin to come to terms with the role and aims of the Bush administration's treatment and torture of Muslim detainees in 2001 and 2002.
Neoconservatives have expressed sympathy for "intelligent design theory," that is, creationism. This is well documented by Ronald Bailey's article in "Reason on line." Bailey discusses why neoconservatives might claim they don't believe in evolution by natural selection even though there is no scientific basis for that view.
update: link corrected thanks to VtCodger in comments.
Mainly, he suspects that it is a Strussian "noble lie," roughly that they believe that fundamentalist religion is needed for the good of society, so they pretend to agree with it. He mentions, but is not very fascinated by, the idea that this is partisan hackery -- that neoconservatives think the interests of the Republican party would be harmed if they didn't bend their knees before the fundamentalists. Of course the problem is that once one decides to lie, it is very hard to decide exactly how noble to be about it.
He doesn't mention the collosal arrogance of people who assume that biologists don't know anything relevant about biology which they don't know. I think this is always a risk in people coming from law or social sciences. They just have no clue how much evidence lies behind the claims of natural scientists and assume that they can bluff their way past biologists as they have successfully bluffed their way past say economomists.
In the second part of his article, Bailey argues that there is no scientific case against evolution by natural selection. Naturally it would come first, one normally doesn't question someone's honesty until one has exausted other options (although the NeoCons he quotes are pretty up front about how they start with the conclusion and work back to the evidence). I think the editorial decision makes sense as most Reason on Line readers don't really need to be convinced that modern biology is not all a big mistake.
I think Bailey's arguments for Darwin are weaker than his earlier analysis-not because he doesn't make a convincing case, but because he buries the lede. Basically he has a theoretical disagreement with a mathematician, then speculates about the origin of life, then asks if one can be both a Christian and a Darwinist (hint yes) and only then discusses some of the evidendence for evolution by natural selection.But Berlinski stoutly declares in Commentary that he is no creationist. He claims merely to be engaged in critiquing the failures of Darwinism. Berlinski is particularly savage about what he regards as Darwinism's tautological character. "Time and again, biologists do explain the survival of an organism by reference to its fitness and the fitness of an organism by reference to its survival, the friction between the two concepts kindling nothing more than the observation that some creatures have been around for a very long time."Wrong Bailey, the way to argue that something isn't a tautology is to point out a testable implication. Instead Bailey claims the stated theory is not quite right because it didn't include the word "species" even this explanation is incorrect (see below*) but the main thing is that the theory of evolution by natural selection has testable implications because organisms have detectable features which don't make any detectable difference.
In Berlinski's view, evolutionary theory simply says that the ones that survive are the ones that survive. But that is not quite right. But that is not quite right. Darwinian natural selection sifts for useful variations among mutations, thus natural selection generates increased fitness, not just preserving the fittest. This process generates new species, species B being the descendant of earlier species A. This claim is clearly more than a tautology.
The evidence for the theory became vastly vastly enormously gigantically even more immense than it was already when biologists began sequencing DNA. They found patterns explained by the idea some sequences don't matter and drift faster than others which do. Based on those sequences they can redraw the family tree of living things and lo and behold it almost exactly matches the tree drawn based on other features and based on fossils. Oh and one can check that the sequences that don't seem to matter don't matter and, so far, they don't. Before sequencing the evidence was weaker but already overwhelming based on traights which didn't seem important.
There might be another explanation for these facts, but no one has ever pretended to have one. Instead critics of biology like Berlinski and Kristol just ignore the evidence entirely. Bailey mentions it long after speculating at length about the origin of life (OK and I began indignantly typing before I read that far).
Berlinksi's claim is, I think, false as a matter of fact. Biologists do not claim that the survival of this or that species is evidence in favor of evolutionary biology. The evidence all concerns trivial things which are considered evidence of evolutionary history exactly because they have tiny or zero effect on fitness.
The quote of Berlinski (all I have read of his writings) does not disprove the hypothesis that he thinks that modern evolutionary biology is completely summed up by the phrase "the survival of the fittest." That is, indeed, a tautology. It is indeed part of the subtitle of "The Origin of Species." But I mean, to be fair to Darwin, one should at least read the full subtitle. Oh and maybe glance at the book. And to be fair to evolutionary biology, one would have to note that much evidence has been collected since then (not to mention the theory has developed).
I have Popper in the title, because Popper did the same damn thing in "The Open Society and Its Enemies." Popper at least asserted that something wasn't there -- predictions which have since been confirmed, explanations of puzzling facts, you know non tautological science -- which absolutely wasn't there. Popper, I think, assumed that he was brilliant enough to know what is written in a book after reading part (not all) of its subtitle.
* I think a biologist tried to explain this to Bailey and he didn't get it. The non tautological point is that the descendents of species A might belonge to species B and C two different species present at the same time. Now the claim that two different organisms belong to different species is *not* mere terminology -- it has an operational definition -- orgnaisms from two different species can not produce fertile offspring descended from both of them.
If evolution were always new species A replacing now extinct species B, then all we would know is that we choose to use different words for organisms of type A and B. Without a time machine, we can't test if they are two different species.
Now "survival of the fittest" does not logically imply that one species can, over time, split into two. This is a radical idea. It is also, in principle, experimentally testable, although the experiment will take a long time.
I personally think the experiment is under way and it is already clear that one species can split into 2 much more quickly than evolutionary biologists imagined. The experiment is raising fruit flies in laboratories. They are used to study genetics. Normal non mutant flies are called "wild type" but their ancestors haven't been wild for about a century now. They have been bread in labs from each other.
Interestingly when an actual wild male captured in the wild is mated with a lab bread "wild type" female, something happens called "hybrid disgenisis" which means the offspring are messed up. It is known that this is caused by a transposon (basically a very very benign virus) which keeps itself inactive in the
genome of wild fruit flies by making a repressor protein. None of that protein gets into spermatazoa so if the transposon is in one of the male's chromasomes it makes copies of itself and spreads them around inside the chromasomes of the fertilized egg.
Evidently the transposon spread through the wild population after the ancestors of the lab flies were captured.
Some of the offspring survive this process. But already there is a barrier between wild and lab fruit flies after about one century. One can imagine that another hundred years or so, wild males will not be able to produce fertile offspring with lab bread females (just a few more such latent virus like things would do it).
Now to get two whole species it has to be blocked the other way too and the lab population is very isolated (also from other insects) and divided among labs so I mean maybe experimental speciation won't occur in my grandchildren's lifetime. But it's really close.
Creators.com"In 1877, Lord Salisbury, commenting on Great Britain's policy on the Eastern Question, noted that 'the commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.'
"Salisbury was bemoaning the fact that many influential members of the British ruling class could not recognize that history had moved on; they continued to cling to policies and institutions that were relics of another era."
"Relics of another era" - thus did Stephen Meyer, in Parameters in 2003, begin his essay "Carcass of Dead Policies: The Irrelevance of NATO."
NATO has been irrelevant for two decades, since its raison d'etre - to keep the Red Army from driving to the Rhine - disappeared. Yet Obama is headed to Brussels to celebrate France's return and the 60th birthday of the alliance. But why is NATO still soldiering on?
In 1989, the Wall fell. Germany was reunited. The Captive Nations cast off communism. The Red Army went home. The USSR broke apart into 15 nations. But, having triumphed in the Cold War, it seems the United States could not bear giving up its role as Defender of the West, could not accept that the curtain had fallen and the play was closing after a 40-year run.
So, what did we do? In a spirit of "triumphalism," NATO "nearly doubled its size and rolled itself right up to Russia's door," writes Richard Betts in The National Interest.
Breaking our word to Mikhail Gorbachev, we invited into NATO six former member states of the Warsaw Pact and three former republics of the Soviet Union. George W. Bush was disconsolate he could not bring in Georgia and Ukraine.
Why did we expand NATO to within a few miles of St. Petersburg when NATO is not a social club but a military alliance? At its heart is Article V, a declaration that an armed attack on any one member is an attack on all.
America is now honor-bound to go to war against a nuclear-armed Russia for Estonia, which was part of the Russian Empire under the czars.
After the Russia-Georgia clash last August, Bush declared, "It's important for the people of Lithuania to know that when the United States makes a commitment - we mean it."
But "mean" what? That a Russian move on Vilnius will be met by U.S. strikes on Mother Russia? Are we insane?
Let us thank Divine Providence Russia has not tested the pledge.
For can anyone believe that, to keep Moscow from re-establishing its hegemony over a tiny Baltic republic, we would sink Russian ships, blockade Russian ports, bomb Russian airfields, attack Russian troop concentrations? That would risk having some Russian general respond with atomic weapons on U.S. air, sea and ground forces.
Great powers do not go to war against other great powers unless vital interests are imperiled. Throughout the Cold War, that was true of both America and Russia.
Though he had an atomic monopoly, Harry Truman did not use force to break the Berlin blockade. Nor did Ike intervene to save the Hungarians, whose 1956 revolution Moscow drowned in blood.
John F. Kennedy did not use force to stop the building of the Berlin Wall. Lyndon Johnson fired not a shot to halt the crushing of Prague Spring by Soviet tanks. When Solidarity was snuffed out on Moscow's orders in 1981, Ronald Reagan would not even put the Polish regime in default.
In August 1991, George Bush I, in Kiev, poured ice water on Ukraine's dream of independence: "Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred."
Many Americans were outraged. But outrage does not translate into an endorsement of Bush's 43's plan to bring Ukraine into NATO and risk war with Russia over the Crimea.
Bush 43 bellowed at Moscow last summer to keep hands off the Baltic states. But his father barely protested when Gorbachev sent special forces into all three in 1991.
Bush I's secretary of state, Jim Baker, said it was U.S. policy not to see Yugoslavia break up. Bush 43 was handing out NATO war guarantees to the breakaway republics.
"Washington ... succumbed to victory disease and kept kicking Russia while it was down," writes Betts. "Two decades of humiliation were a potent incentive for Russia to push back. Indeed this is why many realists opposed NATO expansion in the first place."
Few Americans under 30 recall the Cold War. Yet can anyone name a single tripwire for war put down in the time of Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles that we have pulled up?
Dwight Eisenhower, writes Richard Reeves, in his first meeting with the new president-elect, told JFK, "'America is carrying far more than her share of the free world defense.' It was time for the other nations of NATO to take on more of the cost of their own defense."
Half a century later, we are still stuck "to the carcass of dead policies."
Patrick Buchanan is the author of the new book "Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War." To find out more about Patrick Buchanan, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.
September 5, 2007 | smirkingchimp.com
I know just a little bit about Mr. William Kristol:
He is the son of one of the founders of the "neo-conservative" movement, Irving Kristol. He is a commentator on Fox News. He was Chief of Staff for one of the political "geniuses" of our time: VP Dan Quayle. He is editor of another Rupert Murdoch war-propaganda rag, "The Weekly Standard."
He is a member, and signer, of the Project for the New American Century, which is a game plan for US global hegemony based on military strength and one of its goals and objectives was the over-throw of the Hussein Regime in Iraq with a next stop in Iran and Syria (because the PNAC plan is going so well, so far).
By all accounts, Mr. Kristol is a brilliant man, who like his father before him, uses his brilliance for destruction. He is a shameless supporter of a failed, murderous, and miserable strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan and one of the "mushroom cloud" crowd.
One thing Mr. William Kristol is not, is a combat vet.
Although he was born in 1952, he never served during Vietnam. I am sure while at Harvard he was a staunch supporter of the American effort to enrich the war profiteers while ostensibly stopping that war's "enemy" communism from spreading across Asia. Secure in his studies during that quagmire, Kristol joins a long line of neo-con chicken-hawks who are drenched in other people's blood and love to send other people's children to die for their lies.
I don't know anything, or care to know anything about Mr. Kristol's private life. I don't care if he is another closeted gay Republican or is a happily married hetero with children. I do suspect, however, that if Mr. Kristol is married, his children are not serving in Iraq, being misused by the very same incompetent and cowardly Commander in Chief (who also did not serve in Vietnam) that Mr. Kristol shamelessly supports while the entire administration and Republican hypocrites are crumbling from corruption and scandal.
I do know one thing for sure about Mr. Kristol, he does not like to be bothered with those pesky little things called facts. On February 20, 2003, Mr. Kristol incredibly gushed: "If we free the people of Iraq, we will be respected in the Arab world." This statement shows an amazing lack of knowledge of the Arab world or any kind of foreign policy sophistication (but does show a great use of Rovian-Foxian expolitation of emotion). No one in the Arab world (except maybe, Israel, which is geographically located in the "Arab world") was calling for the US to "free" Iraqis. No one from Iraq except "Curveball" or the slimy and profit-motivated, Ahmad Chalabi, both Iraqis who weren't even living in the country at the time of the invasion were calling on the USA to liberate them. In fact, after many years of murderous sanctions against Iraq, a fierce nationalism arose in opposition to the US-UN led sanctions. According to National Intelligence Estimates, since the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, Islamic Jihadism has increased. Mr. Kristol is also incredibly ignorant of human nature and human history. No peoples like to be occupied. No child, brother or sister, or mother or father, who sees a loved one blown away by American or insurgent's bombs will love the oppressor. In fact, violence only creates more violence and more life-long enemies.
Now Mr. Kristol is safe behind his desk and computer calling for another attack against Iran. I think he hears the non-existent cries of the Iranian people to be liberated from their regime. The Iranian people are directly next-door to Iraq and they see what US "liberation" brings. It comes with the awful price of high civilian casualties; hospitals bombed, Doctors killed; no electricity or clean water; and eternal occupation.
In a recent op-ed for The Weekly Standard, Mr. Kristol makes many more tactical and fundamental errors. The ANSWER coalition is calling for mass mobilizations begining the week (Sept. 15) that the White House authored Petraeus report on the surge is due. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), who are leading the September 15th march, are calling for a "die-in" to end the march and begin the rally. The vets, unlike the chicken-hawk neocons, have actually served in war, particularly the one that Mr. Kristol imagines is such a success. IVAW is asking activists to represent a killed service-member and at an appropriate time lie down. Taps will be played and also a simulated 21-gun salute. It sounds respectful to me, being the mom of one of the soldiers, and I will proudly, yet sorrowfully, be lying down for my son that day. Many of the march/rally participants will be "dying" to represent the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed for Mr. Kristol's deceptions.
Mr. Kristol calls on the "honorable" members of the anti-war movement to denounce the die-in and lumps MoveOn.org with other organizers of the die-in. MoveOn is not associated with the die-in as they do not support non-violent, direct civil disobedience. What I find so amusing is that Mr. PNAC-Fox News-Chicken-hawk has made himself the judge of what is honorable.
Mr. Kristol has a problem with the anti-war movement using the names of the fallen without the permission of the families. No one got my permission when my sons portrait was used in the pro-war memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Casey's name and likeness has been used by pro-war people all over the nation without my permission. Why is that okay, Mr. Kristol? I know for a fact such memorials as Arlington West, Eyes Wide Open and our memorial at Camp Casey would remove names of soldiers at the next of kin's request. If any family member so requests, I am sure IVAW will do the same thing---but a word of caution:
Even though the members of IVAW (all my adopted sons and daughters) have a big problem with the occupation of Iraq and with the Bush crime family, they served their country honorably (unlike Mr. Kristol) and they all fought side-by-side with the fallen. They love their brothers and sisters and they would themselves have died to take the place of any one of them. Do not, never, ever, claim that we families, or the Iraq Vets are dishonoring our sons and daughters killed by the lies of The Weekly Standard, Fox News, BushCo., et al. That is the biggest lie of all, or maybe it's this one that Mr. Kristol told on March 1, 2003:
"Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more thoroughly than this one by this president."
I would laugh if I weren't crying so hard. If Mr. Kristol gets his PNAC way, by this time next year, we will need a lot more people at a die-in.
October 5, 2006 | JonesReport.com
William Kristol, chairman of the Project for a New American Century (founded in 1997) spoke at the University of Texas in Austin about the current political climate and the "new order" or "new world" that emerged after 9/11. He was confronted by a large number of protesters who carry banners and question his role in 9/11. The event was covered by the Daily Texan.
Pg. 51 of the PNAC document "Rebuilding America's Defenses" (published in September 2000, which otherwise calls for the dramatic build up of military forces and for a climate of multi-theater wars) states: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."
All governments lie as I. F. Stone famously observed, but some governments lie more than others. And the neocon Bush regime serves up whoppers as standard fare every day. Why this propensity to lie? There are many reasons, but it is not widely appreciated that the neocons believe in lying on principle. It is the "noble" thing for the elite to do, for the "vulgar" masses, the "herd" will become ungovernable without such lies. This is the idea of the "noble lie" practiced with such success and boldness by Scooter Libby and his co-conspirators and concocted by the political "philosopher" Leo Strauss whose teachings lie at the core of the neoconservative outlook and agenda, so much so that they are sometimes called "Leocons."
Leo Strauss (1899-1973) was a Jewish-German émigré from the Nazi regime who eventually landed at the University of Chicago where he developed a following that has achieved enormous prominence in American politics. Among his students were Paul Wolfowitz who has openly acknowledged that he is a follower of Straus as has the godfather of neconservatism, Irving Kristol. Irving Kristol begat William Kristol, the director of operation for the DC neocons, editor of the Weekly Standard and "chairman" of the Project for the New American Century, which laid out the plans for the Iraq War. (PNAC also opined in 2000 that a Pearl Harbor-like event would be necessary to take the country to war, and one year later, presto, we had the strange and still mysterious attack of September 11.) For his part Paul Wolfowitz begat Libby, in the intellectual sense, when he taught Libby at Yale. Others stars in the necon firmament are Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and lesser figures like Abram Shulsky, director of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, created by Donald Rumsfeld. Shulsky, also a student of Strauss, was responsible for fabricating the lies masquerading as intelligence that were designed to get the U.S. into the war on Iraq. While the neocons have a passion for the Likud party and Zionism, they also count among their number not a few pre-Vatican II Catholics and an assortment of cranks like Newt Gingrich and John Bolton and crypto fascists like Jeanne Kirkpatrick. The list goes on and Justin Raimondo has documented it in great detail over the years on Antiwar.com. But it is enough to note that Cheney's alter ego was Libby, and Rumsfeld's second in command until recently was Wolfowitz. So both Cheney, the de facto president with an apparently ill perfused cerebrum, and the geezer commanding the Pentagon have been managed by younger and very prominent Straussians for the past five years.
A superb account of the ideas of Strauss, his followers and his influence is to be found in The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (hereafter PI) and Leo Strauss and The American Right (hereafter AR), both by Shadia Drury, professor of politics at the University of Calgary. Her account of Strauss's ideas and the prominence they play in American politics today will give you chills or nausea, perhaps both. As she says in PI (p.xii), "Strauss is the key to understanding the political vision that has inspired the most powerful men in America under George W. Bush. In my view men who are in the grip of Straussian political ideas cannot be trusted with political power in any society, let alone a liberal democracy. This book explains why this is the case." For those who wish to understand the neocon agenda, Drury's books are essential reading. She is clear and thorough.
Of pertinence to "Scooter's" case and the pack of lies he was concealing is Strauss's idea that a "philosopher elite" (i.e., Straussians) must rule. Moreover they must do so covertly. As someone remarked before last Friday, "Who ever heard of I. Lewis Libby?" a man who shunned the spotlight and operated behind the scenes. The reason for such covert rule, or cabal, is that the "vulgar" herd, as Strauss liked to call the rest of us, cannot appreciate "higher truths" such as the inevitability and necessity of wars in relations between states and even the utility of wars in governing a state. So the covert elite must be certain that myths like religion or the glory of the nation are not weakened for these are among the best ways to rule over the ignorant herd and lead it into war. (Note that the Straussians themselves are not religious. They are "above" religion, capable of dealing with tough truths like man's mortality. But in their view, religion is a crucial factor in governing in their view. Irving Kristol, following Strauss, tells us that religion is "far more important politically" than the Founding Fathers believed and that to rescue America it is necessary "to breathe new life into the older, now largely comatose religious orthodoxies." (AR, p. 148). Any religion will do except perhaps Islam, which is more or less verboten, given the affinity of all leading neocons for Israel. Hence the neocons readily embrace the ideology and leadership of Christian fundamentalism which can keep the crowd under control and get them to march off to war and death. The neocons are mainly interested in foreign policy, as was Strauss, but in exchange for the support of the religious Right in foreign affairs, the neocons line up behind the domestic program of the fundamentalists. It's a win win situation, from their point of view
But useful lies of the grand sort like religious myth or blind nationalism need support by lesser lies at crucial moments. And so we go to the "smaller" lies like "weapons of mass destruction," the "smoking gun that comes in the form of the mushroom cloud." And here too the elite has a role to play. They are to use their "superior rhetorical skills" to make the weak argument seem stronger. In other words the cabal not only has to protect myths and manufacture lies but go to work in selling them. What Strauss called "rhetoric," we call spin.
All of this comes down to one word: lying. But for Strauss, these lies are necessary for the smooth function of society and triumph of one's own nation in war. Hence for Strauss, the lie becomes "noble." This phrase Strauss borrows and distorts from Plato who meant by a "noble lie" a myth or parable that conveyed an underlying truth about morality or nature. But in Strauss's hands the "noble lie" becomes a way of deceiving the herd. Strauss's "noble lies are far from "noble." They are intended to "dupe the multitude and secure power for a special elite" (AR, p. 79).
One other idea of Strauss's bears on the situation of "Scooter" Libby. How is the Straussian philosophical elite going to get from the halls of academe to the corridors of power? This depends on good luck and the "chance" encounter between the powerful and the Straussian. Here the contemporary neocons go beyond Strauss and leave nothing to chance. It would even appear that they look for the stupid, gullible or those who are mentally compromised. So William Kristol becomes Vice President Quayle's chief of Staff, and Libby becomes the right hand man to the addled Cheney as well as assistant to the Quayle-like Bush. And there are many more.
Finally, Drury makes the point the Strauss and the neocons are not really conservative at all. They are radicals, at war with the entire modern enterprise which makes them turn to the ancients for their inspiration and even there they need to distort the teachings of Socrates or Plato to make their case. But the Enlightenment comes to us with the advance of science to which Strauss is also hostile. He says that he is not against science as such "but popularized science or the diffusion of scientific knowledge.Science must remain the preserve of a small minority; it must be kept secret from the common man" (PI, p. 154). But this is impossible. Science by its very nature is a vast social enterprise requiring the widest possible dissemination of its findings. Any society that puts a lid on this will fail, and so by natural selection, the Straussian project is doomed to fail.
But before that happens the Straussians can do a lot of damage. As Drury says, they "cannot be trusted with political power." But we can learn from them the importance of boldness, not in the pursuit of the "noble lie" but of the truth. And we must be certain that we are vigorous as we hunt them down and get them out of power. In that effort Shadia Drury has done us a great service.
Jan 29, 2005 | Daily Kos
The Neoconservative Agenda, in 16 parts
I doubt even neocons know so clearly what they are about as we do this afternoon.
Pause for Reflection
- Neocons equate violence in the service of unilateral American interests with moral right.
- To constrain American dominance is metaphysically wrong.
- Violence against those who oppose America is not only just, but compulsory.
- The preferred mode of diplomacy is implication of violent pro-American action should American interests be disregarded or defied.
- To disregard American interests is the same as defiance.
- Defiance must be confronted, decisive action taken in the context of pro-American moral clarity .
- Who decides what is pro-American and morally clear? Why, people who are pro-American and morally clear, of course. Who decides which are which? Those who support pro-American and morally clear action are the good guys, silly. What are pro-American and morally clear actions? Those which do not dissent or disregard American dominion. Drrr.
- Since all moral right derives from not only possession of might but application of same, we need a bigger defense budget, and a more aggressive stance vis a vis dissent and defiance, both at home and abroad.
- American interests are served by permanent military bases abroad.
- The carrier fleets sustain the illusion that America can come and go in response to threats to its interests, which encourages the dangerous policy of disengagement from the business of maintaining a pro-American, morally clear international order. Thus, we need to reduce the number of carrier fleets in favor of permanent land bases.
- We need to control the international commons. Freedom outside of pro-American, morally clear context is a nom sequitur, and that includes both access and use of outer space as well as cyberspace.
- Anticipatory violence against disregard and dissent to American interests is valid and serves to warn the international order of the price of even thinking about challenging America. See above - the expression of American military might is not only just, but compulsory.
- That which is pro-American and morally clear, per neoconservative doctrine, is mainstream. That which disgregards or dissents from neoconservatism, even to least letter, is extremism and must be crushed.
- "Promotion of freedom abroad" means the expanding and enhancing the decisionmaking space of America to assert its interests, and expand them as dissent and disgregard are crushed
- Making the world one with America through submission to American interpretation of right, law, justice and order is the sine quae non of not only American ethics, but of all ethics.
- To defy this agenda is terrorism, and renders the dissenter an outlaw, whether individual person or a federation of sovereign powers.
Whoa. I had never taken the trouble to investigate the neocons so closely. These guys are spooky, and they are currently in charge. Their ethos is self-consistent and messiahanic. It requires neither deity nor religion, since it is an amoral, secular philosophy of control in which the moral actor is the state. I would argue that it is the mirror image of Stalinism -- anticommunism morphing from an opposition to communism into a totalitarian code all its own.
Being one for odd references, today I shall introduce to you the concept of the k'airth, compliments of science fiction and fantasy author C.S. Friedman from her novel In Conquest Born
In the story, there are two interstellar superpowers, Braxi and Azea, that have been deadlocked in a ten thousand year-long conflict known as the Endless War. Ostensibly, the Azeans are a peace-loving, freedom-loving, nonmilitaristic society, as opposed to the enthusiastically militarist Braxins. Regardless, over time militarism has crept into Azean culture, to the point that one dissenter in the Azean government speculates that Azea is so accustomed to war that it would fall apart without it.
The Braxins are more appreciative of both the dynamic and the danger to themselves, for the Azeans have evolved in response to the threat of Braxi by producing institutions -- and individuals -- capable of standing toe-to-toe in battle with its enemies. The k'airth is the process by which longlasting conflict changes the contestants to mirror one another, even to the point of attachment to the struggle. Victory or defeat is secondary to keeping the war immortal.
I suspect that the anticommunist origins of the neocons left them altered, such that the movement cannot exist save in apocalyptic contest with an evil worthy of its own vitality. Lacking Communism, the movement cast about right away, and identified Democrats as the next worthy opponent in their own Endless War.
Alas, the Democrats are a domestic adversary, and any violent objection to their existence would result in a second American civil war, something that would not enhance but rather diminish American power in the world for the duration, raising the cost of asserting control of the world later on.
Then along came Osama, and handed the neocons their golden goose, and the excuse to assemble their Golden Horde (a Mongol outfit that, coincidentally, put the smack down on Baghdad in the year 1258.
In Islam the neocons have an enemy that has shown, at least four times, the ability to strike at American territory to devastating effect, with potentially 2 billion recruits and no shortage of non-Muslim 'obstructionists' to American eminence. The US versus the World context is heroin for the neocons; it is a dream come true -- their dialectic imperative. All that remains is to fight back their own version of Trotskites (Buchanan) and counterrevolutionaries (that would be the Democrats), and armed with the excuse of foreign enemies engage in their own Great Purges and refine the United States into a revolutionary broadsword, pointed directly at the heart of the matter -- world dominion, perhaps not all bad in the ideal, but all decided by its own dictatorship, of its own proletariat.
History has shown how briefly ideals last when exposed to the hard radiation of absolute power; they mutate into excuses to kill without regret, without hesitation, without remorse.
The Neocons are anticommunist as compared to communist, alright; in the same way that antimatter is comparable to matter -- one the mirror of the other, and utterly deadly when placed in contact with reality.
Supplemental sources: Max Boot article here and Wiki article on PNAC here. Oh, and C.S.Friedman's In Conquest Born
This is not new (4.00 / 3)Who are we without an enemy? Americans revel in what it is that makes them "American", but now we seem to be defining ourselves in relation to our apparent enemies.
We're not just doing this all of a sudden. The ideological shift to definition-by-opposition began with the FDR-sponsored propaganda program in WW2, and was smoothly transitioned from the Nazi enemy to the Soviet enemy at the dawn of the Cold War. American "conservatism" was for fifty years based entirely on opposition to the USSR and to its real and imagined sympathizers both foreign and domestic. When the USSR collapsed, they were left without a reason to exist. It is no coincidence that George Bush Sr. was caught off-guard by the fall of the Soviet Union; ideologues of his stripe were simply unable to conceive of a world without the USSR because that equated to a world in which they, too, would not exist.
I can't remember if it was Stewart Brand or Ken Kesey who said this, but "If you resist evil, when it's gone, you'll fold."
Like the priests without the devil, the whole conservative, anti-communist, military-industrial complex was in danger of walking off the stage of history along with Gorbachev. Amazingly, they managed to survive for a whole decade in the wilderness, looking desperately for a new enemy, before Osama bin Laden provided them with a fresh Reichstag fire.
The thing that has been just jaw-droppingly stunning to me about this whole sad affair is how transparently recycled the propaganda is. The Red Menace and the Terrorist Menace are one and the same. There's a terrorist behind every tree, poisoning the water supply, aided and abetted by the soft and sympathetic left.
The only difference is that the Soviet Union actually did exist as a coherent threat; the purported worldwide terrorist conspiracy, whatever it's called today, has the advantage of not actually existing except as an epiphenomenon of American political and economic policies abroad. It is a self-renewing enemy the conservatives can fight forever just by doing what they most like to do. The debacle in Iraq is a victory for the neocons because it spawns more enemies to fight and gives them the cover they need to disembowel our domestic liberties. The unwinnable war is the best kind of war, the kind of war they hoped the Cold War would be.
The popular form of American patriotism has for a long time ceased to be love of one's country; it is simply hatred of everyone else's. This isn't new either, but it is being propelled to novel extremes by the neocons.
Support Our Troops: Send the Commander-in-Chief to the Front!
With apologies for my bad Russian, it's time they followed their mentor's advice and consigned themselves to the dustbin of history. Dosvedanye, Tovarischi.
There are few studies more likely to induce deep sleep than trying to follow the doings of Communists. The core of their beliefs is the rejection of God and the exaltation of man, but being human they cannot erase their spirituality completely, so they must find new gods, and the gods of Communism, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao, have been the most unattractive, fractious and bloodthirsty divinities until the advent of Osama.
In such difficult times as these, for nobody should doubt that these are truly historic times, it's maybe pertinent to ask ourselves, what became of anti-Communism? Why has a movement that so energised society for decades withered on the vine? Did we really think that Communism died with the Soviet Union? It surely hasn't. Our difficult times are being directed and influenced by people who at some time in their lives have either been Communists or who have no compunction about using Communist language. Red Bolshevism is dead as a political force in sane societies. What has taken its place is equally dangerous – the Blue Bolshevism of neo-conservatism.A useful essay outlining the Trotskyite roots of neo-conservatism is
Stephen Schwartz's Trotskycons, published in the June 11 2003 edition of National Review Online. Schwartz is a popular Internet pundit who has worn many hats during the course of his life, which have been duly recorded by his long-standing antagonist Srjda Trifkovic. As well as being a convert to Islam, something he doesn't usually tell his readers, he has admitted to involvement with the KLA in Kosovo. Therefore, when reading him, one must be careful to determine whether it is Stephen Schwartz, Suleyman Ahmed or Comrade Sandalio that's speaking. He's probably cultivating crossover appeal.These aren't guys who queue at the job-window, waiting for some Johnny Friendly to shout 'Everybody works today!' Instead, they began life as Trotskyites in the '30's in the school advocated by the philosopher Max Shachtman – according to Schwartz, 'they belonged to or sympathized with a trend in radical leftism that followed the principle of opposition to the Soviet betrayal of the revolution to its logical end'. In layman's terms, this began as a house fight with the Stalinists.
According to Schwartz, the first individuals to formally break from Trotskyism were James Burnham, a founder of National Review, and Irving Kristol of Encounter. Described by the hatchet man David Frum as the only person willing to take the title of 'neo-conservative', Irving Kristol is the father of Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, along with National Review the main ideas-engine of neo-conservatism. The Weekly Standard is published by News Corporation, the ultimate owners of Fox News. No doubt in the interests of the ideological purity all Bolsheviks crave, Schwartz absolves Bill Kristol, Richard ('The Five Million Dollar Man') Perle and Paul Wolfowitz from any taint of Shachtmanism.Having left Trotskyism, the neo-conservatives gravitated firstly to the Democrats. However, they still could not tame the fractious beasts within, and started to leave the Democrats in 1972, in opposition to the nomination of George McGovern. Using the classic Trotskyite tactic of 'entryism', they began to fill more and more positions of influence within the Republican Party, until now they have come to dominate it. Not bad for people who only started voting Republican in 1980.
For Schwartz, Trotsky is not an ambivalent figure. He lauds Burnham and the Elder Kristol for the fact that 'they did not apologize, did not grovel, did not crawl and beg forgiveness for having, at one time, been stirred by the figure of Trotsky.' That's nice. He's even more forthcoming on his own opinion of Trotsky as it stands at the moment, describing him a figure of 'moral consistency' who, 'if nothing else, took responsibility for the crimes of the early Bolshevik regime.'... ... ...
For the life of me, I can't work out what voodoo Hitchens has worked on you guys over there. He once wrote a column on the subject of Churchill for The Atlantic Monthly called 'The medals of his defeats'. He made reference to his father's service as a naval officer on H.M.S. Jamaica and the role he played in helping sink the German destroyer Scharnhorst during the Battle of the Atlantic. He described it 'a far better day's work than any I have ever done'. I wouldn't disagree with that for a second.However, because of a brilliant skill with words developed at an English public school and the University of Oxford, Hitchens has achieved a level of recognition that his beliefs or former beliefs do not merit. Like Stephen Schwartz, like David Horowitz, like all Bolsheviks Red or Blue, the natural flow of his temper is toward the extreme. It doesn't matter what extreme. In Horowitz's case the extreme can be reached after years of soul-searching and repenting what he believed before, his massive learning and energy then channelled into fighting his four noblest of fights, for academic freedom, for the defence of Israel, against the spread of radical Islam and the dirtiest one of all, against the people he once admired and associated with, but it's still extreme.
It's hardly surprising then that Hitchens should attach himself to the war against radical Islam with the gusto that he has – it's a competing ideology. To the mind of Hitchens, Osama is a threat to the hearts and minds of Muslims who would otherwise be attracted to the doctrine he has devoted his life to. Their insistence on the promotion of the rational at all costs means that when a crazy like Osama crosses their path, they can't get it into their heads that this guy can't be reasoned with. Many of them say they do get it, but they don't really. It's hardly surprising, then, that an extremist like Hitchens has been a lecturer at a White House that's full of them. It's hardly surprising that Horowitz has given him the airtime he's had on Front Page Magazine, which has also carried the thoughts of Comrade Sandalio on a regular basis.
Anyone who is still proud to call themselves a Dutch Reagan or Margaret Thatcher anti-Communist needs to oppose these people. These guys have nothing new or exciting to offer, only war, ideology and then some more of the same. The man whose coat tails many of them rode, Dutch Reagan, was a liberal New Deal Democrat who became the most committed anti-Communist of all time, ending it up largely smashing it. But Dutch never followed Trotsky. He didn't ever try to justify Kronstadt or sing 'The Internationale'. The 'Internationale', when sung in English to the tune of 'O Tannenbaum', ends with the phrase,
'When cowards flinch, and traitors sneer, we'll keep the Red Flag flying here' .Neoconservatives called the Spanish people cowards after the Madrid bombing. David Frum calls conservatives who oppose his beliefs 'unpatriotic'. Is all of this familiar?
With apologies for my bad Russian, it's time they followed their mentor's advice and consigned themselves to the dustbin of history. Dosvedanye, Tovarischi.
Neo-conservatism has created an "axis of disorder" within American governance. But it will not disappear even if its current champions fade from view. A former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and a former British diplomat argue that neo-conservatism is a manifestation of a deeper syndrome that has structural roots in United States history and politics.
The stealth transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis on 28 June 2004 raises an intriguing question of whether a parallel transition will also take place at some future midnight in Washington - specifically whether the neo-conservative influence that did so much to instigate the Iraq war will also be bundled unceremoniously into retirement.
Those who have recently met privately with Paul Wolfowitz, the war's most ardent neo-conservative advocate, report that he is a subdued personality. If Wolfowitz and his colleagues depart the scene, what changes does this foreshadow for American foreign policy?
It is already possible to discern a more collegial tone in American discourse – on policy fronts as diverse as North Korea, Nato and the Group of Eight (G8). There is talk of Colin Powell, the bruised but still combative critic of neo-conservatism, remaining secretary of state after a Bush victory in November 2004.
Furthermore, within Republican circles in Washington there is a palpable backlash against policies that many party veterans fear may cost the election. Many current Republican gatherings reverberate to the sound of establishment internationalists, anti-empire sceptics, deficit hawks, or simple believers in good governance voicing their dismay at the damage they perceive the neo-conservative follies have inflicted on the nation and the party.
What is happening may be described as a new institutional syndrome in Washington – the "axis of disorder". It represents a lethal combination of underperformance in the executive, on Capitol Hill and within the opinion-leading elite.
Many observers would celebrate the eclipse of a neo-conservatism that has brought American governance to this pass. But a word of caution is in order. The neo-conservatives' demise has been predicted before. The post-cold war era of the 1990s, when Norman Podhoretz pronounced that neo-conservatism no longer existed as a distinctive phenomenon, was one such moment. John Judis in Foreign Affairs even described the neo-con journey as "a transition from Trotskyism to anachronism."
These predictions proved premature – but although "neo-conservatism" returned to the political lexicon after the Republican victory in 2000, this has proved more journalistic shorthand than shaping category of understanding. Now, if the term and the policies it has been used to connote are once more losing their potency, what exactly will be removed from American foreign-policy thinking?
The neo-conservative core
The three chief tenets of neo-conservative ideology are:
- The human condition is a choice between good and evil, and the true measure of political character is to be found in the willingness by the former (themselves) to confront the latter
- The fundamental determinant of the relationship between states rests on military power and the willingness to use it
- The Middle East and global Islam is the prime theatre for American overseas interests.
In making these tenets active, neo-conservatives:
- see international issues in morally absolutist categories; they are convinced that they alone hold the moral high ground and argue that disagreement effectively offers comfort to the enemy
- emphasise the unipolar nature of American power and are prepared to exercise the military option as the first rather than last policy choice; they repudiate the received "lessons of Vietnam", believing they undermine American willingness to use force - and rather embrace the "lessons of Munich", believing they establish the virtues of pre-emptive military action
- disdain conventional diplomatic agencies such as the state department and country-specific, pragmatic analysis because they dilute and confuse the ideological clarity of their policies
- eschew multilateral institutions and treaties while drawing comfort from international criticism, believing that it confirms American virtue
The price of failure
The experience of George W. Bush's presidency has delivered a lengthy list of setbacks to this mindset and agenda – above all (though not exclusively) in Iraq. The pre-war neo-con confidence about the nature and extent of Iraqi resistance; the predicted warm welcome for American forces; the United States's capacity for peaceful reconstruction of vital infrastructure (especially electric and water services); even the expenditure of already approved project funds - all ended in bitter disappointment.
The cost of these miscalculations, now laid at the neo-cons' door, has arrested the nation's political discussion and emerged as a pivotal element in the November election.
For analysis and debate of neo-conservatism on openDemocracy:
- Godfrey Hodgson, "From frontiersman to neo-con" (April 2004)
- Danny Postel's interview with Shadia Drury, "Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq" (October 2003)
- Mark Blitz, "Leo Strauss, the Straussians and American foreign policy" (November 2003)
- openDemocracy forum debate
Beyond the human and financial cost, the effect of sharply diminished American credibility has been felt in official Washington, and in the money centres of New York, Atlanta and Chicago. Most damaging for the neo-conservatives, however, has been the revelation that their utopian strategic plan for the Middle East is naive and unworkable. The limitations of American power have become a public spectacle; with each day, Americans have learned more about how the post-conflict plan for Iraq's reconstruction was developed without the benefit of Arabic-speakers or country experts, riven by bureaucratic and exile factions, and without addressing the critical tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Moreover, the relentless focus on Iraq has allowed Afghanistan to fester, North Korea and Iran to continue along their nuclear paths and Saudi Arabia to stumble towards catastrophe. Perhaps the most ominous result of Iraq's seizure of the attention of top United States foreign policy and national security managers is the neglect of China, which already may have replaced the US as the leading power in East Asia.
In the corporate sector, failures of this magnitude would result in the speedy replacement of those responsible. This may yet happen. But even if November's election brings a change of administration, the question arises: will the neo-conservatives' influence on American foreign policy endure?
From Vietnam to Iraq
The implication of two 2004 studies broadly sympathetic to neo-conservatism – Surprise, Security and the American Experience by John Lewis Gaddis and Power, Terror, Peace and War by Walter Russell Mead – is that the unilateral exercise of American power draws on certain social and cultural themes, centring on an insular and aggressive nativism, that have animated America's interaction with the world from the earliest days of the republic. The implication is that, far from being an aberration, neo-conservatism is part of an established historical tradition.
There is even a case to be made that neo-conservatism has affinities with the missionary zeal (socially progressive as well as often militantly anti-communist) that animated the "best and the brightest" generation – George Ball, McGeorge and William Bundy, Robert MacNamara, Paul Nitze, Walt Rostow – who presided over America's engagement in Vietnam.
This generation came to political maturity during the Eisenhower years of the 1950s when, as today, the US enjoyed an unchallengeable global power projection capability. Its leading figures came to believe that military power could press against the evil represented by communism and install American-style democracy, bypassing the forces of local nationalism, in a region (south-east Asia) with a long and vibrant cultural history but without any democratic legacy. All this was done with little reference to rich, available resources of regional and linguistic expertise.
The recurrence of this pattern among the ostensibly very different group represented by President Bush's neo-conservative advisers in the aftermath of 9/11 suggests that the United States is indeed in the grip of a syndrome, a problem that is structural and not merely cyclical: an "axis of disorder" which at times of stress inhibits calm and deliberate decision-making.
At these stress-points, it appears that the combination of a crusading idealism, an assertion of the universal applicability of American values, and the willingness (indeed eagerness) to use force to back them can overwhelm the venerable "checks and balances" considered integral to the American political process. Some argue that Republican administrations may be more vulnerable to this process, since the party's driving spirit has shifted from cosmopolitan globalists towards America-first populists – a development accelerated by the increased influence of a conservative and fundamentalist talk-radio culture.
In the case of Iraq, a determined special interest was capable of leading a march to war without any effective counterweight to its seizure of the levers of power. The central failure was in the Condoleezza Rice-led National Security Council; despite her training in traditional statecraft and alliance management, Rice was unwilling or unable to highlight the imbalances in decision-making arising from the neo-conservative dynamics in the defense department and vice-president's office.
Beyond the executive, Congress abandoned real oversight in giving overwhelming, almost instinctual support to the war. Just as the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed the Senate unanimously and thus formalised US involvement in Vietnam, leaving two relatively obscure Democratic senators (Alaska's Ernest Greuning and Oregon's Wayne Morse) to ask the first tough questions, so it took two outsiders (the hoary senator with an independent streak, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, and former Vermont governor Howard Dean) to make opposition to the Iraq war respectable.
The media was also guilty of institutional failure in ways that echo the past. Just as in the early 1960s, establishment newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post had enthusiastically backed involvement in Vietnam, so in 2002-03 major media outlets were uncritical in the face of administration assertions about al-Qaida/Saddam links and the latter's possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Network and cable television businesses, from which most Americans now derive their news, compounded this failure. Their imprisonment by the competitive search for market share leads them to fear offending power; as a result, they are satisfied with recycling soft, compliant questions and stories. At least part of the media, notably the New York Times which (another Vietnam repeat) diverged earlier than the Washington Post from the official line, has conducted a self-critical post-mortem on its own coverage .
The present danger
The recurrent pattern of institutional weakness over Vietnam and Iraq suggests a systemic weakness – one that creates an ever-present danger of a neo-conservative special interest group turning a manageable, controllable challenge (as, in principle, was Iraq) into a major crisis. In the near term such a sequence could unfold over Iran; in the more distant future, it could develop as the United States and China compete for regional or global hegemony.
The warning-signs exist whenever unchecked special interests within an administration can act on their belief in American exceptionalism, demonise an opponent, and present his position in monolithic terms as a target for destruction.
Thus, the true legacy of the neo-conservatives may be to have revealed a systemic problem that must be addressed if the American foreign policy process is to recover its consistency and predictability. The current neo-conservative moment may be passing, like a comet that streaks through the skies at regular intervals before disappearing into space. The result, in the short- to medium-term, may be a more familiar, collegial and substantive, American foreign policy. This will provide opportunities for the United States's allies not just to agree with American policy but to influence it for the better.
But as comets return, so will the neo-conservatives' themes - especially the preference for unilateral military power as the option of first resort. Neo-conservatism offers a recurrently powerful ideological booster-rocket in support of America's military pre-eminence. If another "perfect storm" on the 9/11 model recurs, where fear and confusion suspend the political process, the American response is likely to be predominantly military rather than political, diplomatic or economic - irrespective of the party affiliation of the White House incumbent.
Is just a coincidence that George W. Bush gave a speech announcing that the U.S. was leading a "global democratic revolution" on the eve of Leon Trotsky's birthday, but it is one that neatly illustrates the militant revolutionism at the core of American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era.
The proximity to Trotsky's birthday was fortuitous, but the venue of this revolutionary proclamation was not: it was a speech commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the brainchild of neoconservative ideologues, many of whom have their roots on the Trotskyite Left. Having given up the dream of revolutionary socialism for the more practical project of global "democracy," the troublesome little sect of neoconservatives, not so affectionately known as "neocons," is at last having its moment in the sun.
The NED was a sop thrown to the neocons during the Reagan administration, so they could have a little domain of their own, a small but strategically placed contingent of "Socialists for Reagan" embedded deep in the bowels of the U.S. government. The first President of the group, Carl Gershman, was a longtime member of the Social Democrats, USA, formerly the Socialist Party, a group dominated by the legendary Max Shachtman. The founder of "third camp" neo-Trotskyism, Shachtman broke with Trotsky in the 1940s and evolved, over the years, into a firm supporter of U.S. military intervention worldwide, while retaining – like Sidney Hook – his dedication to the "democratic" socialist cause.
As top advisors to the Lane Kirkland wing of the AFL-CIO, Shachtman and his followers burrowed deep in the labor movement, and lobbied extensively for the establishment of a government-subsidized "quasi-private" foundation that would help them extend their labor connections internationally, The effort bloomed in the Carter years, when the two parties agreed to share in the spoils, and bore fruit at the start of the Reagan years. The legislation establishing the National Endowment for Democracy mandated that most of its funding, at least initially, would go to the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI), an arm of the AFL-CIO's International Affairs Department.
Aside from the subsidy, however, the benefits to the Shachtmanites were also ideological: from their perch at the NED, they could egg on the administration to confront the Soviet Union and agitate for the prosecution of the cold war to the fullest – all at taxpayers' expense. When the Soviet Union imploded, however, so did the rationale for the NED – and it narrowly escaped the budget ax. But post-9/11, the NED – along with the neoconservative movement – was given a new lease on life. Certainly George W. Bush's conversion to Shachtmanism, as evidenced by his NED address, represents the apotheosis of neocon dominance in Washington.
The odd combination of Soviet-style phraseology with ostensibly conservative rhetoric made for a speech of unsurpassed weirdness. On the one hand, the President celebrated the victory of capitalism, hailing the triumph of "democracy," "free enterprise," and "markets," and yet somehow managed to do it the style of a socialist orator out of the 1930s.
The U.S., according to Bush, was no ordinary country, nor even one especially blessed, but an "inspiration for oppressed peoples," whose acolytes worldwide "knew of at least one place – a bright and hopeful land – where freedom was valued and secure" – kind of like the Soviet Union was to the Commies of yesteryear. Here, too, are references to the necessity for "sacrifice" – a favorite theme of the old Soviet rhetoricians – including this Orwellian formulation:
"By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice."
Freedom is, "by definition," slavery. War is peace. And Ignorance, as we all know, is Strength.
The speeches of the Soviet leaders, and their American imitators, were always filled with new "turns," announcing the most recent twist in the party line, and the Bush speech displays the same grandiose tic:
"We've reached another great turning point – and the resolve we show will shape the next stage of the world democratic movement."
America as the leader of a "world movement" – the idea is positively Leninist.
Full of revolutionary resolve, the U.S. must now focus on the Middle East "for decades to come," said Bush. For some strange reason, Mesopotamia does not yet share Montana's enthusiasm for democratic governance, and this is impermissible:
"Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free."
Yes, but as Frederick Douglass put it, he who would be free must strike the first blow. It is not for us to say how or if the peoples of the Middle East will find their way to freedom and, consequently, to prosperity. Perhaps it is religion, and the willful pull of tradition, that holds that whole region of the world back: but doesn't freedom also include the freedom to say no to modernity? Oh, but we mustn't say that, it's politically incorrect to even imply that all peoples everywhere and at every time are something more or less than multi-cultural clones of Homo Americanus:
"Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This 'cultural condescension,' as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would 'never work.'"
Speaking of cultural condescension: Japan had "democracy" long before World War II, with an elected Diet, a figurehead monarch, and a relatively free expression of Western liberal and even radical ideas. The assertion that U.S. troops brought these alien concepts with them for the first time and imposed them by force on reluctant Japanese is laughable.
And the idea that postwar Japanese democracy is an unqualified success is certainly arguable, as Tokyo proves unable to reform its entrenched bureaucracy and put its economic house in order. Even the determined revolutionist Junichiro Koizumi has only just managed to lurch from one crisis to another: the land of the rising sun may yet fall beneath a tsunami of bank debt. So much for the virtues of Japanese democracy: Japan is still a society run by consensus, where Western-style individualism is considered a form of mental illness.
The President applies this same mindless universalism to the problems of the Middle East, which can all be solved if only we recognize that, in the end, ideology must trump such reactionary vestiges of the past as culture and religion:
"It should be clear to all that Islam – the faith of one-fifth of humanity – is consistent with democratic rule. Democratic progress is found in many predominantly Muslim countries – in Turkey and Indonesia, and Senegal and Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone. Muslim men and women are good citizens of India and South Africa, of the nations of Western Europe, and of the United States of America."
Turkey is democratic – except when the military decides that democracy is bringing the country too close to the edge of an Islamic revolution, in which case it reverts to its roots as the prototypical Oriental despotism. Before we set up Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone as exemplars of the democratic progress, perhaps it would be wiser to wait and see if they don't return – some time tomorrow – to historic patterns of repression and civil war.
Albania – a bastion of democracy? Only if you consider – like many libertarians – that all governments, democratic or otherwise, are the moral equivalent of little more than gangsters.
We are told that the Middle East needs to be "transformed" before we can sleep safe in our beds at night. But if "more than half of all the Muslims in the world live in freedom under democratically constituted governments," as the President averred, then what's the problem? These very same peoples hate our guts, that's what, and democracy hasn't ameliorated their hatred – only given it freer expression.
While the President goes on to assert – wrongly, in my view – that Islam is compatible with the Western concept of limited government and individual rights, for some unexplained reason there seems to be a "freedom deficit" prevalent in Muslim countries:
"Whole societies remain stagnant while the world moves ahead. These are not the failures of a culture or a religion. These are the failures of political and economic doctrines."
But political and economic doctrines cannot be understood except as they relate to and are derived from cultural and especially religious ideas. As Murray N. Rothbard showed in his monumental "An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought," the development of economic ideas in the West – the varieties of socialism, including Marxism, as well as capitalism – was rooted in the religious and cultural trends prevalent in pre-industrial Europe. The idea that political and economic doctrines are something separate and aloof from the cultural traditions of a given country or region, to be applied by social engineers at gunpoint, is a grave error inherent in our "liberationist" foreign policy.
Like the Commie leaders of the past, who disdained the role and power of religion, and were conscious enemies of tradition, Bush sees himself as the instrument of History. All progress is measured by the speed of his victories. He is shocked – shocked! – that
"There are governments that still fear and repress independent thought and creativity, and private enterprise – the human qualities that make for a – strong and successful societies."
Yes, and one of them is Israel – a country that systematically steals Palestinian land, bulldozes private homes and businesses, and won't even let its helots travel from one city to another, let alone provide some outlet for their "creativity." Billions per year in U.S. aid pays for the systematic dehumanization of an entire people at Israel's hands.
The Israelis are not mentioned by the President, but he has plenty of advice for the Palestinians:
"For the Palestinian people, the only path to independence and dignity and progress is the path of democracy. And the Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence are not leaders at all. They're the main obstacles to peace, and to the success of the Palestinian people."
Is it really only Yasser Arafat who blocks and undermines "democratic reform"? What does "democratic reform" mean in the context of having your house bulldozed, your shop destroyed, your olive trees uprooted and sold, your land stolen out from under your feet?
By urging the adoption of democracy from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the President should be careful, for he may get what he wants: the end result, however, will almost certainly not resemble anything desirable from the American point of view. Democratic elections in Algeria, held in 1991, led to a radical Islamist victory at the polls, and the election was promptly cancelled. A similar result would surely ensue if, today, Bush could press a button and instantly implement his democratist panacea throughout the region – thanks, in large part, to U.S. military intervention in Iraq and our unconditional support to Israel.
The President then turns his Olympian gaze on Iraq, praises the Iraqi Governing Council – even as the U.S. contemplates plans to ditch it – and rallies his fellow revolutionaries around a long-term commitment of troops and treasure:
"This is a massive and difficult undertaking – it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed – and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran – that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."
The idea that we must wait for the democratization of the Middle East before we can even begin to recapture the safety of the pre-9/11 world is ludicrous. Do we really have to conquer most of the rest of the earth before we can ensure our own legitimate national security interests? This is precisely what Trotsky theorized about the Soviet Union – that the revolution must spread, to protect the "workers' state" from its implacable enemies. The neocons are selling us the same sort of malarkey – using the President as their mouthpiece – only this time packaged as 100 percent Americanism.
That may be the biggest of the many lies we've been told lately. Nothing could be more anti-American than a policy of perpetual war in the name of "peace." What emboldens – and creates – terrorists is the neocon conceit that we can stage manage the development of Iraqi society – or any society. Such a policy subverts our constitutional form of democracy at home, and undermines our interests abroad.
The great error of Marxism was the idea that liberal ends (the withering away of the state) could be achieved by coercive means (the "dictatorship of the proletariat"). There was to be a "transition period" of indeterminate length before the workers paradise could be achieved, and Soviet workers were continually exhorted to "sacrifice" so that they might "liberate" the "oppressed peoples" abroad and usher in a new world order. If any of this sounds familiar, it is because a Marxism of the Right has won the day in Washington.
The conservative economist and columnist Paul Craig Roberts, an assistant secretary of the treasury in the early years of the Reagan administration, calls our neocon policymakers "neo-Jacobins," and he is entirely right to compare the neocons to that ruthless and notoriously bloodthirsty faction of the French Revolution. The name has become a synonym for revolutionary tyranny, a dangerous perversion of the libertarian ideal into its complete opposite. That is precisely the nature of the enemy we now face.
In the case of the original Jacobins, their policies quickly led to their own undoing. Whether we can hope the same fate will befall the neos, at least any time soon, is a matter of some speculation that, lately, seems almost likely. At any rate, we can always hope.
"There is now a symbiotic relationship between the Islamist terrorists and the neo-conservative directors of the "war on terror" that promises a long political life to the players on both sides. They are, as our Marxist friends used to put it, "objective allies": both seek to undermine the existing global order in order to expand their own freedom of action, and each group's actions justify the existence of the other group, at least in the eyes of its own supporters. Al-Qaida, for example, sees the overseas adventures of American neo-conservatives as the best possible recruiting tool for its own cause among Muslims worldwide. If Osama bin Laden could decide the outcome of the next U.S. presidential election, he would instantly choose Bush. A rival candidate might pull American troops out of the Middle East or take a more even-handed approach in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and Bin Laden has no interest in stability in the region." (10/14)
One of the main features of Trotskyism is the theory of permanent revolution.
Oct 1, 2003 | antiwar.com
Surely it isn't modesty that makes the neocons shy away from the spotlight. Yet how else can we explain Joshua Muravchik's shock at the sudden discovery that entering the term "neoconservative" into Lexis-Nexis will cause an aborted search because "the number of entries exceeds the program's capacity"?
That's what's so unique about the neocons: any other political movement would welcome all that publicity. But not them. Oh no: quite the contrary. Until very recently, most neocons denied their very existence as a coherent faction. Irving Kristol, author of Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, is the only self-admitted member of the species, and, as such, to him has fallen the task of issuing pronouncements in its name, such as this recent manifesto. But the neocons have been outed, so to speak, by their own success: not in building a mass movement, but in penetrating the top echelons of the U.S. government. As our great "victory" in Iraq turns out to have been purely Pyrrhic, people are casting about for some explanation. How did we fall into this quagmire quickly becomes: who dragged us in?
A surprising number of ideologically diverse writers have come up with a similar answer: the neocons. Spanning the spectrum, from left to right, they include Michael Lind, Elizabeth Drew, Pat Buchanan, Joshua Micah Marshall, Jim Lobe, Paul Craig Roberts, to mention just a few. But Muravchik, writing in Commentary [September 2003], protests that neocons are just liberals who developed "misgivings" about the Great Society and a Democratic party gone soft on the cold war. The "conspiracy theorists" have conjured up a bogeyman, according to Muravchik, a "sinister" and
"Strange, veiled group, almost a cabal, whose purpose is to manipulate U.S. policy for ulterior purposes."
Muravchik scoffs at the idea that the neocons owe much of anything either to the cult of Leo Strauss, the noble lie," or to Leon Trotsky, whose legacy informed such proto-neocons as Max Shachtman, Philip Selznick, and Irving Kristol.
I will pass, for the moment, on the subject of the Straussian connection, since I have never been able to read a single one of Strauss's books all the way through. I am told that he is boring on purpose, because, you see, only the dogged few will get the true – esoteric – meaning. This seems fitting for a philosophy that, from what I can tell, is founded on the primacy of deception. Clearly this methodology is tailor-made for the gang that lied us into war.
On the subject of the neocons' leftist roots, however, I feel more qualified to comment. Muravchik disdains "ancestor-hunting" as "typical of the way most recent analysis of neoconservative ideas has been conducted," but surely one way to understand an idea is to describe its history. He earlier complains that "few of those writing critically about neoconservatism today have bothered to stipulate what they take [its] tenets to be." He then turns around and declares that any attempt to understand how these ideas evolved over time is somehow not valid. His argument, in effect, amounts to "Move along, nothing to see here."
But there is plenty to see, first and foremost the Trotskyist DNA embedded in the neocon foreign policy prescription. Even if Muravchik was right – and he isn't – to say that "I can think of only one major neocon figure who did have a significant dalliance with Trotskyism" – the parallels between Trotskyism and neoconservatism would still be striking.
The Trotskyists argued that the Communist Revolution of 1917 could not and should not be contained within the borders of the Soviet Union. Today's neocons make the same argument about the need to spread the American system until the U.S. becomes a "global hegemon," as Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol puts it. Trotsky argued that socialism in one country was impossible, and doomed to failure: encircled by capitalism, surrounded by enemies constantly plotting its downfall, the "workers state" would not survive if it didn't expand. The neocons are making a similar argument when it comes to liberal democracy. Confronted by an Islamic world wholly opposed to modernity, Western liberal democracy must implant itself in the Middle East by force – or else face defeat in the "war on terrorism." Expand or die is the operative principle, and the neocons brought this Trotskyist mindset with them from the left.
The idea that Irving Kristol is the lone ex-Trotskyist in the ranks of the neocons has got to be some sort of joke. If so, it is a weak one. Albert Wohlstetter, the grand-daddy of what Lind calls the "defense intellectuals" – and who has a conference center named after him over at Neocon Central, the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, D.C. – was a member of the League for a Revolutionary Party (LRP), a Trotskyist grouplet founded in the 1930s by B. J. Field, a labor leader who led the New York hotel strike of 1934. (A close associate of his at the Rand Corporation has confirmed this to me.) Gertrude Himmelfarb, Seymour Martin Lipset, Martin Diamond, all were members of Max Shachtman's Workers Party, and then split into their own faction, the "Shermanites," who upheld an ostensibly revolutionary socialist doctrine that was, nonetheless, avowedly "anti-Bolshevik." And what about Sidney Hook, who never renounced socialism and yet was awarded the Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan: what is he, chopped liver?
It's not like the neocons' Trotskyist legacy is any big secret. Even Jonah Goldberg knows about this. Jeanne Kirkpatrick's reminiscences of her education in the Young Peoples' Socialist League (YPSL, known as Yipsels) were a matter of public record until the Social Democrats USA took it off their website.
Speaking of the YPSL, Muravchik is the past national chairman of that group. If he is saying that he knows of only one leading neocon with any roots in the Trotskyist movement, then perhaps he ought to be introduced to – himself.
Muravchik disdains the term Shachmanite to describe his former political allegiances – but it is hard to believe that the former national chairman of the Yipsels, (1968 –73), the Social Democratic youth group, could have been anything other than a follower of Max Shachtman. According to the chronology in Peter Druckers' 1994 book, Max Shachtman and His Left, in 1965 "YPSL [was] reconstituted under Shachtman's control."
Lest anyone think that I am merely red-baiting Muravchik, by the time he was national chairman the group had abandoned its revolutionary razzle-dazzle, as Drucker points out, and become a stepping stone for careerists on the make:
"Shachtman extended his AFL-CIO network by helping his young followers get union staff jobs. In 1965, following the 1964 collapse of the YPSL, he reconstituted it under his right-wing followers' control. The new group had barely a shadow of the independent spirit of Shachtman's earlier youth groups. Even Tom Kahn, who had joined Shachtman's youth group in a livelier time, regretted that the group now had few vigorous debates. But debates were no longer the group's main point. Its main point was to take young people whom the 1960s had begun to radicalize, immunize them against the New Left's subversive appeal, and train them for AFL-CIO or other social democratic careers."
The post-Trotskyist ideology developed by Max Shachtman, who broke with Trotsky over the nature of the Soviet Union, took on a life of its own during the cold war years. Evolving from an orthodox Trotskyist, he later upheld the "third camp" – "Neither Washington, nor Moscow!" – and wound up supporting the cold war wholeheartedly, including the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vietnam war. Devoted to spreading "global democracy," Shachtman's former followers soon coalesced into a potent intellectual force that had no trouble taking over the intellectual institutions of the Right as they made their way from one end of the political spectrum to the other. The indelible imprint of their Trotskyist legacy is a principled bellicosity: combined with intellectual aggressiveness and a capacity for bureaucratic infighting, the neocons in power make formidable opponents.
The rest of Muravchik's screed is an attempt to smear critics of the neocons with the brush of anti-Semitism. That so many of these critics are Jewish, according to Muravchik, merely proves that they have "ulterior motives." Since he doesn't name these motives, or try to describe them, the reader is left wondering. If Muravchik wishes to deny that the neocons pursue the Likud party line with as much alacrity as the old Communist party cadre once followed the Soviet line, then I challenge him to come up with a single instance in which a prominent neocon criticized the government of Israel. In any dispute between Israel and the U.S., when has any neoconservative taken the American side? The answer is: never.
Muravchik makes much of the Jewish heritage of many neocons, and tries to conflate anti-neocons with anti-Semities. But the ethnic factor is a historical accident: the really significant factor is the intellectual history of the neoconservative idea, especially as it relates to American foreign policy.
In tracing the intellectual ancestry of the neoconservative persuasion to its Trotskyist roots, its critics are pointing, with alarm, to its revolutionary utopianism, its dogmatism, its bloodthirstiness as characteristics inherited from the ruthless founder of the Red Army. The point of exposing the neocons' far-leftist origins is to show that they are in no way a conservative force. There is nothing conservative about embarking on a campaign of conquest in the Middle East and uprooting most of the regimes in the region. The neocons are, as one critic put it [PDF file], really neo-Jacobins. Theirs is a revolutionary project, one that violates the precepts of the Founders – and would have to mean the overthrow of the Republic.
A funny thing happened this week: the Bush administration, with its aggressive unilateralism, and its contempt for diplomacy and international institutions, suddenly staked its fortunes on the kindness of foreigners.
All the world knows about the Iraq about-face: having squandered our military strength in a war he felt like fighting even though it had nothing to do with terrorism, President Bush is now begging the cheese-eaters and chocolate-makers to rescue him. What may not be equally obvious is that he's doing the same thing on the economic front. Having squandered his room for economic maneuver on tax cuts that pleased his party base but had nothing to do with job creation, Mr. Bush is now asking China to help him out.
Not, of course, that Mr. Bush admits to having made any mistakes. Indeed, Mr. Bush seems to have a serious case of "l'щtat, c'est moi": he impugns the patriotism of anyone who questions his decisions.
If you ask why he diverted resources away from hunting Al Qaeda, which attacked us, to invading Iraq, which didn't, he suggests that you're weak on national security. And it's the same for anyone who questions his economic record: "They tell me it was a shallow recession," he said Monday. "It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief. Some say, well, maybe the recession should have been deeper. That bothers me when people say that."
Aug 28, 2003 | townhall.com
Thus, an op-ed piece in The New York Times recently proclaimed: "America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one." This was written by Jessica Stern of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Motto: "Where mediocre students pay exorbitant sums to say they went to Harvard"). You can't win with these people. The termites are swarming out into the light of day, and liberals are blaming the exterminator.
Liberals simply refuse to consider thoughts that would interfere with their lemming-like groupthink. They hold their hands over their ears like little children who don't want to listen to mother.
Yes, perhaps there are important textural differences between secular Saddam loyalists and Islamic crazies -- though it's a little odd to be lectured on nuance from people who can grasp no difference whatsoever between Bill O'Reilly and Jesse Helms. But as George Bush : You are with the terrorists or you are with America. Now we're getting a pretty clear picture of who is with the terrorists. As George Patton said, I like when the enemy shoots at me; then I know where the bastards are and can kill them.
But liberals are indignant for every day that we haven't turned a barbaric land into Vermont. They were willing to give Stalin 36 years for the awkwardness of his revolution. We have essentially imposed a revolution on Iraq -- and liberals give us a month to work out the bugs. U.S. forces in Baghdad say that Iraq is well on its way to establishing American-style representative democracy and might even be holding its first free elections in less than a year. Within three years the Iraqi people could be recalling their first governor.
Indeed, the war is going so well that now liberals have to create absurd straw-man arguments no one ever uttered in order to accuse the Bush administration of horrible miscalculations. Amid her sneering, PMS-induced anger toward the Bush administration, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd claimed the Bush administration was "shaken" to discover "the terrible truth: Just because we got Odai and Qusai, Iraqi militants are not going to stop blowing up Westerners." I'd love to see the quote where anyone in the Bush administration -- anyone in the universe -- said that.
... ... ...
With all their pointless chitchat about Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), liberals of all people ought to have known the war would not be over with the deaths of Odai and Qusai. Speaking of which -- where is Osama? We haven't heard much from him lately. Nor is Saddam Hussein out shaking his puny fist at the Great Satan anymore. Concerned that he might try to sneak out in disguise, U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been given pictures of Saddam Hussein in various outfits, hairstyles and even makeup schemes. (And I thought this was kind of interesting -- it turns out he's a "winter.")
What is the point of liberal carping? What precisely are they proposing we do? Turn tail and abandon Iraq to the mullahs and the Syrians? Revert to the Democrats' tried-and-true method of abandoning the region to any local Pol Pot who might turn up?
Clinton's statesmanlike response to Islamic fanatics was to do nothing -- except when he needed to distract from his impeachment and would suddenly start bombing foreign countries at random. In eight years, the only domestic Muslim terrorist Clinton went after was a blind cleric sitting outside a mosque in New Jersey behind a card table with an "Ask Me About Terrorism" sign.
The Clinton approach was working great, if you don't count the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombing of our Air Force housing complex in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the bombing of the USS Cole (news - web sites) and, finally, the greatest terrorist attack in the history of the world right here on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001.
We have seen how well the Democrats' surrender approach works for 50 years. We saw it again last week. The United Nations (news - web sites) stood shoulder to shoulder with American liberals, France, Germany and Saddam Hussein in opposing war with Iraq. And then last week in Iraq, the little darlings bombed the U.N. embassy in Baghdad. But that's Bush's fault, too. Perhaps Bush is also responsible for J-Lo and Ben Affleck's bomb of a movie. The only people whom liberals absolutely refuse to hold accountable for anything are their friends, the Islamofascists.
On the antiwar Right, it has been customary to attack the warmongering neoconservative clique for its Trotskyite origins. Certainly, the founding father of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, wrote in 1983 that he was "proud" to have been a member of the Fourth International in 1940. Other future leading lights of the neocon movement were also initially Trotskyites, like James Burnham and Max Kampelman-the latter a conscientious objector during the war against Hitler, a status that Evron Kirkpatrick, husband of Jeane, used his influence to obtain for him. But there is at least one neoconservative commentator whose personal political odyssey began with a fascination not with Trotskyism, but instead with another famous political movement that grew up in the early decades of the 20th century: fascism. I refer to Michael Ledeen, leading neocon theoretician, expert on Machiavelli, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, regular columnist for National Review-and the principal cheerleader today for an extension of the war on terror to include regime change in Iran.
Ledeen has gained notoriety in recent months for the following paragraph in his latest book, The War Against the Terror Masters. In what reads like a prophetic approval of the policy of chaos now being visited on Iraq, Ledeen wrote,
Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence-our existence, not our politics-threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
This is not the first time Ledeen has written eloquently on his love for "the democratic revolution" and "creative destruction." In 1996, he gave an extended account of his theory of revolution in his book, Freedom Betrayed - the title, one assumes, is a deliberate reference to Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed. Ledeen explains that "America is a revolutionary force" because the American Revolution is the only revolution in history that has succeeded, the French and Russian revolutions having quickly collapsed into terror. Consequently, "[O]ur revolutionary values are part of our genetic make-up. … We drive the revolution because of what we represent: the most successful experiment in human freedom. … We are an ideological nation, and our most successful leaders are ideologues." Denouncing Bill Clinton as a "counter-revolutionary" (!), Ledeen is especially eager to make one point: "Of all the myths that cloud our understanding, and therefore paralyze our will and action, the most pernicious is that only the Left has a legitimate claim to the revolutionary tradition."
Ledeen's conviction that the Right is as revolutionary as the Left derives from his youthful interest in Italian fascism. In 1975, Ledeen published an interview, in book form, with the Italian historian Renzo de Felice, a man he greatly admires. It caused a great controversy in Italy. Ledeen later made clear that he relished the ire of the left-wing establishment precisely because "De Felice was challenging the conventional wisdom of Italian Marxist historiography, which had always insisted that fascism was a reactionary movement." What de Felice showed, by contrast, was that Italian fascism was both right-wing and revolutionary. Ledeen had himself argued this very point in his book, Universal Fascism, published in 1972. That work starts with the assertion that it is a mistake to explain the support of fascism by millions of Europeans "solely because they had been hypnotized by the rhetoric of gifted orators and manipulated by skilful propagandists." "It seems more plausible," Ledeen argued, "to attempt to explain their enthusiasm by treating them as believers in the rightness of the fascist cause, which had a coherent ideological appeal to a great many people." For Ledeen, as for the lifelong fascist theoretician and practitioner, Giuseppe Bottai, that appeal lay in the fact that fascism was "the Revolution of the 20th century."
Ledeen supports de Felice's distinction between "fascism-movement" and "fascism-regime." Mussolini's regime, he says, was "authoritarian and reactionary"; by contrast, within "fascism-movement," there were many who were animated by "a desire to renew." These people wanted "something more revolutionary: the old ruling class had to be swept away so that newer, more dynamic elements-capable of effecting fundamental changes-could come to power." Like his claim that the common ground between Nazism and Italian fascism was "exceedingly minimal"-Ledeen writes, "The fact of the Axis Pact should not be permitted to become the overriding consideration in this analysis"-Ledeen's careful distinction between fascist "regime" and "movement" makes him a clear apologist for the latter. "While 'fascism-movement' was overcome and eventually suppressed by 'fascism-regime,'" he explains, "fascism nevertheless constituted a political revolution in Italy. For the first time, there was an attempt to mobilize the masses and to involve them in the political life of the country." Indeed, Ledeen criticizes Mussolini precisely for not being revolutionary enough. "He never had enough confidence in the Italian people to permit them a genuine participation in fascism." Ledeen therefore concurs with the fascist intellectual, Camillo Pellizi, who argues-in a book Ledeen calls "a moving and fundamental work"-that Mussolini's was "a failed revolution." Pellizzi had hoped that "the new era was to be the era of youthful genius and creativity": for him, Ledeen says, the fascist state was "a generator of energy and creativity." The purest ideologues of fascism, in other words, wanted something very similar to that which Ledeen himself wants now, namely a "worldwide mass movement" enabling the peoples of the world, "liberated" by American militarism, to participate in the "greatest experiment in human freedom." Ledeen wrote in 1996, "The people yearn for the real thing-revolution."
Ledeen was especially interested in the role played by youth in Italian fascism. It was here that he detected the movement's most exciting revolutionary potential. The young Ledeen wrote that those who exalted the position of youth in the fascist revolution-like those who argued in favor of his beloved "universal fascism"-were committed to exporting Italian fascism to the whole world, an idea in which Mussolini was initially uninterested. When he was later converted to it, Mussolini said that fascism drew on the universalist heritage of Rome, both ancient and Catholic. No doubt Ledeen thinks that the new Rome in Washington has the same universalist mission. He writes that people around Berto Ricci-the editor of the fascist newspaper L'Universale, and a man he calls "brilliant" and "an example of enthusiasm and independence"- "called for the formation of a new empire, an empire based not on military conquest but rather on Italy's unique genius for civilization. … They intended to develop the traditions of their country and their civilization in such a manner as to make them the basic tenets of a new world order." Ledeen adds, in a passage that anticipates his later love of creative destruction, "Clearly the act of destruction which would produce the flowering of the new fascist hegemony would sweep away the present generation of Italians, along with the rest." And Giuseppe Bottai, to whom Ledeen attributes "considerable energy and autonomy," was notable for his belief that "the infusion of the creative energies of a new generation was essential" for the fascist revolution. Bottai "implored the young … to found a new order arising from the spontaneous activity of their creation."
One of the greatest exponents of such youthful vitalism was the high priest of fascism, the poet and adventurer Gabriele D'Annunzio, to whom Ledeen devoted an enthusiastic biography in 1977. Years ago, I visited D'Annunzio's house on the shores of Lake Garda: there is a battleship in the garden and a Brenn gun in the sitting room. D'Annunzio was an eccentric and militaristic Italian Nietzschean who "eulogized rape and acts of savagery" committed by the people he called his spiritual ancestors. The poet was also an early prophet of military intervention and regime change: he invaded the Croatian city of Fiume (now Rijeka) in 1919 and held the city for a year, during which he put into practice his theories of "New Order." In 1918, moreover, D'Annunzio had dropped propaganda leaflets over Vienna promising to liberate the Austrians from their own government, something Ledeen hails as "a glorious gesture." D'Annunzio's watchword was "the liberation of human personality." "His heroism during the war made it possible," Ledeen writes, "to bridge the chasm between intellectuals and the masses. … The revolt D'Annunzio led was directed against the old order of Western Europe, and was carried out in the name of youthful creativity and virility."
As Ledeen shows, the Italian fascists expressed their desire "to tear down the old order" (his words from 2002) in terms that are curiously anticipatory of a famous statement in 2003 by the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. In 1932, Asvero Gravelli also divided Europe into "old" and "new" when he wrote, in Towards the Fascist International, "Either old Europe or young Europe. Fascism is the gravedigger of old Europe. Now the forces of the Fascist International are rising." It all sounds rather prophetic.
John Laughland is a London-based writer and lecturer and a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group.
Last week HNN published Alan Wald's critique of an article written by Michael Lind for the New Statesman in which Mr. Lind argued that defense policy in the Bush administration is orchestrated by a group of people, many of whom are Jewish, who were allegedly shaped by Trotskyism. This week we publish an exchange between Mr. Lind and Mr. Wald. Below is Mr. Wald's statement. Click here for Mr. Lind's.
Let's be clear about the argument of Mr. Lind's "The Weird Men Behind George Bush" that garnered him so much publicity. He states that, instead of looking to socio-economic and reactionary cultural explanations for Bush's foreign policy, we must understand that "the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment." Moreover, the "core group now in charge" are "neoconservative defense intellectuals" of whom "many started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals...." He says that "most neoconservative defense intellectuals...are products of the largely Jewish American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s...." He also states that their political philosophy of "Wilsonianism" is "really Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism." This Jewish Trotskyist Wilsonianism contrasts with the "Genuine American Wilsonians," who "believe in self-determination for the Palestianians."
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My objection to Mr. Lind's argument is first of all that he gave no evidence that "most" of this "small clique" that is "in charge" of U.S. foreign policy has any significant connection, personal or ideological, to what he calls the "largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement." In his answer to my critique, Mr. Lind still refuses to provide documentation of such a sensational charge. Instead, he attributes to himself a different claim: "I stand by the observation that there is a distinct Trotskyist political culture, which shows residual influence on individuals who renounced Trotskyism or who were never Trotskyists but inherited this political culture from their parents or older mentors." But nowhere does he show us how a single member of the "small clique" either "renounced Trotskyism" or "inherited this political culture" from anyone.
I would be the last person to dispute that the political cultures of Trotskyism, Communism, anarchism, New Deal Liberalism, etc., can exist and be transmitted. For example, in regard to Trotskyism, it can be demonstrated that critiques of Stalinism from Marxist premises, a sympathy for the radical potential of literary modernism, and an internationalist view of Jewish identity together comprise a subcultural tradition that might be passed on. One might even write a whole book about the subject. (We might call it, "The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left.") Moreover, such a study would point out that the original group coalescing as "neoconservatives" in the 1970s included a few prominent intellectuals who had passed through a wing of the Trotskyist movement, especially an anti-Shachtmanite tendency known as the "Shermanites" (led by Philip Selznik, aka Sherman). But even in the 1970s, among the strands of ideological DNA that formed to create "Neoconservatism," Trotskyism was very much a receding one. Now, thirty years later, in regard to a group of mostly younger people that some are also calling "Neoconservatives," it is close to non-existent.
What about the claims of influence on foreign policy? In his second paragraph, Mr. Lind cites as his main example the phrase "global democratic revolution," which he attributes to "Schachmanites [sic] like Joshua Muravchik." Well, giving Trotskyism credit for a vague slogan like "global democratic revolution" is about as meaningful as the earlier claim that it was Trotskyists who "pioneered" the technique of sending out public letters. But at least Mr. Lind has now given us the name of an individual, albeit not one of the original "small clique" of "neocon defence intellectuals," to whom he affirms a Trotskyist connection. However, is Mr. Lind accurate in stating so unabashedly that Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is currently, or ever was, a "Shachtmanite"? Here is what Muravchik wrote in in the Weekly Standard (Aug. 28, 2000) in his review of Maurice Isserman's biography of Michael Harrington: "Any number of those singled out in Isserman's book as 'Shachtmanites' had never been among them--including Penn Kemble, Bayard Rustin, and me.... To be sure, when in the mid-1960s I joined the Socialist party, I loved Shachtman's lectures, but what I learned from them had nothing to do with the Trotskyite arcana that had once been the substance of Shachtmanism. It had everything to do with the evil nature of communism." This statement is further proof that Mr. Lind is not to be trusted when he starts throwing around political labels, no matter how confident he sounds. Among Lind's "core" list of "neocon defence intellectuals," I doubt that any of them ever had as much personal exposure to Shachtman and his ideas as did Murachivik. Of course, an individual such as William Kristol may may well have learned about "the evil nature of communism" at the knee of father Irving, but this hardly makes the son a carrier of the Trotkyist virus. The point is that, unless we are to revert to the principle of "guilt by association," the connection between the individual and the political culture of Trotskyism must have some real substance to it.
Mr. Lind, fortunately, has now stopped referring to "Permanent Revolution," a theory that turns out to have nothing in common with the definition he originally ascribed to it. But he insists on a connection between a Trotskyist plan to "export 'revolution' " and the Bush foreign policy of invading Third World countries. True enough, following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Trotsky was reluctant to sign an unfavorable peace agreement with Germany because he favored promoting a socialist revolution there, a position that he later repudiated. But when Irving Kristol et al became Trotskyists in the late 1930s, there was no country in the world that that their tendency supported. What was meant by "revolution" was not the attack of one state on another, but bottom up social upheaval of the population. The documents of the Workers Party or the Shermanites make no reference to advocacy of intervention by any states to topple a regime and restructure society.
Utopian as their dreams might seem today, they believed the source of revolution to be a "Third Camp" of working people, not warring governments. Moreover, while I think that the Trotskyist movement in the United States has been for all practical purposes dead for decades, and is unlikely to play a part in any future radicalizations, the Trotskyist record of supporting "self-determination" of Palestinians and other oppressed populations is sterling in comparison to "Wilsonians "--including those who put the mantle of "genuine American" on themselves.
Much of Mr. Lind's polemic is directed at issues and arguments never mentioned by me, although he gives no other attributions and cites me frequently. For example, Mr. Lind states with glee that "Mr. Wald says not only that neoconservatives originated as a pejorative used by Michael Harrington...but there never really were any self-identified neoconservatives (false)." Mr. Lind then devotes a long paragraph to mocking me with anecdotes about his dinner parties with "Bill" Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, et al. The problem is that nowhere in my short article do I mention the name of Harrington or claim that the neocons didn't identify themselves as such! Ditto for all the stuff about whether or not Mr. Lind is an anti-Semite (although his "proof" that he can't possibly be an anti-Semite simply because he is "partly Jewish in descent" is both amusing and unsettling), conspiracy theories, the southern religious Right, and so on.
History News Network
Last week HNN published Alan Wald's critique of an article written by Michael Lind for the New Statesman in which Mr. Lind argued that defense policy in the Bush administration is orchestrated by a group of people, many of whom are Jewish, who were allegedly shaped by Trotskyism. This week we publish an exchange between Mr. Lind and Mr. Wald. Below is Mr. Lind's statement. Click here for Mr. Wald's.
I thank Mr. Wald for helping to prove my case. Indeed, the details he provides suggest that the existence of the influence of ex-Trotskyists, Shermanite and Schachtmannite alike, on the neoconservative faction within American conservatism was even greater than I and others have realized. It is not every day that an incompetent critic unwittingly undermines his own case in attempting to refute yours.
I stand by the observation that there is a distinct Trotskyist political culture, which shows its residual influence even on individuals who renounced Trotskyism or who were never Trotskyists but inherited this political culture from their parents or older mentors. An unusual belligerence in foreign policy combined with a desire to export "revolution" (first socialist, and then, among ex-Trotskyists who move to the liberal center or the Right, the "global democratic revolution" in the phrase of Schachtmannites like Joshua Muravchik) distinguishes these ex-Trots and inheritors of ex-Trot political culture from other kinds of conservatives and liberals--for example, Anglo-Catholic Tories, Rooseveltian New Deal liberal internationalists, and Buchanan-style isolationists. Not only in the U.S. but in Britain and continental Europe, ex-Trots have tended to go from advocating promotion of socialist revolution to promoting liberal or democratic revolution. This is a minor but genuine feature of the trans-Atlantic political landscape that is so familiar, and commented upon so often by members of the foreign policy elite, not only in the U.S. but in Britain and France, that it surprises me to learn that anyone claims it is controversial.
Now for a word about generalization. It is impossible, and would be inaccurate, to write either history or political journalism without generalizations. This is particularly important when the subject consists of enduring political traditions. How you would discuss the theology of the religious right without mentioning Calvinism or Darbyism is a mystery to me. And the influence of various strains of black nationalism and environmentalism on contemporary Democratic liberalism is equally legitimate as a subject of political analysis.
Not only I but most students of the political culture of neoconservatism, including many neoconservatives themselves, have described the various influences that distinguish this branch of the Right from others: influences including not only the vestiges of Trotskyist foreign policy activism, but also Straussianism, Cold War liberalism, and a peculiar kind of Anglophilia based on the veneration of Winston Churchill, who is far more popular among American neocons than Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson. (Even neocons like Max Boot who claim to be "Wilsonians" never quote a line from Woodrow Wilson, and nothing could be less Wilsonianism than their militaristic rhetoric about "empire," which actually derives from their idealized vision of the British empire, not from anything in the resolutely anti-imperial American political tradition). Can one identify individual neoconservatives who were not influenced by Trotskyism, Straussianism, Cold War liberalism, the myth of Churchill, and the mystique of the British empire? Certainly. Does that mean that anyone who mentions any of these influences is therefore an unscholarly conspiracy theorist, of the kind Mr. Wald accuses me of being? Oh, please.
The Straussian movement split long ago into "East Coast Straussians" and "West Coast Straussians." In addition, there are a few neoconservatives who know little or nothing about Leo Strauss. A defender of the neoconservatives as intellectually dishonest as Mr. Wald could use these facts in denouncing any scholar or journalist who mentions the influence of Straussianism on the distinctive political culture of the neoconservative faction of the Republican Party. If he were as disingenuous as Mr. Wald, he could argue that since there are East and West Coast Straussians, Straussianism therefore does not exist, and anyone who talks about a distinctive Straussian intellectual culture, or Straussian influence on neoconservatism is a) unscholarly and b) a paranoid conspiracy theorist who probably believes that the Shriners control the Council on Foreign Relations.
I happen to know a little about conspiracy theorists. At the cost of my career as a rising intellectual on the American Right, I exposed Pat Robertson's conspiracy theories about international Jewish bankers, Freemasons and Satanists in the New Republic, the Washington Post and the New York Review of Books between 1992 and 1995. My criticism of Robertson's anti-semitic conspiracy theories was the major factor in my expulsion from the neoconservative movement, in which I had taken part as the Executive Editor of the National Interest, published by Irving Kristol. Irving and Bill Kristol, of course, knew that everything that I said about Robertson was true--but my exposes were inconvenient for their personal political ambitions, which required an alliance of convenience rather than conviction with the religious right activists who dominated the Republican Party. For a similar tactical reason, Commentary, the flagship neocon magazine, began publishing articles in the 1990s claiming that Darwin, the bete noire of Southern Baptist creationists since before the Scopes "Monkey Trial," was wrong and that "biblical" creation science has been vindicated, something that Norman Podhoretz, Neal Kozodoy and other neocon intellectuals know very well is nonsense.
But wait--I used the word "neoconservative." Mr. Wald says not only that neoconservative originated as a pejorative used by Michael Harrington (true, if irrelevant) but that there never really were any self-identified "neoconservatives" (false). This line that there never really were any neoconservatives has long been used by Irving Kristol in interviews. I used to laugh about it with other of Kristol's employees. The non-existence of neoconservatism, except in the minds of conspiracy-mongers, certainly would have come as news to me and my fellow neoconservatives when I worked for Kristol and attended conferences and dinner parties with Gertrude Himmelfarb, Bill Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Peter Berger, and other self-conscious neocons. Unaware that we were not supposed to exist, according to Mr. Wald, we neocons were well aware of the shared views on the Cold War, race, and other topics that distinguished us from the Buckley Tories and the Buchananite Old Right. If Mr. Wald knew more about the neoconservative intellectual network of the 1980s and 1990s, as opposed to the long-defunct Workers' Party of the 1930s, he would know that there was a bitter war in the conservative press between "neoconservatives" (many of them former Trotskyists, as he has confirmed) who reluctantly or enthusiastically accepted the term to describe themselves and the "Old Right" of Patrick Buchanan. Mr. Wald's quibbles about the term "neoconservative" are therefore either a deliberately dishonest debating trick (my guess) or evidence of a profound ignorance of what was (and remains) one of several self-conscious factions on the American Right.
One final point. For pointing out what every history of the subject takes for granted, that the Trotskyist movement was largely though not exclusively Jewish in membership, defenders of the neocons (not, interestingly, any present-day Trotskyists!) have hinted that I am an anti-semite (they don't know, or don't care, that I am partly Jewish in descent). This has come as no surprise to me--anyone who criticizes neoconservative influence on U.S. foreign policy is quickly vilified by the gutter journalists--and the gutter professors--of neoconservatism as an anti-semite, a traitor, an appeaser, an enemy in "the culture war," or a combination of two or more of the four. Since HNN, to its discredit, has seen fit to publish several such smears against me on its website [click here and here], I would like to make one point, not so much in my defense--I have nothing to be defensive about--but in defense of scholarly freedom from intimidation and self-censorship, where ethnic or regional sensitivities are concerned.
Analysis of the role of ethnic and regional groups in U.S. politics is standard in political science, and it is not evidence of hostility toward the ethnic groups or the regions being analyzed. Indeed, this seems to be accepted by neocons in most cases. Not a single one of the critics who professes to be disturbed by my mention in passing of the Jewish role in American Trotskyism has objected to my repeated observations in print that the Southern Religious Right reflects the political culture of the Scots-Irish, with its historic links to Protestant Northern Ireland. Why not? Aren't both points equally illegitimate, in their eyes? Why has no neoconservative angrily written a screed claiming that "Michael Lind's allusion to a supposed connection between Scots-Irish ethnicity and Southern Protestant fundamentalism proves not only that he is a conspiracy theorist but hates the Scots-Irish as well!" (For the record, I am partly Scots-Irish, as well as partly Jewish, in descent).
The list of Shermanites that Mr. Wald gives is disproportionately Jewish in membership, although he does not say so. If Mr. Wald had actually used the phrase the "disproportionately Jewish Shermanite movement," would this have made him, not only a conspiracy theorist (after all, did Shermanism ever really exist, except in the imaginations of conspiracy theorists like Wald?) but an anti-semite as well? What about the mere act of drawing up and publishing a list, the majority of whose members are Jewish? Seems kind of creepy, come to think of it. Is Mr. Wald's creepy list the product of a sinister, conspiratorial imagination? Has he tried to smear all Jewish-Americans, tarring them by association with a supposed "Shermanite" conspiracy? Perhaps someone should alert the Anti-Defamation League to Mr. Wald's disturbing comments...
I encourage interested readers to read my essays and books on the subject of the American Right--essays and books in which my chief focus is on the Southern Protestant Right, without whose electoral clout neocons (including former Schachtmannites and former Shermanites and their progeny) would have no influence at all on U.S. foreign or domestic policy. The readers of HNN should not trust dishonest misrepresentations of my statements and views on the part of apologists for neoconservatism.
Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. Neoconservatism does not exist and never has. And there was no such thing as Trotskyism, either.
There's a pop quiz. Rank the following in order of the number of American lives they claim in a typical year: food, guns, terrorists, flu and cars.
Ready? The most deadly are automobiles, which kill 117 Americans a day, or nearly 43,000 a year. Then comes flu, which (along with pneumonia, its associated disease) kills 36,000 people. Third is guns: 26,000 deaths. Fourth, food-borne illness: 5,000. And finally, terrorism, which in a typical year claims virtually no U.S. lives - with horrific exceptions like 2001. But antiterrorism efforts get most of the attention and the resources.
To a point, that's sensible. The train bombings in Madrid are a reminder of our vulnerability.
President Bush is right to emphasize the risk from W.M.D., because a single nuclear bomb could claim 500,000 lives.
Still, we need a balance in confronting threats, and I don't think we've found it. Watch President Bush's campaign ads, and it's clear that he's overwhelmingly focused on the war on terrorism - in 2001, he called it "my primary focus." As he put it this year, "I'm a war president."
Mr. Bush's intensity and unwavering purpose comforted the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. But America is too complex to have national policy reduced to the single overarching priority of counterterrorism.
"It's an important threat, but it cannot be the organizing principle of our foreign policy," argues Ivo Daalder, a former national security official who is co-author of "America Unbound," an excellent (and respectful) book about Mr. Bush's administration. "There are worse threats out there. Climate change. H.I.V./AIDS."
Or, I would say, nuclear proliferation. Or cars.
Vehicle fatalities don't get attention because they occur in ones and twos. If people died at the same rate but in one horrifying crash a month that killed 3,500 people, then Mr. Bush and Congress would speedily make auto safety a priority and save thousands of lives a year. As Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has : "If we had 115 people die a day in aviation crashes, we wouldn't have a plane in the sky."
"Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do," note Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, two Yale professors, in their book about innovative thinking, "Why Not?" They note that a major effort by Sweden has reduced traffic deaths by encouraging seat belt use, converting intersections to traffic circles (they "soothe" traffic), replacing rigid guardrails with new rails or cables that absorb or "catch" cars, and exhorting cyclists to wear helmets. The upshot is that Sweden 's accident rate is one of the lowest in the world.
"If the United States could achieve Sweden's current standard, this would save 12,500 lives per year," the authors say.
Granted, it seems less presidential to call for more guardrails than to invade Middle Eastern countries. And, in fairness, President Bush's head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, is pushing hard to save lives in unheralded ways, from improving S.U.V. design to getting drivers to check their tire pressure.
A month before Dr. Runge took up his post, several teenagers were rushed to the hospital where he worked as an emergency room physician. The driver in their car, a 17-year-old redhead named Sarah Longstreet, was known in her high school for her friendliness and her Bible Club activities. She wore a seat belt and her air bag inflated, but she died when a Ford Explorer veered across the center line and plowed right over the hood of her Mazda. That incompatibility in the two cars' designs made her one more unnecessary auto fatality - and she became "sort of an angel to me," Dr. Runge said.
So when I asked him about priorities, he answered this way:
"First off, we have to do everything we're doing for counterterrorism," he said. "There's nothing that we're doing that we shouldn't be doing, and you can make the case that we should be doing more. . . . However, we're still losing 115 people a day on the highways, and basically the perpetrators of those deaths also fit within a profile" - such as alcohol abusers.
Governing the U.S. is like playing 200 simultaneous chess matches (while whiny columnists second-guess every move on every board). The terrorism chessboard is among the most important, but if we could just devote a bit more energy to the others, we could save thousands of lives - including the life of the next Sarah Longstreet.
A recent article in the Canadian National Post suggests that President Bush's advisors were influenced by Leon Trotsky, the big loser in the Bolshevik power struggle after Vladimir Lenin's death, hounded out of the country by Stalin and eventually murdered by Stalin's agents in 1940. Although the link between dedicated Communist Leon Trotsky and the conservative Bush administration is tenuous, the author, Jeet Heer, pursues the link with zeal. According to him, Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz frequently consult an Iraqi-American intellectual, Kanan Makiya, who was once a Trotskyist. In addition, Christopher Hitchens, another former Trotskyist, serves the White House as an "ad hoc consultant." Finally, Wolfowitz in particular worked with some former Trotskyists during the early 1970s, in the offices of Senator Henry Jackson. Jeet Heer makes great efforts to insinuate that these former Trotskyists served as a transmission belt for Trotskyist ideas, especially the idea of 'pre-emptive war,' which were then used by White House officials for their own conservative purposes.
In other words, the article's a smear job, albeit an unusual one. Bush administration attacking Iraq? That's because of any legitimate reasons, but because Bush has been influenced by a bunch of leftover Communists gone right-wing but still retaining elements of their peculiar Commie philosophy. The argument, of course, is bunk. Christopher Hitchens' influence in the White House has been greatly exaggerated, while Kanan Makiya's Trotskyist past has been irrelevant for decades. Also, the last time I checked, pre-emptive war isn't solely a Trotskyist idea. Nor is it a particularly prominent one. Yet I'm sure the National Post article will be added to the pile of 'evidence' accumulated by the one group of the population who cares about such arguments, the isolationists led by Pat Buchanan and conspiracy-mongers like Antiwar.com's Justin Raimondo. Although supposedly to the right, that crowd spends most of its time attacking conservatives, claiming that true conservatism has been hijacked by a cabal of 'neo-conservatives'.
One of the isolationists' key arguments is that that the neo-cons are all secretly Trotskyists; more to the point, Jewish-American Trotskyists. (Many commentators have noticed the isolationist right's tendency to use 'Jew', 'neo-conservative', and 'Trotskyist' interchangeably.) According to Justin Raimondo, although they were no longer seeking world socialism, these ex-Trotskyists kept their decidedly un-conservative Trotskyist tactics - nothing had changed but the name of the enemy. Many articles can be found that repeat this same tired theme.
The conspiracy theories of Raimondo and company have legs, because they're built on a small foundation of facts. Prominent conservatives were Trotskyists at one point in their lives, including James Burnham, Irving Kristol, and the Middle East expert Stephen Schwartz. So have much less prominent conservatives - namely, myself. Before I became a conservative, I was a member of the Communist League of Canada, a minor political sect with bookstore-based offices in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. The Communist League is the Canadian affiliate of the New York-based Socialist Workers' Party, which was once the largest and main Trotskyist party in the United States. Trotsky himself helped establish the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1930s from his final home in Mexico.
Although both the Communist League and the Socialist Workers Party began quietly dropping the Trotskyist label around 1990, the other members reassured me repeatedly that this was merely a tactical issue. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they felt that they could claim the sole mantle of Communism for themselves, and avoid confusing a working class that had never heard of Trotsky. And make no mistake - Trotskyism is a variant of Communism. This shouldn't be glossed over; ex-Trotskyists like myself are ex-Communists. But let me also make this clear - the transformation from Trotskyist to conservative involves a fundamental break with the main tenets of Trotskyism. By suggesting that a conservative can remain in some way a Trotskyist, the isolationist right traffics in oxymoron, and their conspiracy theories fail bitterly.
To understand this, we have to look at the two main aspects of Trotskyism itself: on the one hand, its opposition to the crimes of Stalinism and the totalitarian, Stalinist regimes; on the other, its opposition to the system of capitalism and its desire for international Communist revolution. Both of these aspects are essential to Trotskyism; neither are unique to it. Take away the opposition to Stalinism, leaving only the revolutionary opposition to capitalism behind, and you're left with any of a hundred other varieties of Communism, including Stalinism itself. Remove the opposition to capitalism and the desire for international Communist revolution, leaving only the opposition to Stalinism, and you're left with what could be any of a hundred different political ideologies, from the social democratic anti-Stalinists in the American labor movement to the isolationist Right anti-Stalinists of the John Birch Society, or anywhere in-between. Trotskyism requires both forms of opposition to be recognizable as Trotskyism: opposition to Stalinism and opposition to capitalism. Commitment to Communism and revolution is an essential component of Trotskyism.
I want to take the time to explain this, because Jeet Heer's June 7th article has generated some controversy. In the original article, conservative author Stephen Schwartz, an ex-Trotskyist who has become both a respected figure on the Right and a frequent contributor to FrontPage Magazine, said he saw "a psychological, ideological and intellectual continuity" between Trotskyism and neo-conservatism. He went on to explain that there were two things neo-conservatives and Trotskyists had in common: "the ability to anticipate rather than react and the moral courage to stand apart from liberal left opinion when liberal left opinion acts like a mob." Two days letter, an article appeared in National Review Online, criticizing Jeet Heer's piece. Written by Hoover Fellow Arnold Beichman, it quite succinctly took the National Post article apart and exposed it as the smear job it was. Two days after that, Stephen Schwartz responded angrily in National Review Online, accusing Beichman of slandering not Trotsky, but all former leftists influenced by Trotsky. He argued that there was no need for former Trotskyists to renounce their pasts, that Beichman was demanding an apology for something not warranting an apology, and that he would defend to his last breath "the Trotsky who alone [sic.] said no to Soviet coddling of Hitlerism, to the Moscow purges, and to the betrayal of the Spanish Republic, and who had the capacity to admit he had been wrong about the imposition of a single-party state, as well as about the fate of the Jewish people."
This whole tempest in a teapot raises several questions. Do former Trotskyists have anything to apologize for? Is there really any continuity between Trotskyist ideology and neo-conservatism, as Stephen Schwartz suggests? Is Trotskyism and Trotsky himself worth defending?
The short answers - a qualified no, no, and no.
First off, is there anything for Trotskyists to apologize for? Even if they weren't members of the Communist Party, they were Communists, so why shouldn 't they have to publicly recant and apologize for their beliefs? The answer lies in the difference between thought and action. Trotskyism is a form of Communism, and Communism is an evil philosophy. Although its adherents believe it will bring about a better world, and adopt it because they naively want to do good, in practice it always ends badly, not due to failures of any particular implementation of Communism, but due to the basic character of the Communist philosophy itself. But I can't condemn someone for being naïve, even someone naïve enough to become a Trotskyist, as long as they aren't personally supporting or committing evil acts. Therefore Communist Party apologists for Stalin and his crimes owe the world a mea culpa that Trotskyists critical of Stalin do not. Communist Party members who spied for the Soviet Union owe the world a debt that Trotskyists do not. As long as a Trotskyist isn't supporting or supported by totalitarian foreign powers, the only question we have to consider is this: are they doing any evil at home?
The answer: not much. This might hurt the feelings of Trotskyists past and present, but Trotskyism has never been influential in the United States. They led one general strike in Minneapolis in the 1930s, and were responsible for the construction of one of the many anti-Vietnam War coalitions in the late 1960s. Perhaps they led a couple of other localized labor actions. But that's largely it. From time to time, they pop up in a campaign large enough to be noticed by the press; today, far-left groups with a Trotskyist past like the Workers World Party are far more influential than any actual 'Trotskyists.' But none of these groups has ever been able to put together even 2,000 members nation-wide, at any time in their histories from founding to present. Their protests, like the recent anti-war protests put together against Operation Iraqi Freedom, were full of sound and fury, but ultimately, they signified nothing. When I was a leftist, I can't think of a single issue where I actually affected something. Neither can any other Trotskyist. Despite their ludicrous claims that their protests stopped the Vietnam War, or the more recent claim that they prevented the Bush administration from invading Syria, the achievements of the Trotskyist left add up to null. Therefore, what have they got to apologize for? Thought crimes?
As far as I'm concerned, there's only a few qualified instances where a Trotskyist might actually do something worthy of an apology. First, they might cross the line into violent action; domestic terrorism sprouted from the far Left in the early 1970s, and there's no guarantee it won't again. For instance, the members of the Workers World Party who helped incite prison riots during the 1970s should be held accountable. Secondly, they might ease up on their Trotskyist critique of Stalinism, and begin treating Stalinist regimes uncritically, out of the pure psychological need to have some revolution, any revolution, that can serve as a role model. For instance, I owe the world an apology for my and the Socialist Workers Party' s uncritical support for totalitarian Cuba. To my shame, I defended an evil regime; luckily, I don't think anyone actually was convinced by my defense. Last of all, Trotskyist groups can collude directly with a hostile foreign power. For instance, the leaders of the Workers World Party have made numerous trips to North Korea and the Middle East, as Steven Schwartz himself has noted in FrontPage. If they're receiving money from foreign powers, they need to be held accountable. (Which may very well be the case; in National Review Online, Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer to ever defect from the Soviet Bloc, claimed that the Workers World Party was entirely a construct of the KGB.)
Despite these unsavory connections, the historical record of Trotskyism in the United States is worthy of nothing more than a halfhearted shrug. Trotskyists who avoided treason and violence did little harm at most. Therefore it's not hard to look back at one's days as a Trotskyist as a bit of a youthful lark, enabling even a conservative giant like Irving Kristol to say, "I regard myself to have been a young Trotskyite and I have not a single bitter memory." And why not? They didn't support existing totalitarianism abroad and, despite their own horror-show politics, were too ineffective to mess up things in America itself. Having done no evil and having supported no evil, Kristol can treat his Communist past as an amusing interlude if he likes. And I can look back on my period in the Communist League and say to myself "no harm done - thank God." Knowing what I do now, I would have preferred to avoid my time in the Communist League - the money I sank into dues and fundraising drives could have bought a car - but its impact on society was zero.
But can we say there's continuity between Trotskyism and neo-conservatism, as Stephen Schwartz claimed? Kristol did become a prominent conservative, as did Schwartz. Again, the answer is no, because nothing unique to Trotskyism survived their political transformation. Once the desire for revolution passed, and the opposition to capitalism faded - in other words, once the Trotskyists became less naïve - they completely ceased to be Trotskyists. All that remained was their anti-Stalinism, and that wasn't unique to Trotskyism; instead, it was shared by many conservatives with no experience with the Left. The two things Schwartz claims were taken from Trotskyism by neo-conservatives aren't particularly unique to Trotskyism, either: "the ability to anticipate rather than react" is found in energetic people from all points of the political spectrum, and "the moral courage to stand apart from liberal Left opinion" wasn't just practiced by Trotskyists, but also by conservatives completely separate from the Left. The number of conservatives coming over from the Trotskyist Left was significant, but limited; many more were conservative all their political lives. The zeal, drive, and moral courage of modern conservatism therefore only obliquely comes from Trotskyism; the bulk of it comes from the conservative tradition itself. Remember, the ex-Trotskyists joined the conservative movement, and not the other way around.
Last of all, is Trotskyism and Trotsky worth defending? Once again, no. Certain aspects of Trotskyism were worth defending, in particular his opposition to Stalin - for that, Trotsky can be praised, and on that basis alone, Trotskyists are less repugnant than the Stalinists of the Communist Party. But those actions of Leon Trotsky can't be separated from his basic Communist philosophy, and the evil empire he helped construct in the 1910s and 20s. Unlike Irving Kristol, Stephen Schwartz, and, far less importantly, myself, Trotsky was in a position to put his ideals into action. Trotsky was Commander in Chief of the Red Army; and Trotsky therefore shares some responsibility for the 20th century's bloody Communist mess. His correct evaluation of Stalin no more absolves him than a convict's time off for good behavior does for his crimes; anti-Stalinism makes Trotskyism no more palatable than welfare reform made the eight years of the Clinton administration.
When Stephen Schwartz writes that he will defend Trotsky to his last breath, and "[l]et the neofascists, and Stalinists in their second childhood, make of it what they will," I must respectfully disagree. Trotsky's simply not worth it; the good points of Trotskyism weren't unique, and the bad points outweigh the good. But I disagree even more strongly with the attempts of the isolationist Right to slander good conservatives with a philosophy they've left behind, and stronger still with any suggestion that these former Trotskyists in America must perpetually apologize for their past, forever excluded from the realm of 'real' conservatives. The works of someone like Stephen Schwartz, who has contributed so much to our knowledge of Wahhabist Islam, speak far more eloquently than any writing he could do about his Trotskyist past. Critics of him or any other ex-Trotskyist conservative ought to direct their attention, not on former Trotskyists who changed their ideology for the better, but those ex-Trotskyists, ex-Communists, and other former radicals who left their organizations only to slither into the ranks of the Democratic Party, to continue advocating the same hard-left ideology behind a 'liberal' mask.
Just when one thought things couldn't get any weirder in the festering mess that is today's "conservatism," monstrosities have hatched from it so hideous, so perverted, so wretchedly deformed, that one might take them for hallucinations - caused, perhaps, by Saddam's elusive chemical weapons, secretly infused by Osama bin Laden into one's breakfast orange juice. They're not, though. They're for real:
1. "... We will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe." (Michael Ledeen, "What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?", National Review, March 10, 2003)
2. "A new law being proposed by Republican senators will serve to prohibit criticism of Israel on American college campuses." ("Criticizing Israel will be a taboo in United States," The Balochistan Post, April 24, 2003)
After my wife threw a glass of cold water in my face, I calmed down and realized that those news items merely signal the next logical steps along "conservatism's" careening flight into Mussolini-style fascism.
Take Michael Ledeen. If I hadn't actually met him in the flesh many years ago, I would be tempted to write him off as a made-up cartoon character, a sort of political Daffy Duck, whose columns are concocted as comic relief by clever National Review editors. I can assure you, however, that he actually exists - or did, anyway. In an earlier column on my own Web page (http://www.thornwalker.com/wright/011207 .html), I highlighted one of his unbalanced rants in National Review, in which he lost control of his syntax and gibbered that the United State needed to go to war with the entire Muslim world:... We need to sustain our game face, we must keep our fangs bared, we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.
The U.S.'s glorious victory over Saddam's decayed, badly led, under-equipped, and demoralized military has whetted Ledeen's appetite for more blood, and he's studying menus right along with the rest of the neo-Trot horde.  In fact, he's now raised his sights from merely subjugating all of Islam to vanquishing the filthy Europeans as well! It turns out that those devious, ungrateful little Frogs and Krauts are plotting to overthrow the Empire's enlightened plan for world domination:They dreaded the establishment of an American empire, and they sought for a way to bring it down.... How could it be done? No military operation could possibly defeat the United States, and no direct economic challenge could hope to succeed. That left politics and culture. And here there was a chance to turn America's vaunted openness at home and toleration abroad against the United States. So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we'll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans. The Franco-German strategy was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States.
Is this for real? More importantly, is Ledeen running around loose? Or does the American Enterprise Institute, where he holds the bizarrely named "Freedom Chair," prudently keep him chained to it in the basement, like the character "the Gimp" in "Pulp Fiction" - bringing him out every once in a while in a leather leotard and spiked collar to lumber about, roll his eyeballs, and shriek hideous threats? Good boy, Mikey! Have a piece of raw flank steak!
In any case, it takes a truly fevered brain to decide - with no evidence whatsoever - that French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are "striking a deal with radical Islam" to "bring down" the Empire. Even a superficial look at European politics reveals a number of other legitimate reasons that the regimes of France and Germany might wish to publicly oppose U.S. imperialism in the Middle East - that is to say, as legitimate as the motives of any ruling regime ever are. Most conspicuous is the huge outcry against the Iraq invasion from their own voters. Another is the large numbers of Muslims that both regimes have arranged to have live in their countries. A third is the fact that Europe is much more dependent on Persian Gulf oil than America, and has more to lose if the supply is disrupted - not to mention the European oil interests that will be shouldered aside when Bush's friends take over production in Iraq.
Ledeen apparently doesn't consider that Chirac and Schroeder may be motivated by a desire simply to boost their domestic approval ratings using a can't-lose issue - while avoiding riots by their Muslim populations. But even if that were proven true, it wouldn't count for much to any of the neo-Trots. In fact, the very idea that other countries have interests different from those of the United State is intolerable to the new imperialists. As Steve Sniegoski pointed out to me recently: "The neocons claim that spreading democracy around the world will bring peace, but then find that America's enemies are - democratic countries!"
I think we can tentatively assume that the United State won't find it expedient to start a war with Europe - at least, not for a while. So if Ledeen's idea catches on, we'll probably just be subjected to more inane insults about cheese- and schnitzel-eaters, and more calls to boycott French and German goods by Limbaugh, Hannity, and other reductionist "conservative" charlatans. But a boycott or sanctions may present problems.
It's one thing to boycott French goods - after all, there are other sources of decent wine, cheese, and brandy - but the neo-Trots may be hard-pressed by a boycott of Germany. Besides beverages such as Beck's, St. Pauli Girl, and Liebfraumilch, Germany produces the BMWs, Audis, Mercedes-Benzes, and expensive Braun coffee-makers and shavers adorning the comfortable lives of many of those well-sinecured vicarious warriors. 
In addition, the diplomatic problems caused by such lunacy would undoubtedly lead to difficulties for the Bush administration - especially if they resulted in pressure to pull U.S. troops out of Europe, where there's no legitimate reason for them to be anyway.
April 10, 2003 | antiwar.com
America's allies and enemies alike are baffled. What is going on in the United States? Who is making foreign policy? And what are they trying to achieve? Quasi-Marxist explanations involving big oil or American capitalism are mistaken. Yes, American oil companies and contractors will accept the spoils of the kill in Iraq. But the oil business, with its Arabist bias, did not push for this war any more than it supports the Bush administration's close alliance with Ariel Sharon. Further, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are not genuine "Texas oil men" but career politicians who, in between stints in public life, would have used their connections to enrich themselves as figureheads in the wheat business, if they had been residents of Kansas, or in tech companies, had they been Californians.
Equally wrong is the theory that the American and European civilizations are evolving in opposite directions. The thesis of Robert Kagan, the neoconservative propagandist, that Americans are martial and Europeans pacifist, is complete nonsense. A majority of Americans voted for either Al Gore or Ralph Nader in 2000. Were it not for the overrepresentation of sparsely populated, right-wing states in both the presidential electoral college and the Senate, the White House and the Senate today would be controlled by Democrats, whose views and values, on everything from war to the welfare state, are very close to those of western Europeans.
Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: They assume that the recent revolution in U.S. foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies – such as the selection rather than election of George W. Bush, and Sept. 11 – the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the U.S. population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
The core group now in charge consists of neoconservative defense intellectuals. (They are called "neoconservatives" because many of them started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals before moving to the far right.) Inside the government, the chief defense intellectuals include Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense. He is the defense mastermind of the Bush administration; Donald Rumsfeld is an elderly figurehead who holds the position of defense secretary only because Wolfowitz himself is too controversial. Others include Douglas Feith, No. 3 at the Pentagon; Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Wolfowitz protégé who is Cheney's chief of staff; John R. Bolton, a right-winger assigned to the State Department to keep Colin Powell in check; and Elliott Abrams, recently appointed to head Middle East policy at the National Security Council. On the outside are James Woolsey, the former CIA director, who has tried repeatedly to link both 9/11 and the anthrax letters in the U.S. to Saddam Hussein, and Richard Perle, who has just resigned his unpaid chairmanship of a defense department advisory body after a lobbying scandal. Most of these "experts" never served in the military. But their headquarters is now the civilian defense secretary's office, where these Republican political appointees are despised and distrusted by the largely Republican career soldiers.
Most neoconservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. Their admiration for the Israeli Likud party's tactics, including preventive warfare such as Israel's 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, is mixed with odd bursts of ideological enthusiasm for "democracy." They call their revolutionary ideology "Wilsonianism" (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism. Genuine American Wilsonians believe in self-determination for people such as the Palestinians.
The neocon defense intellectuals, as well as being in or around the actual Pentagon, are at the center of a metaphorical "pentagon" of the Israel lobby and the religious right, plus conservative think tanks, foundations and media empires. Think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) provide homes for neocon "in-and-outers" when they are out of government (Perle is a fellow at AEI). The money comes not so much from corporations as from decades-old conservative foundations, such as the Bradley and Olin foundations, which spend down the estates of long-dead tycoons. Neoconservative foreign policy does not reflect business interests in any direct way. The neocons are ideologues, not opportunists.
The major link between the conservative think tanks and the Israel lobby is the Washington-based and Likud-supporting Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa), which co-opts many non-Jewish defense experts by sending them on trips to Israel. It flew out the retired general Jay Garner, now slated by Bush to be proconsul of occupied Iraq. In October 2000, he cosigned a Jinsa letter that began: "We ... believe that during the current upheavals in Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of [the] Palestinian Authority."
The Israel lobby itself is divided into Jewish and Christian wings. Wolfowitz and Feith have close ties to the Jewish-American Israel lobby. Wolfowitz, who has relatives in Israel, has served as the Bush administration's liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Feith was given an award by the Zionist Organization of America, citing him as a "pro-Israel activist." While out of power in the Clinton years, Feith collaborated with Perle to coauthor a policy paper for Likud that advised the Israeli government to end the Oslo peace process, reoccupy the territories, and crush Yasser Arafat's government.
Such experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in the Republican electorate are Southern Protestant fundamentalists. The religious right believes that God gave all of Palestine to the Jews, and fundamentalist congregations spend millions to subsidize Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
The final corner of the neoconservative pentagon is occupied by several right-wing media empires, with roots – odd as it seems – in the British Commonwealth and South Korea. Rupert Murdoch disseminates propaganda through his Fox television network. His magazine, the Weekly Standard – edited by William Kristol, the former chief of staff of Dan Quayle (vice president, 1989-1993) – acts as a mouthpiece for defense intellectuals such as Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and Woolsey as well as for Sharon's government. The National Interest (of which I was executive editor, 1991-1994) is now funded by Conrad Black, who owns the Jerusalem Post and the Hollinger empire in Britain and Canada.
Strangest of all is the media network centered on the Washington Times – owned by the South Korean messiah (and ex-convict) the Rev. Sun Myung Moon – which owns the newswire UPI. UPI is now run by John O'Sullivan, the ghostwriter for Margaret Thatcher who once worked as an editor for Conrad Black in Canada. Through such channels, the "gotcha!" style of right-wing British journalism, and its Europhobic substance, have contaminated the US conservative movement.
The corners of the neoconservative pentagon were linked together in the 1990s by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), run by Kristol out of the Weekly Standard offices. Using a P.R. technique pioneered by their Trotskyist predecessors, the neocons published a series of public letters whose signatories often included Wolfowitz and other future members of the Bush foreign policy team. They called for the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq and to support Israel's campaigns against the Palestinians (dire warnings about China were another favorite). During Clinton's two terms, these fulminations were ignored by the foreign policy establishment and the mainstream media. Now they are frantically being studied.
How did the neocon defense intellectuals – a small group at odds with most of the U.S. foreign policy elite, Republican as well as Democratic – manage to capture the Bush administration? Few supported Bush during the presidential primaries. They feared that the second Bush would be like the first – a wimp who had failed to occupy Baghdad in the first Gulf War and who had pressured Israel into the Oslo peace process – and that his administration, again like his father's, would be dominated by moderate Republican realists such as Powell, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. They supported the maverick senator John McCain until it became clear that Bush would get the nomination.
Then they had a stroke of luck – Cheney was put in charge of the presidential transition (the period between the election in November and the accession to office in January). Cheney used this opportunity to stack the administration with his hard-line allies. Instead of becoming the de facto president in foreign policy, as many had expected, Secretary of State Powell found himself boxed in by Cheney's right-wing network, including Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Bolton and Libby.
The neocons took advantage of Bush's ignorance and inexperience. Unlike his father, a Second World War veteran who had been ambassador to China, director of the CIA, and vice president, George W was a thinly educated playboy who had failed repeatedly in business before becoming the governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial position (the state's lieutenant governor has more power). His father is essentially a northeastern moderate Republican; George W, raised in west Texas, absorbed the Texan cultural combination of machismo, anti-intellectualism and overt religiosity. The son of upper-class Episcopalian parents, he converted to Southern fundamentalism in a midlife crisis. Fervent Christian Zionism, along with an admiration for macho Israeli soldiers that sometimes coexists with hostility to liberal Jewish-American intellectuals, is a feature of the Southern culture.
The younger Bush was tilting away from Powell and toward Wolfowitz ("Wolfie," as he calls him) even before 9/11 gave him something he had lacked: a mission in life other than following in his dad's footsteps. There are signs of estrangement between the cautious father and the crusading son: Last year, veterans of the first Bush administration, including Baker, Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger, warned publicly against an invasion of Iraq without authorization from Congress and the U.N.
It is not clear that George W fully understands the grand strategy that Wolfowitz and other aides are unfolding. He seems genuinely to believe that there was an imminent threat to the U.S. from Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," something the leading neocons say in public but are far too intelligent to believe themselves. The Project for the New American Century urged an invasion of Iraq throughout the Clinton years, for reasons that had nothing to do with possible links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. Public letters signed by Wolfowitz and others called on the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq, to bomb Hezbollah bases in Lebanon, and to threaten states such as Syria and Iran with U.S. attacks if they continued to sponsor terrorism. Claims that the purpose is not to protect the American people but to make the Middle East safe for Israel are dismissed by the neocons as vicious anti-Semitism. Yet Syria, Iran and Iraq are bitter enemies, with their weapons pointed at each other, and the terrorists they sponsor target Israel rather than the U.S. The neocons urge war with Iran next, though by any rational measurement North Korea's new nuclear arsenal is, for the U.S., a far greater problem.
So that is the bizarre story of how neoconservatives took over Washington and steered the U.S. into a Middle Eastern war unrelated to any plausible threat to the U.S. and opposed by the public of every country in the world except Israel. The frightening thing is the role of happenstance and personality. After the al-Qaida attacks, any U.S. president would likely have gone to war to topple bin Laden's Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. But everything that the U.S. has done since then would have been different had America's 18th century electoral rules not given Bush the presidency and had Cheney not used the transition period to turn the foreign policy executive into a PNAC reunion.
For a British equivalent, one would have to imagine a Tory government, with Downing Street and Whitehall controlled by followers of the Rev. Ian Paisley, extreme Euroskeptics, empire loyalists and Blimpish military types – all determined, for a variety of strategic or religious reasons, to invade Egypt. Their aim would be to regain the Suez Canal as the first step in a campaign to restore the British empire. Yes, it really is that weird.
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The Last but not Least
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Last modified: October, 01, 2017