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What is a neocon? (Foreign policy edition)

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Point of Order, Aug 23, 2007.

  1. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    An SportsJournalists.commer recently asked me to define neocon. A neocon is one who subscribes to the political philosophy called neoconservatism. Neoconservatism has many facets of political philosophy, but it is most infamous for its doctrine of preemption in foreign affairs. Bill Kristol of Weekly Standard infamy is a staunch neocon. This analysis of the current state of Mr. Kristol and of neoconservative philosophy is summed up nicely in this TNR piece by Jonathan Chait.


    It's hard to believe that, not so long ago, neoconservative foreign policy thinking overflowed with ideas and idealism. The descent has been steep, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the pages of The Weekly Standard--particularly in William Kristol's editorials, which have come to consist of stubborn denials of any bad news, diatribes about internal enemies, and harangues against the cowardice of Republican dissenters.

    Kristol's sensibility is perfectly summed up in one representative passage from a recent issue. The topic was The New Republic's decision to publish an essay by Scott Beauchamp, an American soldier serving in Iraq, detailing some repugnant acts he said he and his comrades committed. Legitimate questions have been raised about this essay's veracity. (We've been publishing updates on our continuing efforts to get answers to them at tnr.com.) But Kristol rushed past these questions, immediately declaring the piece a "fiction." Offering up his interpretation of why tnr would publish such slanders, he concluded, in an editorial titled, "They Don't Really Support the Troops":

    Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the
    troops they claim still to support. They sense that history is progressing away from them--that
    these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, could still win the war, that they are
    proud of their service, and that they will be future leaders of this country.

    "The fact remains that it is today more possible than ever before to envision a future in which the Middle East and the Muslim world truly are transformed," (Kristol) insisted. "For this, no one will deserve more credit than George W. Bush." Of course, this was an opinion, not a "fact." But the failure to distinguish between fact and opinion is typical of his mentality.

    Next, there is Kristol's assumption that to concede that troops do terrible things in a war is to denounce the war as a whole. Of course, George Orwell, among many others, has written about the ways that the experience of war--and, especially, foreign occupation-- can blunt moral sensibilities. It should be possible to believe this and still believe in the overall justness of a war. (Certainly Orwell himself was no pacifist.) There is an old leftist belief that, if soldiers have done horrifying things, then the war is evil. This turns out to be the Standard's view as well.

    Then there is Kristol's accusation that critics of the war don't "support the troops." I wonder if, back in his youthful days teaching political philosophy, Kristol ever imagined he would one day find himself mouthing knucklehead slogans like this. I shouldn't need to say this, but apparently I do: I strongly support and respect the troops and would desperately like them to succeed. My respect, unlike Kristol's, extends to soldiers who don't share my politics, and isn't contingent on the fantasy that all of them are saints.

    The theme of traitorous liberals is becoming a Standard trope. Last week's cover depicted an American soldier seen from behind and inside a circular lens--as if caught in the sights of a hostile sniper--beneath the headline, "does washington have his back?" The Weimar-era German right adopted the metaphor of liberals stabbing soldiers in the back. Kristol is embracing the metaphor of liberals shooting soldiers in the back. I suppose this is progress, of sorts.

    There was a time when neoconservatives sought to hold the moral and intellectual high ground. There was some- thing inspiring in their vision of America as a different kind of superpower--a liberal hegemon deploying its might on behalf of subjugated peoples, rather than mere self-interest. As the Iraq war has curdled, the idealism and liberalism have drained out of the neoconservative vision. What remains is a noxious residue of bullying militarism. Kristol's arguments are merely the same pro-war arguments that have been used historically by right-wing parties throughout the world: Complexity is weakness, dissent is treason, willpower determines all.

    Kristol's good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he's too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.
  2. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Jesus Christ, and I asked you not to.
  3. Precious Roy

    Precious Roy Active Member

    The only thing I can describe what a neocon is-- It's a person, who when he watches the Matrix, he actually believes what he's seeing is real. [/LewisBlack]
  4. westcoastvol

    westcoastvol Active Member

    Fuckin' A-The Art of War...now available as an e-book!

    That was just awesome ad placement.
  5. Boomer7

    Boomer7 Active Member

    One of the best pieces on just how friggin' crazy the neoconservative moment was (is). You'll have whiplash from shaking your head so much while reading this.

  6. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    The picture keeps getting clearer and clearer...
  7. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    And clearer even still...


    August 31, 2007
    Test Marketing

    If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington. Rubin can’t confirm his friend’s story; neither can I. But it’s worth a heads-up:

    They [the source’s institution] have “instructions” (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is “plenty.”
  8. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    . . . which would explain W's Labor Day "Well, we're almost done, here . . . isn't everything wonderful?"

    Sure, if you're Big Oil, and/or Halliburton.

    The public gets knocked down . . . and approached as if we're all spastics, often enough . . .
    and folks get REALLY pissed off.

    Don't let your respective doors hit your asses on the way out, jackoffs.
  9. RokSki

    RokSki New Member

    NeoConservatives are, generally, exactly what the name implies. That is, they are former non-conservatives who have come to 'see the light' as regards conservatism. So, as they have switched their political beliefs (and also as their beliefs often differ from more 'traditional' conservatives who, for example, might favor isolationism [Pat Buchanan comes to mind]), they are 'new' (neo) conservatives.

    Several of the most strident of their members are what could be called 'second-generation' NeoCons. Bill Kristol is son of Irving Kristol, himself a first-generation NeoCon, I believe. John Podhoretz is the son of first-generation NeoCon Norman Podhoretz.

    If I recall correctly, NeoCons began to 'defect' to conservatism from the liberal side of the aisle in the wake of the Cold War. I think the spread of Communist troops in various areas of the world convinced NeoCons that the best way to achieve America's interests was through a very vigorous use of the military. The critical piece of this convincing, I believe, was that the USSR was funding states which were antagonistic with Israel. And so, in order to preserve Israel and her role as the democratic buffer of the 'Free World' in the Middle East, America had to completely commit to mobilizing its military both to defensively protect Israel from the Communist-supplied Arab/Muslim nations as well as offensively (as Point of Order correctly states) preempt any future ability of those who would do Israel -- and through Israel it's partner the USA -- any harm.

    Obviously, this concept of a preemptive military force has survived the era of the cold war for the NeoCons. The reason why many who are against the NeoCon philosophy are labeled as Anti-Semites is because much of the focus of the military engagements which NeoCons seek (or seek to preempt) regard Israel. Again, Israel's well-being and basic preservation was/is a major rationale for the beginnings of the movement itself. Because that is the case, it is not surprising that many NeoConservatives (Wolfowitz, Kristol, Podhoretz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, ...) are members of the Jewish faith.

    There are other aspects/underpinnings of NeoConservatism, things such as Trotskyism and other shared or similar intellectual/philosophical leanings and/or educations of its most-noted proponents. As I haven't researched the topic in some time, many of the particulars escape me (or I'm just getting old and starting to forget). But there is an enormous amount of material on all facets of the subject which is available both on the 'net and in numerous books. I'm sorry I don't have any specific links to provide as this post is basically from memory.

    NeoConservatives constituted (at least the majority of) the membership of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) group. I believe the group existed as an ad-hoc think-tank and was financed independently. The group drafted a series of 'position papers' (papers regarding public policy-making decisions which are intended to be studied and taken seriously by government officials) on various issues. One such issue was the importance/strategic value of invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. PNAC had plenty of influence, IMO, of turning 9/11 into an invasion of Iraq. And many of PNAC's members/supporters (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Kristol) were -- and remain -- the most delusional about how the conflict would, is and will go. One recalls the "greeted with flowers" (paraphrase) statement by Wolfowitz as regarded how American/Coalition forces would be greeted by Iraqis.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

  11. Point of Order

    Point of Order Active Member

    Here it comes... an inside the Beltway campaign to soften up opposition to a war with Iran.


    In a post today, Rubin said the drumbeat has already started. He points to a Newsweek piece by AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht contending that designating the IRGC a terrorist group "will do little to change the current state of play" between the U.S. and Iran, but that diplomacy is an exercise in futility, as the Iranians, "determined to sow chaos beyond [their] borders," are "accomplished practitioners of hard power." Rubin said he didn't know specifically that Gerecht was part of the campaign, but he pointed to the argument as fitting neatly within the pattern.

    Similarly, on Monday, AEI will host two events that Rubin considers part of the drumbeat. First, that morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will give a speech contending that the war on terrorism needs to be viewed as "a world war that pits civilization against terrorists and their state sponsors who wish to impose a new dark age," according to AEI's preview. That afternoon, AEI brings together a panel featuring former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, retired General Jack Keane, who helped design the surge in Iraq, and longtime Iran hawk Michael Ledeen to discuss Ledeen's new book, The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots’ Quest for Destruction. Rubin didn't mention it, but the Heritage Foundation recently hosted an interagency Bush administration war game attempting to anticipate Iranian responses to a U.S. bombing campaign.

    None of this is to say that a military attack is imminent. But Rubin says that two conclusions are possible from the increased talk of war with Iran.

    First, the administration "does not believe the war on terror is a war against al-Qaeda." Al-Qaeda would probably be the greatest beneficiary of U.S.-Iranian hostility thanks to a lack of administration focus on it. (It would also place the U.S. in the awkward position of fighting an affirmed enemy of the jihadist organization.)
  12. Unemployable ever again, if god is just.
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