Sunday, February 27, 2011

Neocons and the Revolution - By Jacob Heilbrunn

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Neocons and the Revolution - By Jacob Heilbrunn

BY JACOB HEILBRUNN | FEBRUARY 23, 2011 In August 1997, I visited the retired diplomat at her spacious corner office at the American Enterprise Institute. "I guess they thought it was worth publishing," she spluttered. What had got her so steamed was my allusion to a recent philippic Robert Kagan had published in Commentary called "Democracies and Double Standards." In his article, Kagan repudiated Kirkpatrick's famous 1979 essay "Dictatorships & Double Standards" in the same journal, which denounced US President Jimmy Carter and caught the eye of his successor Ronald Reagan, who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations. As Kirkpatrick saw it, Carter had hustled the Shah of Iran and the leader of Nicaragua, both of them pro-American autocrats, out of office. The results were disastrous. Friendly authoritarians were gone; true totalitarians were taking over in both places. While authoritarian regimes of the right could mellow over time into democracies, totalitarians ones of the left would not. Anyway, it required "decades, if not centuries," she observed, for "people to acquire the necessary disciplines and habits" to create a viable democracy. Kagan was having none of it. He trumpeted a new neoconservative doctrine: Away with the cold, amoral realism of the Kirkpatrick school and in with a boisterous championing of what amounted to liberal interventionism, promoting democracy, the very "essence," as he put it, of American nationhood. Kagan bemoaned the fact, as he saw it, that both the right, out of despair at what it viewed as the cultural degeneration of America during the Clinton era, and the left, out of reflexive hostility to military intervention, had come to embrace the Kirkpatrick doctrine. He praised Bill Clinton's readiness to send the Marines to Haiti and condemned a "mood of despair" that had overcome many foreign-policy experts. In Kagan's view, America had to push Middle Eastern regimes to become more democratic, not settle for a cozy embrace with ruling elites. "We could and should be holding authoritarian regimes in the Middle East to higher standards of democracy, and encouraging democratic voices within those societies," he announced, "even it means risking some instability in some places." Sound familiar? The debate between the two "Ks," Kagan and Kirkpatrick, has once again flared up as the Middle East experiences a wave of uprisings. Already Egypt and Tunisia have seen their authoritarian leaders toppled. Who is next? Colonel Qaddafi? The king of Jordan? The House of Saud? And will their successors steer an anti-American and anti-Israel course? For Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a neoconservative thinker who leans toward realism, the answer is not so clear. Krauthammer has landed in the same camp as many in Israel, who fear instability in the region more than they welcome change. He noted in a Feb. 4 column, "Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French and the Russian and the Iranian revolutions. Indeed in Iran, the revolution only succeeded -- the shah was long opposed by the mullahs -- when the merchants, the housewives, the students and the secularists joined to bring him down. And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ruthless and ideologically committed -- the radical Islamists. This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time." For good measure, he announced that having former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei in power would be a "disaster." (How would he know?) Meanwhile, neocon patron and former Vice President Dick Cheney declared that Hosni Mubarak was "a good man." For fellow neocon travelers William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, and Paul Wolfowitz, by contrast, the Middle East tumult is cause for bliss and a new dawn, nothing less than the vindication of the Reagan (and George W. Bush) doctrines of spreading freedom whenever and wherever possible. Writing in the Weekly Standard in a Feb. 14 editorial titled "Stand for Freedom," Kristol thus denounced the conservative doomsayers who see an inevitable rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. The ouster of Mubarak is not a replay of Iran in 1979, Kristol concluded: "The Egyptian people want to exercise their capacity for self-government. American conservatives, heirs to our own bold and far-sighted revolutionaries, should help them." In the Washington Post, Kristol decried Obama for his "passivity." And in the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page has advocated bombing Libyan airfields, Wolfowitz declared, "The US should come down on the side of the Libyan people -- and of our principles and values. The longer the current bloodshed continues, the worse the aftermath will be." So is the neocon house about to crack up? Will the split between the movement's realist and idealist wings sunder its unity over what's best for Israel and America? Revenge of the Neocons? It is bemusing to see all these neo-con apologists come out in force to claim credit for the changes in the Middle East as if no one else but the neo-cons advocated democracy in that region. For last few days, I have been reading articles after articles trying to prop up neo-con policies in the Middle East. How can any one who is not disingenuous forget about the failure of tactics used by neocons to spread democracy in that overall region? It is like saying me as a researcher always wanting to cure AIDS and taking prop for some obscure Chinese scientists' invention of magic formula that cures AIDS. What nonsense! They had a pretty good shot at power in the American government during the last administration's first term, a fair chance at translating their intentions into policy. Not quite a decade later, we see a number of nations sloughing off decrepit autocracies and the United States less able to support progress toward something better -- largely because the neoconservatives in the Bush administration frittered away America's strength and reputation in Iraq. Of course they don't take responsibility for that. As Bush Republicans, they never take responsibility for anything. Neoconservatives are in character when they now claim credit for things other people, in Egypt for example, are now doing. They will always know they are right. Exactly, a current US President can't even show full support for a democratic revolution in fear of appearing to overreach in the Middle East due to the events that occurred during the last administration and deep suspicion of US policies stemming from misguided foreign policy adventures and here are opinion makers singing the praise of same policymakers. What a shame! In August 1997, I visited the retired diplomat at her spacious corner office haber at the American Enterprise Institute. "I guess they thought it was worth publishing," she spluttered. What had got her so gazeteler steamed was my allusion to a recent philippic Robert Kagan had published in Commentary haber called . . . legacy is forever dominated by the disastrous invasion of Iraq and the removal of the only serious obstacle to Iran. Everything else, I think, will pale in comparison to that galactic blunder -- especially as Iran plays its cards well toward regional dominance. The idea of bringing democracy was considered by these fools to be an automatic result of Iraqis' anticipated orgasmic reaction to our years of sanction, followed by invasion and an occupation marked by geniuses such as the deep thinker who disarmed and unemployed the Iraqi army. Only when the dreaded WMDs failed to materialize did nation-building become the primary focus. Kagan seems to be managing his post-debacle career rather well, he seems to be regarded well in intellectual circles. Krauthammer and Kristol are knee-jerk shills for israel. If israel dropped a nuclear bomb on American soil, both of them would try to rationalize it as the action of a solid and reliable ally. Feith and Wolfowitz have subsequently earned their fool's bell-hats. Abrams is a convicted criminal who misled Congress. Wolfowitz sank himself with a sex and patronage scandal at the World Bank worthy of reality television. I don't consider Rumsfeld a neocon thinker, he's a slimy bureaucratic operator and a war criminal. Just for the record, I think Iran is much more suitable for dominant player in the region than the Saudi degenerocracy. Iran educates its people, and is a much more modern state than the comical descendants of a Bedouin tribe appointed by the British to rule a jerry-rigged country. BY DAVID BOSCO...

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