Sunday, June 11, 2006

On Neocons

[ This was supposed to be a big grand post where I figured out the neocons once and for all, or at least tossed around a few ideas about what they might be up to. That's quite an ambitious undertaking, and I never really finished this post. It starts out with complete paragraphs and devolves into incomplete notes, and eventually just sort of peters out. It's been sitting around as a draft post for about a month now, and I don't feel like adding to it at the moment, so I figure I might as well just post it as-is, since it's either that or delete it. Maybe I'll come back and polish it up later, or maybe I'll just post a new followup later on, depending on how I feel. 7/13/06.]

This is yet another in my ongoing series of posts trying to get a handle on neocons, what makes them tick, and how they've managed to keep their scaly hands on the levers of power despite the Iraq fiasco. I don't have a particular thesis here, exactly, other than that neocons are a malignant force in our society and they need to be stopped.

To start off, here's an alarming article I came across yesterday that examines "Straussism", the ideas of Leo Strauss, the neocons' founder and patron saint. There's more to present-day neoconservatism than the founder's ideas, so this is only part of the picture, but it's an important part.

Two of the traits the article mentions are things I'd noticed before:

  • Just about every international disagreement is presented as a choice between war (hot or cold) or Munich-style unconditional surrender to an implacable foe. It goes well beyond the Mideast, although the current focus is there because they make such fantastic moustache-twirling melodrama villains. But neocons see the rest of the world the same way. Cheney's busy trying to restart a cold war with Russia, and Bush is already accusing the new president of Bolivia of being antidemocratic. Here's a story I came across yesterday about the administration's ongoing foreign policy bungling in Latin America. Over a few short years, they turned nearly every government in the region against us. This would be front page news if it happened somewhere that the public cares more about.

    I think in the end they'd rather make enemies than allies. It confirms their paranoid view of the world, and it's a way of drumming up future business (i.e. war).

  • Another interesting point is that neocons aren't trying to convert the public and convince everyone to be a neocon. As the first article noted, there's one ideology for the leaders, and another for the rabble. The vast majority of the population, in the neocons' eyes, is only useful as cannon fodder in our perpetual war against just about everyone else. Apocalyptic Christian fundamentalism serves this purpose admirably. Just so long as the elite isn't required to join the peons' church, or abide by the peons' rules or morality, anyway. That would go against the natural order of things.

  • It occurs to me that the neocons isolating the US from our allies was a deliberate strategy, not a misstep. Trying to recreate (perceived) Israeli situation: surrounded by hostile powers, with almost no friends, militant, siege mentality. An article I can't find anymore compared neocons relationship to the country as a domestic abuser to victim.

  • These guys are a deeply strange bunch of people. Trotskyites, even ex-Trotskyites, are an exotic species, far outside the usual range of US politics. Others abandoning all of liberalism over 60's chaos. Still fighting over the 60's now -- pathetic.

  • Curious mix of naivete and cynicism. Playing Risk with the world.

  • Example: Ledeen - optimism that Iran revolution is just around corner, we'll be greeted as liberators, etc. Saying this for years.

  • Example: Wolfowitz - childish dream of empires; creepy conservative love of Roman Empire; see Holland's Rubicon book. I was basically a neocon at age 12 or so, listening to Reagan blather on. Maps, history books, etc., easy to get sucked in, but easy to outgrow, too. Essentially a childish impulse.

  • Example: Kristol - Iraq a minor speed bump on road to Iran war. Neocons don't believe in feedback. Don't learn from mistakes, ignore them. How people react to your behavior doesn't matter, no chance your actions will anger anyone, there's no downside to making enemies and losing friends. Can't imagine why anyone would disagree with their ideas, so simply dismiss other opinions. Double or nothing, "flight forward". Not just right by definition, but successful by definition.

  • Egotism, refusal to acknowledge any faults or mistakes, because they aren't part of the Plan.

  • Hubris, something the classicist twits (VD Hanson) ought to have heard of once or twice.

  • Example: Jay Garner - Noticed was wearing one of those magnetic bracelets on TV one time. Belief in faith/magic. Leave in 30/60/90 days, hand keys to Chalabi & go home. Why didn't that happen? Bad plan, but there was no plan B.

  • New Iraqi flag, flat tax, neocons experimenting on Iraq. Vs. "aggressive nationalists" (cheney, rummy) who don't care what happens to the place, so long as we win.

"Wilsonism" and liberals - Somalia (GHWB started it, not Clinton), Haiti, Bosnia/Kosovo, Darfur. We should be more skeptical, don't be a tool in the hands of the warmongers. We aren't omnipotent. What could we have actually done about Rwanda? Or Somalia?
(what can we learn from the paleocons?) - healthy skepticism about whether it's any of our business, and whether we can really change "those people".

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