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Interesting Insights From ex-Neocon

Simon W. Moon

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A brief note for those who're unfamiliar with Mr. ***uyama, who was widely regarded as an influential neoconservative thinkers, from the horse himself:
"I have numerous affiliations with the different strands of the neoconservative movement. I was a student of Strauss's protégé Allan Bloom, who wrote the bestseller "The Closing of the American Mind"; worked at Rand and with Wohlstetter on Persian Gulf issues; and worked also on two occasions for Wolfowitz."
Excerpts from his recent article, After Neoconservatism:
If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell in 1965, it was the limits of social engineering. Writers ... argued that ambitious efforts to seek social justice often left societies worse off ... because they ... required massive state intervention that disrupted pre-existing social relations ([eg] forced busing) or ... produced unanticipated consequences (... an increase in single-parent families as a result of welfare).

How ... did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way that the cold war ended.

Ronald Reagan was ridiculed by sophisticated people on the American left and in Europe for labeling the Soviet Union and its allies an "evil empire" and for challenging Mikhail Gorbachev not just to reform his system but also to "tear down this wall." ... hopelessly out of touch by the bien-pensant centrist foreign-policy experts at places like the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department. That community felt that the Reaganites were dangerously utopian in their hopes for actually winning, as opposed to managing, the cold war.

And yet total victory in the cold war is exactly what happened ...
Communism collapsed within a couple of years because of its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions, and with regime change in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact threat to the West evaporated.

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war ... ... an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside.
... Kristol and Kagan ... in ... "Present Dangers":
"To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic. There is something perverse in declaring the impossibility of promoting democratic change abroad in light of the record of the past three decades."
This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq.
While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. ... the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.

... 1990's, neoconservatism ... fed by several other intellectual streams. One ... from the students of the German Jewish political theorist Leo Strauss ... a serious reader of philosophical texts who did not express opinions on contemporary politics or policy issues. ... concerned with the "crisis of modernity" brought on by the relativism of Nietzsche and Heidegger, as well as the fact that neither the claims of religion nor deeply-held opinions about the nature of the good life could be banished from politics, as the thinkers of the European Enlightenment had hoped. Another ... from Albert Wohlstetter, a Rand Corporation strategist who was the teacher of Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad (the current American ambassador to Iraq) and Paul Wolfowitz (the former deputy secretary of defense)...

In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist [as contrasted to neoconservatism's Trotskyite beginnings]; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States.
To me, elements of this are like missing puzzle pieces tha help to complete my picture of the how and why of recent history.

When the ME picture is viewed through the lenses of the collapse of the USSR, some of the pro-war rhetoric makes more sense. Of coure the obvious problem is the exact same problem that always accompanies argument by analogy - analguous or not, they ain't the same thing.

Perhaps Mr. ***uyama has a point and offers a valid insight. Maybe the Admin et al really did think that they would be "heroes in error" as Chalabi says. That is, perhaps the Admin decided that even though the basis for the war was not the best, the positive results would make the murky justifications irrlelvant (politically at least). Perhaps this is way they justified to themselves the case that they made for war.
 

danarhea

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Simon W. Moon said:
A brief note for those who're unfamiliar with Mr. ***uyama, who was widely regarded as an influential neoconservative thinkers, from the horse himself:
"I have numerous affiliations with the different strands of the neoconservative movement. I was a student of Strauss's protégé Allan Bloom, who wrote the bestseller "The Closing of the American Mind"; worked at Rand and with Wohlstetter on Persian Gulf issues; and worked also on two occasions for Wolfowitz."
Excerpts from his recent article, After Neoconservatism:
If there was a single overarching theme to the domestic social policy critiques issued by those who wrote for the neoconservative journal The Public Interest, founded by Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell in 1965, it was the limits of social engineering. Writers ... argued that ambitious efforts to seek social justice often left societies worse off ... because they ... required massive state intervention that disrupted pre-existing social relations ([eg] forced busing) or ... produced unanticipated consequences (... an increase in single-parent families as a result of welfare).

How ... did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way that the cold war ended.

Ronald Reagan was ridiculed by sophisticated people on the American left and in Europe for labeling the Soviet Union and its allies an "evil empire" and for challenging Mikhail Gorbachev not just to reform his system but also to "tear down this wall." ... hopelessly out of touch by the bien-pensant centrist foreign-policy experts at places like the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department. That community felt that the Reaganites were dangerously utopian in their hopes for actually winning, as opposed to managing, the cold war.

And yet total victory in the cold war is exactly what happened ...
Communism collapsed within a couple of years because of its internal moral weaknesses and contradictions, and with regime change in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact threat to the West evaporated.

The way the cold war ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war ... ... an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow at the core and would crumble with a small push from outside.
... Kristol and Kagan ... in ... "Present Dangers":
"To many the idea of America using its power to promote changes of regime in nations ruled by dictators rings of utopianism. But in fact, it is eminently realistic. There is something perverse in declaring the impossibility of promoting democratic change abroad in light of the record of the past three decades."
This overoptimism about postwar transitions to democracy helps explain the Bush administration's incomprehensible failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that subsequently emerged in Iraq.
While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. ... the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.

... 1990's, neoconservatism ... fed by several other intellectual streams. One ... from the students of the German Jewish political theorist Leo Strauss ... a serious reader of philosophical texts who did not express opinions on contemporary politics or policy issues. ... concerned with the "crisis of modernity" brought on by the relativism of Nietzsche and Heidegger, as well as the fact that neither the claims of religion nor deeply-held opinions about the nature of the good life could be banished from politics, as the thinkers of the European Enlightenment had hoped. Another ... from Albert Wohlstetter, a Rand Corporation strategist who was the teacher of Richard Perle, Zalmay Khalilzad (the current American ambassador to Iraq) and Paul Wolfowitz (the former deputy secretary of defense)...

In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist [as contrasted to neoconservatism's Trotskyite beginnings]; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States.
To me, elements of this are like missing puzzle pieces tha help to complete my picture of the how and why of recent history.

When the ME picture is viewed through the lenses of the collapse of the USSR, some of the pro-war rhetoric makes more sense. Of coure the obvious problem is the exact same problem that always accompanies argument by analogy - analguous or not, they ain't the same thing.

Perhaps Mr. ***uyama has a point and offers a valid insight. Maybe the Admin et al really did think that they would be "heroes in error" as Chalabi says. That is, perhaps the Admin decided that even though the basis for the war was not the best, the positive results would make the murky justifications irrlelvant (politically at least). Perhaps this is way they justified to themselves the case that they made for war.
I posted this a few days ago in a thread called "The Death of the Neocons". Francis ***uyama quit PNAC last year, has written a book on how the Neocon idea has failed America, and compares this administration to the Bolsheviks in Russia. This is not the first time the comparison has been made. Lew Rockwell first coined the term "Bushevik".

The days of the Neocons are over, as Republicans, along with various criminal courts, begin to rid the party of these parasites.
 
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GarzaUK

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Very interesting article. I've often said recently the social engineering experiment of the neo-cons has failed in Iraq. I'm happpy to hear an ex-neo con say it as well.
 

oldreliable67

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Very interesting article indeed! Thanks for posting it. One comment (among others) that struck me was this one:

"...[how] did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the United States had both the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem..."

I tend to agree that the 'root cause' of terrorism lies in the ME's lack of democracy (thats the general case - more specifically, the root cause is the lack of economic interdepence that democracy, 'rule sets' of laws that facilitate enterprise, and human rights facilitates).

But how arrogant of anyone to think that we have both the 'widsom [sic] and the ability to fix this problem'! But again, thats the 'general problem'. The more specific problem, IMO, is that we are a nation that seeks instant gratification. That is, we think a quick war in Iraq and poof! a democratic government emerges and sets an example to which the rest of the ME will immediately henceforth aspire. Wrong. It might happen eventually, but it will -and is - sorely taxing our tendencies for immediate gratification.

I am in agreement with the aims of pursuing/aiding/abetting representative governments in the ME in the hopes that such will facilitate significantly greater ME economic integration into the rest of the world, an integration that will extend down to a growing middle class and not just benefit the 'elites'. We may or may not have the 'wisdom and ability' even though we have demonstrated the will to do so. I fervently hope that we are successful in our efforts; unfortuntely, our methods thus far appear to leave a lot to be desired. But, in the overall scheme of things, this is still very early in the game.
 

Simon W. Moon

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oldreliable67 said:
I tend to agree that the 'root cause' of terrorism lies in the ME's lack of democracy (thats the general case - more specifically, the root cause is the lack of economic interdepence that democracy, 'rule sets' of laws that facilitate enterprise, and human rights facilitates).
I tend to agree on the vague principle.
For most folks if there are peaceful methods of effecting change, they will choose these over the very messy business of getting folks killed. I suspect that for most folks, resorting to violence follows a realization that peaceful means are a dead-end.
That's the core coolness of democracy - it allows for peaceable changes and transfers of power. It's got to be more efficient to have elections than coups. This sort of stability when coupled with credibility allows a country to acquire the cash flow necessary to make a govt work. W/o either one the big money stays home or goes somewhere else. Who wants to put their money into a country that may not honor its fiscal agreements in the coming years for whatever reason?

oldreliable67 said:
I am in agreement with the aims of pursuing/aiding/abetting representative governments in the ME in the hopes that such will facilitate significantly greater ME economic integration into the rest of the world, an integration that will extend down to a growing middle class and not just benefit the 'elites'.
I agree as above.

oldreliable67 said:
We may or may not have the 'wisdom and ability' even though we have demonstrated the will to do so. I fervently hope that we are successful in our efforts; unfortuntely, our methods thus far appear to leave a lot to be desired. But, in the overall scheme of things, this is still very early in the game.
It seems something have to grow indigenously. While we can certainly help and promote, it doesn't seem that massive Fed Govt intervention is any better of a solution for the problems of folks on the other side of the planet than it is for the folks here in the US.
 
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danarhea

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Simon W. Moon said:
I tend to agree on the vague principle.
For most folks if there are peaceful methods of effecting change, they will choose these over the very messy business of getting folks killed. I suspect that for most folks, resorting to violence follows a realization that peaceful means are a dead-end.
That's the core coolness of democracy - it allows for peaceable changes and transfers of power. It's got to be more efficient to have elections than coups. This sort of stability when coupled with credibility allows a country to acquire the cash flow necessary to make a govt work. W/o either one the big money stays home or goes somewhere else. Who wants to put their money into a country that may not honor its fiscal agreements in the coming years for whatever reason?

I agree as above.

It seems something have to grow indigenously. While we can certainly help and promote, it doesn't seem that massive Fed Govt intervention is any better of a solution for the problems of folks on the other side of the planet than it is for the folks here in the US.
This is really the crux of why PNAC did not work. You cannot force Democracy on others at the point of a gun. Not only that, but peaceful methods really do work. Just look at the Soviet Union, whose goal was, in the words of Nikita Kruschev, was to bury us. the Russians wanted us dead, and images of the Cuba Missle Crisis, Kruschev banging his shoe on his desk, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and many others, are still burned into my memories.

We really had no choice on dealing with them. The military option was out, since they also had lots of nukes. By opening up our culture to the Soviets, having cultural exchanges, and by allowing the Russians to see how much of a better life they could gain by adopting Democratic principles, we defeated them, and their system collapsed. You can give credit to both Nixon and Reagan for that. Reagan took a hard line, but left the door open for Capitalism to pretty much trump Communism.

While we had no options but peaceful ones in dealing with the Soviets, we did have choices in dealing with the Middle East. In this case, we made the wrong ones. The death throes of the Neocon movement are proof positive of this.
 

GarzaUK

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danarhea said:
We really had no choice on dealing with them. The military option was out, since they also had lots of nukes. By opening up our culture to the Soviets, having cultural exchanges, and by allowing the Russians to see how much of a better life they could gain by adopting Democratic principles, we defeated them, and their system collapsed. You can give credit to both Nixon and Reagan for that. Reagan took a hard line, but left the door open for Capitalism to pretty much trump Communism.
That is exactly what the EU did with Turkey. The EU tempted Turkey with the possibility of EU membership and free trade with Western Europe, but only if it followed a few rules. Before this Turkey was a country dominated by Islamic law and hell bent on destroying Greece.
Now look at Turkey, the first democratic, secular Islamic country ever in the world. All this without a bullet being fired.

Democracy is the LAST thing we want to bring to the ME at the current time. Every country would vote for radical Islamic parties because their hatred for us is at an all time high. All this talk about Syria, ha, I would rather that secular dictator be in charge than an Islamic fascist government.
 
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