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Posts Tagged ‘Neoconservatives’

Neocons never seem to learn.  Even after the Somalia disaster and the dubious win against Serbia, their first recommended response to 9/11 was to attack Iraq.  Public opinion required them to delay things for a while–in spite of a vigorous debate–but after a short and ineffectual campaign in Afghanistan, they finally go their wish.  We’re still in Iraq, and we’re also plodding around Afghanistan, Iran is stronger, and this is all in the name of spreading democracy as the antidote to terrorism. None of these campaigns is a great showpiece of neoconservative strategic thinking.

So, this week, Charles Krauthammer, perhaps the most bellicose neocon, has suggested the US should be invading Libya and arming the rebels.  Similar sentiments were uttered by his fellow travelers regarding Egypt.  Worse, some Republicans mindlessly pile on Obama’s leadership deficit in this arena, even though his leadership problem is not his caution regarding a military response, but rather his rhetorical invitations for rebellions among strange and unpredictable peoples coupled with his estrangement of longterm and reliable partners.  Who are these rebels?  What do they stand for?  Can we do any good for them or ourselves?  If we intervene, how long will we be there? Do we really want democracy among people shouting Allah Akbar?  I don’t want Obama’s “leadership” here, especially if it means we’ll be putting our troops into harms way without a clear idea of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Qadaffi is a dirtbag, terrorist supporter, whom I haven’t heard much from since Reagan sorted him out in 1986.  But even a nutcase who keeps a lid on things is preferable to anarchy.  What I don’t understand, or rather what I understand and have great contempt for, is the continued call by neoconservatives for mindless, hubristic US interventions after what has gone down in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Worse still is the Pavlovian Obama-hatred among many conservatives that cannot see when, in spite of himself, he is doing something useful, in this case by not doing very much.  Conservatives have been easily manipulated into supporting wars that serve no American interest whatsoever; it is time conservatives woke up, returned to their nationalist roots, and rejected the Wilsonian “global cop” role once and for all.

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Hope and Change

There’s a few interesting signs that the western world is awakening from its slumber.  David Cameron, the UK’s prime minister, announces that multiculturalism has failed and that Muslims are not assimilating and it’s their fault as well as the fault of the idiotic multiculturalist philosophy.

Certain neoconservatives, typically perhaps but still in a welcome move, have noted that democracy and the Arab world do not mix.  Their motive, of course, is not idealism but love of Israel.  But it’s good to see that a generally good thing, self government, is being recognized as bad when it leads to bad things.  The real question is why these fools were so foolish about the prospects of democracy in Iraq.  My guess is that Bush’s idealism and pathological refusal to make generalizations about other cultures had a lot to do with it.  And for many neoconservatives (and real conservatives too) the whole democracy thing was window dressing to take out a regime that was perceived as hostile to US interests and Israeli interests.

Finally, aSenate committee has noted that Nidal Hasan, the Army Major who shot up his infidel colleagues, could have been stopped if the Army and the other authorities were not so hidebound by political correctness.  Seriously, if we mean to win this war on Islamic extremism, we must name the enemy.  Instead, it’s as if the US was at war with “certain German extremists” in World War II rather than the entire German nation, which as a practical matter was the case then and now with respect to a goodly swath of the Muslim world.

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I think it’s low down and pathetic that McCain’s operatives are blaming Palin for his loss.  If anything, she pumped him up.  Surely the proposed Lieberman pick would have been a complete flop.  McCain did better in the popular vote than I ever expected considering what an unpleasant mediocrity he was on the stump and considering how much he alienated conservatives with his aggressive attacks on immigration reformers.

Palin is hated because of who she is.  Like Mike Huckabee, she represents a populist appeal and rural way of life and value system that is absolutely terrifying for the “K Street Conservatives.”  The professional punditariat in Washington DC and New York are indifferent or hostile to everything that matters to their base, including abortion and gay marriage as well as gun control and immigration.  I don’t agree with everything from the populist wing, but I do share their concerns and their necessity as a group to a well balanced country, as I argued here earlier. 

Our elites are more out of touch than ever with these people. Their diagnosis of Bush Senior as “too conservative” in 1992 is why we ended up with a big government disaster with almost nothing to show for itself under the rubric of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.”  To make Palin’s untutored instincts a symbol of the authentic conservatism of America’s interior ignores the real intellectuals–Tom Fleming, ISI, Vdare, the Von Mises Institute, Thomas Sowell–making intelligent and rigorous contributions to our understanding of culture and policy far away from the most prominent institutions of “conservative” opinion. 

Consider Andrew Sullivan.  He’s still obsessing over this threatening, fertile and religious woman.  And he’s lost all sense of proportion and reason, for example:  “The trouble is that Palin confuses what is settled reality and what is settled reality insider her own head. . . . 46 percent of the country was prepared to have this delusional whack-job as a potential president . . . . Give us the proof of Trig’s maternity now!”  It’s telling that a whack-job like this works at the Atlantic.

The soon-to-be-vicious conservative infighting about what to do next will chiefly be between the neoconservative right as represented by the coastal elite institutions that guided the Bush presidency and the anti-intellectual populist-nationalist institutions and people of the interior, the Huckabees, Palins, and Buchanans.  Of course, sometimes the elites are right as on Hariett Meirs or Bush’s penchant for cronyism.  But on the whole they’ve been a disaster both politically and on policies, whether immigration, Iraq, the economy, or the Bush presidency as a whole.

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While I don’t always agree with him, I do think Charles Krauthammer is one of the most articulate observers of foreign policy and often makes a great deal of sense, particularly when he’s adhering to realism and not getting distracted by his monomania on certain Near Eastern countries.  His discussion of why the Democrats persisted on their Armenian gambit is quite sensible:

So why has Pelosi been so committed to bringing this resolution to the floor? (At least until a revolt within her party and the prospect of defeat caused her to waver.) Because she is deeply unserious about foreign policy. This little stunt gets added to the ledger: first, her visit to Syria, which did nothing but give legitimacy to Bashar al-Assad, who continues to engage in the systematic murder of pro-Western Lebanese members of parliament; then, her letter to Costa Rica’s ambassador, just nine days before a national referendum, aiding and abetting opponents of a very important free-trade agreement with the United States.

Is the Armenian resolution her way of unconsciously sabotaging the U.S. war effort, after she had failed to stop it by more direct means? I leave that question to psychiatry. Instead, I fall back on Krauthammer’s razor (with apologies to Occam): In explaining any puzzling Washington phenomenon, always choose stupidity over conspiracy, incompetence over cunning. Anything else gives them too much credit.

It’s really true that many of the bad things that big organizations do can be explained conspiratorially, when really a combination of bad luck, group think, and sheer stupidity often turn out to be the real causes.

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Senator Joseph Lieberman writes today that we should get in the face of India, Russia, and China and shame them into reigning in Burma, with whom all three nations have good relations. And people think Bush is making America enemies around the world! This is typical of the Democrats’ post-cold-war foreign policy: the cause must be pure, with little relation to U.S. interests; the cost may be immense; the benefit (and likelihood of success) minimal; and then, and only then, will we know we are behaving authentically. Because only then will we know that our power is being used solely for humanitarian reasons. Liberals, in spite of their self-image as peaceniks, have a penchant for military intervention, so long as it’s done for the right reasons. Let’s not forget, Vietnam (1965-73), Korea (1950-53), Bosnia (1996), Kosovo (1999), Bay of Pigs (1961), Haiti (1995), and East Timor (1999) all happened on a Democratic President’s watch.

If one of these venture fails, we can rest assured that our purity of intention will make up for our errors. This is dangerous stuff, devoid of any natural barriers to excess. Bush is bad enough and also a kind of liberal: he combines a vague sense of interest with a messianic sense of mission that stresses democracy and human rights. But Obama, Lieberman, and Clinton are much worse: they forget the interest part and replace it solely with a good intentions policy, one that views “selfless” missions as more valuable because they prove to ourselves and the rest of the world that we are good people.

Almost all liberal foreign policy functions to discredit and apologize for the Western past. It is supposed to show we’ve “grown up” and are no longer mere imperialists. We don’t fight for ourselves but for others. Of course, we have an agenda, and it seems at first glance to be a kind of self-assured imperialism. But for liberal hawks that agenda is everyone’s agenda, because everyone wants democracy, free speech, MTV, homosexuality, CNN, globalization, outsourcing, abortion, etc., and the only reason they don’t have them now is because they’re oppressed. Remember how excited they were about the spontaneous rallying cry for the Iraq War “Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy,” as if our own standards on these matters were beyond criticism. Most important, liberal foreign policy functions to atone for the great stain of American inaction in the face of the Holocaust. Almost all their thinking is based on a set of principles that retroactively would have required our intervention in the European Campaign before December 7, 1941.

This is history repeating itself not as tragedy or farce, but as psychodrama.

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Lawrence Auster has an interesting post today that notes that one of the prime engines of neoconservative folly is this idea that everyone “deserves” liberty and that we, therefore, having the ability, owe it to strange peoples to “give them freedom.”

His post reminded me of something I read long ago in the Liberty Fund’s collection of John C. Calhoun’s works, which is now generously available on line. While often a callous defender of slavery (which had little regard for justice and the interests of the people it was supposedly civilizing), like most free people in slave societies, Calhoun had a very detailed and nuanced sense of what it meant to be free and was, accordingly, a thoughtful defender of freedom at least for his own people.  He writes something here of universal application that shows the inherent folly of the neoconservative utopianism:

[T]he worst form of government, is better than anarchy; and that individual liberty, or freedom, must be subordinate to whatever power may be necessary to protect society against anarchy within or destruction from without; for the safety and well-being of society is as paramount to individual liberty, as the safety and well-being of the race is to that of individuals; and in the same proportion, the power necessary for the safety of society is paramount to individual liberty. On the contrary, government has no right to control individual liberty beyond what is necessary to the safety and well-being of society. Such is the boundary which separates the power of government and the liberty of the citizen or subject in the political state, which, as I have shown, is the natural state of man—the only one in which his race can exist, and the one in which he is born, lives, and dies.

It follows from all this that the quantum of power on the part of the government, and of liberty on that of individuals, instead of being equal in all cases, must necessarily be very unequal among different people, according to their different conditions. For just in proportion as a people are ignorant, stupid, debased, corrupt, exposed to violence within and danger from without, the power necessary for government to possess, in order to preserve society against anarchy and destruction becomes greater and greater, and individual liberty less and less, until the lowest condition is reached, when absolute and despotic power becomes necessary on the part of the government, and individual liberty extinct. So, on the contrary, just as a people rise in the scale of intelligence, virtue, and patriotism, and the more perfectly they become acquainted with the nature of government, the ends for which it was ordered, and how it ought to be administered, and the less the tendency to violence and disorder within, and danger from abroad, the power necessary for government becomes less and less, and individual liberty greater and greater. Instead, then, of all men having the same right to liberty and equality, as is claimed by those who hold that they are all born free and equal, liberty is the noble and highest reward bestowed on mental and moral development, combined with favorable circumstances. Instead, then, of liberty and equality being born with man; instead of all men and all classes and descriptions being equally entitled to them, they are high prizes to be won, and are in their most perfect state, not only the highest reward that can be bestowed on our race, but the most difficult to be won—and when won, the most difficult to be preserved.

They have been made vastly more so by the dangerous error I have attempted to expose, that all men are born free and equal, as if those high qualities belonged to man without effort to acquire them, and to all equally alike, regardless of their intellectual and moral condition. The attempt to carry into practice this, the most dangerous of all political error, and to bestow on all, without regard to their fitness either to acquire or maintain liberty, that unbounded and individual liberty supposed to belong to man in the hypothetical and misnamed state of nature, has done more to retard the cause of liberty and civilization, and is doing more at present, than all other causes combined. While it is powerful to pull down governments, it is still more powerful to prevent their construction on proper principles. It is the leading cause among those which have placed Europe in its present anarchical condition, and which mainly stands in the way of reconstructing good governments in the place of those which have been overthrown, threatening thereby the quarter of the globe most advanced in progress and civilization with hopeless anarchy, to be followed by military despotism.

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Andrew Sullivan, as usual, is confused and lets himself get carried away when it comes to homosexuality. He notes, “In 1994, just 19 Fortune 500 brands advertised in the gay press. Last year, 183 did.”

He concludes solemnly, “The private sector has long led the government in recognizing the simple reality of gay America.”

Umm, no. The government has always recognized this just fine when it is relevant, and it certainly can’t be said to have ignored gays in the bygone age of criminal sodomy laws. No, the government treats us all the same, except when we’re different in a relevant way. It doesn’t need to recognize the “gay reality” more than any other. The government and its laws rightfully do not care if we have long or short hair, or if we spend our money on books or on CDs, or if we are stylish or dull. A gay person’s legal reality is no different than anyone’s else. A gay person can call 911, file a lawsuit, and apply for a student loan. And, of course, a gay person can marry a person of the opposite sex just like everyone else. What Sullivan really is saying by innuendo is the theme underlying so much of his writing: since esteemed big businesses don’t seem to get hung up on gays, and indeed make money marketing to them, why can’t I and every other gay person get my surrogate daddy’s approval through government-recognized gay marriage? I hate to be so harsh, but this theme runs through his and all other gay people’s appeals to acceptance rather than mere toleration.

Of course, the difference between the government and the market is profound. It is the differences between law and its attendant social approval on one side and voluntary, private arrangements on the other. The government does sometimes care if we’re a man or a woman, or a citizen or a foreigner, or any number of other distinctions. In these areas, the law’s otherwise one-size-fits-all rules recognize that people are not equal in all respects. But these exceptions are exactly that: exceptional. For the most part, the law treats all of us the same.

Businesses are quite different, since there is a great deal of money to be made by appealing to niche markets. Thus, instead of one movie or one book or one type of car or one type of music, there are many examples of each. Unlike the laws, the market and its participants gain a great deal by recognizing our differences in finer and finer detail. This doesn’t prove that the business world is more decent than the government, but rather that it functions differently. It appeals to our voluntary choices, does not use force against us, primarily seeks to make a profit, and does not purport to codify our moral sensibilities.

Indeed, the behavior of businessmen historically shows that they are prone to avarice and indifference to the common good and should, therefore, be appropriately regulated to prevent anti-social activity. Businesses, after all, have sold everything from radar detectors and unsafe cars to Olde English 800 and security systems for drug lords. Various businesses might appeal to gays–gay people do, after all, have money–but they also appeal to everyone else: good, bad, and indifferent. Government, with an entirely different set of tools and concerns must keep people and their businesses within certain boundaries. It must bestow its benefits parsimoniously. And this means, at times, it must operate far behind the curve of social change, lest faddishness be enshrined in law, e.g., urban renewal, prohibition.

Sullivan’s lazy, hair-brained, and easily refuted blog entries are a real disgrace to his own intellect and an insult to his numerous readers. His latest example of sophistry is, sadly, just one of many.

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