Wednesday, April 18, 2007

End of (so-named) Enlightened Interventionism?

So argues Niall Stanage in the New York Observer. Here. Warning: this is an angry post.

Joe Biden called last Wednesday at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting for 2,500 troops to Darfur. An intervention. Biden again, in my mind, shows himself to be the most on-target foreign policy advocate in the US. i.e. At the same time he is calling for Darfur intervention, he is calling for soft-partitioning in Iraq. Not complete withdrawal or just "cutting and running" as it were. Nor the failed current policy of a changed tactic with no end in sight, no strategy, no political solution, that is just being put on to '08 to cover the legacy.

But sending troops to Darfur is never going to happen. We know that; Stanage knows it. Where neoconservatism failed above all was in its notion of the populace as sheep that had to be controlled through the use of a noble lie. The lie in question was dual: 1. the American military was so supreme it could solve all problems alone 2. democracy was the inherent desire of all beings and would instantly bring peace and prosperity to the oppressed masses.

Because of that lie, interventionism has become synonymous with neoconservatism and hence Iraq. Hence failure. The swing towards isolationism, neo-realism is growing stronger by the day.

Bush lied to the American people when he told them they did not have to sacrifice for this--beyond verbal "supporting the troops". It has cost those who believe, however dark and painful this will be, that some forms of intervention are necessary in this world (I include myself in that category). See how Tony Blair, the most articulate spokesman for this thinking was pulled into the Iraq debacle and he himself and his philosophy obliterated in the rubble of Baghdad. Today 127-170 people killed in car and suicide bombings in Baghdad. In surge Baghdad.

Bush's democratic fundamentalism (for that is the only appropriate term for it) was the second great lie, for it did not tell the populace that not only was sacrifice/effort required of all (though not military training for all of course) but that this would be a Long Conflict. And that the way of these post-Cold War interventions is not "victory" or "defeat" but shades of both. Clinton, for all the wrap he takes--some deserved, some not in my estimation--on al-Qaeda is still the only president to correctly handle a post-Cold War intervention. Namely the Balkans. That is the only success story.

The list of failures: Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan.

The War Czar enters this frame. As with just about everything foreign policy, the Bushies have the right (general) idea and the absolute wrong execution, understanding of what their idea means. The War Czar--which it should not be named that--should be the Head of the Dept. of Reconstruction. What Bush wants him for is a public face to make an unsalable war salable to a populace that is not buying. And certainly not from Bush.


At 3:06 PM, Blogger MD said...


If "A" is "neoconservatism", and "B" is:

its notion of the populace as sheep that had to be controlled through the use of a noble lie. The lie in question was dual: 1. the American military was so supreme it could solve all problems alone 2. democracy was the inherent desire of all beings and would instantly bring peace and prosperity to the oppressed masses.

You have in no way demonstrated that B follows from A. Because you haven't defined neoconservatism. Which, in this day where that term has been diluted by people carelessly using it as a disparaging epithet, you are compelled to do.

I frankly doubt that an honest investigation of neoconservatism would result in the "populace as sheep" you claim it has.

In any event, it is nice to see your true feelings come out, if indeed your anger here represents them. If not, then nevermind.


At 4:06 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

The notion of the Noble Lie is in Strauss (via Plato as you know). There are arguments about whether Strauss actually taught it not and/or whether he taught true to Plato's original meaning. That's fair and goes down 9 other roads I wasn't interested in assessing here. I think Strauss did teach the Noble Lie or at least he was taken to by enough influential neocons that it had the same effect.

Strauss was a strong, though not the only or even perhaps the strongest, influence on neoconservatism. He taught Wolfowitz at Chicago. Bill Kristol has praised him repeatedly.

I don't use the term neoconservatism haphazardly as you suggest.

I mean:

Wolfowitz, the Kristols, Richard Perle, the Kagan bros., John Bolton. And President Bush to the degree that he has employed their language (his second inaugural address) and/or their policies (the invasion of Iraq).

I do not count Cheney and Rumsfield as neocons.

As Francis Fukuyama said--and I agree with him--neoconservatism is democratic trotskyite thinking. They are Jacobins in the true sense of the world. Revolutionary ideologues.

So it is (for me):

1.Foreign policy only.
2.Dis-trustful/Hatred of multilateralism.
3.Doctrine of Pre-emption
4.Trans-national terrorists groups that are within the borders of a regime--the regime either fights them or is aiding them (the with us/against us line).
5.Believes naively in the power of democracy to bring prosperity and peace.
6.Believes the US military prowess is so unmatched as to topple regimes in quick succession thereby creating an American century.

And 7th controversial no doubt but I do hold it:

--The use of the noble lie....particularly in Bill Kristol and Richard Perle.

This is the only rational explanation I find for Kristol's (an atheist) alliance with social Christian conservatives.

In the late 70s/80s these same individuals were saying that the Soviets controlled every terrorist network in the world and we are ominous threat lurking in every corner. Only for that monster to have collapsed under its own weight just a few years later.

If it is a Noble Lie they employed, perhaps it no longer became a Lie and they themselves became convinced by their own Lie. That's possible.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger MD said...

Where the document "Project for a new American century" fall in the mix for you?

Also, are you aware of the connections between neoconservatism and progressivism (i.e., the New Deal)? You may have referred to that in your "trotskyite" thing; but also perhaps not.

In general, your writing would benefit from more attention to its grammatical dimension (i.e., sturdily defining your terms) up front. "Neoconservatism" is a word battered, as I mentioned already, and if one wants to use it profitably, one is compelled to say what it means, and what it doesn't mean. Else, fog and hot air.



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