Monday, February 20, 2006

[Foreign Policy]

Burying Neoconservatism.

"The Bush administration has been walking — indeed, sprinting — away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Condoleezza Rice gave a serious speech in January about "transformational diplomacy" and has begun an effort to reorganize the nonmilitary side of the foreign-policy establishment, and the National Security Strategy document is being rewritten. All of these are welcome changes, but the legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years."
That quote, rather surprisingly, comes from one of the neoconservative architects, Francis Fukuyama. Over the weekend, he completely dismembered neoconservatism, hitting the same points liberals have made since fall 2002, when Bush began promoting his war. It's a fairly fascinating read, not because he is uniformly correct, but because it's Fukuyama who's writing it. As such, it does give him a fair bit of credibility--probably credibility he hopes to use to remain relevant on the foreign-policy scene after the catastrophic blunder of Iraq.

Fukuyama argues that the neocons made several key mistakes of theory:
  • Liberal democracies are "a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform";
  • the faith in "benevolent hegemony"--the notion that conquered countries will submit to our dominance because of US wholesomeness;
  • democracies are always liberal and always lead toward more freedom.
He even makes admissions you'll never hear from the White House--the US overestimated the threat of terror, for example. All of this is good stuff, and before the crimes of this presidency (of judgment and deed) can be corrected, they must be acknowledged. This may well precipitate a debate two years late in coming (though I'm not seeing much chatter about it from true believers). But Fukuyama misses a key point in the neocon revolution that also needs to come out.

Neoconservatism flourished for reasons having everything to do with domestic politics. Bush came into office hoping for the excuse to try out the neocon experiment, and he got it with 9/11. Even then, it was a controversial effort, one that might have failed if not for how viciously proponents demonized its critics. In the '02 midterms and again in '04, anyone who did not give support to the Iraq war was literally labeled as traitorous. This was especially preposterous by '04, when evidence that violent imposition of democracy abroad was a disaster. (Verbally) violent imposition of neoconservatism proved to be more successful politically back home, however, and guaranteed the idiots would be back for another round.

There should be a bloodletting for the neocon experiment. It was plainly a war crime. Worse, it was a war crime standing on the legs of lies: the Bush administration cooked the intelligence and sold Iraq on the massive gamble that there would be WMD; all to try out this idea that a few academics had concocted around beers in the early 1990s about spreading democracy. (Okay, there were other, more sinister aims as well: market colonization of the Middle East; payoffs to military contractors; strategic positioning in a destabilized region. But these hardly acquit Bush.)

But there ought also to be a bloodletting for the anti-democratic speech- and dissent-stifling the administration conducted to sell its war. Scaring the shit out of a population and manipulating the opposition through political force into accepting without debate dubious wars is also criminal. We will find ourselves attacked again. If we don't learn the lesson of the political chicanery of the Bush White House, whomever is in power at the time may cynically use the moment to force a unilateral agenda. That ain't democracy, even if--or especially if--that's what the ruling party calls it.

No comments: