US Politics

Apologizing for Neoconservatism

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 15, 2007

British current affairs magazine The Economist is often an exasperating read.

On the one hand, much of their analysis is refreshingly free of the dogma and jingoism that characterizes much of what passes for policy analysis in the newsmedia.

On the other, their open admiration for the more aggresive, interventionist expression of the US foreign policy debate leads them down the same garden path again and again.

In 2003, it led them to support the planned Iraq War despite the fact that they must have had the resources to figure out that the US case for invasion was very weak.

More recently, it led them to a bizarre apologetic for the neoconservative movement that produced the case for war and refuses to this day to acknowledge the basic mendacity in its worldview.

The neocons argued that democracy might be an antidote to the Middle East's problems: but democracy proved too delicate a plant.

This is straightforward nonsense. Neoconservatives love democracy about as much as Alberto Gonzales loves probing questions about the recent past. Their foreign policy was never, never about democracy, not at home and not in the Middle East.

Always and everywhere, it was, to borrow a explanation from neocon granddaddy Irving Kristol, about how:

There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work.

It was about giving the ubermenschen (themselves, obviously) power without a lot of annoying oversight from the ignorant plebes; about taking control; about throwing America's weight around (as Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle recently lamented, "There's got to be some advantage to being a superpower"); about taking and holding absolute power and crowding out all possible rivals as far into the future as possible; about humiliating their opponents; about showing up all the curmudgeonly realists; about fighting Karl Marx's global class war for the bourgeois - and winning.

As a presidential aide explained to Ron Suskind a couple of years ago:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

I hope the neocons are so discredited by the complete and utter debacle that was their shot at running the world that their assoholic ideas are buried for centuries. Unfortunately, if there's one thing the election of George W. Bush proved, it's that Americans have excruciatingly short memories.

I suspect that within a generation, tomorrow's delusional absolutists will manage to repackage neconservatism as a fresh new approach with real potential for action in a confusing, insecure world.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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