Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dr. Bill Roy: "The Neoconservatives among us."

by Dr. Bill Roy

Disparage liberals enough times, add a little dose of humorous ridicule and a large dose of religious and social conservatives, and you have George W. Bush’s conservative presidency--plus the recently expired decade of Republican Congresses, and some very smart, and sometimes very strange, Bush-appointed members of the federal judiciary.

But, it turns out that the conservatives who are running the country the last six years are not the traditional country club conservatives, who want low taxes and small government, but an entirely different brand of conservatives, the recently minted, intellectual neoconservatives.

Ask “I hate liberals, talk-radio propagandized” conservatives what a neoconservative is and odds are overwhelming you’ll get a blank stare. And, you won’t do much better with country-club conservatives, although most of them are aware someone is taking them for a ride.

And, I must admit (modestly) that I have had trouble sorting the chafe from the wheat in attempting to arrive at the essence of neoconservatism, in part because it has been a moving target.

So I am relying on former neoconservative Johns Hopkins professor Francis Fukuyama and his book, “America at the Crossroads, Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy,” to define neoconservatism.

He tells us today’s neoconservative dogma originated in the 1930s at the City College of New York where Jewish students, who were effectively barred from Ivy League schools, vigorously argued the respective merits of Stalinism and Trotskyism in the cafeteria.

After the Hitler-Stalin 1939 division of Poland, and Stalin’s post WWII aggressiveness, they mutated in the 1940s and 1950s into the far-left wing of the Democratic Party. They chose socialism over communism, and, like thwarted lovers, became viciously anticommunist.

These folks--Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, their colleagues and heirs--perceived a relative softness on communism in the Democratic Party (1960s, 1970s opposition to the Vietnam War) and identified with the strident anticommunism of Nixon’s Republican Party.

Later, Republicans and their newly-found evangelical allies further raised the ante with uncritical, bible-based support for Israel.

With this assurance, most neoconservatives morphed into Republicans. They bid for leadership with articles in foreign affairs journals and in their subsidized publications, such as “The Public Interest“, “The National Interest” and “The Weekly Standard,” now edited by Bill Kristol. Kristol and columnist Charles Krauthammer, are today’s leading cheerleaders for attacking Iran.

Fukuyama outlines four basic neoconservative beliefs that have substantially determined Bush administration foreign policy. (The comments following the four beliefs are mine, not his, although they illustrate his statement, “the very word ’neoconservative’ has become a word of abuse.”)

First, “a belief that the internal character of regimes matters and that foreign policy must reflect the deepest values of liberal democratic societies.”

This idea--innocuous standing alone--was pushed post WWI by Woodrow Wilson. Wilson believed free people would choose democracy, and that democracies do not make war on democracies. Unfortunately, in Iraq, Bush is trying to establish democracy at the point of a bayonet, to date with limited success.

Second, “A belief that American power has been and could be used for moral purposes…” By September 2002, this somehow became the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war (Fukuyama correctly calls it preventive war), which set Europe aflame, 1933-1945, and Asia, 1936-1945.

Third, “A distrust of ambitious social engineering projects.” This is consistent with Republican efforts to dismantle the safety net of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Fair Deal, and equally consistent with their cruel opposition to universal health insurance. It is also contradictory to trying to establish democracy with a bayonet.

“And, finally, skepticism about legitimacy and effectiveness of international law and institutions to achieve security and justice.” Which explains why we invaded Iraq nearly alone--without even Canada or Mexico--and why our government is today regarded with fear and distain by our otherwise natural allies.

For ten years after the inconclusive end of the 1991 Gulf War, neoconservatives beat the drums for invasion of Iraq. Even before 9/11, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and others were planning, along with susceptible oilmen George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and self-acclaimed military genius Donald Rumsfeld, a quick, easy, profitable war in Iraq.

We are living--and dying--with the consequences.

Dr. Roy may be reached at

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