Saturday, May 19, 2007

Decline and fall of the neocons

There is an interesting article in TimesOnline (UK) by Sarah Baxter entitled "Decline and fall of the neocons - Paul Wolfowitz's departure from the World Bank signals the end of an ideological era in Washington" about how the fortunes of the Neoconservatives have faded over the past few years. Personally, I would be happy to see them fade away or even run out of town, but I suspect it is a bit too soon to suggest that their ideological influence is completely dead. The simple fact that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will remain in office for another twenty months is good reason to continue to regard this snake/octopus with the respect it deserves.

In my own personal view, even with the Democrats in nominal, so-called "control" of Congress, tentacles of the joint venture of the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby will continue to exert undue influence in matters of foreign policy. The simple fact that the Democrats are unable to get even the members of their own party behind a withdrawal from Iraq is a measure of how deeply the Neoconservative/Pro-Israel mentality  is entrenched.

For the record, I never considered President Bush himself to be a Neoconservative. Rather, he is simply a political puppet, the front man. Yes, he made the final "decisions", but only after staff, either Neoconservatives themselves or simply under the sway of Neoconservative "whispering" in their ears, presented him with "options" on a silver platter in a form where only the preferred Neoconservative option would appear palatable to any "good Republican."

Although nominally about the Neoconservatives, the article focuses primarily on the travails and "fall" of Paul Wolfowitz, as if he were the personification of the entire Neoconservative movement. I can't help but wonder if the writer was in fact trying to "save" some elements of the Neoconservative movement (and or the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby) by seeming to sacrifice Wolfowitz, quoting but not challenging Neoconservative David Frum as saying that "The neoconservatives are a tiny faction and less close to each other than people think. They are very isolated within the larger back-scratching community in Washington." My response to that is that it was always the quasi-alliance between the Neoconservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby that leveraged the Neoconservative thrust and continues to offer it at least some amount of support.

In a curious way, the article seems to try to separate the Neoconservative zeal from the passions of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby whose futures have always appeared at least partially intertwined, saying that "Wolfowitz's seven-year relationship with Shaha Ali Riza could have helped to humanise the former Pentagon official and put paid to the antisemitic slur that he was a Jewish agent of Zionism who placed Israel's interests above those of America and other nations." The writer states that without even a mere mention of the role of AIPAC in inciting U.S. intervention in Iraq, seeming to be comfortable with the notion that any criticism of a zealously pro-Israel policy would be inherently anti-Semitic.

There is an interesting comment in the article, suggesting that even Wolfowitz' zeal in liberating Iraq may have been at least partially propped up: "It was Riza who inspired Wolfowitz with confidence that the largely secular Iraq would flourish once Saddam was removed." Actually, I don't buy that at all. There were plenty of other Neoconservatives promoting the idea that a secular Iraq would "flourish." Maybe she helped to promote the idea to others, or maybe it was a matter of co-dependent egos, or maybe who knows what.

It will be interesting to see how the Neoconservative movement evolves once the Democrats are in control of the White House in 2009. It will also be interesting to watch Neoconservatism lurch around during the intervening period, but I suspect we will see more gossip and speculation than true enlightenment. We may have to wait another five years or more before we get a decent and informative port-mortem on the Neoconservative movement.

By then, we will probably be looking at the beginnings of the Neo-Neoconservative movement and its battles with the emerging Neo-Liberal movement, not to mention the Neo-Centrists.

-- Jack Krupansky


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