Monday, October 29, 2007

The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism

I am no fan of the Neoconservatives, but it is helpful to understand all sides of the issues even or especially if you do not agree with them. Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute has an article in Commentary entitled "The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism" which challenges the common assertion that the Neoconservative movement is effectively dead now that their Mideast efforts are in a shambles. The article offers a decent summary of the history of the movement and what it allegedly stands for.

As for the future, although the voters will decide which ideology will be dominant in 2009, the Neoconservatives will still be there in the background, whispering into the ears of anybody and everybody in Washington. They may go into hibernation for a few election cycles, but I suspect that they eventually will be back, even if in a mutated form.

Oh, and in case you missed it Neoconservative "godfather" Norman Podhoretz had an article in Commentary entitled "The Case for Bombing Iran" which tells us about what he calls "World War IV":

Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what September 11, 2001 did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war. I call this new war World War IV, because I also believe that what is generally known as the cold war was actually World War III, and that this one bears a closer resemblance to that great conflict than it does to World War II. Like the cold war, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism, yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of Communism; it is global in scope; it is being fought with a variety of weapons, not all of them military; and it is likely to go on for decades.

What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right. Instead we have to see them as fronts or theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle. The same thing is true of Iran. As the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11, and as (according to the State Department's latest annual report on the subject) the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism's weapon of choice, Iran too is a front in World War IV. Moreover, its effort to build a nuclear arsenal makes it the potentially most dangerous one of all.

The Iranians, of course, never cease denying that they intend to build a nuclear arsenal, and yet in the same breath they openly tell us what they intend to do with it. Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to "wipe Israel off the map" -- a feat that could not be accomplished by conventional weapons alone.

But Ahmadinejad's ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf. If he acquired a nuclear capability, he would not even have to use it in order to put all this within his reach. Intimidation and blackmail by themselves would do the trick.

Nor are Ahmadinejad's ambitions merely regional in scope. He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this too he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war. And then, finally, comes the largest dream of all: what Ahmadinejad does not shrink from describing as "a world without America." Demented though he may be, I doubt that Ahmadinejad is so crazy as to imagine that he could wipe America off the map even if he had nuclear weapons. But what he probably does envisage is a diminution of the American will to oppose him: that is, if not a world without America, he will settle, at least in the short run, for a world without much American influence.

... the only prudent -- indeed, the only responsible -- course is to assume that Ahmadinejad may not be bluffing, or may only be exaggerating a bit, and to strike at him as soon as it is logistically possible.

Scary stuff, but Podhoretz is rather influential in foreign policy circles.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Barack promises to ruffle Hillary's feathers

An article in The New York Times by Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny entitled "Obama Promises a Forceful Stand Against Clinton" informs us that Barack will be trying to get Mrs. Clinton to work a little harder to maintain her lead over the rest of the Democratic presidential pack. I wish him luck. Seriously, Hillary does need to be toughened up a bit to prevail in the general election next year. And I am sure that ruffling her feathers will cheer his supporters and help him raise donations. But, in the final analysis, going "confrontational" will at best solidify his existing support but do very little to endear him to voters who weren't already Obama cheerleaders. Besides, Hillary can out-confront anybody. All she needs to do is maintain her composure and calmly dismiss any "confrontation" that anybody else misguidedly throws her way.

My free advice to Barack is that he should focus on really distinguishing himself from Hillary, not via "confrontation", but by telling us things about himself and his ideas that really would make him a better candidate in the general election (and the presidency) than Mrs. Clinton. I just visited his web site and I honestly couldn't find anything to set him head and shoulders above Hillary. Seriously. Sure, he is a little more liberal and anti-war, but none of that will help in the general election. The problem for Barack is that Hillary really is 100% committed to being the winner in the general election, and he is not willing to compromise to get there himself.

Nonetheless, we all look forward to his efforts to push Hillary to a whole new level of performance.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Al Gore on politics

The quote from Al Gore in The New York Times Op-Ed by Bob Herbert entitled "The Trivial Pursuit" tells us everything we need to know about why Mr. Gore failed to win the presidency in 2000 and is unlikely to stage a comeback any time soon (and is unlikely to lead to substantial, real, measurable progress on global warming and climate change):

Al Gore is a serious man confronted by a political system that is not open to a serious exploration of important, complex issues. He knows it.

"What politics has become," he said, with a laugh and a tinge of regret, "requires a level of tolerance for triviality and artifice and nonsense that I have found in short supply."

Sorry Mr. former-VP, but that is what politics always was and always will be.

Personally, I would really like to hear what advice his father (also elected U.S. Senator from Tennessee) gave him on politics.

And if Al wants my advice, I'd recommend that he seek a position as a professor and stick to that podium and stay away from politics. There is nothing wrong with seeking to be "a voice of reason", but it isn't consistent with the role of politics in public life. In general, politics is more about tuning in to emotion and passion rather than reason. Gore tried to blend the two into "passionate reason", but that is more appropriate for the pulpit than the political arena. Politicians exploit existing fears, while Gore sought to instill a whole new level of fear for a "planetary emergency." The thing is that real fears ebb and wane, but Gore is not prepared to cope with adapting to the actual levels of fear that may actually exist in the general populace.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Despite Big Honor for Gore, Climate Not Top Issue in U.S.

The headline from the article in the Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin entitled "Despite Big Honor for Gore, Climate Not Top Issue in U.S." says it all. Sure, Gore has "raised awareness", but as Juliet puts it:

In a September Washington Post-ABC News poll, less than 1 percent identified global warming as their top issue for the 2008 presidential campaign, and a January poll by the Pew Research Center ranked it fourth-lowest out of 23 policy priorities that Americans want the president and Congress to address.

Yes, we should all thank the former VP for "raising awareness" of the global warming and climate change political and social issue, but it really is up to the voters to decide how to prioritize issues, not a bunch of over-inflated technocrats.

I'm still a bit baffled that the Nobel Peace Committee made such a wild stretch to consider an environmental campaign under the umbrella of "peace." Of course, even I have to admit that it is more of a political and social movement than an environmental issue and that political and social movements could intersect with "peace." I am well aware that there have been conjectures floated about political frictions that may develop as a consequence of climate change, but they are only conjectures and even then are potentially many years in the future. As I said, this is quite a stretch.

I even consulted the Nobel Peace Committee web site to see what explanation they had to offer, but they only had this thin explanation:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world's future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control.

That's it. The most they can offer is that "There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states." Hmmm... "may be increased danger" is a sound basis for a Nobel prize? Oh well.

Somebody is going to have to come up with a stronger and more justified claim in order to arouse the American people to rank global warming and climate change as a higher priority. I wonder if that somebody would get their own Nobel prize, but I doubt that it would happen in my lifetime.

-- Jack Krupansky

Steve Clemons on why we won't bomb Iran

Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation (a centrist public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.) has an article on Salon entitled "Why Bush Won't Attack Iran" which presents a carefully reasoned argument for why it is unlikely that President Bush will decide to bomb Iran. I agree with most of what he says, but some of the arguments feel a bit thin. For example, he argues that "If the bombs were at the ready, Bush would be doing a lot more to prepare the nation and the military for a war far more consequential than the invasion of Iraq", but I would suggest that any number of people within the administration could easily convince President Bush that they believe there are plenty of limited-strike options that would be less likely to provoke a massive response and that would already be covered by the current "preparation" for tagging Iran as a threat to U.S. interests on any number of levels. In other words, I see that there are an infinite number of grays between the white of no action and the black of full-scale invasion and occupation.

Steve concludes by assuring us that:

In sum, Bush does not plan to escalate toward a direct military conflict with Iran, at least not now -- and probably not later. The costs are too high, and there are still many options to be tried before the worst of all options is put back on the table. As it stands today, he wants that "third option," even if Cheney doesn't. Bush's war-prone team failed him on Iraq, and this time he'll be more reserved, more cautious. That is why a classic buildup to war with Iran, one in which the decision to bomb has already been made, is not something we should be worried about today.

But then be goes on to warn us that:

What we should worry about, however, is the continued effort by the neocons to shore up their sagging influence. They now fear that events and arguments could intervene to keep what once seemed like a "nearly inevitable" attack from happening. They know that they must keep up the pressure on Bush and maintain a drumbeat calling for war.

They are doing exactly this during September and October in a series of meetings organized by the American Enterprise Institute on Iran and Iraq designed to reemphasize the case for hawkish, interventionist deployments in Iraq and a military, regime-change-oriented strike against Iran. And through Op-Eds and the serious political media, the "bomb Iran now" crowd believes they must undermine those in and out of government proposing alternatives to bombing and keep the president and his people saturated with pro-war mantras.

We should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An "accidental war" would escalate quickly and "end run," as Wurmser put it, the president's diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus. It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict -- Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

That kind of war is much more probable and very much worth worrying about.

Great. First he convinces us not to worry and then substitutes a whole new worry. So much for truth in titles.

My view is that we shouldn't "worry" about any of these scenarios and should focus on getting our own house in order. Sure, it is very possible that the Neoconservatives might incite the "engineering" of a confrontation that results in some shooting and some bombs and some terrorist activity, but the important thing is that we have a big-deal election coming up in just over a year that has the potential to change the entire game. If the Neoconservatives want to incite actions which blow the whole Republican party and conservative movement out of the water, that will only accelerate the changing of the game.

In my view, a bigger worry should be whether Mrs. Clinton is far too cozy with the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby and is likely to take far too hard a line on Iran even if no bullets fly or bombs fall. The issue is not whether the military engages in "kinetic activity", but whether we keep the "temperature", even at a diplomatic level, dialed up way to high to inspire a moderation of extremist views and antagonism towards the U.S. and Americans. I'm hoping that she is simply talking tough to win the election, in much the same way that her husband talked tough about China during his election, but that after the election we will see a moderation of the "temperature" that is more in line with the interests of everyday Americans than the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, October 01, 2007

How the Neo-conservatives and the Pro-Israel Lobby influence foreign policy

An article on the UK Times Online by

For the most part, the Neo-conservatives always try to downplay their influence. In this case the meeting was essentially a secret meeting that never existed:

Karl Rove, who was still serving in the White House as Bush's deputy chief of staff, took notes. But the meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, was not logged on the president's schedule.

No one would ever have known about the meeting until Podhoretz publicly admitted or essentially bragged about it:

"I urged Bush to take action against the Iranian nuclear facilities and explained why I thought there was no alternative," said Podhoretz, 77, in an interview with The Sunday Times.

Times Online also tells us how the Neo-conservatives are already lining up to influence the next presidential administration:

... neoconservatives are helping to shape the foreign policy of Giuliani, the Republican frontrunner for the White House, who said in London recently that he would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran.

Podhoretz has already explained his theory about Islamofascism to the former New York mayor. "He doesn't call it world war four, but I know he thinks it is," Podhoretz said.

This is pretty scary stuff. Life doesn't get much darker and more sinister. Nonetheless, most people remain blissfully unaware of what is going on or are merely callously or negligently indifferent.

-- Jack Krupansky