Political Obituary for the Neocons
Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times has done another political obituary of the neoconservative movement, which has fallen on hard times. He notes that it is highly unlikely that Congress would now confirm Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith for higher office (Wolfowitz had once been rumored as a candidate for Secretary of State in a second Bush term). Richard Perle’s credibility is shot both because of a financial scandal and because of his close association with Ahmad Chalabi, who has now been disgraced as an Iranian intelligence asset.
The other scarey thing about the Neocons is their warmongering. David Wurmser and Scooter Libby would have dragged us into wars with Syria and Iran if they could have. If American supporters of the Likud want to take down Bashar al-Asad, they should get Ariel Sharon to do it with Israeli troops, not put American soldiers at risk for no good reason. Al-Asad is not a threat to the United States, and he is not even a threat to Israel (Israel could be in Damascus tomorrow if it wanted to).
Richter also notes that the Neocons cry ‘anti-semitism’ about all this. What a crock. There are many prominent Jewish Americans in the Bush administration who are not philosophically aligned with the neocons and whom I have never seen attacked in the press. Marc Grossman, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, for instance, is from all accounts an excellent diplomat and has received no unfavorable press of the sort Wolfowitz and Feith and Perle have. I conclude that critics are objecting to the political philosophy of the neocons, not to their Jewishness. Moreover, it isn’t even exactly their political philosophy that is attacked, though Doug Feith’s hatred of the Palestinians and desire to ensure they never get a state is odious. It is their sneaky methods, of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of intelligence. And here the guiltiest party of all is Dick Cheney. So it is nothing to do with ethnicity at all.
The American Likudniks are attempting to hitch a ride on political correctness and trying to equate criticism of Likud party policies in Israel with anti-semitism. It would be as though Pinochet supporters implied that his critics hate Latinos, or as though supporters of Chinese President Hu Jintao tried to paint his critics as anti-Asian. It is a stupid argument and no one is going to fall for it, so they may as well just give it up.
There is, by the way, a throwaway line in Richter’s piece from a Neocon lamenting that Bush may come to be seen as the worst president since Carter. That is ridiculous. Jimmy Carter was a far better president than W. can ever hope to be. Carter made peace between Israel and Egypt. He resolved the Panama Canal issue to everyone’s satisfaction, and we’ve never heard any more about it because there haven’t been subsequent problems. He avoided a potentially disastrous US attempt to prevent or roll back the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He used the foreign aid carrot to begin the process of pushing the Latin American military regimes to democratize (a process that has been wildly successful). He raised human rights as a foreign policy issue. Carter is a quick study and a bright engineer. He was president at a time of post-Vietnam and post-Watergate doldrums, at a time when Iran and Afghanistan spun out of control, at a time of high petroleum prices, continued stagflation, and high inflation. I am not entirely sure what he could have done about any of these problems, most of which were beyond his control (and most of which remained beyond the control of his successors).
Reagan did not overturn Khomeini, rather he sold him arms. Although Reagan got the Soviets out of Afghanistan, he did it at the cost of creating a radical Islamist international and destabilizing Pakistan and Afghanistan–i.e. Afghanistan continued to spin out of control, with fateful consequences. The price of petroleum declined from $40 a barrel in 1980 to less than $10 a barrel in 1986, helping Reagan quite a lot, but it had nothing to do with any policy pursued by Reagan. (Europe cut its energy consumption by a third after the 1970s oil shock, and OPEC has a tendency to overproduce over time). After Carter retired, he spent his time building houses for disadvantaged people. He also was key to the elimination of a painful and debilitating parasite in Africa, improving the lives of millions. The vilification of Carter and the hero worship of W. is a sign of how morally warped the American Right really is. Carter’s political and economic environment made it impossible for him to be a great president, but he was a damn sight better than W. any day of the week.