‘Right all along’? – neo-conservatism and the Middle East demonstrations

There have been some claims lately that the popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen prove that neo-conservatism was ‘right all along’. Max Boot goes so far as to ask whether ‘we are all neo-conservatives now’.

Why were the neo-cons right? Because, as opposed to the gang currently running the White House, neo-cons (like George W. Bush – whom I never thought of as a neo-con) understood that the ‘basic human desires for freedom could not be repressed forever’. The events in Egypt and Tunisia show precisely that: people are clearly sick of autocratic rule and yearn for freedom, for democracy. So the neo-cons were right. That Obama is now, ‘belatedly’ expressing US solidarity with the Egyptian people, makes him a neo-con too. He’s literally jumping onto the bandwagon. Well not literally, but you get the point…

This argument irks me because it allows neo-conservatism to claim monopoly and sole ownership over democracy and all of its goodness. By that logic, all those protesters, and anyone celebrating (possibly prematurely) the demise of authoritarian rule in Tunisia and Egypt, are all buying into a uniquely neo-con idea of democracy-promotion. Taking the argument further, it would mean that every step, taken anywhere, toward greater democracy worldwide does something to validate neo-conservatism and its various proponents.

To be ‘proven right’ by current events, neo-conservatism would need to put forward a more specific proposition, one now validated by recent events. The idea that ‘greater democracy in the Middle East is a good thing’ can’t be it, because support for this proposition goes far beyond neo-conservatism. In fact, if it is typically neo-conservative to believe that ‘basic human desires for freedom [can’t] be repressed forever’, who isn’t a neo-con?

So is it that democracy in the Middle East was possible all along that so distinguishes neo-cons from mainstream? Again, I don’t think that anyone would have excluded the possibility of popular uprisings in the Middle East, or in any other autocratic state for that matter, and their mere occurrence today cannot possibly be used to ‘prove neo-cons right’.

So is it about the vigour with which Western capitals should promote democracy in the Middle East? Certainly one could have a good discussion about the degree to which democracy-promotion should be a foreign-policy priority. But this misses a broader point: what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt came from within, it was not the West’s doing, and it may not even have helped had the West gotten involved. It is therefore difficult to see how neo-conservatism can claim credit for what’s happening.

For the same reason, it would also be specious to use these events as counterfactual evidence for why another course of action would have been preferable. A more firebrand approach to democratisation might have precipiated this moment, but it might also have been wholly unhelpful – it is an unproved and unprovable assertion. Put simply, there is nothing in these uprisings that proves neo-conservatism right, because neo-conservatism had nothing to do with it.

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61 thoughts on “‘Right all along’? – neo-conservatism and the Middle East demonstrations

  1. Steve Metz says:

    If you don’t like that rationale from the neocon crowd, not to worry–they’ll have a new one by next week.

    • Gunrunner says:

      Ah. . yes. . the John Kerry “I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it” attitude. . .oh, wait. . .nevermind. . . he is a liberal.

    • olaf says:

      Greetings from Africa,

      Good to see that there a plenty of people who do engraft the events in North Africa into their tiny but highly relevant US/Eurocentric world.

      Simultaneously with the Egypt uprising we see the gathering of the African Heads of State in Addis – those guys that proudly published their declaration of “good governance” and their “responsibility to protect the vulnerable” in 2000. Nice to know – even if this was just a manoeuvre to please the donors financing the 5 star hotels for the meeting.

      The whole bunch of those chaps does not even dare to say anything about the events in Egypt. Look at the press in Kenya, Uganda, Gabon, Congo Kinshasa, where the other Mubaraks rule…you won’t find much about Tunisia, let alone Egypt. The “fourth wave of democratisation” will remain a storm in a tea cup rather than a political Tsunami if African Union members have their say.

      Of course, the Kenyan Daily Nation yesterday started a report (not exactly prominently presented) on the fact that Kenyan citizens are the first to be evacuated from Egypt…Gabon has today seen the first (page 16) report on the uprising in Cairo…the rest of sub-Saharan Africa is mute.

      In the street people are sitting together to listen to Radio France Internationale and BBC World Service.

      Do me a favour if you are at King’s. Cross Strand, knock on the door of the BBC and tell them that 500 million people depend on their broadcasting for reliable information.

      btw…noboby thinks about the neocons in Africa any more.

      Cheers

  2. Stephen Haley says:

    Nonsense!!!!!! what the Egyptians and all other repreessed people want is EQUAL righs and EQUAL opportunity. A democracy is govened by the will of the majority (or those with greater access to power) A Republic is governed by laws; all are protected. i.e. “bill of rights” The most important laws are those that govern the leaders. Unfortuneately in the country we give them immunity by law. In other countries, immunity by corruption. Bush (Cheney)cared not one iota for anybody else’s rights

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  5. Formerly Grant says:

    And yet I doubt you’ll find a single neocon that would support military intervention by the U.S on behalf of the protesters. I don’t want to say that the neoconservative belief in democracy is inherently wrong, just that many seem to leave it there without going on to ask “are we prepared to bear the incredible costs of supporting a young democracy?”

    • Formerly Grant says:

      The assumption was (as is reflected in the number of soldiers sent to Afghanistan and Iraq) that the U.S could overthrow regimes with a minimal amount of soldiers and money by using forces in the state. The basic idea seems to have had some success in Sierra Leone when British forces had success in cowing the warlords there.
      Unfortunately, the proponents of this theory apparently never stopped to consider what would happen if you empowered a bunch of people who were only interested in a democracy because they didn’t have the power to take over single handed.

  6. Hans Ucko says:

    “Ich don’t think so”, i.e. that the events in Tunisia and Egypt are corroborating the neo-cons. The yearning for the freedom and democracy in the Middle East according to neo-cons was always linked to Pax Americana. The wet dream of neo-cons is that the “Vindication for Bush’s Freedom Agenda” would make Israel safe and secure enough to continue as it has done since 1967. If we at all can make any conclusions in the midst of chaos reigning in Egypt and the outcome that we haven’t yet seen the end of in Tunisia, neo-con victory it is not. Neo-con victory is not at all on the table in Tunis and Cairo. On one of the tanks in Cairo, we could see the Star of David as graffiti. For those behind the uprising, democracy doesn’t come dressed in stars and stripes and is also not dancing a horah. It is doubtful that the people behind the events taking place in Tunisia and Egypt share the vision of the neo-cons that “the United States and Israel share a common enemy… both targets of … an ‘Axis of Evil’” (Letter to Pres. Bush, principal author W. Kristol, April 3, 2002). I think that if anything it is mostly disappointment with the US (nothing happened following President Obama’s speech in Cairo) that plays into the sentiments prompting the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt. What is happening before our eyes is rather the defeat of the United States’ foreign policy, neo-con inspired or not.

    • Ed says:

      I would suggest that depends on whether you think US foreign policy was truly in favour of the existing Arab regimes, or in favour of stability. I think it’s the latter.

    • Ed says:

      As I tried to add (thanks for the short timeout), I also think most players in the US will be pleased that Mr Ben Ali has fallen. However, it all depends on what replaces him. Will we look back on Mr Ben Ali as the lesser of two evils?

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  8. TJM says:

    “This argument irks me because it allows neo-conservatism to claim monopoly and sole ownership over democracy and all of its goodness.”

    Likewise, this post irks me because it allows Max Boot to claim a privileged positions as a thoughtful spokesperson on behalf of a particular school of thought. Since joining CFR, he has done nothing but write op-eds of the quality and intellectual rigor that one expects from a partisan hack on a partisan blog, relying on his credentials to pick up the heavy intellectual slack. Arguing against Max Boot differs in form, but not much in substance, from arguing against a straw man.

    • Ed says:

      With bated breath, the world awaits what the “real” neo-cons have to say on the topic. Please enlighten us.

  9. Al says:

    Can anyone draw some comparisons between these protests and those in Iran circa 1979? I was looking to find an estimate on the crowds massing in Cairo and other cities in Egypt versus the numbers that thronged in Tehran 30 years ago. What these protesters seem to lack is a unifying figure like Khomeini. Press reports from Radio France indicate the bulk of the crowds are 20-35 years old malcontents. Maybe the Egyptians require an opposition figurehead to translate their rage into an effective political alternative?

    • Formerly Grant says:

      He actually isn’t that well connected with opposition to the government. He only started to set himself up as such very recently and I imagine that the Muslim Brotherhood has a better claim to the role of opposition than he.
      As for comparing it to the Iranian protests in ’79 let’s be careful. They very well might be the same but I’m uneasy with comparing events separated by over thirty years, with very different geopolitics in two very different nations.

    • Khomeini wasn’t just charismatic, he was extremely influential and had leadership of the most disciplined, organized network in the opposition, the Islamists.

      Baradei is certainly a big figure for the West but isn’t necessarily as well connected with the opposition in general, and I don’t think he could manage a coalition the way Khomeini was able to during the revolution. Nor does he seem to have the kind of vision or charisma Khomeini did.

      The army also appears much more composed and involved than when Iran’s in ’79, which ended up mainly standing aside.

    • Formerly Grant says:

      The opposition has chosen him as sort of a compromise figure at least, probably trying to ease Western and Israeli concerns about a potential Islamist take over.

  10. Pericles says:

    The neocon agenda is linked to the establishment not only of democracy but of a particular economic order. This was always concealed as low-regulation free markets being the ‘default’ choice of free democracies (however defined). The test for the neocons ‘being right’ is therefore not only the political but the economic order that revolutionary regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, assuming they successfully consolidate themselves, adopt. Iran is a perfect illustration of the fact that things can play out in a manner not necessarily in accord with the neocon hymnbook.

    • Gunrunner says:

      “Iran is a perfect illustration of the fact that things can play out in a manner not necessarily in accord with the neocon hymnbook.”

      Thank you Jimmy Carter. . .oh, wait. . .another liberal.

  11. Steve Metz says:

    Neoconservatism was always based on two myths: 1) democracy could be spread by US military power; 2) Democracy would lead to pro-US states.

    The bulk of the commentary on Egypt from the right wing chattering classes in the US has been focused on how it can be spun to discredit Obama or Democrats in general rather than really trying to understand it.

  12. Madhu says:

    The bulk of the commentary on Egypt from the right wing chattering classes in the US has been focused on how it can be spun to discredit Obama or Democrats in general rather than really trying to understand it.

    The bulk of the commentary on anything by the chattering classes in the States is almost always "how can it be tortured into a R vs. D template? ”

    Domestic politics of the most superficial kind trumps any kind of serious analysis by the pundit crowd. I mean, how hard is it to book a few good scholars with some verbal chops and then ask good, interesting "layman" questions?

    Pretty darn hard, apparently.

    I've stopped paying attention but the chattering classes of either team R or team D never shut up.

    The Daily Show had a funny sketch that pitted Team O vs. Team W with both teams trying to take credit:

    "It's the Cairo speech! It's engagement!"
    "It's the Bush Doctrine!"

    And then Team Local Conditions, or something like that, was all "Hey, guys, what about me?"

    Pretty funny. Sad, but funny.

    I've stopped listening to the pundit choir except to make gentle mockery of some chatter. They are human beings after all….except for some of the cable news anchors who look suspiciously robotic.

    • Formerly Grant says:

      It takes time for experts to actually talk with people involved, get the timeline down, view the results and then see if a political theory can accurately explain what happened. By that time the public has pretty much lost interest. In contrast the political parties need to get out a message NOW.
      Personally, speaking as someone who admits that they don’t have much experience on Egypt I feel it’s more likely that both Bush and Obama were pretty much irrelevant to the entire matter.

    • Gunrunner says:

      Apparently so.

      Have you seen the lines and waiting lists for an American visa at American embassies abroad? Have you seen the number of illegals that are flooding the American Southwest border? Not all are poor suffering Mexican’s. They come from all over the world, with the vast majority coming from third world, non-democratic nations.

      My Border Patrol Agent son has personally apprehended illegals from Vietnam, China, India, Ghana, Somalia, Iran, Saudi, Korea, and a many other places. All want to make it to America, and the interesting thing is, the Mexican illegal aliens have no interest in becoming American whereas OTM illegals do.

      (OTM = Other Than Mexican. Offical DHS term).

    • Charles says:

      My comment was tongue-in-cheek, quoting Full Metal Jacket. Interesting about the Mexicans though.

    • Gunrunner says:

      Ah. . . in that case:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3FnpaWQJO0

      Oh, the Full Metal Jacket reference: My son’s “name” at the Border Patrol Academy was “Joker,” as in Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Had something to do with how he looked and his education (he is a masters graduate from a UK university). Who knew he would put his (expensive) education in international relations to such good use.

  13. The Faceless Bureaucrat says:

    Hmmm…

    Karl Popper (spinning as fast as a top in his grave) would question Boot’s falsifiability. If, as you put it David, the NeoCon premise were: “basic human desires for freedom could not be repressed forever”, Popper would contend that this cannot a valid hypothesis because it cannot be falsified. Since ‘forever’ is an awfully long time, we cannot test the hypothesis. So, yes, of course, we are all neo-cons in that sense. (I remember how neo-cons also invented sliced bread, talking pictures, oil, the moon, and unicorns. What great guys.)

    Steve Metz’s summary of the NeoCon claims are far more useful as a starting point: 1. democracy could be spread by US military power; 2. Democracy would lead to pro-US states. In that sense, we might decide quite differently than Max Boot. With regard to the first premise, US military power had nothing to do with either the Tunisian or the Egyptian cases (unless you buy into some very abstract version of chaos theory and that the ‘success’ story (ahem) of Iraq–itself the child of an American military victory–was somehow a proximate cause, or at least the ‘butterfly wing beat’, of those uprisings. My contention is that if anyone seriously believes that, then they have a tenuous grasp on reality and should a) stop drinking the Kool Aid and b) get a pair of socks without holes in it.)

    In fact, we might well claim that US military power has done a great deal in the region to prop up regimes that are an anethema to the idea of democracy, Egypt and Saudi Arabia being only two of the top contenders for the title of ‘good example’. I don’t remember any NeoCon manifesto calling for US aid to Egypt to be diverted from defence spending and put into democracy promotion, but then again, I haven’t read every issue of The Weekly Standard…

    Continuing in an examination of the first premise, it is not clear that the uprisings are themselves fully democratic (just because they may be ‘from the people’ does not necessarily mean that they are or will be democratic) nor that they are anything more than transitory. Indeed, they could well prove to be a ‘half-way point’ to something very different, ranging from a brutal crackdown by Mubarak or another strongman, or a follow-on uprising by, say, an Islamist faction. Take for example the Menshevik (et al.) overthrow of the Russian Tsar. It foundered and when it could not establish itself, it was replaced by a far more ‘fundamentalist’ Bolshevik/Leninist regime. Already in Tunisia, the once exiled Islamist leader has returned…

    This leads us to the second premise. Would a democratic regime (such that it would be) necessarily be pro-American? No, not necessarily. Already Herr el-Baradei (who has spent much more time in Vienna than he has in Cairo over the past two decades) has made populist, anti-American statements. Still, in the NeoCon’s favour is the level of US funding to Egypt; if it were to continue for a successor regime, it might buy sufficient loyalty to make Egypt quack like a duck, as far as American allies are concerned.

    Or, might we change our perspective a bit and focus on something other than Boot’s NeoCon case, strictly speaking, and look do a little meta-analysis? Is this just another example of America projecting its ‘culture wars’ onto the world stage? Must everything be Red or Blue? Personally, I am loving the ‘not quite coincidental’ nostalgia for JFK and Ronald Reagan happening at the moment. Clearly North Africa is delivering The Gipper the best 100th birthday present ever. Or, as the kids are all saying: “My dead president (who is an icon for my political party but who, in reality, was less impressive than the mythology that surrounds him now) is more kick-ass than your dead president (who is an icon for your political party but who, in reality, was less impressive than the mythology that surrounds him now).

    • Charles says:

      I’m not English, but even I wouldn’t imagine a word like ‘falsifiability’ – it’s up there with professionalisation, misunderstimating and speechification. Forgive me for being ignorant (and getting off track), but where do these words come from?

    • Formerly Grant says:

      They sound good even if they make English teachers cry.

      In re. to the Bureaucrat: With any and all due respect I think you may be mistaking events in Russia and Tunisia. In 1917 I certainly wouldn’t have called the Bolsheviks ‘fundamentalists’. I would have considered them to be revolutionaries. The conservatives would have been the those supporting the tsars (or at least the nobility). Of course that isn’t to say they were ‘good’, revolutionary is in no way automatically good. Of course a few decades later I would consider the Soviet leaders to be no more revolutionary than I consider the Iranian leaders.

    • Gunrunner says:

      “I don’t remember any NeoCon manifesto calling for US aid to Egypt to be diverted from defence spending and put into democracy promotion,”

      Actually, FMF funding for FMS pusposes contributes to the economic well-being of the population, at home and abroad. Do you have an underdstanding of the FMS process? Why we do it, FMS or DCS?

      With the Camp David accord, Jimmy Carter, the staunch neo-con that he is, started the FMF band-wagon going in Egypt.

      Oh, and I don’t remember any liberal/democrat manifesto calling for US aid to Egypt to be diverted from defence spending and put into democracy promotion.

      “I haven’t read every issue of The Weekly Standard…”

      Your loss and it shows ;-)

    • Gunrunner, you are missing the point entirely. This post does not argue that ‘liberals’ are better than ‘neo-cons’ (which appears to be the argument you are so intent on countering in your asides here). The point is that it is simply ridiculous for Americans of any political persuasion to ‘claim credit’ for or to use the events in Egypt to validate their policies — not least because the end-result in Egypt is still so highly uncertain.

    • Gunrunner says:

      David, I hear you, but it appears you missed the point of my post(s).

      I am not arguing one side is “better” than the other. Far from it. I provided balance. Almost every post in this thread has some sort of negative comment reference neo-cons–too include the first sentence in the FB post. I am simply pointing out that both sides were pretty much the same when it came to Egypt.

      Additionally, FMF for FMS to Egypt played/plays an important part in the mid-east peace process–and for good reason, both for the US and Egypt.

  14. Perhaps there is another explanation besides the starry-eyed dream of freedom. According to Forbes (http://goo.gl/wUllC), unemployment in the Arab world has been significantly higher than other parts of the globe. In Egypt, unemployment for those under the age of 25 is estimated to be as high as 25%. That is a lot of young men with not much to do.

    According to Clausewitz, War = Politics. If the #1 reason for political change is economics (“It’s the economy, stupid”), then, Politics = Economics

    Ergo,

    War = Economics?

  15. Michael says:

    I’m not so sure this really about an argument between neo-cons and liberals. This is an argument between Condi Rice and Henry Kissinger. Neo-Cons v Realists.

    “In fact, if it is typically neo-conservative to believe that ‘basic human desires for freedom [can’t] be repressed forever’, who isn’t a neo-con?” Kissinger for one. To be exact, Kissinger would say “really, I don’t care about this sort of thing very much. I’m about me. Whatever you crazy kids do is what ever you do. I’m interested in my own national interest. And that usually means what ever makes me or keeps me rich. If you get rich too, great. If not, it really isn’t my job to help you figure it all out”.

    I do take some exception here though “But this misses a broader point: what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt came from within, it was not the West’s doing, and it may not even have helped had the West gotten involved” The “west” most certinly did get involved. Facebook, cell phones, twitter… all of these things are very much a product of ‘westthink’. To think of the exports of the west in purely ‘that which comes from the embassy’ is very much a misread.

    • Gunrunner says:

      “The “west” most certinly did get involved. Facebook, cell phones, twitter… all of these things are very much a product of ‘westthink’. To think of the exports of the west in purely ‘that which comes from the embassy’ is very much a misread.”

      Indeed.

      Consider the impact of International Military Education and Training (IMET) on generations of Egyptian military.

      Since the Camp David accords, the US funded IMET for the Egyptian military.

      One of the two principle aims of IMET is to “increase the ability of foreign national military and civilian personnel to absorb and maintain basic democratic values and protect internationally recognized human rights.” http://www.dsca.mil/home/international_military_education_training.htm

      IMET is not shooting–it is education.

      Given the Egyptian military has been receiving IMET for decades and almost 100% of senior Egyptian military leaders are IMET trained, it appears IMET worked.

      (I should add. . . thus far. . . )

    • Michael, whatever differences exist btw Messrs. Kissinger and others have not exactly resulted in massive changes in foreign policy. I would buy your argument if there was a marked change between two alternatives. But there ain’t.

      As to claiming Western involvement due to Twitter and cell phones — well, that’s like claiming the FAA was behind 9/11 or that China was ‘involved’, because it manufactured the box-cutters.

  16. Michael says:

    I’m not so sure this really about an argument between neo-cons and liberals. This is an argument between Condi Rice and Henry Kissinger. Neo-Cons v Realists.

    “In fact, if it is typically neo-conservative to believe that ‘basic human desires for freedom [can’t] be repressed forever’, who isn’t a neo-con?” Kissinger for one. To be exact, Kissinger would say “really, I don’t care about this sort of thing very much. I’m about me. Whatever you crazy kids do is what ever you do. I’m interested in my own national interest. And that usually means what ever makes me or keeps me rich. If you get rich too, great. If not, it really isn’t my job to help you figure it all out”.

    I do take some exception here though “But this misses a broader point: what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt came from within, it was not the West’s doing, and it may not even have helped had the West gotten involved” The “west” most certinly did get involved. Facebook, cell phones, twitter… all of these things are very much a product of ‘westthink’. To think of the exports of the west in purely ‘that which comes from the embassy’ is very much a misread.

  17. Michael says:

    “I would buy your argument if there was a marked change between two alternatives. But there ain’t.”

    Not in a million years would I imagine Kissinger telling Nixon that a large scale military adventure in Afghanistan is the right answer for 9/11. Not in a Million Billion years can I imagine Kissinger telling Nixon “ya know, what Iraqis really hunger for is democracy.”

    “China was ‘involved’, because it manufactured the box-cutters.”

    There is a huge difference between cultural hegemony and dominance in box-cutter manufacturing. This analogy just falls short. Even the most casual observer would note the clear western cultural influence.

    • You’re in danger of treating these ‘-isms’ as absolute polar opposites. Since you bring up Kissinger, let me cite him on this point: “No serious realist should claim that power is its own justification. No idealist should imply that power is irrelevant to the spread of ideals. The real issue is to establish a sense of proportion between these two essential elements of policy…. The debate between realism and idealism therefore usually misses the point.”

      So the dichotomy falls apart. Yes there are changes in degree and in rhetoric, or in emphasis. But it is not as if ‘realists’ are blind to values or that the neo-con crowd, conversely, sees them, democracy in this instance, as an end in itself.

      But this bellies a more profound point: I am talking about the practical expression of foreign policy, not declaratory statements, and on that front it is even more difficult to see some radical substantive change with regard to democracy promotion. Cash flows to reform-oriented NGOs may fluctuate, but overall America’s relation to and interest in Egypt have remained fairly constant. Same with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China — the list goes on.

      Ah but what about the Afghan and Iraq wars, you ask – these neo-con adventures that Kissinger would never have agreed to? Well, first of all I believe Kissinger did support both invasions. Second, it seems highly inaccurate to portray these invasions as part of some neo-con exercise in democracy-promotion. Certainly, the Bush administration conceived of Afghanistan mostly as a counter-terrorism issue. And on Iraq, just last week we heard arch neo-con Wolfowitz make the case that democracy had little to do with that invasion. This may be mere back-pedalling, but it does point toward a broader issue, namely that even in an administration where neo-cons held unparalleled power, democracy promotion was not pursued with the fervour you imply in your comment above.

      But as I said in the post, we can have a discussion about the degree to which democracy-promotion should feature in US foreign policy. This would be your ‘Rice versus Kissinger’ debate, which while flawed in its conception, might have some merit. But to go from this to claiming credit for the events in Egypt, to say that it was US democracy promotion, or its neo-con agenda, that unleashed these protests, is the height of insularity and of solipsism.

      So what of this ‘Western cultural influence’ that you say lies behind the protests? Well even if that were so (I’m afraid I don’t quite see what you’re getting at), what does that have to do with neo-cons in particular? And if the answer is ‘not much’, doesn’t that rather validate the simple point made in the post itself?

    • Ed says:

      “But this bellies a more profound point” – best. typo. EVAR.

      By the way, I consider claiming “Western cultural influence” because The People used Facebook and/or Twitter is erroneous. Facebook and Twitter in the context of the Egyptian (etc) uprising are like boxcutters on 9/11: mere tools.

  18. Michael says:

    In this corner you have the realist, a man central to the destruction of the Chilean democracy, the reestablishment of relations with the brutal regime of Communist China, and the end of the disastrous Vietnam war. In the other corner you have the neo-con, a lady at the center of two long wars who’s shifting rationals finally ended up being “bringing democracy to the Muslim world” and who allowed one Marxist regime after another to spring up in Latin America. Even if bringing Democracy was but one of the reasons to go to war, it has now become one of the main reasons we stay at war. David, I’m just not buying your argument that these two philosophies result in the same thing as a practical matter.

    Besides, now you are talking out of both sides of your mouth: the main premise of your first post is that neo-cons said they “understood that the ‘basic human desires for freedom could not be repressed forever’” Now you are saying that neo-cons say “that democracy had little to do with that invasion [of Iraq].” implying that they don’t care too much about spreading it. So will the real neo-cons that you are talking about please stand up? Either Neo-cons think freedom, democracy, liberty et al are central, or Neo-cons don’t think that. If prominent Neo-cons claim both sides, as would seem to be the case from what you are saying then we can only conclude that the entire dumb term “neo-con” has no real meaning at all in this context. Fine by me. Moving along smartly.

    Kissinger, like most people with an “R” attached to their last name, no doubt supported the invasion. I never disputed that. Invasions for limited goals are one thing. Democracy building is another.

    If I invented a tool that changed the entire way people related to one another, and related to their government, would it be more than a tool? Could it be instead a mechanism by which the West spread a way of thinking about the place of the individual in a society, in a polity? If I invented a ‘space’ where people could speak freely to each other without government interference could it be more than a boxcutter? Perhaps it is by accident, totally unintended, but folks, for better or worse Western thought is at the heart of this.

  19. Eric Johnson-DeBaufre says:

    Leaving aside the absurdities of the neo-con arguments regarding Egypt and Tunisia (which involve a version of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy), they should be seen for what they are: desperate efforts to resuscitate a neo-conservative ideology that is, in the U.S. at least, under assault by a largely isolationist Tea Party movement eager to expand its influence with American conservatives.

    • Michael says:

      Agreed. Can any one give me what the heck the Tea Party movement thinks of world affairs? What little I’ve seen of it, it seems isolationist. Since isolationism and pacifism are strong amongst libertarians (I think it PJ O’Rourke who said of the libertarian think tank the CATO institute that they believed ‘the only moral place to make a killing was the market’)—perhaps the loudest component of the Tea Party movement, that should come as no surprise.

  20. Madhu says:

    The Tea Party is a largely leaderless grass roots movement primarily devoted to paring back spending and reducing the size and scope of government.

    Jonathan Rausch had a very good article on this phenomenon in National Journal and discussed it on NPR. Will dig up the links later if I have time :)

    As such, the Tea Party doesn’t have a foreign policy and why should it? That is not the goal or purpose of the movement. The goal is to reduce the national debt and the size and scope of government.

    Where individual members will disagree is whether spending cuts should include defense related expenditures or not. This is the nature of proposing spending cuts. Everyone is for them until they see what will be cut.

    That is why I favor across the board cuts. The institutions can then prioritize programs as they see fit. Won’t be perfect but nothing ever is.

    One can be a hawk and still see that cutting the budget, and even certain defense programs, is good for the country and even the defense department. It’s not like all the money goes for warfighting per se. A lot of it is entitlement spending.

    • Gunrunner says:

      Indeed. And it is important to point out the Tea Party is not neo-con, not republican, liberal or democrat. It is apolitical. As you said, the Tea Party’s aim is to reduce the size and scope of government and that goal has no established political ties.

    • Ed says:

      I’m honestly reminded of the animosity between Trotskyists, Leninists, Marxist-Leninists, Leninist-Marxists, Maoists, Stalinists…

    • Gunrunner says:

      Yeah, me too, except for the whole limited government, low tax’s and individual freedom thing. Other than that. . . ;-)

  21. Pericles says:

    I’m genuinely interested by the claim that the Tea Party is apolitical. What is the Democrat/Republican voter split within it? How many Tea Partiers are also Democrats or Marxist-Leninists or pro abortion campaigners? I am sure people within the movement are more complex than the media often portray them (again, genuine curiosity, not sarcasm here-email is perhaps not the best medium to express genuine inquiry rather than foaming-at-the-mouth extremism-funny that), but at the same time the Ayn Rand agenda (which has never worked anywhere, ever, in my view-see Karl Polyani) is scarcely ‘apolitical’. In fact I would be genuinely worried if the Tea Party thought of itself as ‘apolitical’-they might see themselves as more diverse than the media portray them as, and as rather more than a Glenn Beck fan club (though I’d like to see more evidence of that), but if they think of themselves as ‘apolitical’ (apathy/antipathy towards all political affiliations) then they’re probably doing something wrong or are seriously confused.

    • Gunrunner says:

      I understand your points.

      Madhu makes clear what the TP is all about. And having met many that are TP members/followers, and having observed a rally while in DC, I can personally say they are simple in purpose and draw support from all aspects of the political spectrum.

      The numbers? Demographic breakdown? Hard to say as it is not a national political party and doesn’t keep records. So I can’t say how many are republican or democrat, but it is safe to say they are very diverse when it comes to social aspects (abortion, pro-life, etc). Those social issues are not part of the agenda, so they are not an issue when someone wishes to claim membership in the movement.

      Speaking of claiming membership, anyone can claim to be a TP member, but that doesn’t really mean anything unless they support limited government, reduced spending and embrace personal freedom.

      Therefore, TP has no affinity for any political party, as they pretty much think both major parties have dropped the political football. Democrat, republican both.

      While the media attempts to portray the TP movement as some right-wing movement it is far from it. As I pointed out, they are from all walks of life and all political bents. I think this media attempt at placing the TP as some right-wing movement is simply a matter of knee-jerk politics on their part. You see, if you are against expansion of the government and its massive spending, therefore you must be a republican (i.e., right-wing). If anything, the past decades have proven that when it comes to government expansion and cost, there is not that much difference between the two major parties and that is why the TP stands out. They are neither. Given the paradigm of two major parties, therefore you must belong to one of them, that is understandable. . . but wrong. They are themselves.

      A Glen Beck party it is not. Glen Beck is a major personality with a tremendous following, but merging the TP with Glen Beck is not apt. While Glen does embrace the general principles of the TP movement, he does not represent the TP and because of the diverse TP following, Glen is not the draw.

    • Gunrunner says:

      Nice link, but to be clear, the USAF has engaged other fighters and shot them down.

      Reference a quote in the linked article (“But no American jet “fighter” pilot has ever actually fought anyone for a half century,)” please reference Air University Historical Research Agency (“USAF AERIAL VICTORY CREDITS ON-LINE”) or do a simple google search for air-to-air kills, or go to this link (Desert Storm, only): http://www.leyden.com/gulfwar/air.html

      The USAF has been active and is kicking butt, so much so that American ground soldiers have not been subjected to an aerial attack since the Korean War.

  22. Mike says:

    All we did was create a civil war in Iraq, install an international puppet government, and hand out the oil contracts to international oil companies. Yeah the neocons were right…..lol

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