Saturday, July 31, 2004

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention: Part II

Previously I had delved in the Bolshevik character of the current administration, whereby they combine ideological fervor, maximalism (careful! apparently a "difficult word") and tactical ability. The 70s and 80s right-wing sovietologists (alumni of The Committee on the Present Danger and the like) who populate the civilian leadership of Defense apparently stared so long into the abyss that it stared back into them.

Well, "tactical ability" with regard to domestic enemies, at least; the domestic opposition is only now starting to seem less hapless than the Cadets and Social Revolutionaries, while the real, dangerous opposition abroad is taking advantage of the administration's incompetence.

However, a confession: I'm not so irate as my choice of words (and poor choice of title) might suggest; I don't hold neoconservatism entirely in low regard. The central metaphor ("Bolshevism") of this series obscures the real difference between neo-con academics who shape foreign policy and the men of low animal cunning (DeLay, Rove) who push the administration's domestic agenda.

For instance, I know one neo-con professional analyst personally. He's a thoughtful, socially liberal fellow who considers himself a "Scoop Jackson Democrat" and is almost apologetic about his political orientation. I think he was mistaken about the Iraq war, but my disagreement is respectful and I endorse these words of Timothy Burke:

"It’s no accident that some Marxists, some liberals and many neoconservatives have found the war attractive, because they all derive tremendous intellectual strength from unversalist frameworks. This I find laudable and important and I recognize many supporters of the war who take this approach as intellectual cousins. (Those who do not share this commonality, like those parochalists and chauvinists on the American right who have endorsed brutality at Abu Ghraib, I recognize no connection with.) "

But, in another way, the metaphor is quite correct. Neo-con academics (e.g. Fukuyama) belong in one class, neo-con officials quite another. Perle and Wolfowitz not only have a Bolshevik intellectual heritage, but wield power like Bolsheviks -- with arrogance, with unshakable certainty, with belief in the necessity of extraordinary measures undertaken by a small vanguard. "Maximalism" is here applicable; no compromises with the opposition can be made, nor any departure from the new design of Permanent Revolution. "Ideological fervor" is quite accurate; realistic intelligence assessments can be brushed aside if they don't comport with ideology.

As a consequence, where we could have taken action with international goodwill and a truly multinational force -- with Pakistani peacekeepers, for instance -- we are mired in an Occupation on which the Iraqi people have soured, for which we have insufficient troops, and which promises for Iraq, at best, a Shiite theocracy or strongman government. I was prepared to laud Bush if his threats were designed to force Hussein's immediate compliance with inspections (which they did.) I would have endorsed regime change over a time frame (no imminent threat, remember -- we knew that even then) in which a humanitarian case could have been made and an international force assembled. No, the choice available wasn't between Bush's war and complete inaction, as war supporters like to argue. The war as it was undertaken leaves us with a difficult situation. It could have been otherwise.

This Prospect article outlines the response of a hypothetical Gore administration to 9/11, which would have, it argues, included an eventual Iraq intervention. It's worth a read, but it appears to have been closed to all but subscribers. Well, it argued that, in some respects, foreign policy views in the US have converged -- and I'd endorse that argument, with the additional caveat that some very key, possibly intractable differences remain, as the previous year has shown.

Vote Kerry if you want an administration that will pursue and dismantle terrorist networks vigorously, that will mend relations with allies, and which will make some attempt to reach out to a despairing Middle Eastern populace. (I say "some" because on this point I'm a bit pessimistic -- I don't think Kerry has the will or ability to make headway on Palestine, which I think is key for peace in the region.) You can expect from Kerry "muscular liberalism," not isolationism.


Blogger eigenwill said...

e.w.: now with 50% less pretentiousness.

I still don't know what "benemahan" means.

July 31, 2004 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Peter Parker said...

good stuff, e-Dubya. electronic BUsh? hmmmm. maybe not.

to understand benemahan, read Dune by Frank Herbert. Bene Mahan, bitches.

August 1, 2004 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger eigenwill said...

Ah. I should get around to reading Dune. In fact, I should start reading more science fiction in general.

August 4, 2004 at 4:10 PM  

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