American Samizdat

Monday, December 18, 2006. *
Neoconservatives lobbied for an unnecessary war and are getting blamed. But they have made comebacks before.

Despite the obituaries now being written, neoconservatism will not soon be over with and certainly won’t disappear in the way that American communism or segregation have. The group has always been resilient and tactically flexible.
But if Bush has failed them, what options remain? Joe Lieberman has less national appeal than Henry Jackson did, and once you have been embedded in the Pentagon and the vice president’s office, forays from the Senate will seem a weak brew. John McCain is another matter, and if Americans can be persuaded that the solution to their Middle East, terrorism, and other diplomatic dilemmas lies in more troops and invasions, neoconservatism will have springtime all over again.

In the short run at least, neoconservatism is wounded and is likely to present a different public face. The soaring language about how it is America’s destiny to spread democracy throughout the globe, the efforts to define an American global empire as something greatly to be desired—this will dropped, a casualty of the Iraq fiasco. But it’s not clear that the neocons will miss the democracy baggage.
What won’t be dropped is the neoconservatives’ attachment to Israel and the tendency to conflate the Jewish state’s interests (as defined in right-wing Israeli terms) with America’s. So one can look forward to neoconservative agitation on two fronts: a powerful campaign to draw the United States into a war to eliminate Iran’s nuclear potential and an equally loud effort in support of maintaining Israeli dominance over the West Bank and denying the Palestinians meaningful statehood. Those who argue effectively for a more even-handed American policy towards Israel and Palestine will risk the full measure of smears linking them to historical anti-Semitism.
This election season ends with neoconservatism widely mocked and openly contemptuous of the president who took its counsels. The key policy it has lobbied for since the mid-1990s—the invasion of Iraq—is an almost universally acknowledged disaster. So one can see why the movement’s obituaries are being written. But the group was powerful and influential well before its alliance with George W. Bush. In its wake it leaves behind crises—Iraq first among them—that will not be easy to resolve, and neocons will not be shy about criticizing whatever imperfect solutions are found to the mess they have created. Perhaps most importantly, neoconservatism still commands more salaries—able people who can pursue ideological politics as fulltime work in think tanks and periodicals—than any of its rivals. The millionaires who fund AEI and the New York Sun will not abandon neoconservatism because Iraq didn’t work out. The reports of the movement’s demise are thus very much exaggerated.
posted by Uncle $cam at 4:07 AM
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