Despite rumors to the contrary, even those perpetrated by once-prominent neocons, neoconservatism is actually alive and doing fairly well. Not only did neoconservative philosophy win the Cold War, but neoconservative policies continue to win key battles with the terror-obsessed medievalists we are fighting in Iraq and elsewhere; as well as with the liberal 'progressives' and the dead-end totalitarians of today's antiwar movement.
From a recent editorial "With Iraq Improving, Will Neocon Ideas Return?" by Victor Davis Hanson has this to say:
...for a variety of unforeseen reasons, the furor and partisan bad blood over Iraq are lessening here in the States. The debate over Iraq seems to be changing from "we can't win" to whether victory is worth the aggregate costs.
Expect this new battle to be more retrospective, as each side tries to inflate or deflate how much blood and treasure have been spent on the Iraq War - and whether the cost has led to greater American security both in and beyond Iraq.
As fear of defeat in Iraq recedes from the political landscape, look to a growing consensus elsewhere. "Neocon" - the term often used to describe "new" conservatives who today support fostering democracy in the Middle East - may still be a dirty word.
But if you take the anger about George Bush out of the equation, along with the Iraq war and the fear of any more invasions by the U.S., why not support democratic reform in the Middle East? We know the alternatives only play into the hands of terrorists.... (emphasis mine)
Good question. Hanson further argues that:
A year from now, neither George Bush nor a quieter Iraq will inflame Democrats. And without these familiar bogeymen, they will to have to state what they are for, rather than what they are against.
If Democrats keep Congress and win the presidency, they probably won't do things much differently in Afghanistan. America's role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also won't change much. And if the next president is a Republican, it's a safe bet he won't invade any new countries.
As the Democrats move closer to the controversial neoconservative position of actively supporting democratic reform in the Middle East; and they will claim that their strong idealistic diplomacy is the proper corrective to the Bush administration's unilateral misadventures.
In other words, as long as things go well in Iraq, the Democrats (and the soft neocons) will end up arguing that they were for neoconservatism before they were against it; that it was only the incompetent application of those idealistic principles that they were opposed to, not the idealism itself.
What Hanson refers to as the "soft neocons" are really "utopian" neocons--those who can only support freedom and democracy when there is no imperfection, mess, or sacrifice in the equation.
But recognition of that fundamental truth is exactly why neoconservatism works in the real world; and why both democracy and capitalism also work--they all permit imperfect human nature to operate freely trusting that each person's interest and pursuit of individual happiness will optimize the overall good of society. None denies the reality that human beings are imperfect; none of the underlying principles that characterize any of these concepts depend on human perfection or perfectibility; and this is in stark and deadly contrast to the the utopian fantasies that gripped the 20th century--communism, socialism and fascism. As we know from experience in the real world these particular utopian fantasies led only to human suffering, misery, oppression and death when they dominated the political scene.
Recently Richard Perle, who has been a fairweather neocon at best, made the following observation "We Won Years Ago": (hat tip: American Power )
For those who never considered that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed any threat to the United States, the idea that we might “win” is, by definition, inconceivable. For those who worried that Saddam’s regime might one day provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, the end of his regime was a “win” the day Baghdad fell. For that small and much-maligned group who regarded the invasion of Iraqi as an act of risk management, weighing the costs of war against the risk of leaving Saddam in place and hoping for the best, the notion of victory has been swamped by a debate over its cost.
And the cost has been high—far higher than I believe was necessary. That cost was driven by colossal mismanagement, chronic indecision about strategy, tactics and even goals, confusion about whom to trust among Iraqis and allies alike, a failure to deal effectively with Iranian and Syrian involvement in the conflict, and a shocking level of incompetence within the Bush Administration....
Contrary to the view of many critics of the war, we did not go into Iraq mainly to impose democracy by force in some grand, ambitious (and naive) scheme to transform Iraq and then the region as a whole into a collection of happy democracies. It is notable that the critics who charge that this was our core objective never cite evidence to support their claim....
Without military action we could not have decisively managed the threat from Iraq. It is now managed: Saddam will not be sharing WMD with anyone. Judged against that measure, we have already won in Iraq, despite all the failures of policy and implementation that followed the destruction of his regime. To be sure, that victory has come at a terrible price, and whether it can be sustained remains to be seen. After all, we once “won” against the Soviets in Afghanistan, only to see the Taliban regime, aligned as it was with Osama bin Laden, emerge to threaten us directly in a way Afghanistan never did under Soviet occupation. But in the larger picture, driving the Soviets from Afghanistan, even if the means were crude and even if we suffered later from unintended consequences, was an important factor in our victory in the Cold War, which was the larger picture.
There is a larger picture with respect to Iraq, as well, and there is reason to hope that it will vindicate what we have done there. We have demonstrated in Iraq that we will act to protect ourselves. We have shown that we will fight terrorists where we find them, even when the cost is high. We, and now much of the world, have begun to take terrorism seriously. This is in good measure because we have been willing, in Iraq and Afghanistan, to go beyond the instruments of law enforcement and plaintive pleas to ineffective international institutions on which we once relied. We have, as the always wise Fouad Ajami put it, created, “from Egypt to Kuwait and Bahrain, a Pax Americana [that] anchors the order of the region. In Iraq, the Pax Americana, hitherto based in Sunni Arab lands, has acquired a new footing in a Shiite-led country.”
Such success as we have achieved in Iraq, like the strategic and tactical failures there that went before, is due largely to the (bewilderingly episodic) leadership of President Bush. He found the courage to offer the surge when he was under immense pressure to withdraw. He understood that the advice coming from his Secretary of State amounted to accepting a thinly masked defeat while the advice from Congress amounted to defeat, period.
The gains could be reversed, of course, and if some of the candidates for president have their way, they will be. But it is already significant that Iraq has faded as a partisan political issue, not because there is a shortage of Democrats—the implacable “leadership”, Pelosi and Reid come to mind—who want us out whatever the consequences, but because the turnaround has dimmed the star of withdrawal, retreat and isolation.
After the ordeal that Iraq and the belated but absolutely necessary mobilization against Muslim extremism have imposed on us, it would be the final, tragic irony if what has been achieved were squandered by a new administration more concerned with honoring a foolish, irresponsible commitment to the antiwar sentiment of left-wing Democrats and isolationist Republicans than to the safety of the nation.
Perle is correct that understanding the larger picture--both in looking retrospectively at the Cold War, as well as right now at the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan for that matter) is absolutely essential. It is in our national interest to be seen by the Arab world as willing to do what is necessary to protect ourselves even when the cost is high; it is in our national interest to take terrorism and terrorist states seriously; it is in our national interest to make sure that we speak softly (i.e. diplomatically) and carry a big stick. The "innefective international institutions on which we once relied" are practically useless--and in many cases worse than useless--in the age of terrorism. These idealistic institutions have been infected with the same disease that was thought to be eradicated once and for all when the Soviet Union and other communist states ignomoniously collapsed under the weight of their own contradictions.
Let us take a moment to examine the political left here and abroad who are wholly committed to these mostly useless institutions and the utopian "internationalism" they promte; and who have, both consciously in some instances and unconsciously in others, worked in parallel to Muslim fanatacism, continually enabling and encouraging its extremism and rewarding its pathological behavior, because it suited their own utopian agenda. Thus has the terrorist/jihadi agenda has escalated and expanded over several decades unrecognized and unopposed and culminating in Al Qaeda's unnoticed declaration of war in the 90's.
These are the forces now influencing the Democratic Party, which would willingly squander the hard-won victories our military forces have achieved and halt the spread of democracy and freedom which will protect our nation in the long run.
American society with its freedom and tolerance has been a comfortable home for the antiwar 'progressive' left with all its dead-end totalitarians (who call themselves variously marxists, socialists, or communists). These groups differ from the Muslim extremists in one fundamental sense: they don't want to take us back to the barbaric Middle Ages--they are far too intellectual and modern for that! They simply want to return to the middle of the last century when it seemed that their ideology would continue its rise to global power, unopposed and unquestioned.
Neoconservative philosophy stood in the way of a successful Communist jihad in the Cold War and ultimately defeated it.
But this stunning defeat--that occurred without a shot being fired really-- did not exactly represent the "end of history" as Francis Fukayama once famously proclaimed. Forces from the previous century had already set in motion the next phase of the ongoing battle between the forces of freedom and the forces of tyranny.
What most people think of as neoconservatism is actually just the foreign policy component of a larger philosophy; a component that came into most people's awareness after the events of 9/11, when most people began to realize that the larger epic battle between good and evil; freedom and tyranny was still going on--even as we merrily went our way in the 90's (the decade of denial).
While most people now recognize that there is some sort of problem with Islam and terrorism, many still seem to be of the opionion that solving the problem is optional.
On the contrary, solving the problem is an absolutely essential task for the future of Western civilization. And the solution is not simply findng the correct military response to the assymetrical warfare adopted by the terrorists; it must also involve confronting the factors within Western civilization that are determined to destroy it for its own good.
Before the West can completely defeat Islamic terrorism, we must recognize that those groups and ideologies defeated in the Cold War have disguised their ideologies and taken them mainstream in the U.S., hijacking the educationl system; much of the media; and almost the entire Democratic Party. The Cold War was never won in any of these key areas of American life.
Whether they are willing to face the truth or not, the remnants of those defeated in the Cold War have regrouped and reinvented themselves only now they call themselves progressives and they have no problem appeasing, enabling, and surreptitiously--and sometimes openly-- supporting terrorism; because in the rise of Islamic fanatacism, they see a way for their own bankrupt ideology to rise again on a global scale.
Before addressing why neoconservatism offers the only possibillity of spreading real hope and change in this world, let me first discuss these groups and ideologies.
In our own society it is the so-called antiwar faction, made up of a collaboration of leftist progressives and the openly socialist/communist groups who have succumbed to international hysteria and fear; and whose greatest desire is to admit defeat, declare surrender, run away, ignore, and/or pretend that the very real problems posed by the Islamic fanatics don't exist or can be wished away. This is where neoconservative philosophy comes in. The leftist progressives and dead-end totalitarians (who I often refer to as "neo-marxist fascists") can only be effectively countered with ideas that expose the moral and intellectual bankruptcy that have sapped the will of the West and plunged it into nihilistic despair.
This pervasive nihilism is promulgated and promoted by the West's own intellectual elites as postmodernism. But there is nothing modern about it, and in its own way it is as primitive and barbaric a philosophy as that which drives the Islamic extremists.
Today's left is a nothing more than the hallow shell of what was once known as "liberalism"; and it is held together by the empty and meaningless rhetoric of postmodernism, a sort of intellectual nonsense, otherwise known as political correctness and multiculturalism (or, cultural relativity).
It was the hijacking of classical liberalism in the 1960's by the political left that led to the defection of many prominent liberals and to the articulation of neoconservative ideas. These prominent liberals observed how the fundamental precepts of liberalism were literally reconstructed to suit the needs of socialists and communists who could not bring themselves to accept that their ideology was a catastrophe.
All over the world it was becoming apparent that political and social collectivism was an abject failure in practice--i.e., in the real world. Where implemented, collectivist policies led to intractable poverty and misery economically; as well as unbelievable oppression and the crushing of the human spirt politically and morally.
I have discussed elsewhere how the recent revival of socialism and its collectivist/totalitarian agenda in the late 20th and early 21st century was made possible by the adoption of postmodern epistemology, rhetoric and politics by western intellectual elites. This revival insures that a constant stream of hate will always be directed toward neocons and neoconservatism because they are the ones who truly carry the torch of classical liberalism. What has driven the left around the bend is the fact that those people and countries formerly under the yoke of communism and leftist ideologies are the best witnesses against them. These are the people who understand and value neoconservatism because they understand clearly in their own lives that the hope for freedom and change is more than mere rhetoric. its ideas. This reality is what drives the left crazy and powers the venomous hatred they espouse for all neocons.
I have noted before:
Multiculturalism and political correctness are two of the fundamental pseudo-intellectual, quasi-religious tenets-- along with a third: radical environmentalism--that have been widely disseminated by intellectuals unable to abandon socialism even after its crushing failures in the 20th century. These tenets have been slowly, but relentlessly absorbed at all levels of Western culture in the last decade or so--but primarily since the end of the Cold War.
All three have been incorporated into most K-12 curricula and all other learning environments. They have been at the forefront of attempts by leading academics and academic institutions to rewrite most of history and undo thousands of years of Western cultural advancement. And further, as the culture has been completely saturated with this toxic brew, any attempt to question the tenets' validity or to contest their value is met with hysterical accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, imperialism, bigotry, or--worse of all --intolerance or insensitivity.
It just so happens, that these tenets represent three of the four pillars that are the foundation of an evolving epistemological, ethical and political strategy that the socialist remnants in the world have developed and are using to prevent their ideology from entering the dustbin of history.
[For more on postmodernism and its implications, see posts here, here, here here and, of course, here.]
In order to succeed in undoing and undermining the clear and unambiguous evidence of socialism's and communism's utter human toxicity, the totalitarians of the political left had to undermine nothing less than reality, reason, and truth. Furthermore, they had to deconstruct and invalidate human consciousness, making sure that the everyone understood that the only apparatus available to humans for perceiving reality--the mind--was completely unreliable, and that the evidence of the senses must therefore be discounted. This intellectual strategy resulted in a pervasive cultural relativism and intellectual nihilism that permeated all aspects of society and intellectual thought. Words and language were redefined to mean whatever one wanted; history was deconstructed--ostensibly to expose it's lies, but really to render it meaningless; and the ideas and values that were the foundation of Western civilization were mocked and shown by postmodern "logic" to be no better than any other random ideas.
In the postmodern world, "freedom" is just another word for nothing left to lose; and not significantly different from "slavery"; "democracy" is just as much a fraud as tyranny and cynically used by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes to give themselves international cache; that which has always been considered "the good" in a moral sense has become as evil as "evil"; and so on and so forth.
Armed with this sort of convoluted thinking, twentieth century postmodernists set themselves up as culturally and morally superior to all other humans in history; and with the postmodern relativistic advantage, they could--and did-- pass judgement on everyone and everything that came before.
Thus from the 'superior' postmodern perspective, there was nothing of value to learn from a slave-holding Thomas Jefferson; there is no moral superiority in a system or nation like the United States-- that strives toward increasing individual human freedom and dignity compared to a system or a nation that doesn't even recognize the rights of the individual. There is no difference between right and wrong; good and evil--all are suspect, all are hypcritical, all are imperfect; and thus all such concepts are rendered irrelevant.
The key to this undoing of that which is good and conflating it with that which is evil; of deconstructing the reality and reason upon which more than 5000 years of civilization is founded; is through the nihilistic process of deconstructing and reinterpreting the historical past and redefining and undermining its meaning.
As an example of this process, consider the points that Victor Davis Hanson makes as he discusses Senator Obama's proposals educational reforms:
“He said schools should do a better job of teaching all students African-American history "because that's part of American history," as well as women's struggle for equality, the history of unions, the role of Hispanics in U.S. and other matters that he suggested aren't given enough attention.”
"I want us to have a broad-based history" taught in schools, he said, even including more on "the Holocaust as well as other issues of oppression" around the world.”
But anyone familiar with the historical illiteracy of today’s college student understands that more of the “oppression” history that Sen. Obama is advocating is precisely the problem, not the solution. Our high school students already know who Harriet Tubman is, but not U.S. Grant or Shiloh. They have been introduced to Crispus Attucks, but not Alexander Hamilton. They know World War II largely as the Japanese internment and Hiroshima (cf. Reverend Wright on that), but have not a clue about the Bulge or Okinawa or the Munich travesty.
In other words, it is precisely this pick-and-choose therapeutic curriculum of "oppression" history presented as a melodrama of winners (white male Christian capitalists) and losers (women, people of color, the working classes) that has ensured an entire generation of historical illiterates, who can’t distinguish between the profound and trivial, or identify basic names, dates, and places to ground even their politically-correct views. They are told to remember and repeat that Hiroshima is bad, but not why or how it occurred, what were the alternatives, and what were the consequences in a war of bad and worse choices.
Instead the sins innate to mankind—war, oppression, slavery, bias, etc.—are nearly always presented as sins unique to the West in general, or to America in particular. We hear always of commission, never of the remediation, always of our terrible past, never of the pretty awful present that goes on outside the United States.
What we need from a healer at this late date is not advocacy for more gripe-history that tries to portion out equal victim status to various competing constituencies under the guise of multicultural brotherhood, but rather tries, in holistic and inclusive fashion, to explain both the noble and tragic history of the United States, an experiment that was and is not perfect, but still very good and preferable to all the alternatives.
In the mind of the postmodern politician, the only important aspects of history are those that fit in with the marxist dialectical view of the world. Oppressors and oppressed; noble victims and ignoble white, male heterosexual (i.e., Republican/conservative/capitalist) oppressors. We listened to even more of this sort of rhetoric just yesterday in Barack Obama's "race speech". While it had some moments of clarity, it quickly degenerated into yet another rehash of the left's postmodern talking points--a rather "elegant farce" in the end.
You are probably very familiar with this ubiquitous leftist drill--or your children are at any rate-- since it is now frequently applied to anything valued in the West. By using the now-common relativistic formula, all individuals and thinkers in the past are ridiculed, demeaned, and scorned because they fail to live up to postmodern and politically correct standards of conduct (unless of course they are of an approved 'victim class'--then they can have any inconsistency imaginable). Thus, their ideas are considered meaningless and described as "hypocritical"--the absolutely worse possible sin from the leftist perspective.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington--all the Founding Fathers for the most part--did not have the "superior" consciousness of the postmodern intellectual: they were slaveholders! Yet, they nevertheless dared to consider the problem of human freedom, bound as they were to the cultural norms of their time.
That they could not entirely break out of the culture of their time, but still could push the envelope of civilization forward is irrelevant to the postmodern left. From the left's perch of moral superiority they blithely dismiss these "white males" as hypocrites with no moral standing. Thus are the foundations and the generationally built constructs of civilization invalidated and destroyed. Is it any wonder that all that is left is the nihilistic garbage that postmodernism deems as "reality"?
But consider, if we do not understand the past; if we abandon the ideas that underlie our values and our morality-- how can we appreciate who we are today? If we are only allowed to think of Thomas Jefferson as a hypocritical colonial slaveholder, then we are forced to pronounce his ideas on the struggle for human freedom as no better and no worse than Hitler's Kampf.
And so, Jefferson's mind-blowing, paradigm-shattering declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" has no more meaning or worth than Yasser Arafat's statement that, "Since we cannot defeat Israel in war; we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel." Both are either completely meaningless; or both are examples of freedom-fighters--who cares which? Bush = Hitler; Good = Evil; Freedom = Slavery; there is no way to judge because the nihilistic relativism we subscribe to has taken away our ability to morally distinguish and discriminate between right and wrong.
By disgarding reason and reality; by abandoning the past and embracing moral and cultural relativism, the left has brought us to this place where we are morally and physically paralyzed and cannot distinguish between the deliberate targeting and killing of innocents and the accidental killing of innocents despite herculean efforts to avoid it; between waging war to give people a chance at freedom and democracy; and waging war for domination and imperialism; between standing up for what is right and accepting the consequences, and abandoning one's values and surrendering with "honor" to the scum of the earth.
By mocking intellectual giants like Thomas Jefferson and dragging him through the postmodern mud; by equating Bush with Hitler; or the behavior of the Palestinians with the behavior of the Israelis; the actions of the U.S. military with the actions of the Islamofanatic terrorist thugs-- the left is desperately trying to numb the mind of the West. Who are we to judge? they scream, desperately trying to prevent history from judging their own unbelievable and pathological destructiveness, their own morally repugnant behavior and ideology.
This is their quest. To establish themselves as the arbiters of moral behavior by behaving immorally; of being "reality-based" without the necessity of having to acknowledge reality; of speaking "truth" to power, without being capable of recognizing truth (isn't all truth relative, after all?).
Just as the Saudis have let the wahabbi religious fundamentalism genie out of the bottle, inflicting it on Islam; so too has the political left let loose the genie of postmodern moral relativism onto Western civilization. The two genies have much in common since both work in tandem to destroy the human mind and spirit. Islamic fundamentalism is actively destroying millions by its soul-murdering ideology; while postmodern nihilists apologize and enable the barbarians at the gate , even as they destroy the very ideas that built the gate in the first place and which offers the only hope for liberating those millions from the boot of fanatical oppression.
They elevate clowns like Hugo Chavez; swoon over despots like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fidel Castro; have champagne toasts with fruitcakes like Kim Jung Il. And they admire and promulgate the propaganda of the worse barbarians and murderers in history. They fail to consider the logical inconsistency of their own relativistic arguments: all truth is relative, they say; but then they would have no basis upon which to assert that their "truth" (i.e., postmodernism) is anything but rubbish also. If all cultures are good, then why is Western culture uniquely evil?
The political left refuses to look unflinchingly at the consequences of their ideology or their behavior--and, as much as they want to deny it; as much as they demand people like me retract what I am saying, it is their ideas and their precious utopian nihilism that are the problems that must be addressed before we can win the war on terror; before civilization can address the evil unleashed in Darfur, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran, Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere.
The greatest threat to their ideology is human freedom.
President Bush in his 2005 Inaugural Address said:
We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.
America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal (someday, perhaps) of ending tyranny in our world.
Now this would definitely be just another useless utopian dream...except for the reality of the United States of America, and the incredible historical success of combined political and economic freedom to bring about progress and improve human life.
Bush's words are what neoconservatism stands for in the truest sense. Unlike utopian ideologies (socialism and communism), neoconservatism acknowledges the reality of human nature, both the good and the bad; but chooses the good; it seeks truth from history and uses it to better the world now--not by imposing useless utopian fantasies, but by supporting human freedom and individuality and opposing tyranny (through a variety of means, including the application of diplomatic, military, financial and persuasive power) wherever it is found; it recognizes that all men and women are entitled to life, libery and the pursuit of happiness; and it understands that freedom is often messy and chaotic; while tyranny is forced orderliness and thoroughly deadening to the human soul.
Charles Krauthammer wrote a 2004 article proposing a foreign policy for a unipolar world --what he called democratic realism:
This conservative alternative to realism is often lazily and invidiously called neoconservatism, but that is a very odd name for a school whose major proponents in the world today are George W. Bush and Tony Blair--if they are neoconservatives, then Margaret Thatcher was a liberal. There’s nothing neo about Bush, and there’s nothing con about Blair.....
Beyond power. Beyond interest. Beyond interest defined as power. That is the credo of democratic globalism. Which explains its political appeal: America is a nation uniquely built not on blood, race or consanguinity, but on a proposition--to which its sacred honor has been pledged for two centuries. This American exceptionalism explains why non-Americans find this foreign policy so difficult to credit; why Blair has had more difficulty garnering support for it in his country; and why Europe, in particular, finds this kind of value-driven foreign policy hopelessly and irritatingly moralistic.Democratic globalism sees as the engine of history not the will to power but the will to freedom....
Yet they are the principal proponents today of what might be called democratic globalism, a foreign policy that defines the national interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy called “the success of liberty.” ...democratic globalism is an improvement over realism. What it can teach realism is that the spread of democracy is not just an end but a means, an indispensable means for securing American interests. The reason is simple. Democracies are inherently more friendly to the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and generally more inclined to peace. Realists are right that to protect your interests you often have to go around the world bashing bad guys over the head. But that technique, no matter how satisfying, has its limits. At some point, you have to implant something, something organic and self-developing. And that something is democracy.
But where? The danger of democratic globalism is its universalism, its open-ended commitment to human freedom, its temptation to plant the flag of democracy everywhere. It must learn to say no. And indeed, it does say no. But when it says no to Liberia, or Congo, or Burma, or countenances alliances with authoritarian rulers in places like Pakistan or, for that matter, Russia, it stands accused of hypocrisy. Which is why we must articulate criteria for saying yes.
Where to intervene? Where to bring democracy? Where to nation-build? I propose a single criterion: where it counts.
Call it democratic realism. And this is its axiom: We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity--meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom.
Where does it count? Fifty years ago, Germany and Japan counted. Why? Because they were the seeds of the greatest global threat to freedom in midcentury--fascism--and then were turned, by nation building, into bulwarks against the next great threat to freedom, Soviet communism.
Where does it count today? Where the overthrow of radicalism and the beginnings of democracy can have a decisive effect in the war against the new global threat to freedom, the new existential enemy, the Arab-Islamic totalitarianism that has threatened us in both its secular and religious forms for the quarter-century since the Khomeini revolution of 1979.
Establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq and ultimately their key neighbors would, like the flipping of Germany and Japan in the 1940s, change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism.
Yes, it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris of thinking we can transform an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal human will to freedom. And they may yet be right. But how do they know in advance? Half a century ago, we heard the same confident warnings about the imperviousness to democracy of Confucian culture. That proved stunningly wrong. Where is it written that Arabs are incapable of democracy?
By proudly reclaiming the history of Western Civilization, which has been built slowly with great idea after great idea; and which always strives for the good, but is never perfect; neoconservatism remains the only antidote for anti-reality, anti-mind, anti-truth postmodern relativism.
Whether the defeatist Democratic Party likes it or not; whether the leftist progressives or the overtly neomarxist fascists of the left like it or not; success in Iraq and Afghanistan--and make no mistake, from an historical perspective, both battlefields have dramatically changed the dynmaics of the conflict between Islamism and Western Society in favor of the West for now--has more than validated neocon ideas and policy.
These ideas and policies have already been victorious, not only in the Cold War, but against the terroists (medievalists); and also against the bankrupt ideology that continues to infuse the progressive (i.e., leftist ) movement and their thinly-disguised totalitarian agenda from the previous century.
There is one thing on which I disagree vehemently with Perle, however. He states that, "...the cost has been high—far higher than I believe was necessary. That cost was driven by colossal mismanagement, chronic indecision about strategy, tactics and even goals, confusion about whom to trust among Iraqis and allies alike, a failure to deal effectively with Iranian and Syrian involvement in the conflict, and a shocking level of incompetence within the Bush Administration...."
What he calls incompetence and mismanagement; indecision and confusion; and failure --these are all normal and expected events during a war. I defy Perle--or anyone--to give me an example of a perfectly competently managed war that never had any indecision or confusion; or setbacks and even failures during their course.
All these factors are always a part of any human endeavor, most particularly any military endeavor, as surely as are either victory or defeat. I believe some General once said that the key to achieving victory is simply being less incomeptent and less confused than your enemy and outlasting him... and if there isn't a General somewhere who said something like that, then there should be.
Though it is far too politically incorrect to note that from an historic perspective, the losses in this war simply cannot compare to any previous war; nor can the incredible efforts that have been made to spare innocent human life as much as possible on the part of the American forces.
I do not minimize those losses or the sacrifices that have been made. It is not a matter of numbers; nor do I take anything away from the courage of those who gave their life for their country by asserting that loss of life has been historically low in this war. But it places the "cost" that Perle talks about in some perspective and minimizes the associated hysteria we have come to associate with each and every death. Instead of hysteria, let us associate a well-deserved honor for each death that preserves and protects our own values and liberty.
For further perspective, consider this recently released study :
According to the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington, 949 suicide bombers killed 10,119 people and wounded 22,995 from the beginning of 2004 until now. Data compiled by the AP through its own reporting found that between April 28, 2005 and March 13, 2008 there were 708 incidents involving suicide bombings, with a total of 14,633 Iraqis wounded and 7,098 killed.
The typical suicide bomber are alienated young Saudi men, age 18-20, from large families who are "desperate to stand out from the crowd and make their mark."
These suicidal mass murderes come from a culture that routinely oppresses women; and which offers few opportunities for its youth--either male or female-- except for martyrdom and pursuit of an afterlife.
If ever there was a population that needed hope and change, in the form of freedom and opportunity--this depraved culture would rank #1.
Of course, it is not only the Middle East that suffers from severe deficits of life, liberty and opportunities to pursue one's own individual happiness. We can reasonably surmise that there will always be some degree of human misery and oppression in the world because tyrants--and tyranny--arise from ordinary defects in human character and consistently appeal to the worse of human nature.
Because of that unfortunate reality, those of us who support real progress; value human life and liberty; and stand for civilization, must always be on the alert.
It is my contention that neoconservatives are the true proponents of HOPE--a hope that is concieved in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all humans are created equal; and the only intellectual force that can encourage and bring about political, economic, and moral CHANGE to alleviate poverty and give every human being a chance at achieving their own happiness.