The other day I was asked by a writer for a mainstream French newspaper to say something about the "return" of the neoconservatives. His thesis seemed to be that the shambles of Barack Obama's foreign policy had, after only nine months, made what was thought to be the most discredited wing of an ostensibly brain-dead conservative movement relevant again. And France—no longer straining at the sight of Michelle Obama shopping in Paris's 6th arrondissement—is taking notice.
My answer was that the neocons are back because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il and Vladimir Putin never went away. A star may have shone in the east the day Barack Obama became president. But these three kings, at least, have yet to proffer the usual gifts of gold and incense and myrrh....
All this must, at some level, come as a surprise to an administration so deeply in love with itself. "I am well aware of the expectations that accompany my presidency around the world," Mr. Obama told the U.N.'s General Assembly last week with his usual modesty. He added that those expectations were "rooted in hope—the hope that real change is possible, and the hope that America will be a leader in bringing about such change."
Yet what sounds like "hope" in, say, Toronto or Barcelona tends to come across as fecklessness in Warsaw and Jerusalem. In Moscow and Tehran, it reads like credulity—and an opportunity to exploit the U.S. at a moment of economic weakness and political self-infatuation.
For those much-scorned neocons, none of this comes as a surprise. Neoconservatives generally take the view that the internal character of a regime usually predicts the nature of its foreign policy. Governments that are answerable to their own people and accountable to a rule of law tend to respect the rights of their neighbors, honor their treaty commitments, and abide by the international rules of the road. By contrast, regimes that prey on their own citizens are likely to prey on their neighbors as well. Their word is the opposite of their bond.
That's why neocons have no faith in any deals or "grand bargains" the U.S. might sign with North Korea or Iran over their nuclear programs: Cheating is in the DNA of both regimes, and the record is there to prove it. Nor do neocons put much stock in the notion that there's a "reset" button with the Kremlin. Russia is the quintessential spoiler state, seeking its advantage in America's troubles at home and abroad. Ditto for Syria, which has perfected the art of taking credit for solving problems of its own creation.
Where neocons do put their faith is in American power, not just military or economic power but also as an instrument of moral and political suasion. Disarmament? The last dictator to relinquish his nuclear program voluntarily was Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, who did so immediately following Saddam Hussein's capture. Democratization? Contrary to current conventional wisdom, democracy is often imposed, or at least facilitated, by U.S. pressure—in the Philippines, in the Balkans and, yes, in Iraq. Human rights? Anwar Ibrahim, the beleaguered Malaysian opposition leader, told me last week that "the only country that can stand up" to abusive regimes is the United States. "If they know the administration is taking a soft stance [on human rights], they will go on a rampage."
And, it isn't just in the realm of foreign policy that neoconservatives are much more in touch with the real world:
...Robert Smith at American Thinker believes that the left is in real crisis, facing not a temporary electoral setback in Europe but an existential crisis; that it is self-destructing at such a rate that the very swiftness of its collapse threatens to be a catastrophe in its own right.Less than a year into his presidency, Barack Obama’s world grows bleaker. Liberalism’s world is bleaker. At home and abroad, liberalism, as advanced by the President, is failing. Are we witnessing the beginnings of another historic event, loosely comparable to the fall of communism twenty years ago? Now the fall of liberalism? … Overseas, the nation’s enemies, who only a short time ago feared us, now scheme to overtly or surreptitiously challenge us. Our allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, some of whom resent our power, must confront an ugly question: What happens in a world absent sufficient projections of American power?
Smith isn’t alone in worrying about the frenetic pace at which events are moving. And it is not the change but the rate at which it is accelerating that really raises concerns. Some months ago it became evident that blunders were piling on so fast, and they were of such enormity that they fed each other, like a patient facing multiple organ failure. The Left was self-medicating itself so catastrophically, and smashing up so many things so quickly that there simply wasn’t enough outrage in the world to even keep track of it.
European socialism was fantasy viable only while the US successfully performed the role of global system administrator. With Barack Obama crashing subsystem after subsystem, the socialist appendages are powering down. Without free energy from the capitalist system they despise, socialism is indeed doomed. What no one anticipated was how quickly the end might come. It would be really interesting if the key problem in the next few years turned out to be not about how to defeat the left, but how to survive the maelstrom left by its sinking. There is some sense in the Left that things are no longer the same. But that’s a mistake. They have never changed.
If you listen at all to the MSM, you might begin to think that neoconservativesm is either in dissaray, dead and abandoned by all its former adherents. With the death of the great Irving Kristol, the Times Online proclaims the "end of the neocon era."
Neoconservatism has been pronounced dead by its opponents many times in the decades since its ideas were first formulated. The reasons tha these rumors of its death are constantly exaggerated is due to the fact that the philosophy underlying neoconservative policies is extremely threatening to today's postmodern political left.
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 postmodern intellectual nonsense, otherwise known as political correctness and multiculturalism (or, cultural relativity).
Neoconservatism as an intellectual theory actually arose from the observation in the 1960's that classical liberalism had been hijacked by the left and its essence literally reconstructed to suit the needs of dead-end socialists and communists, finally beginning to realize that the jig was up for them.
All over the world it was becoming more and more obvious that political and social collectivism was an abject failure. Wherever these ideologies were implemented, their policies led to intractable poverty and economic misery; and inevitably the economic policies were accompanied by oppression, tyranny, and the crushing of the human spirit.
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:
The rise of neoconservatism in the latter part of the 20th century represents the only modern intellectual counter and the only known antidote to the infection of postmodernism and its resultant toxic effects on philosophy, politics and rehtoric.
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 has resulted in a pervasive moral and cultural relativism; and an intellectual nihilism that has permeated all aspects of society and intellectual thought.
Words and language are redefined to mean whatever is wanted/needed in the moment to persuade; history is deconstructed--ostensibly to expose it's lies, but really to render it meaningless and irrelevant to the present; and the ideas and values that are the foundation of Western Civilization are mocked and shown by postmodern "logic" to be no better than any other random ideas.
For the left, freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose--and not much different from slavery anyway; democracy is just as much a fraud as tyranny; that which was always considered the good, is really just as evil as evil; and so on. Twentieth century postmodernists thus set themselves up as culturally and morally superior to all other humans in history, and with the postmodern relativistic advantage, they could pass judgement on everyone and everything. Thus from the superior postmodern perspective, there was nothing of value to learn from a slave-holding--and clearly imperfect-- Thomas Jefferson; there is no moral superiority in a system that strives toward increasing individual human freedom and dignity compared to a system 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.
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. We place greater value on beautiful words and rhetoric than on behavior; what is said, instead of what is done; we seem unable to distinguish between the deliberate targeting and killing of innocents and the accidental and unavoidable 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.
Do our current leaders have the moral will to actually win the war in Afghanistan now that the morally bankrupt left is calling the shots? I sincerely doubt it. Even as I write this, our Dear Leader is heading off to lobby for the Chicago Olympics and can't be bothered to meet or discuss strategy with the General he appointed to oversee the war . This more than anything highlights the ridiculous priorities and broken moral compass of the political left.
Yet, these are the same political ideologues who have established themselves as the arbiters of moral behavior by enabling and encouraging amoral and immoral behavior; 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?).
Neoconservative philosophy represents the beginnings of a neo-rationalism that just might be able to offer new solutions for the intractable national and international problems that have spilled into the 21st century. Neoconservativism is realism. not utopian fantasy. Promoting and standing up with the Democratic and free regimes of the world is far more reality-based and consistent with our national interest than the bizarre and unrealistic high school rhetoric of "universal nuclear disarmament"--which was a pipe dream in the late 1960's when my own high school debate team passionately argued, "Resolved: Nuclear weapons should be controlled by an international organzation."
I like to think that I've grown up since those days and come to understand something about human nature and the realities of the world; as well as the persistence of evil. To watch my own country descend into such histrionic adolescent fantasies and wishful thinking is rather painful.
I am proud to consider myself a neoconservative, which I find to be the only political philosophy that faces the unpleasant realities of the world unflinchingly, but at the same time encourages the optimization of human freedom around the globe as the best means to promote continued American progress and our national security.
By proudly reclaiming the history of Western Civilization, which has been the history of the triumph of human liberty over tyranny; built slowly upon 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, and anti-truth postmodern leftist relativism.
[Cartoons by Henry Payne]