Republicans — June 18, 2009 at 5:52 pm

“The protests in Iran show the neocons were right”


“The protests in Iran show the neocons were right”

Hard to believe, isn’t it? After all the discussion about how the neocons wanted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to win the election in Iran last week (like HERE and HERE, e.g.), turns out that’s not the case at all.

According to The Times‘ neocon-in-residence Daniel Finkelstein in his article Fancy that. They want freedom. Just like us., all of the events of the past week simply prove the neocons were right all along.

[Dramatic eyeroll and heaving sigh…]

Finkelstein is the Associate Editor and Chief Leader Writer of The Times. He’s also a self-proclaimed neocon. From the article:

Now, there is something you need to know. I am a neocon. Given all that has happened over the past ten years, I am sure my PR consultant would advise me to drop this label. But I don’t employ a PR consultant. So, stubbornly, I cling on to the designation. It declares my belief in two things – that in every country in the world, wherever it may be and whatever its traditions, the people yearn for liberty, for free expression and for democracy; and that the spread of liberty and democracy (not necessarily through the barrel of a gun) is the only real way to bring peace to the world.

Sounds good so far, right? Seductive even. What Finkelstein does with this paragraph is suggest that neocons are defined by two characteristics:

1. Belief that everyone on the planet wants “liberty, free expression and democracy”.
2. Democracy is the only path to peace.

I won’t argue that these are true or false. I don’t actually believe them personally because I don’t believe every culture or country on the planet wants democracy and I certainly don’t think the only path to peace is through democracy. But I won’t argue with them, at least not in this blog entry.

What I will argue with is the suggestion that these two items are what defines a neoconservative. That, put simply, is a large stinking load of cattle excrement.

Jonathan Clarke, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, was much more honest in defining the characteristics of a neoconservative in his BBC News Viewpoint earlier this year:

The main characteristics of neo-conservatism are:

  • A tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
  • Low tolerance for diplomacy
  • Readiness to use military force
  • Emphasis on US unilateral action
  • Disdain for multilateral organisations
  • Focus on the Middle East

Based on this more accurate description, it’s hard to make any argument at all except that the neocons have been dead wrong on foreign affairs and national security for decades. There are countless examples of how their hunger for military action as a substitute for strong diplomacy has killed tens or even hundreds of thousands of innocent people and how their go-it-alone approach has alienated the USA from the rest of the world in a profound way, particularly in the past 8 years.

But viewed through the distorted lens of Finkelstein’s description of a neocon, his essay almost kinda sorta makes sense in a teeny tiny little itty bitty way (HT: Rachel Maddow.) After defining himself this way, he goes on to characterize the critics of neoconservatism in an equally distorted way:

For years we have been told, we neocons, that other cultures don’t want our liberty, our American freedom. Yankee go home! But it isn’t true. Because millions of Iranians do want it. Yes, they want their sovereignty, and demand respect for their nation and its great history. No, they don’t want foreign interference and manipulation. But they still insist upon their rights and their freedom. They know that liberty isn’t American or British. It is Iranian, it is human.

This [is] idea that the critics of neocons advanced so vociferously, that liberal democracy can’t be “transplanted” on alien soil.

Okay so that’s…WHOA! Wait a minute! Back up there, big fella. Did you just say that critics of neoconservatism believe that the citizens of the world don’t want liberty? [Eclectablog goes back, reads furiously…] Yup, there it is. You actually said that, you deceitful SOB. It’s sly. It’s subtle. It’s quiet. But right there in your essay you imply that only the neocons believe that everyone on in the world wants liberty.

Now, if you accept this falsehood, the rest of the essay goes pretty smooth and, by the end, you’d be nodding your head saying, “Ayup, them danged neocons were right all along…” You’d probably even agree with this bit of tripe:

The mistake the neocons made is that we were not conservative enough, not patient enough.

After I got done choking with laughter, I read the rest of that paragraph where Finkelstein continues to spread it on thick with lies and deceit:

Such impatience with dictatorships is understandable, indeed laudable. But the frustrating truth is that there are limits to what can be achieved by outsiders. Instead we have to wait as national movements, one by one, stand up for their rights. And sometimes, tragically, we even have to stand aside as those movements are crushed by their oppressors.

See, there’s the thing: neocons are never content to admit that there are limits to what America can achieve nor are they willing to “stand aside as those movements are crushed by their oppressors”, not when we can Shock and AweTM the living fuck out of someone. Too bad and all for all those innocent people on the sidelines that die. That’s just “collateral damage”. We can live with it, we’re Americans, we’re tough. Sometimes you just have to destroy a country to save it, that’s the Neo Con Way canIgetahellyeah?

Finkelstein’s essay reminds me of the best science fiction books I have read. In those books, there’s one hugely ridiculous premise you have to accept. Once you get past that, you can enjoy the book because the rest follows normally based on that premise (e.g., King Kong. The starting premise that you have to believe is that there is a giant gorilla and a businessman brings him to New York City on a boat. What happens after that then makes sense.) He lays out a premise as if it is generally accepted by everyone and builds his house on it. The problem is that, because his premise isn’t actually accepted by everyone, it is made from mud and lies so the house has no stability.

Here’s the essence of his essay:

The protests for Mr Mousavi do not just expose the lie of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory. They expose the lie that there is something Western in wanting democracy and human rights.

The lie here isn’t that neocon critics believe that wanting democracy and human rights is a Western thing. The lie here is suggesting that their critics think that in the first place.

I’m just sayin’…