CMN 3105: Reading #9 Nov 23 2013
The Neoconservative Revolution
He chose instead to toe the line drawn by his secretary of Stale, Golin Powell: “The United States stands
ready to assist, not insist
One group aligned itself with Powell, who reflected the State Department’s tradition of international
diplomacy, and with the CIA, whose culture of cautious realism stressed international order, not upheaval.
The opposite position) represented by the Pentagon’s civilian directors, favored talking advantage of the
nation’s unprecedented status as sole superpower to radically transform the world order.
Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Richard Cheney and tee Richard Perle
The September n attacks impelled George W. Bush toward the worldview of this second group.
Nevertheless, in the months following September 11 the neocons enjoyed an extraordinary degree of
influence at the highest decisionmaking levels of the Bush administration.
The roots of neoconservatism can be traced back to the 1960s, to a group of disaffected activists, many of
whom were liberals or radi°ais before ^”ning their backs on their comrades in arms.
. As one of the movement’s founders, the essayist Irving Kristol, put it vividly: “A neoconservative is a
Liberal who has been mugged by reality.”
Kristol was the quintesiential neoconservative.
The person whose work helped Kristol articulate this worldview was Leo Strauss. A German Jewish
immigrant of the previous generation, Strauss began his career as a philosopher during the Weimar
Republic. He attributed this process to a rejection of universal verities in favor of relativism, historicism, and what Max
Weber called “axiological neutrality.’
For him, there could be no moral jquivalency between democracy and totalitarianism, good and evil. When
necessary, democratic societies must be willing to use force against evil in order to survive.
A profound pessimism regarding the common people—so easily .seduced by the century’s demagogues—
marked Strauss’s work.
The young neoconservatives who came to Washington during the Reagan years seized upon the Afghan
constrategy to combat communism around the globe. It was in pursuit of this singleminded Cold War
strategy that the socalled IranContra affair emerged.
Among the Reagan operatives who arranged the IranContra deal while also aiding Iraq, the mantra was to
defeat ^communism and promote the spread of democracy, freedom, and capitalism around the globe,
using all means at their disposal.
George H. W. Bush, supported by an international coalition, turned back the Iraqi army’s invasion of Kuwait
in Operation Desert Storm—an exemplary practical application of Wohlstetter’s theories regarding
preemptive air strikes.
This strategy combined military power with politics in a new way. In theory, it allowed the United States and
its allies to target “rogue” regimes selectively and to punish the ruling elites of those countries while
promoting and strengthening civil society.
But President Bush, a former director of the CIA who was running for reelection, did not share Wolfowitz’s
worldview. He had fault his personal fortune on petroleum, an industry that prefers political and financial
realism nourished by longterm investment returns over ideological indulgence.
Its “two ruling passions,” anticommunism and “its revulsion against the counterculture,” no longer had an
object by the mid1990s. Communism had disappeared, and the only remaining traces of the counterculture
were its commercial exploitation by the establishment.
The American government was lazily following the norms and institutions that emerged in the wake of World
War II and that, according to The Weekly Standard, had became irrelevant with the fall of the USSR. It was
time to realign and, if necessary, disrupt traditional diplomatic practices in order to promote the American
model of democracy, capitalism, and vested interests around the globe. Ire. Itwas time for the United States to achieve the unparalleled military superiority envisaged during the
Reagan years, by devoting at least a quarter of the federal budget to defense. Through a massive
investment in advanced weaponry, the United States could guarantee world peace by dissuading potential
enemies from attacking, and also promote democratic ideals by “putting pressure on rightwing Jand left
wing dictatorships alike.”
Civilized nations” would place themselves under its aegis, for their own good and that of humanity. Those
«*o did not would be labeled rogue states and could expect to he brought to their knees sooner or later, if
they refused to mend their ways.
Worldview found a home in June 1997,
Project for the New American Century (PNAC), this think tank admonished and excoriated politicians
throughout the government in order to influence the foreign policy choices of the Clinton administration.
But the Muslim world is neither monolithic n<>r homogenous. It has many centers, all of which compete for
hegemony over political and religious values.
It placed a facile way of thinking in the service of a precise political agenda, aimed at expanding the
American democratic model into the Middie Eastthe only part of the world that it had not penetrated at the
end of the twentieth century—and at modifying U.S. policy in the region to give Israel’s security precedence
over an alliance with pie Saudi petromonarchy.
Whatever its expression, whether moderate or radical, conservative or revolutionry, peaceful or violent—
even terrorist—Islamism asserted its authenticity and altruism, its lack of concern with anything but the
interests of the people from whom it had emerged, rather than those of foreign powers or global oil
Beyond these general principles of political and economic de.mocratization, another pressing consideration
led the neocons to challenge the regimes in power in the Middle East: the imperatives of Israel’s security
Replete with danger, and a sign of weakness, this exchange had to be replaced by the logic of “peace for
peace.” Israel’s new agenda,” the authors concluded, could ^signal a clean break by abandoning a policy which
assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic retreat by reestablishing the principle preemption, rather than
retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response.”
The trigger of this process, whose goal was to foment a true revolution in American fo