Wednesday, December 17, 2003
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The future of neoconservatives
Marshall's take on Perle:
Greg Djerejian thinks Marshall might be overly sensitive on this point:
With all due respect to Greg, any academic worth their salt is used to raucous and rancorous debates.
Greg's post -- a nice substitute for the two-hour video -- argues that Perle's description of neoconservatism "felt very much like sober-headed foreign policy realism--rather than the oft-described messianic exportation of democracy doctrines (or some grossly deluded neo-Wilsonian style project)."
Second, I'm not sure how much neoconservatives think or want Perle to be their exemplar. I've expressed my reservations about Perle in the past, so I might be biased here.
UPDATE: Belgravia Dispatch responds (additional posts here and here) In response to the response, I probably should have said "academic" realists rather than pragmatic policy types -- though I'm pretty sure the Scowcroft camp was none too thrilled with the war either.posted by Dan on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM
“Their alternative policy is ‘vigilant containment’ plus a commitment to ‘invade Iraq if it threatens to attack America or its allies.’”
This is the achilles heel of their position. I’ve always insisted that Iraq was a threat “to attack America or its allies” by surreptitiously supporting terrorists. Saddam Hussein hates the United States and the West and almost certainly would have discretely funded such terrorist operations. Daniel Drezner’s University of Chicago buddies made the mistake in exaggerating the possibility of Iraqi direct military confrontation. Heck, this wasn’t likely going to happen again anyways. Saddam Hussein learned his lesson during Dessert Storm. The next time he would pretend that he knew nothing about an attack on America. Ever heard of plausible deniability?posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Perle simply asserts "prudence" and "realism" as part of his grand strategy. Since he was hiding behind the rather cowardly rubric of "pragmatism", there wasn't a whole lot of intellectual heft to the entire argument.
"We're pragmatic realists". "No you aren't." "Yes we are."
And so on, for 2 hours.posted by: p mac on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Frankly, my reservations about neoconservatism stem from my suspicion that it does not always put American interests first.
With due regard for the sincere interest many neoconservatives have in promoting democracy and freedom throughout the world, their focus on the Arab world (as opposed, say, to China or Indonesia) has always appeared to me to bear some strong relation to their belief that liberal democracy in the Arab world is the best cure for the rabid anti-Israel sentiment most Arabs share even if they agree on nothing else. That belief is illogical on its face -- in the short run at any rate Arab democracy would make hostility to Israel worse, not better -- and illogical on a deeper level in that it assumes backward, violence-prone Arab cultures are capable of sustaining any democracy America should try to plant in that part of the world. But it is most of all illogical in its focus on what is good for Israel rather than what is in the interest of the United States.
Israel needs peace with the Arabs. The United States needs only damage control; the great challenges to our future will originate elsewhere. Since the neoconservative movement first coalesced some thirty years ago over the issue of Jewish immigration from the Soviet Union -- critical for Israel, of peripheral interest to the United States -- I have not been entirely confident that leading neoconservatives ever consider American interests entirely apart from Israeli ones. I am not sure that all of them really distinguish between the two, and that is why however much I may welcome the participation in American government of such able and intelligent neoconservatives as Paul Wolfowitz I regard this as requiring a strong check, in the form of people whose commitment to American interests is more elemental and perhaps less qualified.posted by: Zathras on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Just 'cause they call themselves "realists" doesn't mean they have the only realistic understanding of international politics. Or even that their "realism" is all that based in reality.posted by: Norman on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
I watched the video of the panel- Perle is arrogant and dismissive in a way that lends little credence to his argument. He is so focused on humiliating the opposition that he fails to present his point of view in a convincing manner. Marshall speaks with the bearing of one who is secure and decent enough to concede that the other guy just might have a point once in awhile.
"p mac" has it right in the post above- Perle and the other neocons take the position that they are the adults-- the mature, sober, and realistic authority figures, and anyone who doesn't see it their way just isn't worth listening to. It's macho bluster that reveals a lot of insecurity, IMHO.posted by: peter jung on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
“Frankly, my reservations about neoconservatism stem from my suspicion that it does not always put American interests first.”
“But it is most of all illogical in its focus on what is good for Israel rather than what is in the interest of the United States. “
I see that you share ex-Republican Pat Buchanan’s opinion that Jews can’t be trusted. This is getting interesting. One wonders how many more liberals feel this way? The contempt toward Neoconservatives is sometimes, if not usually, a discrete way to blast Jews. The Republicans have pushed the followers of Buchanan out of their party. When will the Democrats make it uncomfortable for the anti-Semites to remain within their ranks?
“With due regard for the sincere interest many neoconservatives have in promoting democracy and freedom throughout the world, their focus on the Arab world (as opposed, say, to China or Indonesia)...”
The Chinese and Indonesians do not threaten us to the extent of the Arabs. It’s as simple as that. When is the last time you heard about a Chinese suicide bomber? The Indonesians, for the most part, practice a milder interpretation of Islam.posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
"Iraq was a threat “to attack America or its allies” by surreptitiously supporting terrorists. Saddam Hussein hates the United States and the West and almost certainly would have discretely funded such terrorist operations."
Links between al Qaeda and Saddam are an article of faith on the part of people like Mr. Tomson, despite the absence of any real evidence and the fact that the ideological differences between the tow make such a connectiona bout as likely as a discovery that the Trotskyites were secretly funding Timothy McVeigh.
"I see that you share ex-Republican Pat Buchanan’s opinion that Jews can’t be trusted."
Any time somebody questions whether the interests of the US and Israel are really 100% aligned, or whether the policy of the present Israeli government is really wise, the antisemitism card gets played.posted by: rea on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
The least helpful part of the discussion was the simple fact
The only aspect of Perle's life that deserves any scrutiny is his long history of unethical and possibly illegal dealings.
Other than that, it is long overdue to ignore him, completely.
Josh was wrong to legitimize Perle by appearing on a panel to debate him.posted by: tristero on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
“Links between al Qaeda and Saddam are an article of faith on the part of people like Mr. Tomson”
The links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein have already been established. The only real debate is the closeness of the relationship. Still, the Al Qaeda aspect is of secondary importance. One way or another, Saddam eagerly supported terrorists actions if they might be done discretely.
“Any time somebody questions whether the interests of the US and Israel are really 100% aligned, or whether the policy of the present Israeli government is really wise, the antisemitism card gets played. “
Yes, as it should. One notices that most other Americans are never questioned about their loyalty except Jews. It is also very bizarre that Israel, a truly benevolent and decent nation, is singled out for so much abuse. Antisemitism seems to be the only logical reason why these unfair attacks continue.posted by: David Thomson on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Just 'cause they call themselves "realists" doesn't mean they have the only realistic understanding of international politics. Or even that their "realism" is all that based in reality.
"Saddam Hussein learned his lesson during Dessert Storm."
Was this the offensive led by battalions of French pastry chefs?posted by: Jeremy B. on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
I understand that Marshall has been down with the flu, so I forgive him for offering such a poor riposte to Pearle's specious account of our "robust" Iraq policy. Once he recovers and looks at the tape, he'll probably kick himself for missing so many hanging curve balls. Take for instance Pearle's faux-synoptic pronouncement, "it all comes down to risk assessment." Please. How do you defend a risk assessment that is so indifferent to the quality of the information upon which it is based? Or, Pearle and Schmitt's comments about reforming the CIA, State Department etc.-- how do they get away with saying this crap when every intelligence disagreement between the neocons and the professionals has ended in a vindication of the latter? Come on, Josh! And when the Economist guy accuses the neocons of trying to impose democracy on other countries, and Pearle says, no, we were just trying to remove an artificial obstacle-- Saddam--that was preventing a natural flowering of democracy in Iraq. WHAT? Does this guy know nothing about Iraq? The list goes on and on.
In general, the problem with the panel was that there was no genuine anti-war voice represented there. From the appearances, Marshall seems much more comfortable with policy implementation nit-picking than with sticking out his neck on the big questions.
When Pearle (quite legitimately)asked, "what is the alternative? Would you leave Saddam in power?" Josh could have said, "yes, Sadaam would be in power, thousands of dead people would still be alive, we would not have created the historical precedent of unaccountable preemptive violence, we would be no less safe than we are now, and our diplomatic options would still be in place." That's a hell of a lot to give up in exchange for Saddam's capture and a very uncertain future for Iraq, the region and the unfolding spectre of terrorism.posted by: Mark Sawyer on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Mark - You left off one little item in your list of benefits that would have flowed from the "alternative" -- the U.S. would also be billions of dollars richer.posted by: joe on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
I watched the panel discussion on CSPAN. I cannot put into words how much I enjoyed watching a real American kick Richard Perle's neo-con-descending, Trimei-Corp-corrupting, down-is-up-thinking, chicken-hawk-hypocrisizing, "total war"-salivating, "sing great songs"-hallucinating, one-thousand-dead-soldiers-is-OK-long-as-I'm-making-a-pile-of-money-rationalizing, elitist-caviar-eating, big-fat-lying, oughta-be-in-prison-for-crimes-against-humanity, anti-American ass.
Rea, I don't think the "anti-semitism card" has been played at all, at least not on this board. David Thomson has made comments along this line, but surely he has established himself as a gerbil-brained twit by now. You can't be suggesting that everyone who disagrees with my views about leading neoconservatives thinks the way he does.
As a matter of record, neoconservatives first organized in academia, on the staff of Commentary magazine and in the Defense Department some 30 years ago in opposition to an American foreign policy largely designed by a Jewish Secretary of State. Not all the issues they championed then and later had anything to do with Israel, but many of them (Jewish emigration from the USSR, massive American aid to Tel Aviv, opposition to peace agreements that involved surrendering Israeli-occupied territory, support for the Israeli position in Lebanon after 1982, and of course support for Israeli settlements on the West Bank) were central concerns of the Jewish state that over time intersected with American interests less and less.
This matters to me because American interests are the only ones I care about, but also because to the extent American foreign policy officials adopt Israeli perceptions of regional issues as their own they adopt Israeli mistakes as well. This was clear in the Beirut disaster of 1983, in American tolerance of settlements on the West Bank that serve no American interest, and as I alluded to above in neoconservatives' exaggerated faith in Arab democracy and societal transformation as the sovereign cure for regional instability.posted by: Zathras on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
With all respect, no one in the debate seems to mention the way things look from the Arab/Muslim side of things. You can't go on propping up autocracies for the sake of cheap oil, and sending troops trampling all over a region whose culture and society is pretty alien to America, without creating a vast groundswell of resentment. Pace Perle, the lack of economic opportunity and democratic self-expression in the Mideast is in no small measure connected to American endorsement of tyrants from way back when: the Shah, the Sauds, Mubarak, Saddam pre-1991, etc etc.
All these lovelies for the sake of stability and strategic balance? And I haven't even mentioned Israel yet. It is ridiculous for these talking heads to go on in this fashion unless somebody decides to address the essential "selfishness" and brutality of the American geopolitical agenda, all the while cloaked in high-flown words like democracy, freedom ad nauseam.
Communism is long gone, so issues of strategic balance, etc no longer apply nearly as forcefully. At its root therefore, it is largely about access to resources, and it is still a lot about Israel. To go on the way American foreign policy has done since the fall of the USSR, you will always be looking over your shoulders, at best.posted by: Zubaer on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
This thread is really sad. I hope that Dan takes this oportunity to rethink his policy on comments.
David Thompson. Thank for undertaking the tedious task of reproving these invertebrates. You are smart and a good guy. You are always welcome chez moi. Tommorow night, first night of Channukah, Brisket, Latkes, Sour Cream.
Zubaer, you are an anti-semite whether you cop to it or not. You are not welcome at my house.posted by: Robert Schwartz on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Lemme second R. Schwartz's comments. I generally find David Thomson to be one of the better-informed and most realistic commenters at this site.
He comes in for a lot of undeserved abuse from the name-calling thumbsuckers (yeah, I'm looking at you, Zathras, you, and I quote, "gerbil brained twit"). Little pointer - name-calling hurts your credibility more than it does your target.posted by: R C Dean on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Forgive me, being new to this site I may have missed earlier jibes between participants. However, for the life of me, based on the content of his/her last posting I cannot see how Mr Schwartz, interprets Zubaer's post as anti-semitic. Either Mr Schwartz is particularly thin skinned or perhaps he detects an Arab origin to his target's name. If true, then it says a lot more about Mr Schwartz than Mr Zubaer. Mr Schwartz's response only goes to confirm earlier postings that whenever the argument goes against Israel, those that make it are clearly 'anti-semitic'. Mr Schwartz, if you want Israel to win back the humanitarian respect of the world community (we have no doubts about its bravery), you have to stop playing the 'victim' card at every opportunity. It is not anti-semitic to say that Israel's long-term & institutionalized treatment of the Palestinions is wrong. It cannot be wrong, because it's the truth.posted by: Geogg on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Just so we're clear: RCDean "generally find(s) David Thomson to be one of the better-informed and most realistic commenters at this site."
David Thomson, 11/13/03, 6:39 pm, comment on A Marriage Made In Protest, http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/000888.html:
Thomson, 11/14/03, 5:36 AM, same thread:
Thomson, 9:57 AM, same thread:
posted by: Brendan Lynch on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Guess what, Schwartz, same menu at my house tonight, and you'd never be welcome.posted by: lordwhorfin on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
Neocon Rule #1: Any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
Neocon Rule #2: Any criticism of President Bush is anti-American.
Neocon Rule #3: Any criticism of neoconservatives is both anti-Semitic and anti-American.
And you guys wonder why the rest of us are laughing at you!posted by: RushBush on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
I'm waiting for David Thomson explicitly to describe Josh Marshall as a 'self-hating Jew'. He's done all but that here.posted by: ahem on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
With all respect, Zubaer, plenty of people on this thread and elsewhere are aware of how things look from the Arab, and more generally the Muslim perspective. They just don't think that perspective overlaps much with reality.
Autocracy, corruption, endemic violence and the other ills plaguing the Arab world especially are naturally blamed by many Arabs on the American government, on Israel, and on European imperialists from 100 years ago, more or less in that order. But the real reason Arab countries are in such generally dismal shape is that their culture is backward and their values wrong. It's their own fault, all of it. All of the governments in the Arab world, from the (relative) heights of the Jordanian and Moroccan monarchies to the depths of the Baathist regimes in Syria and Iraq, have enjoyed popular support; indeed, the most brutal of the Arab tyrants have enjoyed particularly enthusiasm from Arabs eager to adore "strong leaders" who "stand up to Israel" (or American, or whomever).
Into the bargain, the very worst Arab regimes, for example Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen were for decades Soviet clients, not American ones. Changing American policy will not fix a problem that has its root cause in Arabs' refusal to face up to their own failures and the consequences of their own decisions. It doesn't matter how strongly Arabs feel they are right; Thabo Mbeki thinks AIDS is caused by some kind of virus, and changing American policy won't make that true either.
As a sidebar, I'd request that if RC Dean wants to throw around invective he think up his own instead of quoting mine back to me. I don't worry too much about what credibility I have with people who can resort to nothing more imaginative than what my 5th grade chess club used to call the "I Know You Are But What Am I? Defense."posted by: Zathras on 12.17.03 at 01:09 PM [permalink]
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