Thursday, March 17, 2005

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State vs. Defense II

The president announced his nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to be the next World Bank president. Apparently the Europeans are not happy, according to the Washington Post's Keith B. Richburg and Glenn Frankel:

President Bush's nomination of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz as the next president of the World Bank was met with much surprise, little enthusiasm and some outright opposition in Europe, where he is best known as a leading architect of a conflict deeply unpopular here, the Iraq war.

"We were led to believe that the neo-conservatives were losing ground," said Michael Cox, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. "But clearly the revolution is alive and well." He added that despite recent efforts from Washington to mend relations, "Europeans are still inclined deep down to suspect the worst, and this appointment won't go down too well."

European countries control about 30 percent of votes on the bank's board; opponents would be able to fight the nomination if they chose to do so. By tradition, the United States, the bank's largest shareholder, selects the president, while Europeans pick the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

Some Europeans who closely follow U.S. politics said the Wolfowitz choice, coming the week after Bush selected outspoken diplomat John Bolton as his United Nations ambassador, could be a sign that the president is moving to placate his more conservative supporters.

Some expressed concern that such appointments could undermine trans-Atlantic goodwill that developed in recent weeks through visits by Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"There are two interpretations" of the selection of Wolfowitz, said Guillaume Parmentier, who heads the French Center on the United States, a think tank in Paris. "One is the optimistic one -- that this is going to take him away from U.S. policy. . . . The pessimistic interpretation is that this administration has to give sop to the far right. There was Bolton and now Wolfowitz -- where does it stop?"

For more international reaction, see this blog devoted to the topic.

My thoughts, in no particular order:

1) While I'm sure that Europe is less than thrilled, the Post story automatically gets devalued from the fact that the first quote comes from Mick Cox. Cox is a very bright international relations theorist. He's also a classic Marxist, however, so I'm pretty sure he'd have been unenthused by any Bush selection.

2) Matthew Yglesias is correct to point out that Wolfowitz's performance as Deputy SecDef isn't necessarily correlated with how he'd do at the Bank, since, "preventative wars are not, I take it, something the Bank head is able to launch."

3) I have to disagree with Kevin Drum's assessment of Bush's recent moves:

On a PR level, though, the message Bush is sending is plain. A number of pundits inexplicably thought that Bush might settle down in his second term and try to run a more conciliatory, less strident administration, and it's pretty obvious that he's trying to make it crystal clear that he has no intention of doing this. Second term Bush will be no different from first term Bush, and don't you forget it.

I see things very differently. Consider the personnel shuffles that have taken place at both State and Defense.

At State, Condi Rice is now the secretary; She cajoled Bob Zoellick to leave a cabinet-level position at USTR to be her deputy, rejecting John Bolton in the process; highly regarded NATO ambassador Nick Burns will be the number three person as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; and Bush consigliere Karen Hughes just agreed to come back as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. There's no comparison between this crew and the old Powell/Armitage team. The old group had gravitas and little else. This group has gravitas, bueaucratic infighting skills, and several people personally close to the President.

Meanwhile, at DoD, Douglas Feith has announced plans to leave this summer, Wolfowitz has now departed, and Richard Myers term as JCS chief will expire in December. In other words, Rumsfeld is still around but his cronies are gone. As Greg Djerejian points out, "it's starting to feel like the defenestration of Prague!"

Fred Kaplan notices this trend at Slate:

A few months ago, Doug Feith announced that he would be leaving his job this summer, for personal reasons. Now Wolfowitz heads toward the door. Will the neocon triumvirate's third peg, Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary for intelligence, be the next to fall? And what of Rumsfeld himself? The face-saving has been accomplished. His archrival, Colin Powell, was booted while he stayed on in triumph. He escaped official blame for Abu Ghraib. Having thus emerged from the firestorms unscathed, he too may be working up an appetite to spend more time with his family.

Rumsfeld's fingerprints, which were smeared all over Bush's first-term foreign policy, have thus far left no marks in the second term. There are three possible explanations: Rumsfeld is insinuating himself more subtly than before; Condoleezza Rice shares his views, so he doesn't need to raise a fuss; or, just maybe, the winds are shifting over the Potomac.

I vote for no. 3. No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN of Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant. What matters is who is ruling the roost inside the beltway. And in DC, the balance of power has shifted to State -- and the people that are there have signaled a willingness to listen to the Europeans. Compared to what they faced during the Powell/Rumsfeld wars, this is a much more hospitable environment for European diplomats.

UPDATE: The Financial Times reports that European countries probably will not form a united front to oppose Wolfowitz.

posted by Dan on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM


I bet this will be the next headline for the Onion:

Bush Declares War on Poverty, LITERALLY!!!

posted by: bill on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

"No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN of Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant."

Umm, everybody suspects they're being sent to tear down those institutions...

posted by: rilkefan on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

"I vote for no. 3. No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN of Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant."

I get it. You might even be right. But wouldn't shifting that logic to domestic politics suggest that anti-statists wouldn't support Bush for president--because they don't believe in the New Deal? (The principal-agent relationship may not be perfectly analagous game-theoretically, but **** it.)

Probably some neo-conservatives see virtue in the nominations; some probably fiercely disagree. Some probably wish Bolton and Wolfowitz were still in DC; some probably relish the strong signal sent to the Europeans, Chinese, and their fellow Americans. The last audience is perhaps the most interesting. The chatterati will wonder why he did it: "because he can?" The Daily Show will respond its because he has huge balls. Some Machiavellis might see value in the media making that conclusion.

posted by: Eric Anderson on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I think it's time to just admit that this administration is never going to "listen to Europeans" (or Democrats, for that matter). Rice may not be a neocon, but she's no diplomat. She's the one who summed up our foreign policy as "punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia." Even if she's changed her mind she seems far too sure sure of herself to stop giving commands.

And even if every one of these postings is a defeat for the neocons, Cheney and his large national security staff remain. They still have a lot of power.

posted by: Carl on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

On a somewhat related note: does putting "public" in front of "diplomacy" really make Karen Hughes qualified for a job at State?

posted by: casey burns on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I have a soft spot for Wolfowitz.

Yes, I believe he grievously mis-managed the post-war Iraq, making our task much harder than necesary. He hugely underestimated the cost in blood and treasure, he assumed we would be welcome (outside of the Kurdish territories, the US is tolerated, but not really welcome even in the Shia areas). His ideas of democracy spreading across the Middle East, although they look a bit better now than they did just 2 months back, still remain unproven and a slim reed to hang so much faith on.We know that he proposed attacking Iraq (rather than Afghanistan) immediatedly after 911, which would have been a grievous mistake.

But I believe that fundamentally he is a decent and honorable man. I believe that he was genuinely horrified by the massacre of Shia by Saddam in 1991. A psychologist could probably opine on whether guilt over that massacre led him to be especially aggressive in pushing for war with Iraq.

A big question here might be: What changes are specifically needed in the World Bank, and is Wolfowitz the right man to bring it about ? If the idea is to push WB loans only to US allies, I don't think that will go far. If the idea is to redirect the bank's lending away from huge glitzy infrastructure projects, then Wolfie could be the man. It might also be a good platform to push for debt forgiveness to third world countries: after all, if Iraq can get debt forgiveness, poorer countries should get it too. He has no actual experience in running a P&L orgranization, so thats another negative.

posted by: erg on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

"Umm, everybody suspects they're being sent to tear down those institutions..."

You dont send your best people to do demolitions. You send them to renovate. If Bush wanted to kill the UN, World Bank, and State Dept he could easily enough let them wither on the vine. To a political institution, exposure is relevance. Sending his closest advisors shows Bush is trying to save these institutions, not destroy them. Of course many of his opponents consider them just hunky dory and dont want them reformed to begin with, and that is probably the undercurrent of the criticism really.

It is important to note that Bush has moved his key people from war related posts to diplomacy related posts. How the significance of such a move has been lost on the mainstream punditry i have no idea. As cleverly said, the World Bank isnt liable to launch a war against anyone. All this venom basically goes to show that the Anti-Bushiites around the globe werent particularly anti-war, just anti-Bush. Whether they will ultimately be more upset with Bush leaving his fingerprints on the Iraq War or on the United Nations we shall see. I suspect the latter. Just as the democrats only grumble at Republican legislative gerrymandering but go balistic when Bush tries to appoint judges, so I suspect will the transnational left completely lose it when their lock on the UN corruptacracy is threatened. Its pretty obvious by what means both intend to inact their agendas.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Let's think about this at the most elemental level. Set aside the merits, proclivities, hair styles and other Washington-insider stuff and look at it the way people would if this were a corporate operation or a non-government bureaucracy.

Isn't the message of Wolfowitz, Rice, Negroponte, et al, very simply that whatever you're looking at, bush runs it? These are his people. Period. Rice isn't at State to go native, she's there to tell people what the boss demands of them. That applies inside the department and equally to other countries.

Wolfowitz, whatever his personal charms, will be at the World Bank for exactly the same reason. Everyone who deals with him would be insane not to presume so when they contact him.

Let's not overlook the obvious here.

posted by: Altoid on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

"...neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant."

Think like a neocon. The Bank has a sizable loan portfolio (more than $20 billion annually). Since the Reagan era, neoliberal economic conditionality ("the Washington consensus") has undergirded the Bank's decision-making. Thus, the Bank can be used to serve US foreign policy interests.

What if the Bank's material assets are unleashed as a force for political democratization? Bush's declared interest in democratization is clearly a neocon aspiration. Sure, the Bank Charter's explicitly rejects political conditionality, but environmental and social conditions added in the '90s rubbed up against this as well.

At the UN, neocon Max Singer has long pushed a plan for the US to work almost exclusively through a "Democratic caucus" of states.

I'm confident those clever neocons will figure out a way to push democratization within both the UN and World Bank.

posted by: Rodger on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Another way of looking at this is to assume that when a prominent position needs to be filled, Bush will first try to fill it with a familiar face.

This could eventually be a problem at the Pentagon, because Bush doesn't know that many people. And I'm not sure how significant it is operationally. Bush is not a hands-on manager outside of campaign politics; he appoints staff because he trusts them, not because he sees them as tools to implement his ideas (his opposite would be someone like Nixon, who used people to implement his own policy ideas but who never really trusted anyone).

I'm not enthusiastic about Bolton's appointment, though I'm keeping an open mind. I think Karen Hughes is another public diplomacy flop waiting to happen. And coming from this President, with his lack of background or even interest in development, the assignment of Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank should be looked on by all the Bank's friends as a gift.

posted by: Zathras on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I realize that figuring out why so-and-so ended up where they did in Washington is always based on tea-leaves and shadows, but this is way too much shadows.

It is also way too much false dichotomy. This is not a situation that has to be either this way or that way. Personnel shuffles are often undertaken to get the most mileage out of the team you have – to serve more than one objective. There is no reason recent foreign relations appointments could not be intended in just that way. Bolton, Wolfie, Hughes – all unqualified for their jobs, all hostile to the culture they are entering (Rice qualifies, too), but going to those jobs, nonetheless. By giving them big jobs, these appointments keep with the tradition of admitting no error (Bush has admitted this is part of his management style) – since these guys are staying, then Bush must think they are worth keeping. Neocons see their boys prosper, Bush gets a better handle on the foreign affairs apparatus, Europeans get a slap in the snoot, and one guy who got Iraq wrong in the real world is pushed away from day-to-day responsibility for Iraq operations. Similarly, we do not need to differentiate too sharply between tearing down these institutions and reforming them, in the Bush view. The reform he is likely to have in mind is very far from what other UN and IBRD members are likely to want. If the UN is the UN in name only, is it reformed, or destroyed? Pretty good shootin'. Why do we need to choose between these options?

posted by: kharris on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I am not so sure that neocons think the UN and the World Bank are irrelevant: Many believe that they are dangerous and threaten U.S. sovereignty. Remember, Bolton listed as his "greatest achievement" the removal of the U.S. signature from the ICC treaty (even if the treaty was never coming up for ratification and hence, it was an entirely symbolic act). I think much of the Heritage crowd will be quite pleased as Bolton goes along and scores some meaningless "moral victories" at the UN.

Surely, Wolfowitz' record at defense is not irrelevant for how he will do at the Bank. If his ideological mission is democratization, aid and loan packages are quite a useful instrument. This may be ok as long as legitimate institutional conditions for providing aid are not confused with political ones, as many fear they will.

posted by: Erik on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

All this venom basically goes to show that the Anti-Bushiites around the globe werent particularly anti-war, just anti-Bush.

Er, Paul Wolfowitz was a prime architect of the Iraq war. So its perfectly possible for someone to be anti-war and anti-Wolfowitz, in fact it almost follows from there. I do think the caricacture of Wolfowitz is unfair, and so I support his nomination at this time.

so I suspect will the transnational left completely lose it when their lock on the UN corruptacracy is threatened

I think you've lost it. The World Bank has always been headed by an American and I doubt that any of them were in bed with the "transnational left", but who knows ? Maybe Barber Conable and Robert McNamara used to read Das Kapital at night.

And incidentally, leftists in third world countries generally have little time for the World Bank or (especially) for the IMF. The reason is that these instituions (especially the IMF) often insist on governments following tough fiscal discpline, which includes cutting subsidies and (gasp !!) reducing corruption. Leftist Environmentalists are also extremely suspicuous of huge infrastructural WB projects and their environmental impacts.

I happen to have friends who work as bankers in the World Bank in NYC. Most are somewhat idealistic, many could be making 10 times as much in private investment banks in NYC. Yes, the bank is a large and unweidly bureaucracy, but there are a lot of smart, dedicated people there.

And while there is corruption in World Bank funded projects, its outside the WB in local contractors or the like. Any sort of project in many third world countries involves corruption. If you're so horrified by corruption in WB funded projects, you should be even more horrified by the reports of huge corruption in the Iraq reconstruction. And it need hardly be added that private contracts in the third world are full of corruption as well.

There is a legitmate concern over the value of large infrastructural projects over smaller-scale projects. That is something worth discussing at another time, although probably not with someone who thinks the "transnational left" control the WB.

posted by: erg on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

> Isn't the message of Wolfowitz, Rice, Negroponte,
> et al, very simply that whatever you're looking
> at, bush runs it? These are his people. Period.

Thank you. Hope DD adds this to the main post.

You know, the Radical Right, the neocons, and Norquist have for the last 30 years been very open and consistent about what they want: to destroy central government. And the Bush Clan has been fairly consistent too: all wealth back under the control of their East Coast Establishment old-money families. These appointments serve both goals, and let them bring in a new bunch at the WH and the cabinet agencies to indoctinate and set up for the future - whether that be the Jeb/Rice Administration or 4 years pulling the strings on K Street.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

How telling is it that the first quote in the WaPo's article is from a Marxist? Marxism certainly has an unrivaled record of failure when it comes to economic issues. It's only rival is possibly feudalism. Was the Earl of Sandwich not available for comment?

posted by: Don Mynack on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Damn, Drezner, I just hope you're right. We can't stand four more years of the Keystone Neo-Kons.

posted by: Anderson on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I don't get it. Since when does anyone care about who runs the World Bank? Why aren't the Dems and lefty types dancing in the street that Wolfy is leaving the Pentagon -- you know, the place where people can start WARS and things like that? What, do they hope Wolfy doesn't get this gig and continues to lurk around in the Bush administration spreading his neocon lies and shilling for Israel?

Sheesh. It's not enough that these guys are leaving the administration. Seems like nothing short of prison time for the neocons will satisfy the Left.

posted by: D.J. on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

I can live with Wolfowitz at the WB. He probably does less harm there than at the Pentagon plus he seems to be genuinely concerned about the developing world unlike most of the neo-cons. He does have some first-hand experience in the third world as ambassador to Indonesia.

Bolton at the UN is more troubling. There may be tough negotiations at the UNSC soon about North Korea and especially Iran. I don't think Bolton is the right man to work with other countries and persuade them to get tough on proliferators. His role at State appears to have been essentially negative: sabotaging serious negotiations with North Korea without offering any useful alternative. As a result North Korea may be now be beyond the point of no return with its nuclear arsenal . That is a disaster in itself and it is vital not to repeat it with Iran.

posted by: Strategist on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Re: Yglesias on Wolfowitz: where his performance at the World Bank will undoubtedly correspond with his performance at the Pentagon is in the area of judgement. He clearly made judgements based upon wishful thinking and ideological fastness rather than reality. This is the guy, remember, who told the House budget committee a few weeks before the war, by way of dismissing fired economics advisor Lawrence Lindsey's $200 billion estimate, that the invasion and occupation and reconstruction of Iraq would be self financing because "there's a lot of money there," and who described Eric Shinseki's estimation that the occupation would require several hundred thousand troops as "wildly off the mark."

He also supported the massive, top-down reconstruction projects that helped bolster the insurgency by funneling billions of Iraqi dollars into the hands of foreign, mostly US, corporate giants, rather than supporting smaller, localized projects such as those begun by Major General David Petraeus when he first landed near Mosul, which put cash directly into the hands of Iraqi firms and Iraqis. It's not the slightest bit coincidental that Mosul started going south when Petraeus' funds dried up.

And that's the ideological bias Wolfowitz will bring to the bank: rather than concentrating on expanding the funding of small-scale localized efforts that employ indigenous firms and workers, he'll retreat into the realm of giganticism and, not incidentally, windfalls for Bechtel and Halliburton and the like.

In other words, there are damned good reasons for many people to want Wolfowitz at the World Bank rather than in the Pentagon, where he's about exhausted his capacity to work mischief on the world, at least so long as our army is grounded in Iraq.

And look at some of the other second-term appointments: Gonzales as torturer-in-chief, John Negroponte as the new Bush whisperer, elevating Elliott Abrams to the number two spot at the NSC ... hardly what you'd call a full-scale retreat from radicalism by the administration. Not to mention that Dick Cheney hasn't been and won't be exported, and that one could make as strong an argument that Rice, whom so many fantasize is the voice of moderation in the bunch, has been exiled to State as that she's been promoted to it.

In other words, don't get your hopes up.

posted by: weldon berger on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

An unspoken disagreement among the posters here is what appointers expect of appointees.

The more traditional model is that you appoint people to posts like State, World Bank, Treasury, Supreme Court, etc., to exercise their best judgment. You want people who are aligned with you ideologically, but you pick them for their capacities and hope for the best. Eisenhower felt he got burned by Warren, but that was the kind of appointing model he was operating under.

The bush model is that you appoint people to do what bush, Rove, and others in the inner circle would do if they held the post themselves. It isn't that they get direct marching orders on the job or that bush is busy calling them at all hours about niggling little details, that's absurd. But they do understand that they're not to have any independent judgment to exercise.

This is apparent in, for example, the way the NSC was restructured in the earliest days-- all cross- and inter-agency working groups below principals level were suspended; instead, decisions were made only at the top and marching orders were given. There was no room for input from lower levels; if it wasn't known at the top, it didn't exist. This is what Clarke was writing about, and it's also what Rice meant when she said he was "out of the loop." He wasn't at the decision-making level, therefore had no legitimate role providing information or viewpoints.

When people say this administration doesn't take advice, this is what they mean. It's all of a piece.

That's why I say that what these appointments signify is bush's telling everybody that he owns it all. These are his retainers, his lieutenants, there to do what he would do himself if the job was his. There's infighting going on, but to think that it has real policy implications is, I'm afraid, either self-deluding or simply fatuous.

posted by: Altoid on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Wolfowitz isn't an economist and his development experience doesn't convince me that he will be able to effectively guide the development mission of the world bank. And private sector management skills aren't sufficient to run the world bank either. This is a pretty poor appointment and was made entirely as an effort to extend Bush administration policy making to institutions that should, IMO, be free from administration politicking.

posted by: flaime on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

There is a reason why people are confused about the appointments of Bolton and Wolfowitz. It's not a new reason - it's actually the same old reason. People don't pay attention to what Bush says, they think he's either a tool of some political manipulator or a simpleton fumbling with things he doesn't understand.

I direct your attention to a speech Bush made on Nov 19, 1999 at the Reagan Library, where he not only laid out the philosophical groundwork for the world democratic revolution, but addressed his intent to reform both the UN and the World Bank. I have posted extensive quotes from the speech at Technically Speaking. Here is the brief excerpt that talks about the UN and World Bank:

Likewise, international organizations can serve the cause of peace. I will never place U.S. troops under UN command – but the UN can help in weapons inspections, peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. If I am President, America will pay its dues – but only if the UN’s bureaucracy is reformed, and our disproportionate share of its costs is reduced.

There must also be reform of international financial institutions – the World Bank and the IMF. They can be a source of stability in economic crisis. But they should not impose austerity, bailing out bankers while impoverishing a middle class. They should not prop up failed and corrupt financial systems. These organizations should encourage the basics of economic growth and free markets. Spreading the rule of law and wise budget practices. Promoting sound banking laws and accounting rules. Most of all, these institutions must be more transparent and more accountable.

Broad stroke, yes, but a clear statement of intent while he was still a candidate. Ignored by all, as was most of what he said that day. Now, five years later, people are shocked and surprised. They should be shocked and surprised - that they missed what was in plain sight. They should also be looking around to see what else they missed. My bet is that Bush has laid it out, too.

posted by: Dave on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]


NeoCons are a subset of conservative thought. They are generally Democrats (or center left) who transitioned to center right after watching the reasonable Democrats get immolated during and after the Vietnam War. You are mixing your conservatives cocktails improperly.

A NeoCon wants the UN and World Bank to be relevant. The UN failed, and constantly fails, in its charter. It was called to the carpet from 9/11 onward and responded merely with courtly intrigue. That stuff bores and infuriates NeoCons. The World Bank finances despotism when it does not properly oversee its contributions and loans. NeoCons are kindof like pragmatic do-gooders. They see a long term benefit to 'closing the gap' between the western core countries and the basket case regions of the world.

Read the material - they write books on this stuff. Look into actual material by PNAC, VDH, Kristol, Thomas Barnet, Kaplan, Boot, etc... It is not hard to find. Here are just some examples off the top of my head

“Project for a New American Century”,
“The Pentagon’s New Map”, Thomas Barnett
“The War Over Iraq, Saddam’s Tyranny and America’s Mission”, Kristol, Kaplan
“Carnage and Culture”, Victor Davis Hanson
“The Case for Democracy”, Natan Sharansky

BTW: The above books have all been referenced by ‘W’

Folks, this is not a stumble or a loss for the NeoCon movement. Transitioning NeoCons to the UN and the World Bank and the State Department would be considered the next logical step once hard power was applied when necessary. It is time to democratize the world, and close the gap, and connect the unconnected. Failure will look completely different than what we are actually seeing unfold in the Middle East. For example: once a gap nation climbs out and joins the free world we lose control of its direction – and it will be immeasurably more powerful economically, politically, and militarily. Wolfowitz made this point in Prospect Magazine (subscriber, so see:

Enjoy exciting times…

posted by: BoghRD on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

Bogh, you make an excellent point. Most of those who pejoratively talk of "neo-cons" use the term to help disguise their essential anti-Sematism. Neo-con is a synonym for "Jew," especially those who promote Israel. Neo-cons as *I* read them are actually not conservative at all. Their belief in the power of revolution is almost Trotskyite!

posted by: George Purcell on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]


Neoconservative is a term with which most neoconservatives, including the grand-daddy of them all, Irving Kristol, are quite comfortable. That it's used as a perjorative is a political phenomenon, no different (and unfortunately no better) in most instances than the contempt with which many conservatives utter the word, "liberal."

I think neoconservatives are in fact mirror-image Trotskyites— that is, they've retained their revolutionary ardor and bloodlust, just in service to a different set of principles than was the case with the first generation of them—and I am deeply opposed to their philosophy.

That said, it's undeniable that a bunch of these guys—Richard Perle, Doug Feith, the Wurmsers and others—have extremely close ties to Israel's Likud party, having consulted or lobbied for Likud, or both, during the years between their stints in government. It's a bit unfair, under those circumstances, to cast as anti-semitic any notice people take of the connection, and the label is applied as much to intimidate their opponents as from any genuine sense of offense.

The left boasts at least its share of anti-semites and I quarrel with them wherever I find them. By the same token, I find semitophiles—knee-jerk supporters of anything Jewish—on the right equally offensive and ultimately more inimical to what are most often considered Jewish interests. Both anti-semites and semitophiles base their feelings on nothing other than the fact that we're Jews and Jews represent a particular fantasy to them.

Anti-semite isn't a label to be thrown around casually; it loses its meaning when too broadly applied. Liberals would be opposed to neoconservatives were the latter pure Aryans, because the two philosophies are fundamentally opposed. One needn't look any farther than that absent some compelling reason.

posted by: weldon berger on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

A Bush 1999 speech

here must also be reform of international financial institutions – the World Bank and the IMF. They can be a source of stability in economic crisis. But they should not impose austerity, bailing out bankers while impoverishing a middle class. They should not prop up failed and corrupt financial systems. These organizations should encourage the basics of economic growth and free markets. Spreading the rule of law and wise budget practices. Promoting sound banking laws and accounting rules. Most of all, these institutions must be more transparent and more accountable.

There's nothing specially profound about that, its a purely standard speech, a centrist Democrat like Bill Clinton could have made exactly like that. Some statements are fairly rhetorical, like "But they should not impose austerity, bailing out bankers while impoverishing a middle class. ". Actually, that is more characteristic of the IMF, but that happens when the IMF does exactly what the speech later on says, namely calls for reduction of subsidies, sound budgeting policies. So please dont' present that as some sort of dramatic, dynamic new policy.

posted by: erg on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

"That said, it's undeniable that a bunch of these guys—Richard Perle, Doug Feith, the Wurmsers and others—have extremely close ties to Israel's Likud party"

Oh, brother. You say that as if the Likud were some all-powerful secret society. Likud can barely control the government in Israel itself, much less anywhere else.

Likud has very few clearcut ideological positions, other than not being Labor. (Which, incidentally, was given extensive support by Bill Clinton's PR firms and hangers-on. Does that make the Clintonites neo-coms [communists]?) The mythical status accorded to Likud in some circles on the Left is little short of hallucinatory.

posted by: Mastiff on 03.17.05 at 12:18 AM [permalink]

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