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June 18, 2009

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"The kind of cheerleading for war that neocons engaged in before the invasion of Iraq"

How about afterwards in places like Syria, Iran, North Korea, Burma, Somalia and others.

Militarism as a one-size-fits-all approach.

Karl Marx (heaven forbid I mention in a post about Neocons!) argued that the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. Under feudalism those ideas were loyalty and obligation; under capitalism the ruling ideas are liberty and equality. Under this rubric, liberty is not a transcendental ideal, meaning that it is the highest good in all times and all places. Rather it is specific to how society is organized at a given moment in time.

We can understand the difficulty of tribal-based social organizations transitioning to the modern world when we recognize that liberty and equality are not necessarily their highest ideal. The tribal based loyalties of much of Iraq appear to bear witness to this.

Yet it is interesting that in Iran, a substantial number of persons do subscribe to the ideal of liberty. And one dynamic of the conflict we see playing out in front of us now is precisely over this question.

I believe that what we are seeing on the streets of Iran now is a vindication of these neoconservative ideas.

Weirdly, what I see is two rival political camps clashing over who won an election entirely within the framework of an Islamic Republic that supports only highly constrained forms of liberty, free expression, and democracy. I see one of those sides being "reformist" only within that context, which would presumably increase liberty and free expression, but within highly constrained limits imposed by the Supreme Council. I see the leader of the reformist side as someone who, when serving in the now-defunct prime minister's role, was a hardliner who cracked down on liberty and free expression. Yet all Finkelstein apparently sees is attractive young Lebanese women in T-shirts, voting against Syria. Or possibly the overflowing liberty, free expression, and democracy of Iraq's current pro-Ahmadinejad regime.

Meanwhile, when a reformer was last in the position that Mousavi's supporters are protesting to secure for him, what was Finkelstein's view toward Iran? Did he see burgeoning liberty, free expression, and democracy under Khatami's tenure that needed US encouragement? Or did he see an "Axis of evil" threat to Israel and the West that was to be isolated at best, and bombed into bloody scraps at worst? Because I know what all of his peers on this side of the Atlantic were saying.

It is interesting that many of the neocons advocate some form of intervention in Iran, even if just verbal, which already is more democratic than most countries in the ME, including some of which we are staunch allies, such as Saudi Arabia.

Yet, we do not see them talking about going into SA, even though, in terms of nondemocratic, fundamental Islamism, it is probably more of a long term threat than Iran is.

NeoCon-ism is just colonialism attitudes...
"The natives don't know what's best for themselves. Let's help them out and, oh, jam about 20 of our corporations into their economy while we're at it. What's that? They don't want our help? Break out the gunboats!"

When I threw all those china plates on the ground, I was merely trying to demonstrate the very controversial principle that gravity is real. I feel that I've been vindicated by subsequent events.

I suppose there's just no polite way of convincingly saying "stop coming around here, we fired you!"

Do you think the Sunni minority yearns for democracy in Iraq?

Off-topic and contentious:
People tend not to regard our occupation of a country as illegitimate when they attack us, and they lose.

Maybe "winning a war" is somewhat meaningless these days. If Indonesia had won the war with East Timor, would they have been constrained in how they occupied it? Will Sri Lanka be constrained in occupying NE Sri Lanka?

Or are there are two sets of values, depending on who wins a war?

Because winning a war certainly didn't work for Israel. I guess they would have had to capture Cairo and Amman to be seen as "legitimate" (or would that have been seen as "over-reacting")? If we believe that winning a war gives a country the right to occupy their attackers, why are we talking about settlements?

Hilzoy, once again thank you for good post. I fear neocons will not understand.

Was tickled by Benen's noting Kissinger (the smartest person John McCain knows) agrees with Obama's approach this week to Iran situation.

did you see the quote sullivan picked up from Aziz Poonawalla:
"Let's not forget that Obama has spoken directly to the Iranian people before the election - Obama's Nowruz greeting to the Iranian people was an end-run around the regime and a tangible encouragement for the Iranians to seek change, as this anecdote from an Iranian-American girl visiting family in Tehran illustrates:
'Arguably, it was Barack Obama who brought down the virtual wall between Iran and the West with his conciliatory and hopeful Nowruz (Iran's New Year) message on YouTube. I looked on as my friends and family watched his message with adoration in Tehran. "Why can't he be our president", one aunt gushed. It hit a chord, mainly because it made Ahmadinejad look foolish.'"

Jeff: I was talking about a temporary occupation, the kind we engaged in in Germany and Japan. Presumably, you don't have to depart immediately after taking a country (as in: capture the capital and then turn right around and head home). And in a case, like WWII, in which the political systems of the countries that attacked you seem to be a significant part of the problem, you can try to construct new ones. But the temporary part is important, as is the 'generally trying to be constructive' part.

I think Israel is different on both counts.

Neocons do smack of colonialism. They fail to realize that our democracy is unique and cannot simply be copied because they want it to be so.

When my wife tells me that some things were better in her native Russia during the Soviet era, I respect what she says and believe her -- she lived through it, I didn't. Some of these things are simply cultural: St. Petersburg is full of head-turning buildings that would turn the heads of most architects. But the influx of capitalism has seen the demolition of some of the city's great old structures, replaced by high rises and bland substitutes or, as my mother-in-law says when she visits, "more like here."

Pat Lang has always called the neocons Jacobins, highlighting their fundamentally radical missionary expansionism -- carry the revolution to the rest of the world, which will of course embrace it, and to hell with the number of eggs that get broken. Whereas realists or squishy liberals actually worry about the negative unintended consequences of upheaval and instability, that's actually the point for these folks.

Of course, the line between revolutionary armies and imperial forces -- or between sister republics and occupied puppets -- can blur pretty quickly.

I think there's a lot to his analogy.

I can't remember who said this first, but it strikes me as still the major problem w/ the neo-cons: you can't trust the promotion of liberal democracy to your least liberal and least democratic factions.

The neo-cons showed disdain for "democracy" with their consistent disrespect for democratic norms in the debate over the war, which was sold on bogus grounds (WMD, al Quaeda link); with insanely low estimates of cost in lives, time, and expense; and w/ an utter disregard for civil treatment of the opposition case, which was branded as borderline treason. They consistently opposed transparency in the management of the war--its methods (torture) and management (CPA, KBR, etc.). Rather than promoting democracy in Iraq itself, their primary objective was economic: privatization, flat tax, free trade. The neo-con's real brief is that if you go capitalist, then "democracy" will follow at some unspecified date--which would be news to the Saudis and Chinese.

We all support democracy, but the war's opponents supported it more. Now we're getting lectured on it by the losers of the last election, who apparently think thsat votes should have no consequences.

Is not Iran a good example of the failure of neocon thinking? Didn't we already use our power to install the kind of government we think Iran should have? Isn't that what the Shah was?
The neocons of the fifties produced the Islamic revolution of the seventies.

I don't particularly like the neocons, and their influence over Republican foreign policy was one of the main reasons I voted against Bush and McCain, but I'm going to take on the thankless task of defending Finkelstein here.

He does not seem, to me, to be claiming that the neocons were right about everything. I think he acknowledges (albeit not in as strong language as I'd like) that they were wrong about using military force to spread democracy - "not necessarily through the barrel of a gun", "we were not patient enough", etc. What he is claiming is that their assertion that a yearning for liberty and self-determination is a universal in human nature is being vindicated by events in Iran, and though I know you agree with that assertion, hilzoy, it is by no means true that everyone does. I've heard realists, including quite a few liberals, argue that we can't assume that people in other parts of the world with other cultural backgrounds want the same things as we do. In the run-up to the Iraq War some on the left, seeking any argument they could to criticize proponents of military action, argued that it was arrogant and culturally presumptious of us to assume that Arabs/Muslims want democracy. Perhaps they only made that argument out of political expediency, but I still find it distasteful, and just because those who said that democracy can't be spread at the point of a gun have been proven correct on that score, doesn't mean that the neocons got everything wrong, or that the things they did get right are self-evidently true and were agreed on by everyone. Credit where credit is due.

That said, the belief that the U.S. is universally seen as a force for good in the world, or that it could unilaterally intervene to impose democracy on people with long memories of colonial domination, is and always was daft. If people like Finkelstein realize that now, then they're making some progress.

Is not Iran a good example of the failure of neocon thinking? Didn't we already use our power to install the kind of government we think Iran should have? Isn't that what the Shah was?

Uh, in a word, no. The Shah was installed and maintained as a check against the Soviets, i.e. a pawn in a larger international game intended to safeguard our interests. The way he governed his own people was at best secondary, at worst irrelevant. To paraphrase what Roosevelt said about another third world dictator, he might have been a bastard, but he was our bastard. That's classic realist thinking if ever I've seen it.

What he is claiming is that their assertion that a yearning for liberty and self-determination is a universal in human nature is being vindicated by events in Iran

The Shah was installed and maintained as a check against the Soviets, i.e. a pawn in a larger international game intended to safeguard our interests. The way he governed his own people was at best secondary, at worst irrelevant. That's classic realist thinking if ever I've seen it.

"Realist" in this instance meaning "actively hostile to the yearning for liberty and self-determination which is a universal in human nature", right?

You see, what this actually looks like is:

1. When it suited US interests, the realists supported the Shah.

2. When it suited US interests, the realists supported Saddam Hussein.

3. When it suited US interests, the realists supported overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

4. When it suited US interests, the realists supported revolutionaries in Iran.

Whether they call themselves "realists" or "neocons", they're the same people out for the same thing : the welfare of the people in other countries is at best secondary, at worst irrelevant - what matters is what will further US interests.

The US is the known enemy of liberty and self-determination anywhere in the world where liberty and self-determination do not support the perceived interests of the US government.

Whether they call themselves "realists" or "neocons", they're the same people out for the same thing : the welfare of the people in other countries is at best secondary, at worst irrelevant - what matters is what will further US interests.

No, they're not. The two schools of thought are pretty much diametric opposites, and they don't like each other at all. Have you studied International Relations at all? Did you pay attention during the Bush administration? The Republican critics of his foreign policy (Scowcroft et. al.) were pretty much all realists who'd been deposed in the Republican foreign policy establishment by neocons (Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, etc.).

Now, you can accuse the neocons of bad faith, and argue that their promotion of democracy and self-determination actually masks a deeply cynical self-interest. In the case of at least some (e.g. those who want Ahmadinejad to win the election because in their view it's better for the U.S. to have a bogeyman to demonize), I think you'd be absolutely correct to do so. But I don't think it's true of everyone - some self-described neocons are cheering the protestors in Iran, and good for them.

The US is the known enemy of liberty and self-determination anywhere in the world where liberty and self-determination do not support the perceived interests of the US government.

A little bit much of a generalization, perhaps? Certainly this has been true in a great many cases, but plenty of anti-American governments have been elected in democratic U.S. allies over the years without American interference.

It seems to me that your passion is clouding your judgment when you make a statement like this.

Jes: I agree with Xeynon: the realists and the neocons are opposed. I think that they share the idea that looking at the world realistically involves some sort of amoral "tough-mindedness" that (to my mind) would verge on the sociopathic if taken fully literally, while being idealistic means being all fuzzy and stupid. They then take different sides on the question: which option should we choose?

Personally, I prefer to be realistic about the world, and idealistic about my goals.

Neocons think they're vindicated if the sun comes up in the morning. It's all about them, it's always them being right, neener neener.

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it".

That's the problem with neo-conservatives.

I think that they share the idea that looking at the world realistically involves some sort of amoral "tough-mindedness" that (to my mind) would verge on the sociopathic if taken fully literally, while being idealistic means being all fuzzy and stupid.

I'd put it this way - there are various conditions which are good - for the U.S., for other countries, or for citizens throughout the world. These conditions are of different kinds - some are economic goods, some security-based, some moral, etc. These conditions are sometimes mutually exclusive. The different schools of thought on foreign policy are merely different ways of trying to square that circle.

Case in point:

(1)Close relations with China are an economic good for the people of the U.S.;

(2)Self-determination is a moral and political good for the minority peoples of Xinjiang and Tibet;

(3)Control over the territories of Xinjiang and Tibet, and the mineral and other wealth therein, is an economic good for the Chinese state, and the dominant powers within;

We can't have all three of these goods, because at the very least (2) and (3) are mutually exclusive. The strawman realist (actual people might differ, of course) looks at this calculus and decides that since we can't have all three, we might as well concede (3) at the expense of (2) because it gives us (1), which is the only one of the three which directly affects us, and because (3) is likely going to happen whether we like it or not. A strawman good-faith neocon argues that it is unacceptable for(3) to be imposed at the expense of (2) and that we should intervene to prevent this, and in so doing will eventually bring about a situation in which (1) and (2) are both true (not a good argument even in theory IMO, as it ignores the difficulties of armed conflict and is rife with potential hypocrisy, contradiction, and absurdly idealistic assumptions about human nature and our own benevolence, but that's what they argue). A strawman idealist says that we ought to protest the injustice of (3), possibly sacrificing (1) in doing so, because using violence to attempt to bring about a union of (1) and (2) is immoral, futile, or both. The "tough realist" that hilzoy cites argues that this protest is futile as (3) will happen whether we like it or not, and by damaging the prospects for (1) we are hurting ourselves.

Obviously this is an oversimplification, but I think it illustrates how different people can in good faith come to very different conclusions about what ought to be done in the same situation. You could, of course, look at the same situation from the Chinese POV, or look at another situation in which the U.S. is more clearly the "bad guy", if you like. Where I disagree with hilzoy is that I don't think it's fair to say that if you're not an idealist in how you approach a situation like this, it necessarily makes you evil, sociopathic, etc. It's quite possible that tightening economic ties with China while tolerating their human rights abuses (the realist position) will produce a better overall outcome over the long run than refusing to have anything to do with them on moral grounds (the idealist position), especially when you consider that foreign trade has lifted millions of Chinese from poverty and could help liberalize the country from within down the road, etc. I don't know, and I'm not willing to impute bad faith to people who disagree with me on this sort of question.

So good to hear from nadezhda!

Neoconism is the 'informal' colonialism of an 'informal' empire (I would call it 'Empire Lite'). Finkelstein is right that neocons haven't been conservative enough, and I think that may be an underrated insight from him in this blog-context: neoconism is a classic, radical, internal contradiction in the conservative movement. If it's possible to boil down the conservative critique of the last few hundred years, AFAIC, it would be this: good intentions are not enough (a very important lesson, BTW). And neocons have - rhetorically, programmatically - little *but* good intentions. It's bizarre that they had gained so much power in a supposedly conservative government. But that's how insurgencies are - they surge! nadezhda/Lang are right to cite/call these people Jacobins. They are Revolutionaries in pretty much the worst sense of that word; chaos is a positive value, really.

Thanks for the essay, Hilzoy, as always.

jonnybutter, I pretty much agree with your assessment of the neocons - all ideals and good intentions, no wisdom, historical perspective, or insight into human nature whatsoever. To paraphrase Clemenceau, a person who is not a neocon at fifteen lacks a heart, but a person who is still a neocon at 50 (or even 25) lacks a brain.

I don't think it's fair to say that if you're not an idealist in how you approach a situation like this, it necessarily makes you evil, sociopathic, etc.

I don't think that's what Hilzoy is arguing, so maybe you don't disagree with her here.

Whether they call themselves "realists" or "neocons", they're the same people out for the same thing : the welfare of the people in other countries is at best secondary, at worst irrelevant - what matters is what will further US interests.

In addition to what Xeynon and hilzoy have said, it is also true that the realists and the neocons weren't the same people in the past, either. For one thing, the neocons didn't exist until the 1960s, when a bunch of former Maoists got a different religion and started promoting democracy with equal fervor. They saw the realists, and the Nixon administration in particular, as their biggest enemies. Worth noting is that, originally, they were fine with liberalism (in its American sense), and opposed the New Left. They never did shed their authoritarian ways, which is what has always made their invocation of democracy kind of amusing. They only later drifted into the orbit of the hardcore Republican base.

Interestingly, my father was an assistant professor at the Kennedy School at the same time Bill Kristol was a graduate student. He says that Kristol was, and is, really smart, and was really thoughtful (as well as being an outstanding softball player). He can't quite figure out where that Bill Kristol went.

Another neocon-realist split came over Gorbachev. To a man, the neocons and neocon-symps (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, George Will, etc.) were convinced that Gorby was playing a naive, aging Reagan, while realists were at least willing to consider that he was sincere about reducing tensions and the threat of war while modernizing the Soviet Union. The neocons were of course, as is their habit, dead wrong. (Lots or ironies here, if you look for them. Much as the neocons invoke Reagan as the greatest president of the century, their reaction to his most important achievement was to patronize him. And compare Reagan's understanding of Gorbachev's true intentions with Bush looking into Putin's eyes and somehow not seeing "THUG" in 20-point type.)

Hilzoy: Jes: I agree with Xeynon: the realists and the neocons are opposed.

Uh ... they're the same people. Just separated by time. The "realists" who supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, became the "neocons" who supported his overthrow in the 1990s. The "realists" who support any dictator who's smart enough to say the right things about being against Communism because "he may be a bastard but he's our bastard", etc: they're the same damn people who promptly switch to being against the dictator as soon as he stops being "our bastard".

Seriously, am I the only person with actual memories of this?

There's an article here about the development of the neocon movement that may clarify this for those who don't recall it personally.

Being a neocon in the sense it's been used since the 1980s at least, is all about imposing US authority by force and violence: terrorism, torture, dictatorship, whatever.

As for example: Richard Perle - neocon, senior in Reagan's defense department, never clear how close he was to the whole sell-arms-to-Iran-to-fund-terrorists-in-Nicaragua thing, member of PNAC during the 1990s, deeply involved in the Bush administration's run-up to the attack on Iraq, now faking it as a supporter of democracy in Iran - democracy which apparently wasn't helped by Obama unclenching his fist.

Neocons are all about American imperialism. They're all about the "clenched fist". I grant you I have the personal advantage of having been alive and reading the news through the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s and having a decent memory for names, but this is what Google is for: go look them up. See what they were doing and who they were supporting and what policies they were for. We do not live in Nineteen Eighty-Four. There are archives. We have not always been at war with Eastasia.

But in that case, we had a really good reason both to occupy Germany and Japan: namely, the fact that they had attacked us, and they had lost. Similarly, we had a decent reason for trying to recast their political institutions: those institutions were partially responsible for the fact that they had just started a world war.

While I agree with most of your post, I have to disagree with this part: even if Germany had never crossed a border and started a war, the genocide of the Jews and the Romani, as well as homosexuals, conscientious objectors and dissidents would have forced the international community to attack Germany and dismantle its government and institutions. Under UN resolution 1674 there is a "responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity".

Of course, there was no UN back then, but the "Genocide Convention" under which we operate today was set up to define and punish such crimes. As much as I despise the neo-cons, self-defense isn't the only justification for armed intervention and deciding when crimes against humanity are being committed thus forcing intervention will be a problem in the future, both politically and morally.

To give Finkelstein his due, this was what the neocons were predicting would happen: America invades Iraq, overthrows Saddam, totally botches the postwar occupation, ineffectually battles a years-long insurgency, watches helplessly as millions die or flee into exile during a ruthless ethnic cleansing campaign, establishes a shaky, nearly impotent government, elects a president who opposes the war, announces a timetable for withdrawal of all troops, and then democracy spreads across the Middle East.

That was what they predicted, right?

Seriously, am I the only person with actual memories of this?

Yes, because you're remembering it wrong. The realists who supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s were, for the most part, not the neo-conservatives who advocated his overthrow later. Donald Rumsfeld is not, and never has been, a neo-con.

The set of people who were heavily in favor of supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s were the realists. Though, their view was actually more complicated than that. What they really wanted was to ensure that neither side won the war. So, they helped each side in turn, though assistance to Iran was kept secret.

The neo-cons were largely indifferent to siding with Saddam. They were focused almost exclusively on fighting communism, and saw everything through the lens of how it involved the Soviets. They actually participated more in the helping Iran part of the action, because it provided them money to fund the contras in Nicaragua.

The "sell-arms-to-Iran-to-fund-terrorists-in-Nicaragua" bit was, particularly the second part, a neo-con project. For them, it was about Central America. The realists, who were more interested in detente, didn't focus there.

You seem to be falling into the trap that anyone who supported unsavory thugs must be a neo-con. There's no reason to think that. That's also true in reverse. The key is looking at *which* unsavory thugs they supported, and why.

The realists who supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s were, for the most part, not the neo-conservatives who advocated his overthrow later. Donald Rumsfeld is not, and never has been, a neocon.

So Richard Perle isn't a neocon either? And PNAC isn't a neocon think-tank? Elliott Abrams isn't a neocon and you can show he was against the Reagan administration's support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s? Richard L. Armitage, when Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs from 1981-1983, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy from 1983-1989, was against the Reagan administration's support of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s? John Bolton - well, he was certainly working for the Reagan administration in the 1980s, though as assistant attorney general. Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz - all of them were in with Reagan, and the only one of all of them that I remember (confirmed by googling) that was publicly opposed to the US supporting Saddam Hussein and was not involved with the arms-to-Iran-for-terrorists scandal was Wolfowitz.

I think I'm remembering this exactly right: the same people, the same kind of policy: uphold US power, to hell with democracy.

OK, so I read Finkelstein's article. Here are my comments.

First, Finkelstein appears to believe that the idea that people all around the world are interested in political freedom is, somehow, the unique property of neo-conservatives.

That's astoundingly self-serving. Not to mention risible.

Second, Finkelstein wants to claim that the actions of Mousavi's supporters somehow represents a vindication of the neo-conservative perspective.

Unless "neo-conservatism" has some unique claim on "in favor of transparent elections", that statement is also both amazingly self-serving and risible.

Neo-conservatism, for at least the last 25 years, is and has been a movement that seeks to extend and solidify American hegemony in the world. When I say "hegemony", I refer to things like "not allow the emergence of a political, economic, or military rival", even from among friendly nations. And if military force is what it takes to make that so, so be it.

Not my words, theirs.

I appreciate that Finkelstein wishes Mousavi's supporters well. I'm not sure why he thinks that he, or people like him, deserve any credit whatsoever for what's happening in Iran right now, or why he thinks it represents a vindication of his point of view.

"So Richard Perle isn't a neocon either?"

No true neocon would espouse the views of Perle, let alone have lunch with the man.

novakant: the genocide of the Jews and the Romani, as well as homosexuals, conscientious objectors and dissidents would have forced the international community to attack Germany and dismantle its government and institutions.

Not at all. I mean, seriously, you have that exactly backward. The groups Germany was picking on to lock up and persecute were groups that no one in power cared about that much - Jews perhaps more than the others, but the notion that the "international community" would have gone to war to protect a bunch of dirty gypsies, queers, Communists, and other filthy dissidents is pure fantasy. It was not until the 1980s that any of the pink or black triangle concentration camp inmates received compensation for what they had endured at the Nazis: because until then, it was regarded as perfectly reasonable that the German state should have passed a law making being homosexual a criminal offense, and then punished the criminals thus created.

Nor would anyone have gone to war with Germany over the Jews, no more than anyone was prepared to go to war in Rwanda to protect the Tutsi. Indeed, the concept that the international community should act to prevent genocide was born from WWII - and has never followed through: there is always a need to redefine what is taking place so that it does not amount to genocide.

As much as I despise the neo-cons, self-defense isn't the only justification for armed intervention and deciding when crimes against humanity are being committed thus forcing intervention will be a problem in the future, both politically and morally.

Has been a problem for decades; do you see any neocons arguing that the US needs to act for women's rights in Saudi Arabia? Have any neocons argued that the US should act to save the lives of LGBT people in Iraq who are being slaughtered by the new regime? (In the former case, I think the US would do more harm than good; in the latter, I think the US should be helping to get a persecuted minority out of Iraq if they want to go...) But what do these neocons say? Or do?

I'm sorry, but, no, the overthrow of Mossadegh was not simply some calculation to oppose Soviet power, and yes, it did lead to awful consequences for Americans and the rest of the world, and it isn't one tiny bit more realistic or sober to assert that it was.

It was not a policy which served the interests of my family or similar fellow Americans, no matter how many officials then or now explain their actions in such terms. "Our" interests, that is, not simply those in the conception of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

That shitty foreign policy lead to awful later consequences, which are still being confronted today.

Jes, I was outlining a historical hypothetical. Hilzoy pointed out why intervention was justified in WW2 to make an argument for and against intervention now. I picked up on that and claimed that by today's standards the international community would have been forced to intervene even if Germany had never started a war, because there was an ongoing genocide within Germany. I am pretty sure they wouldn't have done so back in the day, but the creation of the UN and the Genocide Convention after the war has changed our obligations.

Since you are to chiding the international community for not intervening, hypothetically and factually, I take it that you are a liberal interventionist or content to point out hypocrisy, while unwilling to face the question of when and why intervention is justified. I myself have merely pointed out that this will be a perennial dilemma and that the question has to be answered on a case by case basis, with secondary, but important factors such as feasibility coming into play as well. Minorities have been and are being treated badly in a whole lot of countries, we need to decide when such treatment amounts to crimes against humanity justifying intervention.

As for your last paragraph, I've already made it clear that I despise the neo-cons, but that doesn't mean that the "realism" of old, which tended to simply ignore the plight of the civilian population and/or minorities provides a satisfactory answer either.

"Realism" is obviously yet another one of those distressingly vague terms. To me, realist, or pragmatic, ideally applies to foreign policy that acknowledges reality. Different nations have different goals. Some are even run by authoritarian thugs. That doesn't mean we don't have relations with other nations, or refuse to seek common ground on specific issues. So, for instance, we can see that Putin has rolled back the democratic reforms of his predecessors, yet still maintain dialogue with Russia. Invading Iraq under false pretenses and killing hundreds of thousands of people while destroying infrastructure was probably not the best way to plant a client petrostate beacon of democracy in the Middle East or enhance the reputation of "democracy promotion." "Realist" in this context is a better fit for Obama's approach, from his stated desire for direct talks with Iran, to his awareness that it's not our place to jump into this internal struggle with both feet, no matter how much Finkelstein abruptly loves the moderate Iranians he wanted to bomb last month, and will want to bomb next month.

"Realism" about the existence of unpleasant regimes is not the same thing as actively supporting them, especially to the point of propping them up. Playing Iran and Iraq off against one another, or actively aiding Saddam after he employed chemical weapons, is imperialism, not simple acknowledgment of how the world is. And a true realist would have allowed Iranians to choose their own government in the 1950s, rather than blatantly meddling to get a "better" outcome. And it bears repeating that realists approved of Reagan working with Gorbachev, while imperialists and neocons thought he had "lost us the Cold War."

The problem comes because, as novakant notes, we don't want to be too realist. Apartheid in South Africa needed outside pressure. Israel needs to be pushed to start behaving like the liberal democracy it keeps bragging that it is. So there's a knife-edge to be walked. However, any realistic person should be able to see that the US cannot be seen to be exerting influence on an Iranian electoral dispute. Nor should it be bombed or invaded to bring "liberty," Daniel.

I think it would be easy to make the mistake jes does, which is to blur neo-cons and realists into one. the reason that it is easy is because they sometimes support the same goals, but for different reasons.But there are differences, some of which would result in changes in policy.

For example, in the Gulf War campaign, the neo-cons would have supported not only the liberation of Kuwait, but going all the way to Baghdad. The realists weren't really sure that they even wanted to liberate Kuwait(Colin Powell, for one, opposed it). The Liberal/idealist position was at that time against the Gulf War, which they saw as merely an attempt to restore a more pliable US puppet in order to keep oil flowing( "No blood for oil" was the anti-war cry at the time).
I've read the article and I agreed that the yearning for freedom is a universal human impulse. Some leftists (and some idealist) disagree with that. But the hard neo con position was really that the USA should use its militarymight to impose its view of democracy on other countries. That, i think, has been discredited, and Finkelstein has made progress in admitting this. Its always good when someone admits he is wrong, and we should at least give him credit for that.

Academic trivia: According to Wikipedia, Guizot (French PM 1847-1848) is famous as the originator of the quote "Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head".

That, i think, has been discredited, and Finkelstein has made progress in admitting this.

It does you credit to give such benefit of the doubt. However, "not necessarily through the barrel of a gun" [emphasis added] has a titanic loophole in it. And he writes as if this were always the formulation of these neoconservative ideas, which is patent nonsense. So since he has not repudiated the barrel of the gun approach, nor explained why he thinks this is a massive eruption of the human desire for liberty, while the undisputed election of Khatami was to be met with continued demonization of Iran, I'll remain skeptical of his newfound fairy dust idealism. What will he say if Ahmadinejad finally comes out on top, I wonder? Or if Mousavi somehow becomes president, and reiterates his assertions about Iran's right to enrichment?

"Realism" is obviously yet another one of those distressingly vague terms. To me, realist, or pragmatic, ideally applies to foreign policy that acknowledges reality. Different nations have different goals. Some are even run by authoritarian thugs.

Realism is actually a very specific school of international relations theory, although in practice obviously no policy-maker hews to a strict interpretation of any given theoretical school, no matter how much they may flatter themselves that they do so.

The basic principle of realism (Kenneth Waltz is the essential read) is that states are like billiard balls - it does not matter what's on the inside, as they have objective interests and goals in the international system no matter what may be the nature of their domestic politics.

As in this case, Obama is said to not care who prevails in the Iranian crisis, as he believes it will make little or no difference to how the victor defines Iran's international objectives and interests.

Stonetools:"I think it would be easy to make the mistake jes does, which is to blur neo-cons and realists into one. the reason that it is easy is because they sometimes support the same goals, but for different reasons.But there are differences, some of which would result in changes in policy."
"But the hard neo con position was really that the USA should use its military might to impose its view of democracy on other countries."

I would make the same "mistake" that you think Jesurgislac makes because the two camps appear to be minor variants of the American imperialist party. Defeating the rival Soviet empire and propping up regimes sympathetic/subservient to American interests without any view of democracy seemed to be paramount. Would you suggest the neocons opposed overthrowing Allende in Chile? As to Iraq, i thought the neocons wanted to install their puppet Chalabi, and build permanent bases, and stay permanently. As far as i can make out neocons are just unrealistic realists who can't actually administer anything and add a hypocritical veneer of "democracy" as cover for their imperialistic intentions.

"Obama is said to not care who prevails in the Iranian crisis, as he believes it will make little or no difference to how the victor defines Iran's international objectives and interests."
Posted by: byrningman

I don't think that this is a fair statement. I think Obama would much prefer Mousavi, but recognizes that any statement of preference would be counterproductive and can honestly say that from the perspective of America's immediate security interests both Iranian candidates share the same position with respect to nuclear development. Subject to replacement of the Supreme Leader,the major difference for US would be the tone of the negotiations. The difference for Iranians could range from marginal to dramatic. Many revolutions have been touched off by the acts of mild reformers.

I believe that Obama's election, his greeting to the Iranian people and his Cairo speech have all been significant in causing Iranians to believing in the possibility of ending Iranian isolation and getting rid of their George Bush.

What Johnny Canuck said.

Everyone concerned is about to face a more agonizing period of reflection. Khamenei's intransigence signals a severe crackdown if the public demonstrations go forward.

The decision to make the election results announcements so quickly, with such implausibly high margins for Ahmedinejad and so evenly across provinces, was the intolerable spark.

The one avenue for mass democracy in Iran was the traditional respect for the constitutional role of the vote-as-public-opinion, within a structure controlled by the Supreme Leader. The fraud tore away even this bit of respect.

Von's 'be careful what you wish for' seems to assume that the rest of us are starry-eyed, stereotyping political naifs, somehow under the impression that if Mousavi became president, Iran's regional and foreign policy would present fewer difficulties for the United States.

What's best for the United States is the policy Obama has put in place: dealing with countries calmly and on the basis of adult negotiations to try to achieve something for both parties.

My heart doesn't go out to the demonstrators because I think it would be better or easier for the United States government if they "win". It's because I believe in human rights and the potential of expanding democracy. Here are people taking big risks to preserve the small space that exists in that dictatorship for their opinions to matter. I want very much for them to succeed. What won't help that happen is saber-rattling by the U.S. government, or self-righteous resolutions by Congresspeople who've consistently voted for punitive sanctions and war against the same people whose human rights they claim to be respecting.

I've worked against all the U.S. government policies that have shredded our ability to play a helpful role here. In fact, the corporate-spook-contractor complex that has pushed U.S. intervention into one grotesque overthrow after anothe is a big part of what's standing between us and full human rights. Permanent war economy: kiss health care goodbye. Can't have those deficits!

I'm not a neocon. I think of neocons as being preoccupied with Israel and not really caring about democracy or rights for Palestinians.

But they did care about Bosnia and the slaughter of Muslims. A certain anti-war type and the realists exemplified by James "we don't have a dog in this fight" Baker made famous by the 2000 election felt nothing should be done, but the neocons raged about genocide and didn't care about throwing US power around.

During the 70s, 80s, and 90s there developed a group of liberal types who became interested in human rights in other countries. Amnesty Internationl. Human Rights Watch. These groups listed the crimes of Saddam among others. They chronicled developments in South Africa, Burma, China, South America, Africa, etc. etc.

But a certain antiwar type - along with the cold-blooded realists of course - feel any criticism of foreign governments is tantamount to warmongering and meddling.

Talk of Neocons is a red herring and strawman.

The Iranian protests have been inspiring and gave the lie to those Neocons who pushed Bush into including Iran in the Axis of Evil. Iranians like those in the soccer team wearing green wristbands in solidarity with their fellow countrymen, just want a less isolated country, one that is more open and doesn't rig elections.

Anti-war types would mock those of us excited and inspired by the colored revolutions over recent years. Well here's another one and I'm beginning to think Obama should lend more support somehow. The Iranian movement protesting the rigged elections are the same types of politically motivated people as the people who worked to elect Obama and were inspired by his leadership.

Peter K:Well here's another one and I'm beginning to think Obama should lend more support somehow.

would you care to address the point that it would be counterproductive for Obama to lend support, providing the "bad guys" with evidence the Great Satan hadn't changed and was meddling in Iran like 1953?

would you care to address the point that it would be counterproductive for Obama to lend support, providing the "bad guys" with evidence the Great Satan hadn't changed and was meddling in Iran like 1953?

I think it's a valid point and one I've agreed with. The British Foreign Secretary just expressed the same view. However Iranians are now saying other countries shouldn't recognize the illegitimate regime even though I feel it's understandable if Iran's democratic neighbors like Iraq and Turkey do, which they've done. I expect Afghanistan has or will.

Peter K, to what extent do you think Obama (his election, greetings, Cairo speech) caused Iranians to support Mousavi?

Anti-war types would mock those of us excited and inspired by the colored revolutions over recent years.

Yes, because many such people's inspiration (not necessarily yours) is repeatedly demonstrated to be shallow. Lebanon voting in the latest of a long series of elections was cause for celebration, yet many of those good-looking young women from the photos were also endangered by disproportionate Israeli bombing. Ukraine continues to be torn by internal power struggles and questionable constitutional maneuvers; where are all the "Orange Revolution" pennants now? Iran unequivocally elected a reformer in 1997 and again in 2001, one who, unlike Mousavi, hadn't previously been a hardliner prime minister; were you calling for the US to "do more" to encourage him then? Because during his second term, "anti-war types" were a lot more concerned about all the heated rhetoric about going to war with Iran at the time, and we could have used some more support.

Iranians like those in the soccer team wearing green wristbands in solidarity with their fellow countrymen, just want a less isolated country, one that is more open and doesn't rig elections.

They also support a presidential candidate who has endorsed Iran's right to continue enriching uranium. Are you okay with that?

However Iranians are now saying other countries shouldn't recognize the illegitimate regime

Well, the Supreme Council that has the final say in running the country wasn't up for election, so they're probably still "legitimate." And I fail to see how refusing to acknowledge Ahmadinejad's existence if he winds up keeping the presidency actually helps Iran. Though I suppose it would be an improvement over treating him like the actual ruler of the country and the most dangerous man alive. But what's the endgame of such refusal to recognize Ahmadinejad? Negotations are back off the table? Military intervention against an illegitimate regime is on the table? Where do we go from there?

"Peter K, to what extent do you think Obama (his election, greetings, Cairo speech) caused Iranians to support Mousavi?"

I don't know. It could be more than we think. I'm getting a sense Iranians are sick of their isolation and are partly blaming it on Ahmadinejad. The economy has been bad also. There's the enormous number of young people and the new technology.

mds:
"They also support a presidential candidate who has endorsed Iran's right to continue enriching uranium. Are you okay with that?"

Yes. Obama said he doesn't see much of a difference between them regarding security matters. However Mousavi is better on women and religion which is a good sign and he criticized Ahmedinejad over his bellicosity and denial of the Holocaust. He's more open to the West. And he defied the Supreme leader, diminishing his authority. He's a tougher and smarter leader than past reformists.

To me Obama has been the catalyst -see the quote in my post June 18, 2009 at 06:31 PM.

Marc Ambinder says:"why shouldn't Obama have said more? To which one might well respond: the millions of protesters know whether the U.S. is meddling or not. If they're not and Khamenei says they are, he's not credible -- even less credible. If they are, and Khamenei says they are, then he's correct. And anger might well turn toward the United States."

As I see it Obama as catalyst-good; US agitating for an outcome- very bad and counter productive. If I recall my chemistry, a catalyst initiates a reaction without itself getting affected.

The opinion of Richard Lugar is due a lot more respect than the neocons- with a track record of being outrageously wrong, and with no real interest in Iran other than as a target for Israel to bomb.

"But a certain antiwar type - along with the cold-blooded realists of course - feel any criticism of foreign governments is tantamount to warmongering and meddling."

Actually, it's the "we should bomb them" part that is generally seen as war-mongering.

And I sincerely wish I was mischaracterizing their position. Regrettably, I am not.

"Talk of Neocons is a red herring and strawman."

Well no, it is not.

The People Commonly Known As Neocons have left behind them a rich paper trail, as deep and wide as that of any other group. The common theme in their work is that western style democracy is what the whole world wants and needs, and we should assertively bring it to them, through military force if that's what it takes.

The idea that "western style democracy" is the legacy of, say, 1,000 years or more of a particular political and social history, and that it might not be completely appropriate for all places, and that it rests on institutions and traditions that don't, and perhaps don't need to, exist in other places doesn't seem to occur to them.

The idea that injecting democracy, of all things, through military force is a sick, sad, oxymoronic joke, even less so.

And all that I've said so far is a fairly favorable reading. I'm leaving out the part about the money and mineral rights.

Yes, there are neoconservatives. Yes, they believe that extending and increasing American global hegemony is a good thing. And yes, they think the use of military force to achieve that end is basically unproblematic, morally and otherwise.

No red herring, no straw man. These folks walk among us every day, publishing their white papers, giving their seminars, appearing as talking heads on the TV, and generally promoting their point of view and seeking to have it enshrined in public policy.

There is no mystery there.

Neoconservatives and the Dilemmas of Strategy and Ideology, 1992-2006

In all the discussions of neoconservative foreign policy that have taken place over the past couple of years --- some more informed than others, some more disapproving that others --- there is one abiding perception that seems to unite critics and proponents alike: that a neoconservative foreign policy is distinct from other strands of conservatism because of its emphasis on democracy promotion and that, in fact, exporting democracy for strategic and moral reasons --- and through hard power if necessary --- is one of the central defining purposes of contemporary second generation neoconservatism.

This paper will challenge the dominant view that neoconservatism prioritises democracy promotion. It will examine the nature of the neoconservative foreign policy strategy articulated during the 1990s --- which, it is argued, has been widely misinterpreted --- and will discuss the strategic and ideological tensions inherent within the strategy. Though the George W. Bush administration has not followed a neoconservative strategy in every respect, his administration has been strongly influenced by it and so some of these strategic and ideological tensions have also emerged since 9/11. It is my belief that the central cause of this tension is that the most important priority of the neoconservative strategy has always been to preserve the post-cold war ‘unipolar moment’ by perpetuating American pre-eminence and this clashes with the purported emphasis on democratization. The strategy also risks imperial overstretch and, for the most part, it fails to consider matters that are not state-based economic or state-based military issues.

At the end of the cold war, the first generation of neoconservatives that had emerged in the early seventies, was replaced by a second, younger generation that began to gravitate around the idea of American unipolarism.1 (This is the group that will be the subject of our discussion here.) It is important to clarify from the beginning that although this younger group was organised and led primarily by neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan, it was not their exclusive domain; rather it was a mix of neocons and other conservatives, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who all shared a vision of a unipolar America, a vision of global dominance. Gary Dorrien refers to this group collectively as “unipolarists”.2 In the main, neocons were the most important organisers and theorists within this network, but their ideas enjoyed some wider support.3 How much of a difference there, in fact, is between neocons and their other conservative sympathisers is an issue we will return to.

In terms of strategy, this group embraced the concept of unipolarism.4 At the end of the Cold War, American found itself, to use Charles Krauthammer’s famous phrase, in a “unipolar” position. It no longer had to accept the existence of a competing superpower, so rather than following a defensive strategy, like the one put forward by the first generation of neocons in the 70s, the US could now project power offensively to shape the world and construct an American imperium.5

This was captured in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document, written for then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, by staffers Zalmay Khalilzad and Lewis Libby, who worked for the undersecretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz.6 In contrast to the first generation of neocons, they now had the freedom to develop a strategy that rejected coexistence with any rival power and actively sought to prevent the emergence of a new competitor. This was the essence of the neoconservative strategy that was built upon by their think tanks and advocacy groups during the nineties.

In preventing the emergence of a rival power, Washington would be constructing --- in the words of Kristol and Kagan ----a “benevolent global hegemony”.7 While this would not solve every problem in the world, American hegemony would be better than any conceivable alternative. Joshua Muravchik wrote in 1992 of “the soothing effect” of American power because it could maintain order in the world and reassure those feeling threatened by other states.8 Moreover, according to Kristol and Kagan, “most of the world’s major powers” “welcome…and prefer” American hegemony to any other alternative because they are much better off under Washington’s tutelage since it looks after their interests too9 and thus discourages them from seeking to challenge American power.

According to most of the neoconservatives, the “benevolence” of this “empire” --- to use Kagan’s words --- was assured by the fact that moral ideals and national interest almost always converge.10 What is good for American preponderance is, de facto, good both morally and strategically for most of the rest of the world too. As Wolfowitz wrote in Spring 2000: “Nothing could be less realistic than… the ‘realist’ view of foreign policy that dismisses human rights as an important tool of American foreign policy.”11

More:
Neoconservatives and the Dilemmas of Strategy and Ideology, 1992-2006 [pdf]

someotherdude, I note the pdf paper says don't quote or reproduce without permission. Do you have that permission?

This paragraph from Maria Ryan's paper makes the point:
"It is nevertheless true that the 2003 Iraq War was accompanied by a fusillade of rhetoric about humanitarianism and democracy promotion. However, this was merely retrospective justification. It was only after Hans Blix and his team of weapons inspectors were allowed into Iraq that the main rationale for war shifted from security grounds to humanitarian grounds.24 If the real issue for the Bush administration was democratisation, then we would have heard references to this before the failure to find WMD; and similarly, if democratisation was the real issue for neoconservatives we would have seen
references to it in their earlier writings before they were back in power"

Translation: Neoconservatives are unipolar American imperialists, not democracy lovers. Democracy only if it helps American self-interest

"Talk of Neocons is a red herring and strawman"

William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer have regular gigs at the WaPo. Robert Kagan has a monthly spot.

See also:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/06/19/washington_post/index.html

chaos is a positive value, really.

Freedom's untidy, don'tcha know.

And you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, so logically, the more eggs you break the better the omelet, or something.

"William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer have regular gigs at the WaPo. Robert Kagan has a monthly spot."

Yeah but Obama is President and the Democrats have Congress.

Yeah but Obama is not a dictator, and the GOP (whose foreign policy apparatus has been coopted almost entirely by neocons/neocon positions) still has fillibuster ability and a healthy majority of the press/public behind them. Thus, they are extremely relevant.

When the GOP provides me with assurances that they will accept a permanent, fillibuster proof Dem majority in the House and Senate, as well as permanent keys to the Oval Office, then I'll stop worrying about neocons and their reckless policies.

"Yeah but Obama is President and the Democrats have Congress."

I would say that "not currently in power" is a bit of a walkback from "red herring and straw man".

Just saying.

First, excellent post. I have been thinking about these issues a lot lately and it was cool to see them formulated so well.

I am just throwing this out there because I'd like to hear what people have to say about it:

The post mentions how WW2 "nation building" happened under a unique set of circumstances-- the implication being that our hand was somewhat forced in the cases of Germany and Japan. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that some of the baby boomers (who comprise probably 90% of neocons) are engaging in a kind of copycat WW2 triumphalism. They seem to want to "be like Dad", stick to the morally bankrupt bad guys and rebuild their nation in our image. But they fail to realise the very unique circumstances in WW2. They are trying to apply the logic of WW2 to everything. "Axis" of evil? Comparisons like: "That's how Hitler got to power." They seem to see foreign policy like the movie Groundhog Day 2 -- the WW2 version.

As this generation is aging, it seems like the next generation is less apt to these errors. We probably have errors of our own.

What say ye?

Well, being (with limits) an ends justify the means sort of person, I tend to think that there's plenty of evidence for the general vindication of the neoconservative agenda -- or, at least, the Iraq War.

I just don't think you can look at what's happening right now on the streets of Tehran (or in nearby Lebanon) without considering what impact the deposing of Saddam Hussein played in that.

After all, the mullahs blocked the election of a reformist president 4 years ago, too. And there were no uprisings.

Now that Iraq seems headed towards a relative stability and calm, it shouldn't be all that surprising that the Iranians feel similarly entitled.

The neocons always maintained that "freedom is contagious". And while we can sit here and say that freedom and modernization doesn't need to come by way of military action, I'm not sure it was going to come any other way to these areas.

Saddam ruled Iraq for several decades -- even surviving a couple devastating wars. Same goes for the Iranian mullahs.

The question of justification for the Iraq War is obviously a salient one. But, as Joe Biden pointed out in the fall of 2002, it was actually a mistake to refer to it as "pre-emptive". Iraq was blatantly flouting a number of UN Security Council resolutions, one of which was a ceasefire.

Now, while that may serve merely as convenient justification rather than the true motivation behind the policy, it is nonetheless plausible and defensible.

I've long said that the final chapters on the Iraq War won't be written for years. We just won't be able to know for certain what sort of long-term impacts it would have until all the dust settles.

That's still the case -- the jury's still out. But it seems to me that the events in Tehran are filling in some more of the remaining pieces.

"it was actually a mistake to refer to it as "pre-emptive". Iraq was blatantly flouting a number of UN Security Council resolutions, one of which was a ceasefire"

You're right, it was worse than preemptive, it was preventive. Flouting UN resolutions is not a casus belli. Worse still, there was no imminent threat regardless.

And what is it that's happening in Lebanon that is new? Elections? I'm not following.

"I just don't think you can look at what's happening right now on the streets of Tehran (or in nearby Lebanon) without considering what impact the deposing of Saddam Hussein played in that."

I'm not a middle east expert by any means, but I gotta say I'm having a hard time seeing the cause and effect, even if I squint.

I'm not a middle east expert by any means, but I gotta say I'm having a hard time seeing the cause and effect, even if I squint.

Well, as I never tire of repeating, the government we helped install in Iraq was already friendly with Iran, and pro-Ahmadinejad in particular. So this probably has had some effect in somehow encouraging Ahmadinejad's opponents, as has the lesson that the US will invade and cause the death of untold thousands of innocent people under false pretenses, which would make anyone think of liberty.

In Lebanon, it's simple as well. In the latest of a very long series of elections (weird how all but the last couple have disappeared into some sort of haze), the largest Christian party made common cause with Hezbollah, but winning 55% of the popular vote was insufficient to overcome the allocation scheme of the Lebanese parliament. The March 8 Alliance might have won a sufficiently larger majority of the vote, thereby empowering both Hezbollah and the party representing 70% of Lebanon's Christians, were Saddam Hussein still in power and funneling campaign funds to Michel Aoun.

At least, I presume that's what Scott was getting at. Perhaps he can correct me.

I have a serious problem parsing a sentence such as "I'm a neo-conservative and I believe in promoting democracy", because I don't regard neo-conservatism as a coherent ideology. It emerged as a movement of people who had historically supported the Left, and for various good and bad reasons gravitated to conservatism from the late sixties to the eighties.

While the intellectual incoherence of the neo-conservatism movement makes it impossible to refute an equation of neo-conservative ideology with democracy promotion, history strongly refutes the idea that this equation holds universally. Consider the seminal essay by Jeanne Kirkpatrick. published in the neo-conservative flagship Commentary, that argued in favour of traditional authoritarian regimes over revolutionary dictatorship.

As for Scott's comment: that view has it exactly backwards. Without a military threat from the United States, from the mid 1990s to 2003, the reformists advanced. Right after the invasion of 2003, when the Iranian conservatives could point to a security threat from American troops, the reform movement collapsed, and we got Ahmadinejad. As soon as President Obama reached out his hand, the opposition in Iran started to stand up again.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank dedicated to the principles of liberty, scorn for neoconservatism. In a 2003 article with Cato chairman emeritus William Niskanen, Cato's President Ed Crane called neoconservatism a "particular threat to liberty perhaps greater than the ideologically spent ideas of left-liberalism."

Cato's foreign policy team have frequently criticized neoconservative foreign policy.

Before neo-cons embrace the mantle of "liberty," they must understand that arbitrary and coercive government action abroad is totalitarian and antithetical to true liberty.

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