Monday, August 07, 2006

Neo-Conservatives In Retreat

When the Soviet Union collapsed and Clinton showed up, he had no major international vision. He was a sort of kick-the-can-down-the-road type of President, and as a result, relations with the Allies and the rest of the world improved. Along came President Bush and then 9/11 and a new era. The “War against Terrorism” was used as an attempt to declare U.S hegemony and unilateralism (e.g. the refusal to accept the Kyoto anti-pollution protocols). This brief moment of American truimphalism led to the current disaster in Iraq, as well as the decline of American influence all over the world.

It is now apparent that America is not prepared to make the commitment in terms of troops and money that would be required to project power all over the planet. If we want to accomplish the original goals set by President Bush in his “axis of evil” speech, we would minimally need to institute a draft and raise taxes by at least 20%. The war in Iraq alone is going to cost close to a trillion dollars, just as the liberals (e.g. William Nordhaus in The New York Review of Books and Paul Krugman in the NY Times) have predicted all along. If there is no draft, there are no troops available for a ground war against any of the remaining ‘axis of evil’ countries. Even if there were air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, we will not have changed the Iranian theocracy into a beacon of liberty.

There have been two sets of ideas that have fallen into disfavor because of the disaster in Iraq. The first is the Cheney-Rumsfeld type of imperialism, where we would project brute force to do whatever we want to do. A good example of how low the mighty have fallen is when Hilary Clinton summoned Rumsfeld the other day to appear before the Armed Services Committee and told him point blank,"You did not go into Iraq with enough troops to establish law and order. You disbanded the entire Iraqi Army. Now we are trying to recreate it. You did not do enough planning and rejected all the planning that had been done previously to maintain stability after the regime was overthrown. You underestimated the nature and strength of the insurgency, the sectarian violence and the spread of Iranian influence. Because of the administration’s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.” She never had the guts to say this before, but she sees which way the wind is blowing, and she doesn’t want to end up like Lieberman.

The neo-conservative credo is also in serious retreat. William Buckley and George Will have come out as opposed to any military adventures in Iran. Many of the Jewish neo-conservative machers are hiding behind a rock. Wolfowitz is gone. Richard Perle is no longer seen. Podhoretz is in retirement. The much overestimated Bernard Lewis is no longer predicting that an attack on Iraq will precipitate a revolt in Iran. (He was right in a way, but he got it ass- backwards.)The people who told Bush he needed to project American power, and create by force democratic regimes have left. Bush now must find a way to extricate himself from the mess they helped him create. The people who end up looking prescient are the anti-Semite isolationists from the American Conservative, Patrick Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulos who opposed the Iraqi war from the beginning for so many reasons they lost count after a while. Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky , their counterparts on the radical anti-Jewish left have also gained credibility.

A good example of how the Bush foreign policy is in serious retreat is the administration’s refusal to come out and say that Iraq is inciting the crisis in Lebanon. (New York Times 8/5/06) The Times reports that we are in delicate negotiations at the U.N. to find a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. And we are now being very careful not to spark an open confrontation with Iran. There’s far more evidence about Iran and Hezbollah than there ever was about Iraq.

While America is beginning to tread more softly than the neoconservatives would want, President Bush has yet to become a baal-teshuva (a repentant). He still refuses to sit down and talk to the Iranians without preconditions. He insists that Iran first shut down its nuclear program. It’s not clear what the administration is trying to accomplish with this move. Is it trying to change the regime, or is the goal to have the current regime give up nuclear weapons? If the latter is our goal, we should make the Iranians an offer that we will not destabilize or invade their country. We refuse to say we will be willing to give Iran any security assurances, let alone sign a public non-aggression pact. If we continue trying to destabilize the regime, why do we expect them to limit their nuclear capabilities? The Iranians see an America that is expanding its nuclear arsenal. Between our military and domestic security budget we spend $550 billion annually, 20% of the budget. And we haven’t even gotten started on missile defense. Second, if we don’t negotiate with the Iranians, how do we expect to get them to reign in Hezbollah?

Right now, today, American foreign policy is between paradigms. The way the coming debate shakes out will determine the future contours of Israel. Many, if not most Israelis feel that a retreat in America from neo-conservative principles will be bad for Israel. My point is that these friendly very pro-Israeli policies have ended with Israel fighting the Shiites, and a Hamas electoral victory in the Palestinian elections. It couldn’t be much worse.

The saddest consequence of the neo-conservative influence on American foreign policy is that by destroying Iraq we increased the ability of Iran to project itself as a regional power, which in turn led to their willingness to allow their proxy Hezbollah to start a war. I’ll elaborate on this last point tomorrow.

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