Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Andrew Sullivan on the contradictions of neoconservatism

Andrew Sullivan’s version of neo-conservatism comes perilously close to the paleocon vision that Arabs (or is it Muslims?) can’t govern themselves decently. It seems to me that most critics now regard neocons as altogether too sanguine (in the good sense) about the prospects for decent self-government anywhere and everywhere.

In any event, A.S. argues that the lesson of Gaza is that we should probably disengage:

We have, I think, two options. We can withdraw from Iraq and play the grand regional Shi’ite-Sunni war in the Middle East by proxy. Or we can enmesh ourselves much more deeply and irrevocably in a metastasising conflict. Such a conflict may well breed even more antiwestern terror and run the risk of inserting Americans into an ancient sectarian blood feud.


There are grave dangers in both options and no one should underestimate the risks of withdrawal from a power vacuum we created. But surely the lesson of Gaza and Iraq is that occupation will not transform Arab culture for the better either. It may in fact make things worse.

I guess the other lesson he’d have us learn is that murderous thugs like Saddam--so long as they don’t have major regional or global ambitions--are the best we can expect. At least they keep the lid on, killing only their enemies, without letting them fight back.

If this is the alternative to Bush, give me GWB any day.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Actually, paleocons think that it is not our place to engage in the Jacobin spreading of liberal democracy across the Middle East. If we really want to end terrorism in the West (as we can't end it in the Middle East, nor should we even desire to end it there), then we should (1) withdraw from the Middle East, (2) end aid to all countries in the Middle East (including the terrorist state of Israel), (3) deport all Muslims from the West, and (4) end all immigration from the third world.

This is my understanding of the neoconservative vision. Partly what I have intuited and partly what I have read, although this particular formulation owes much to David Yerushalmi who I enjoy debating at Intellectual Conservative.



Neocons believe that most people are yearning to be free but there are pockets of resistance - Germany (before neo-conservatism was a named entity), Russian, and Arab Muslims. So the neocon vision is that we must democratize these backwards knuckle-draggers by force if necessary as part of the global revolution of democracy. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, so to speak.



But I don't think that their vision is as pessimistic as AS claims. They did see some hope of bringing democracy to the region. Hence the War. It just hasn't quite worked out as planned.



The uber-hawks (the above mentioned David Y. for example) actually have a more pessimistic view similar to what AS is discussing. For the uber-hawks democratizing the Arab Muslims is hopeless so we should just bomb them into irrelevance, alternatively known as genocide.



The paleos share with the uber-hawks a hopelessness about the ability to democratize the Arabs, but instead of genocide we prefer to disengage.



Also, I don't think a paleo would say that Arab Muslims can not govern themselves "decently." (Decently is a bit subjective. A paleo might say stably.) Paleos, as believers in spontaneous and natural order, believe Arab Muslims have been governing themselves for centuries. They have just not been governing themselves by Western norms. Neo-conservatism, as a universalist dogma, just can't leave well enough alone.



I think AS is learning something from Ron Paul, who he has said he admires.

If GWB removed Saddam because he believed Saddam was a bad ruler, then why didn't he remove Mugabe, who is an even worse leader, first?

I'm not saying I'm in favor of conquering the world and ruling it justly, but the argument breaks down when it's acknowledged that Saddam wasn't the worst in the world.

"Real Conservative"

Israel is a terrorist state?
What exactly has Israel done that other Western states have not?


Mr. Phillips,

"Neocons believe that most people are yearning to be free but there are pockets of resistance - Germany (before neo-conservatism was a named entity), Russian, and Arab Muslims. So the neocon vision is that we must democratize these backwards knuckle-draggers by force if necessary as part of the global revolution of democracy. You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, so to speak."

Pardon?
What are you talking about vis-a-vis Germany?
Germany has been a democracy for as long as there have been neo-conservatives.

Neo-conservatives, like all conservatives, opposed communism. They also don't like to see the end of Russian democratic capitalism under Putin. I don't think that Bircher's like it either.
Of course no one is talking about invading them.

May I ask, who supports etermination, or genocide?
I have come across no-one outside of Islamists who support this.

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