Sunday, December 21, 2008

Purging the Neocons

It turns out there's a pretty nasty purge of the neocons taking place at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the main conservative think tank providing intellectual backing for the Bush administration's foreign policy. Jacob Heilbrunn has the scoop:

The neocon world has been rocked by recent events at AEI. Numerous neocons told me that a vicious purge is being carried out at AEI, spearheaded by vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka.

There can be no doubting that change is afoot at AEI. Recently, Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht have departed AEI. Joshua Muravchik is on the way out as well. Other scholars face possible eviction. Both Muravchik and Gerecht are serious intellectuals who have published prolifically ....

Muravchik has been at AEI for two decades. Gerecht has been there for a much briefer period, but he has written extensively and provocatively on intelligence matters. Gerecht is currently at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which, along with the Hudson Institute, where Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby and Douglas J. Feith are fellows, seems to functioning as something of a safe haven for neocons.

What do these developments actually add up to? They undoubtedly signal a splintering taking place in the neocon world. Pletka has been closely identified with neocon positions on Iraq and Iran. But now there is tremendous hostility toward her among neocons, who allege that, as a former staffer for Jesse Helms, who embodied more traditional Republican foreign-policy precepts, she is out to extirpate neocon influence at AEI. In this version of events, Muravchik was ousted for not being a true Republican. It would be very unfortunate if that were the real cause. What the conservative movement needs is ferment, not an ideological straitjacket—something that neocons have themselves sometimes tried to enforce.

The neocon movement will survive these changes. It will continue to stir up debate. Its real misfortune was to be able to exert power in the Bush administration, where officials such as Paul Wolfowitz and Feith made a hash of things. The notion of a liberated Iraq being the first freedom domino to fall in the greater Middle East was always a pipe dream. The strength of the neocons is to generate ideas, but whether they should actually be implemented is often another matter.
Interestingly, some of those same neocons Heilbrunn mentions - like Reuel Marc Gerecht, in his earlier essay, "A New Middle East, After All" - predict a much more substantial legacy for the Bush administration and its vital agenda of combining American exceptionalism and power in the Mideast.

Also interesting is the notion that neoconservatives - who remain ripe with ideas, while others routinely lament how the broader conservative movement has run out of steam - would be better off not "actually implementing" their intellectual product. Keep in mind that Republicans did not lose the White House because of neoconservative ideas. Alan Greenspan and the Democratic expansion of subprime lending through Fannie and Freddie have taken a lion's share of credit on the collapse of markets. Indeed, the war in Iraq was hardly an issue at all throughout the second half of 2008. Meanwhile
the New York Times has recently been making the case that Democrats deserve credit for victory in the war! That's hardly a repudiation of neoconservative ideas.

Heilbrunn's right of course in noting that neocons will survive, and they'll even prosper. Already we're seeing a push for a greater U.S. role in preventing humanitarian crises, and the eventual endorsement of the robust exertion of military power for such missions will take a page right from the neocon playbook. Of course, democracy promotion was never isolated to neconservative thought. Power and purpose always has a role in American foreign policy. It's the stress on the assumed "unilateralism" of this administration, and the "reckless" disregard for the constitution, that's gotten the left all riled up. Don't forget that Bill Clinton never had Security Council support for the airwar over Kosovo, and
Janet Reno's Justice Department purged 93 federal prosecutors in 1993, a mass firing that makes the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' actions look like a summer picnic.

The neocon genie's yet to work it's all of its magic yet, and stuffing the movement back in the bottle is not as good an idea as some might think.


JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

"The strength of the neocons is to generate ideas, but whether they should actually be implemented is often another matter."
I agree with you on this point you posted Professor. These wacko Neocons need to just rent a room somewhere they can come up with wacky ideas that will never come to any type of fruition.

And hasn't Bush been President the last eight years buddy? Wasn't it his responsibility, or at least those he appointed at Treasury and the SEC among other monetary overseers, to actually oversee? You and your deluded right wing buddies are blaming Democrats for Bush's shirking of responsibility. Face it Professor. Bush is a failure. Come up with a new set of goals and beliefs so when the Peter Principle kicks in and the Dems screw things up you right wingers will be ready.

Tapline said...

dd. great post....hadn't heard anything from this group for quite some time, but what I did read was an outstanding assessment of the Middle East war......stay well....

Terry Ott said...

Truth 101: I don't see this article as propping up Bush as you allege. Heilbrunn, in the long quote says, "Its [neoconservatism's] real misfortune was to be able to exert power in the Bush administration, where officials such as Paul Wolfowitz and Feith made a hash of things." The surrounding commentary does not dispute that claim. Why are you so worked up?

My interpretation of the statement that "The strength of the neocons is to generate ideas, but whether they should actually be implemented is often another" is as follows. "Pure" or "extreme" ideals such as are found in Utopian writings, Communist writings, Libertarian writings, etc., have a purpose, and that is to influence the outcomes of things at a practical "real world" level. When some idealistic value system takes root it is usually via a dictator or overreching autocrat. And it never works too well in the long run because the world is full of dissenting viewpoints that will "tone things down" and lead to a mongrelized state of things.

I found the original post interesting and insightful although I haven't even decided if I agree with it all. Your reply was not particularly helpful if you meant to counter or balance the thoughts expressed. Maybe you have to try harder by working on the substance rather the sizzle.

JoeBama "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Mr. Ott: in his far from unique way, the Professor creates mind numbingly long posts so he has as much to gleen as possible to prop up his often deluded right wing views. In short, he's covering his ass in case somebody points out a part of his frequent manifestos are in error. He can then point to some other part to save his ideals from being ripped apart. It's not a bad strategy really. The thugs at Guantanimo tell hundreds of lies so the interrogators can't tell which statements are true or false. Not that I'm lumping the good Professor with a bunch of thugs mind you. I have the utmost respect for him and his membership in the academic community.

AmPowerBlog said...

"Not that I'm lumping the good Professor with a bunch of thugs mind you. I have the utmost respect for him and his membership in the academic community."

That's a joke right, har, har...

Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...

Hi Donald,

The Iraq war is perceived to be pre-emptive rather than in direct response to 9/11. The backlash, once that "redefinition of the war" took place have been incredible.

We've got emotional and irrational people lambasting Bush outside the realm of reason and we've got people worshiping a socialist impression of a President (not a real POTUS from my pov). That's the emotionalism that produces facism being produced in response to an unpopular war that the nation did not support.

We cannot afford these crazy pendulum swings. I think it would have been better to have been attacked by terrorists than to have faced the moral fabric of our nation being destroyed from within by the fascists among us.

People hate Bush with such irrational frenzy... that the pendulum has swung and they are swooning over Obama (who has no experience and is a hard left socialist who imperils all our freedoms in democracy and liberty)... like he was the "Elvis" of the political performing artistry.

The cost of war is not only the dollar cost, the lives cost... it's the political cost and the price we are paying domestically as the result of a wide pendulum shift. The cost of political capital is bringing us a socialist President (who I do believe is the 666 beast). Irrespective of just how far I personally believe the pendulum has swung this time, it does seem that unpopular wars create a huge hidden cost in political capital... then we all pay the price when these leftist socialists destroy our economy and nation from within with their irrational global warming hype, their nuclear disarmament utopian fantasy, their give away programs and borrow and spend and give away to prosperity pipedreams, their weak position in foreign policy, their further moral bankrupting of our nation in murder support (abortion), etc., etc. They just absolutely destroy our nation from within with devastation wreaked comparable to an invading army.

This is just ugly. So, God bless the neocons who have supported Bush 's war on the basis of their reasonings. I suppose once we were in, it was hard to get out. But honestly, Bush should have come to the American people RIGHT AWAY and said, "We, along with all other nations and domestic politicians, have believed a lie. There are no WMD. Here is why Hussein lied. We are now in Iraq. Had we understood that there were no WMD's, we would not have invaded. Nonetheless, based on Hussein's lies, we are present. I need your support and your understanding. We must stablilize the region having removed the standing dictator."

Bush SHOULD HAVE BEEN SEEKING THE SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE... not defending himself against them. He should have been open, honest, apologetic, instead of a Texan tough guy battling the bad guys.. as he saw it... no matter what people said. He should have yielded to public will (and the Geneva Convention) as related to torture. Lots of things he should have done differently.

But now we're all going to pay... in backlash and pendulum shift aka the Obamanation. lol

You know, honesty is the best policy. How many Americans would have been swung in Bush's direction?? If they couldn't be, this is a democracy. If the hot will of the people stated, "Pull the troops out." Then that's what we needed to do to maintain his popularity... and win in 2008. He didn't humble himself before the American people to apologize, and realize he needed to "resell" the war on the new information -and seek the will of the American people in the matter. If they said no, it was his job to say, "OK, I've heard from the people, and here's what I'm going to do to yield to your will." Period. Foreign wars are not to be fought contrary to the will of the people. The cost is too great at home, imo, and it would have been better to suffer terrorist attacks than to let this whole nation go hard left. It's like losing the most important war. It's socialism from within. Sigh.

I just don't agree with failing to recognize political fallout and that's why I don't agree with the think tank... perhaps. (I'd have to study their positions better.)
It will be interesting to see the ideological/political struggle there at AEI.m Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


Anonymous said...

A 17 billion dollar bailout to the autos represents a "failure of neoconservatism", a disappearence of 700 billion (and more) dollars in the banking system is a "triumph of neoconservatism".

DD: You are a homosexual. Only homosexuals share your perverted, truely perverted neocon ideology. I hope your students find about this site, find out that you are a militant Sodomist, and drop your ghey libtard class.

cracker said...


Well i'll be said it perfectly

"We cannot afford these crazy pendulum swings. I think it would have been better to have been attacked by terrorists than to have faced the moral fabric of our nation being destroyed from within by the fascists among us."

and more.....

the reality is that when you act out "pre-emptive strikes, the Bush Doctrine as its called...its still vigilantte-ism, its still un-constitutional, no matter the perceived "good intentions"....and here we are with the results of that arrogance hubris and incompetance.

Now you understand the outrage...its not the far left, or the far right....its the middle, smacking our heads and saying "those IDIOTS, what were they thinking!?"Was it the Religious Right? The Neocons? or a combinaion that turned my beloved GOP into a stinking monster?

This is where Justice is supposed to step in.....lets see what happens

Van Zan said...


Donald Douglas is a well-informed political observer.
He happens to have many political positions that I disagree with, but that does not make him perverse.

I find your personal attack on him offensive and beneath contempt. Your bizarre and frankly sick assumption that it stems from a sexual predilection is laughable. Anon... crawl back into whatever cesspool of prejudice and dumbness you crawled out of, lest your ugliness frighten your mother.


I think the GOP could recover fairly quickly. It has such diversity and there is so deep a need among many Americans to have it represent them that it cannot stay in the wilderness for long, provided it intelligently reconnects with the libertarians and moderates whom it has alienated. But we'll see how they go about that...

Anonymous said...

"Keep in mind that Republicans did not lose the White House because of neoconservative ideas."

You are correct, it was actually the implementation of those ideas that cost the GOP the White House.

What an absurd thing to say. Deregulation, Military preemptive actions, tax cuts. These are the causes of the failures of the current administration and the woes of the country. To try to deflect this is dishonest at best, willfully ignorant at worst.


Jason Pappas said...

Given the economy, almost any Democrat would have won the election.

I suspect traditional conservatives want a more isolationist foreign policy. There are also conservatives who are against nations-building as Bush was when he campaigned in 2008.

I predict a change in foreign policy where the Democrats regain their interventionist disposition. Let’s remember Bush implemented the Clinton/Blair policy of regime change. The Dem opposition was motivated more by BDS than serious foreign policy differences (except for the far left). Obama will do in Afghanistan what Bush has done in Iraq. He’s did keep Gates.

Thus, some conservatives are positioning themselves to be the quasi-isolationist opposition. The Republican base, however, will support the troops even if there are disagreements concerning the wisdom of some aspects of the policy. If Obama’s policy is honorable, he’ll get broad Republican support. If it is appeasing, weak, and pathetic, he’ll get ample criticism.

Stay tuned.

courtneyme109 said...

Well, that's AE's loss. Like Douglas Murray teaches in "Neoconservatism and why we need it"
"For left and right, neoconservatism has laid down the case which needs answering. Ideologically it has few competitors and there is no school that unifies people from such a wide range of the political spectrum. That said, we might have to avoid flaunting the term around for a while.

There’s no doubt that the willful misrepresentations and misunderstanding of what neoconservatism is, as well as the desire to pin the strategic mistakes made in Iraq on the neocons have combined to blacken the term.

But it doesn’t really matter what we call it. There’s never much point in arguing over nomenclature.

What matters is that the case for democracy and universal rights as well as the refutation of the lies and misunderstandings of our enemies – at home and broad – continues. Most people who engage in this will not call themselves neoconservatives. Many of them will not realize that is what they are.

That is fine. What matters is that the case is made – unashamedly, unapologetically and by as many people as possible."