President Barack Obama's escalation of the Afghan War has upset many rank-and-file Democrats who had hoped for a more peaceful strategy, but Obama's order to dispatch 30,000 more U.S. troops is being welcomed by neoconservatives, a group that has long favored U.S. military interventions in Muslim lands.
After Obama's West Point speech on Tuesday, the neocons gloated over their success in turning the Obama administration's deliberations on Afghanistan toward an Iraq-like "surge" and away from negotiations aimed at winding down the eight-year-old war.
The Washington Post's editorial pages, which have become the flagship for neocon opinion, sounded almost giddy.
On Thursday, the lead editorial cheered Obama for falling in line behind the hawkish recommendations of Gen. Stanley McChrystal; mocked Vice President Joe Biden for claiming he had reined in McChrystal's ambitious schemes; and praised the President for accelerating McChrystal's timetable for deployment.
"This will make the escalation a true 'surge' and raise its chances for success," the Post editors declared.
On the adjoining op-ed page, leading neocon Robert Kagan dismissed anyone who opposed this military escalation as an effete defeatist.
"People talk about American decline, but these days it is not in the basic measurements of national power that American decline is to be found; it is in the willingness of the intellectual and foreign policy establishments to accept both decline and defeat," wrote Kagan, who curiously is attached to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
On Wednesday, the Post gave space to another prominent neocon, William Kristol, to sniff at the sop that Obama had extended to the Left, his promise to begin withdrawal of U.S. forces by July 2011. Kristol noted "thankfully" that Obama's target date represented only a "pseudo-deadline" that could be readily pushed aside.
Kristol also expressed pleasure that Obama had bowed to pressure from the Pentagon and from neoconservative opinion leaders to expand the Afghan War and to accept George W. Bush's mantle as "war president." Kristol wrote:
"By mid-2010, Obama will have more than doubled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since taking office; he will have empowered his general, Stanley McChrystal, to fight the war pretty much as he thinks necessary to in order to win; and he will have retroactively, as it were, acknowledged that he [Obama] and his party were wrong about the Iraq surge in 2007.
"He also will have embraced the use of military force as a key instrument of national power."
Framing the Debate
To read the neocons celebrating how they had turned Obama into a more articulate version of Bush in less than a year in office makes one marvel at both their remarkable arrogance and their genuine influence in framing the debates of Washington's opinion circles.
After all, these are the same people who have been bungling U.S. foreign policy for the past three decades. Neocons played key roles in the worst screw-ups of the 1980s, including the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal and the intelligence failure of first exaggerating the Soviet Union's strength and then missing its collapse.
But those blunders were only a warm-up for what the neocons would do in the post-Cold War period as they trumpeted American triumphalism and demanded that U.S. policymakers not hesitate to throw American military weight around.
With the arrival of George W. Bush's administration, the neocons found themselves in possession of the keys to the war machine -- and they locked their sights on unfriendly regimes in the Middle East, especially Saddam Hussein's Iraq.