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Are neoconservatives on their way out?

By       Message Jean-Luc Basle       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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French journalist Renaud Girard recently published an article in Le Figaro announcing the decline of the neoconservatives. What surprises the reader is not his announcement but his description of neoconservative thinking. He sees it as a "messianic democracy". If it is, why should it vanish? Alas, it isn't. It is neither messianic nor democratic. It is brutal and destructive. That's why it is doomed.

In "Toward a neo-Reaganite foreign policy", Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan claim that the "moral goals and fundamental national interests [of the United States] are almost always in harmony". This appraisal does not rest on morality but on raw power. It is no accident that neo-conservatism, as we know it today, came to pre-eminence immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union when the world turned unipolar for a time. In a 1992 Defense Ministry document written by Paul Wolfowitz, one can read: "Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union." There is nothing "moral" in this objective, which postulates a hegemonic vision of the world.

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The "re-moralization" of American foreign policy Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan advocate will only fool the gullible reader. What really matters to them is American hegemony. Hence, the call for a new Pearl Harbor in "Project for a New American Empire". It will be 9/11. Those who may find our analysis cynical would do well to remember the Norwood Operation, which envisioned the death of several thousands of Americans to force President Kennedy's hand in Cuba, or the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which precipitated the United States into a violent and useless war in Vietnam, or again Madeleine Albright's statement that the security of the United States was worth the lives of half million Iraqi children. Need it be mentioned Colin Powell's pathetic performance at the United Nations on February 5th, 2003, to convince a skeptical world that Saddam Hussein was in possession of chemical weapons? Iraq was invaded and destroyed but no trace of chemical weapons were ever found. From 1991 onward, U.N. inspections, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency's general manager, Hans Blix, had proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that such arms did not exist.

The United States is an empire -- an extremely violent empire. Witness the Korean War. Once they were convinced they could not subdue the northern part of the country, Americans decided to eradicate it with heavy bombings. A similar policy was applied as in Vietnam with the massive use of an herbicide named "Agent Orange" to hide its horrific effects on the population and the countryside. American history is replete with similar barbaric acts. At the end of World War II, the image of the American soldiers handing out chocolate bars to a famished populace in Europe should not fool anyone. It's a human and spontaneous gesture from "boys" totally disconnected from their leaders.

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There is nothing "messianic" or "democratic" in the destruction of Libya, Syria and Yemen that follows the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These actions were planned before 9/11. Several documents attest to it; e.g., "A new strategy to secure the Kingdom" written by Richard Perle in 1996, or the letter addressed to Bill Clinton in January 1998 by Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. In his October 3rd, 2007 speech, General Wesley Clark, former head of NATO, tells his audience how he learned quite by accident, ten days after September 11th, that the Pentagon planned to destroy seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. Since the American people knew nothing about it, Clark didn't hesitate to talk about a "coup". Ten years later, we know this plan has essentially been carried out.

So, is the neoconservatives' hegemonic policy about to vanish? Maybe. Neither Russia nor China stand for it. Worse, it produces the exact opposite of the expected outcome. Iraq is now a de facto Iranian ally -- a rapprochement leading the United States, under pressure from Israel, to envision a "regime change" in Iran. Violence breeds violence but misses the stated goal: replace the Sykes-Picot Agreement by Colonel Ralph Peters' redesigned Middle East map. This objective, which appeared within reach at one time, is now receding unless the United States takes direct action in Syria and Iraq. Putting boots on the ground in Syria would mean entering into a direct confrontation with Russia, according to Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in his February testimony at the Senate. An open conflict with Iran is even less likely since it would violate the P5+1 Agreement signed by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany. Only if Iran made a blunder could the United States move in, but this is unlikely. The Iranians know how eager the United States is to take action. They will stay put, even if provoked.

The neoconservatives' foreign policy, so heavily lauded by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, is an absolute disaster, especially if one factors in the human and financial cost. It puts the United States' stability into jeopardy as Donald Trump's election demonstrates. It is doomed. Yet, will it vanish in the near future as Renaud Girard is telling us? In spite of its failures, it remains the dominant philosophy in Washington, DC. The vote of new sanctions against Russia by Congress is testimony to its resilience. Empires rarely disappear without staging one last battle.

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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