Thursday, June 12, 2008


Brit Cats Edward Beaman and Douglas Murray recently explored the idea of rebranding neoconservatism since the term has nearly lost all meaning or identification among true believers.

"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."

Willfull (and unknowledgable) misreps like old War Between the States Confauxderates that are flat out scared to death of long dead bolsheviks, or blatant daydream deceivers - even drive by players who are totally bass ackwards in the intelligentsia biz.

GB's FoSec the Right Honourable (and right Hot! ) David Milliband first cracked ice with a name change with the awsome ''Democratic Imperatives." Sweet! Though as Murray reminds us - the name may not be important.

Yet a catchy title with a hook would be nice too, right?

Great Satan's delectable Sec Of State (no shame in her game!) unveiled a killer cool title that infers a real look at where Great Satan has been in the last 8 years - and where she's headed into the new millennium.

Foreign Affairs shares her massive essay called "American Realism for a New World."

This is significant. Dr Rice, the original Vulcan (along with ex Sec of State Powell, ex Dep Def Sec Wolfowitz, ex Def Sec Rumsfeld, ex Dep State Sec Armitage and the ever avuncular VP Cheney) takes a page from the critics book and rebrands realism ala American neoconservatism and those crazy cool true believers in democrazy, Great Satan's unique status in the world and what Uncle Tony called the Universal Values of the Human Spirit.

Enclosed, please find a wicked sweet tease or twelve to satiate desires - both subtle and gross.

"The process of democratization is likely to be messy and unsatisfactory, but it
is absolutely necessary. Democracy, it is said, cannot be imposed, particularly
by a foreign power. This is true but beside the point. It is more likely that
tyranny has to be imposed.

The story today is rarely one of peoples resisting the basics of democracy --
the right to choose those who will govern them and other basic freedoms. It is,
instead, about people choosing democratic leaders and then becoming impatient
with them and holding them accountable on their duty to deliver a better life.

It is strongly in our national interest to help sustain these leaders,
support their countries' democratic institutions, and ensure that their new
governments are capable of providing for their own security, especially when
their nations have experienced crippling conflicts.

What about the broader Middle East, the arc of states that stretches from
Morocco to Pakistan? The Bush administration's approach to this region has been
its most vivid departure from prior policy. But our approach is, in reality, an
extension of traditional tenets -- incorporating human rights and the promotion
of democratic development into a policy meant to further our national interest.

What is exceptional is that the Middle East was treated as an exception for
so many decades. U.S. policy there focused almost exclusively on stability.
There was little dialogue, certainly not publicly, about the need for democratic

For six decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, a
basic bargain defined the United States' engagement in the broader Middle East:
we supported authoritarian regimes, and they supported our shared interest in
regional stability.

After September 11, it became increasingly clear that this old bargain had
produced false stability. There were virtually no legitimate channels for
political expression in the region. But this did not mean that there was no
political activity. There was -- in madrasahs and radical mosques.

It is no wonder that the best-organized political forces were extremist
groups. And it was there, in the shadows, that al Qaeda found the troubled souls
to prey on and exploit as its foot soldiers in its millenarian war against the
"far enemy."

One response would have been to fight the terrorists without addressing
this underlying cause. Perhaps it would have been possible to manage these
suppressed tensions for a while. Indeed, the quest for justice and a new
equilibrium on which the nations of the broader Middle East are now embarked is
very turbulent.

But is it really worse than the situation before? Worse than when Lebanon
suffered under the boot of Syrian military occupation? Worse than when the
self-appointed rulers of the Palestinians personally pocketed the world's
generosity and squandered their best chance for a two-state peace?

Worse than when the international community imposed sanctions on innocent Iraqis
in order to punish the man who tyrannized them, threatened Iraq's neighbors, and
bulldozed 300,000 human beings into unmarked mass graves?

Or worse than the decades of oppression and denied opportunity that spawned
hopelessness, fed hatreds, and led to the sort of radicalization that brought
about the ideology behind the September 11 attacks? Far from being the model of
stability that some seem to remember, the Middle East from 1945 on was wracked
repeatedly by civil conflicts and cross-border wars.

Our current course is certainly difficult, but let us not romanticize the
old bargains of the Middle East -- for they yielded neither justice nor

"American Realism for a New World" is a clever name change - rebranding, revamping for future world and America Unbound while knocking the sword right out of the hands of anti Great Satan fans.

Like Beaman and Murray shared -

"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."


Ben Sutherland said...

"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."

This is true enough, Courtney. I am concerned that the Administration and really noone - liberal or conservative - is thinking nearly hard enough about how to engage this kind of situation in the future. There's very little substantive debate going on out there that isn't "anti-war/pro-war," which is really the most mindless kind of discussion to have. Hawk/dove is boring, not-to-mention stupid. And we need to get over it and start thinking practically about what kinds of engagement yield what kinds of results and why.

The bungling that has occurred in this war has not been primarily militarily. I'm sure more troops up front might have helped. But that was not the biggest problem. The biggest problem was politically and how little focus we gave to how to undercut what we knew from experience - we did have a war in Vietnam that gave us a lot of understanding to work from - for how to avoid and/or undercut (more likely undercut, obviously) an insurgency/resistance to a liberation effort.

The case for war in Iraq, generally, is plain to me, at this point (though I do think the Administration did a pretty poor job of making that case more credibly, and I suspect more honestly, up front). Saddam was not going to be brought down by Mohatma Ghandi or any Iraqi surrogate. He would have slaughtered a civil resistance, there were no real political opportunities to remove him, and he was not someone that I would suspect could have been constructively engaged in a more democratic direction without military force (and the Iraqi people, in the meantime, had no obligation to wait for constructive engagement if they wanted their freedom; many of them did and not collaborating with them covertly, up front, I think, was our major fuck-up).

So I'm pretty convinced that a war was necessary. Now the question was, "How do we do this and avoid the quagmires of Vietnam?" It was a legitimate question, up front, and the Administration's ignoring that question was the source of most of their troubles later on.

I'm pretty convinced that had we engage opposition groups and their alligned militias, up front, and let them lead a revolution with Saddam Hussein with overwhelming force from the United States backing them up (it was overwhelming force that they were missing, not the will to remove Hussein; plenty of Iraqis wanted to remove Saddam Hussein from power but did not have the overwhelming military force to do so and that is what America had to offer that many Americans are just kind of blind to, I think, at this point).

Had we done so, we would not have faced no resistance or insurgency. We most certainly would have. Too many enmities and disagreements between Iraqis groups to be so naive. But we would have undercut much of the political oxygen for a resistance by engaging in an Iraqi led political revolution more explicitly for democratic purposes and freeing Iraqi civilians from Saddam's rule. It was the conflation of this war with suspicions of American self interest that kept tripping us up politically, both in Iraq and in the States. The more genuinely we fight such wars for the most noble purposes involved - meaning for other peoples' interests and not just or primarily for our own - the more honest, successful, and genuinely noble such efforts will be. The more we do so for other reasons, the more we deal with the consequences for doing so; namely loss of U.S. influence in the world and loss of peoples' trust in the nobility of our purposes.

Letting Iraqis lead this effort would have been messy and difficult to coordinate, undoubtedly. It would have had to been done covertly, I'm convinced, to not show too many of our cards - and not to get Iraqis slaughtered in the process - but which was potentially doable had we been more patient, practical, and had a more open-ended debate about this war (something behind closed doors with major foreign policy, military thinkers, high-ranking military officials, high-ranking political officials, diplomats, intelligence officials etc. could have planned for any covert operations adequately while maximizing openness in the domestic discussion, I think, and thus built confidence domestically in similar operations). But it would have given us enormous political mileage, the absence of which and the suspicions about our motivations and desire to occupy rather than liberate were the most serious drag on our political and military efforts.

That is the kind of debate we need to be having post-Iraq war about future conflicts. The ideological posturing is bullshit and pointless. Noone gives a shit except for ideologues, and their numbers are dwindling, for good reason. Because America and the world deserves pragmatic policy that borrows from the best ideas amongst ideological traditions, but which is not tied to those traditions like they have more answers to our questions and problems than they really do. There is much wisdom in conservative and liberal circles. There is not, however, infinite wisdom. And investing them with such is foolish in the extreme, not to mention that is fucks up our policy debates as partisans fruitlessly try to prove how all along they had more answers than they really did, which should be plain to anyone with half-a-brain and who doesn't need others to think for them.

I don't care what Condi Rice calls herself. I care whether her policies deliver or not. And when they don't, I care that she has the proverbial balls to own up and starting thinking about why and about all options and routes. Insofar leaders cannnot do that, completely independent of ideology, at this point, they don't get my support. And I could give two shits who they hang out with. What I care about is that they have good ideas. And that when their thinking fails, they have the courage to own up rather than fruitless defend poor directions and results.

It's the most tedious tendency among liberals, right now, that because they do not have Presidential power, right now, at least, that when everything is going to shit they have some damn fool notion that thus they must have all the goddamn answers because they feel comfortable letting the President eat it and ignoring their own goddamn policy failures - they do control Congress, after all - even when their own policy thinking has much to be desired. They'll get their turn to fuck up, of course. But I'm tired of the bullshit and perpetual digging-in-of-heels that goes on amongst otherwise grown-ups who can't be grown-up enough to just acknowledge when policies are failing and other options need to be explored, nevertheless when ugly power grabs are being rationalized for less than honest and noble purposes.

I have to say that Condi Rice and Paul Wolfowitz - two of the more serious thinkers in this Administration - have impressed me more than most of the rest. Thinking has a way of bringing rationality to bear on problems rather than ego defense.

But we have a long way to go on this question, I think, Courtney, and rebranding, as Peggy Noonan just brilliantly and devastatingly argued in a recent Wall Street Journal column, is not going to do the trick. Rebranding, as Peggy argued, is for those who don't take thinking seriously enough. It is advertising above substance.

As Ronald Reagan might put it, rebranding is not the solution to the problem, rebranding is the problem. What Republicans (and Democrats) need to start doing is putting on their thinking caps and doing the tough work too many of us are too intellectually lazy to do.

That's why I love Peggy. She's a woman after my own heart. She didn't come to the Republican Party out of a self-righteous calling. She got tired of the self-righteous bluster of the Democratic party she belonged to most of her life.

I'm an independent and not a Republican, but I have a stake in Republicans offering better policies (and a stake in Democrats offering the same) and the sentiment is the same.

What both parties and folks from all ideological walks of life need to be doing is more thinkin' and less defending of legacies. And that goes for Condi, too, in this paper.

"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."

That line is true enough. And now we need to get about the business of making it reality with more realistic, pragmatic, workable and effective policies, and a genuine embrace of liberal democratic values, rather than circling the wagons around some foolish notion that any ideological group has more answers than it really does. It's bullshit. And it's about damn time that we own up to the bullshit.

In the meantime, I'll take Condi's thoughts more seriously than most. Anyone who puts their serious thinking cap on in the face of America's and the world's challenges rather than deferring to what someone else thought earns my respect. And Condi deserve serious shout outs in that vein.

Skunkfeathers said...

A new name, a new slogan. Not bad. We still need some muscle and fire behind them. Without that, it's just more words.

Leave empty, useless words to the progressives. Empty rhetoric is all they've ever had.

Old Rebel said...


Nothing faux about us -- we really do believe in decentralized government. Just check out the track records of centralized governments to see why.

Actually, it might be a good idea for Neocons to assume a new alias. As you say, the public's on to your old one.

Oh, and here's our response.

Anonymous said...


You've outdone yourself. I love the "Right Honourable (and right Hot!)" line!

Woo, can't touch this, yowww!!

I posted on Condi, and she's postively neo! Keep taking on the confaux/paleodinosaurs. You're on fire, baby!

Right Truth said...

Your last quoted paragraph says it all, the name doesn't matter, it's the belief and action that does.

I think there is a strong movement just under the surface ... building, getting stronger and stronger... wanting leadership for this movement.

Just watch out when it finally breaks through the surface!

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Ben,
I recently re read some WWII history and it was quite revealing. After Deutschland blitzed the daylights out of WE ansd began devouring huge tracts of Russia - America got into the panzer game.

Her very first panzer battle was an absolute defeat at Kasserine Pass in Africa. It was embarrassing.

Yet she adapted and overcame - just like Iraq today.

Maybe there is something to that...

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hey there Skunk Feathers! True that - the America Unbound posse is all about action this day and into the new millennium.

Thanks for the visit!

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Well, well, well! Hi Mike. Au contraire! That response was way too weak and had the unhappy benefit of being totally incorrect.

The faux def - totally stand by that - after all - shooting down ideas, rebranding history and current events sans any real alternatives could be described as 'faux'

There is only the old, played disinformation game (either honest lack of knowledge - or worse - all the willful deceit that Trotsky fearing confauxderates can devise).

Rebranding? Seems only fair. Twisting stuff into something it's not is an exclusive endeavour.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Donald! Thank you!

Just a true believing democrazy making the case for democracy and universal rights and dissing the fauxness and 'misunderstandings' chock full of fun, facts and an audacious belief in America Unbound.

Dr Rice has always been a personal fave. "No shame in her game!"

Am Pow is always inspiring and highly desirable mindcandy.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Debbie - Feel pretty much the same.

Key tenets of America Unbound include a belief that patriotism is a good thing, that internat'l institutions should be regarded with a healthy dose of suspicion and that freedom is for everyone.

And, those beliefs seem to be spreading as more ppl reject relativism - inherently recogging that just like Blair said

"There is no more dangerous theory in international politics today than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitor powers, different poles around which nations gather. "

America is especial, indespensible. And it's because of her values and beliefs.

Old Rebel said...


You can stamp your feet and sing your little rap all you want, but you haven't addressed the facts. In my original response are citations proving that Neoconism is an alien ideology based not on American roots, but Trotskyism. Irving Kristol is the "godfather" of Neoconservatism, and he was a member of Trotsky's 4th International. Neoconism uses the same philosophical foundation to justify the same policies, including authoritarian government and militarism.

All kidding aside, those are despicable, anti-American notions, and are to be resisted to one's dying breath.

That is, if you're an American, rather than an internationalist.

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Hi Mike. Currently, there is no manifesto for neoism. The tent is just way too big and the label tends to fall apart when domestic issues are considered.

Dr K was actually an Ex Trotskyite. Indeed, Murray's book chronicles Dr K's trek from semi bolshevism to the 'persuasion' of neoism.

"By the 1940's Kristol had become a forceful and lucid anti - communist"

Most of his stuff seems to make out bolshevism as a con game - and fussed about liberals that looked the other way and wouldn't confront it as illogical, immoral and totally incorrect.

So, again Mike - we are at the moment of decision. In order to truly combat neoism you'll have to ditch the Trotskty thing and really make a case for why American patriotism sucks, why America is flat out wrong to have a future military, why freedom of choice is cool only for Great Satan and her free world fans and why freedom and functional democrazies are totally wrong for every one else.

Perhaps a good place to start to develop an au courant counter would be to tackle Dr Rice.

Her Non Negotiable Demands of Human Dignity:

"The rule of law, limits on state power, free speech, religious liberty, equal justice, property rights, tolerance of difference and respect for women. These values are a source of success for nations across the world and they are the only ideas that can give people a future of modernity with dignity. This will ultimately defeat the ideology of violent extremism"

Also check out Murray's book.

No diss meant Mike - just seems that going up against the case for democracy and universal rights seems weirdly unAmerican.

Americans tend to agree with her and all the basics of the neoist persuasion - even if they don't realise it.

The name has been twisted to mean something it's not and a lot of ppl would never call themselves neos even if that's what they believe. Personally, I'm kinda Straussian Purist with a super healthy dose of Pentagon Vulcanism.

American Realism though - that could catch on. The basics are very sound and are appealing.

Old Rebel said...

Then you have a warped vision of American patriotism.

The Neocon project of "creative destruction" is to destroy historical cultures everywhere, by bombing abroad, and open borders at home. Where'd they get that? From their Trotskyite, universalist ideology. Kristol was anti-Stalin, not anti-Trotsky.

And drop the pretense about the US liberating the world. Tell that to the victims of repression of DC-backed dictators, including Suharto, Allende, and Hussein.

I would include Musharraf, but the lastest news is that he's about to be kicked out by anti-American mobs. Look for more imperial blowback from that one.

Meanwhile, here in the US, we get Muslim jihadists living among us -- more proof DC doesn't give a damn about our security:

Then the government uses incidents like this to justify more power. So our traditional liberties continue to erode. And they are liberties traditional to OUR culture -- that's why they developed here, and not in Haiti, Iraq, or Russia, and why they're not appropriate to authoritarian societies.

Authoritarianism, militarism, global expansionism, dominance and eternal war are hardly American values.

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Ben Sutherland said...

Definitely think we need to adapt, Courtney. We also need to admit mistakes. Noone likes to do it. Especially when it involves big stakes. But there's no way the Administration gets out of this one with, "We just adapted to conditions on the ground." They screwed up plenty. And there are too many people around to remind them of that for them or for historians to forget that or for them to get a better telling of that history. America is dealing with the consequences for that. She'll continue to do so until we learn the lessons. And it will happend completely independent of whether we actually learn those lessons or not.

The biggest screw-up, though, was not engaging, enough, people who thought this was a bad idea. The mindless partisanship of the current period reflects that same foolish notion that the debate/discussions don't matter and all that matters is who has the power. Hitler thought that. Stalin did too. British Empire did, too, though, they, like us, were in better faith than those assholes. They all lost that bet. We will too. Everyone does. It's really the most predictable fact of history.

The question, at that point, as now, is how and when we will use force and for what purposes.

There is no real, workable alternative to military force being used to facilitate security in Iraq, I don't think. We are on the right track, I think. Back up, train, and support Iraqi security forces until they are ready to handle it on their own. And the timetable that matters most is not the Democratic timetable or even any Republican timetable. The timetable that matters is for Iraqi troops and those responsible for security after an American withdrawal to say, "We're ready. We can handle it on our own." Until that point, it's all wishful thinking and people trying to pressure Iraqis to do what they already obviously want, for goodness sakes, since it is their country. It's pretty arrogant for Americans to say, "Obviously we are the only people who know what you need in Iraq and only we genuinely care about your security. You obviously don't care about your security (which may be true, sadly, of many of the ethnic partisans, but is not true or is far less true of the governing forces ultimately responsible for Iraqi security; and there is no way that you could convince me or the Iraqis that we care more about their security than they do, they're just getting things figured out). So Congress is going to pressure you do to the things that you already have clear and demonstrated interest and desire to do. It's just more complicated and difficult what we're wanting you to do than we let on."

The domestic politics on this matter have been kind of mindless, really. It's gets annoying watching people act like they really know what they're doing better than they do instead of engaging more freely and honestly, with respect for the consciences of people involved both people who do and those who do not - each of which is all of us, when we're honest with ourselves and one another - as we develop practical, long-range plans based on sound underlying thought about basic principles involved.

Having said that, the public debate, and not just the scholarly debate, has got to get a lot smarter and lot less leveraging and bullying ASAP if we want that cleaner discussion/debate and the better ideals it generally yields.

We are not there yet. We've two partisans who offered/offer our best hope for an honest debate and discussion, I think, out of the candidates available. But both of whom are still trying far too hard to appease their bases rather than engage in a discussion about the policy positions they've taken and their likely consequences. Neither of these guys have a monopoly on jack squat when it comes to sound policy, including in that war in Iraq. I just split the difference McCain's way based on his commitment to stick with the war (which I think is this election's top priority) in lieu of mindless withdrawal plans which don't address realities on the ground.

But both of these guys have serious flaws in their policy thinking, from my vantage point. Obama needs to drop the rhetoric of withdrawal and get focussed on how to make sure we fix our mess before we abandon it. And McCain needs to be taking much more seriously Obama's discussion of diplomacy with rogue regimes. 40 years of failed economic and political sanctions against Cuba should be a fact that should give us pause that sanctions and economic, political, or military pressure are more brilliant in their results than we pretend. The truth is that it's all a hope and a wish. And at some point, the hope and the wish needs to give way to policy that gets the job done. And pretending like America's swagger and bluster has not had consequence on America's credibility in the world and its ability to work with others to deal with situations like Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, North Korea, etc., etc., etc. is foolish and wastes valuable time, energy, and resources that could spent on getting to more workable and decent policies in those situations.

And beyond that, Obama's economic rhetoric and policy perscriptions are regressive and counterproductive and abandon so much of the work that was done at the end of the 20th century to correct our foolish Keynesian ways. McCain doesn't understand his free trade commitments adequately, I'm concerned, but at least he has them. And an honest discussion/debate would fill that out, for the candidates and for the country.

There's a ton of other issues to debate as well, of course. McCain and Obama both need to be challenged on the notion that campaign finance regulation does more good than it does. Drugs, guns, abortion, gay rights are all debates the country needs to be having rather than this mindless partisan gamesmanship that seeks to win elections by seeing who can be embarrassed most rather than by who has better policy ideas. Tons of issues that need the attention of our engagement. And trying to resolve them with Whomever-Gets-the-Most-Power-Wins are foolish, counterproductive, and don't pay enough attention to the long term of liberal democratic politics, not just who wins this election.

The power games are what screw everything up. They are hardly a solution to anything. And enough failure will finally convince enough people of this, I'm quite confident. Because noone likes to sit around and watch their efforts go to pot forever. Eventually people want to succeed.

And noone has a monopoly on either failure or success, right now. Or wisdom or better ideas. That's why we need a more honest debate and discussion this election. So we get there more readily and honestly and without all the bullshit and pretension that anyone had it right all along.

Ottavio (Otto) Marasco said...

The Professor from Stanford, come National Security Advisor come Secretary of State isn’t just a decent pianist. If Ahmadinejad achieves his nuclear ambitions neoconservatism will once again be legit, but failing any foreign emergency a rebranding is called for, a process already in motion and in part, due to the efforts of Condi.