Burial of Neoconservatism?

Andrew Sullivan asserts that “Bush’s apparent acceptance of the Blair-Baker position that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is central to resolving Iraq is the end of neoconservatism in the Bush administration.”

I reject both the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has much of anything to do with Iraq and much of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda. Regardless, it is far from clear that Sullivan’s contention is correct.

Neoconservatism’s central tenants vis-a-vis foreign policy, as outlined by founder Irving (father of Bill) Kristol are “Patriotism is a necessity, world government is a terrible idea, the ability to distinguish friend from foe, protecting national interest both at home and abroad, and the necessity of a strong military.” Certainly, a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which definitionally would be on terms acceptable to Israeli, would not violate any of those principles.

In its second generation incarnation, neoconservatives contend that,

Aggressive support for democracies and nation building is founded on a belief that, over the long term, it will reduce the extremism that is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. Neoconservatives, along with many other political theorists, have argued that democratic regimes are less likely to instigate a war than a country with an authoritarian form of government. Further, they argue that the lack of freedoms, lack of economic opportunities, and the lack of secular general education in authoritarian regimes promotes radicalism and extremism. Consequently, neoconservatives advocate the spread of democracy to regions of the world where it currently does not prevail, most notably the Arab nations of the Middle East, communist China, North Korea and Iran.

How does a resolution of the crisis violate that? The Palestinian Authority is already quasi-democratic, in the sense of having meaningful elections, even if the result is hardly to our liking. Presumably, a sovereign Palestine would be less apt to elect terrorists in the future.

It seems to me that the ISG recommendation most at odds with neoconservatism is the idea that we should seek the cooperation of the despots in Iran and Syria, buying them off so that they will quit fomenting trouble in Iraq. That’s hardline Realpolitik. All indications so far, though, as that Bush is dismissing that out of hand.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I reject both the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has much of anything to do with Iraq and much of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda. Regardless, it is far from clear that Sullivan’s contention is correct.

    In an overarching sense, though, the Palastinian question DOES in fact have something… something very central, to do with the Iraq bit… Remember the stated goals of the Islamo-facists: A calaphy streching throughout the middle east, with it’s HQ in Bagdhad… and the eradication of Israel.

    And the problem with the Iraq Surrender group is they seem to be operating under the misconception that everybody WANTS peace. The Palastinian/Israeli conflict would seem to answer that question in the negative. Indeed, it’s provided us with 50 years of proof of exactly that.

    And most of the factions surrounding Iraq don’t want peace, either.

    The reason that they haven’t wanted peace is because they haven’t been defeated yet. Not really. When I say defeated I mean utterly crushed. Until that happens, peace negotiations are used as would be any other weapon; against their declared enemy.

    We’ve been spending so much time trying to reconstruct Iraq, that we forgotten the first purpose of going in there the first place; that was to defeat the enemy.

    Yesterday being December 7th, draws a great comparison…. Imagine trying to reconstruct Japan while the Kamkazie planes are still falling on our ships. No, we had to drop a couple atomic bombs to get the place pacified, first.

    Imagine trying to play meals on wheels in Germany before the truce was signed. No, we had to firebomb a few cities first, to take the fight out of them.

    Brutal? Certainly… But how would we have fared without such actions? Iraq gives us the answer. And how did we get into reconstruction prior to victory? To appease the anti-war crowd.

    Fill in the blanks people… this isn’t rocket science.

  2. madmatt says:

    we already work with syria….they do torture for us…how come nobody ever remembers that? They are convenient boogeymen and an easy excuse to give when bad policy works out badly!