The Neocon Conundrum

The situation in Egypt creates quite a problem for many neoconservatives and it is the following:  what impulse should guide their preferences?  Should it be a) that the protests over throw the dictator in the hopes that democracy takes hold to vindicate the vision of George W. Bush (a position that is already percolating in the commentariat at the moment)  or, b) does fear of Islamic extremists mean that democracy is too great a risk, as we cannot know who would prevail in a new, Egyptian democracy?


FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics, World Politics, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Steve,

    The neo-con response will be c) Sit back. Talk about both freedom and scary Muslims. Then, when something goes wrong, Blame Obama.

  2. sam says:

    What Doug said.

  3. c) Blame Obama for simultaneously failing to democratize Egypt earlier (because Bush was right) and sufficiently support the Egypt regime against islamists (because Dick Cheney was right). If you point out this is inherently contradictory, you’re an leftist intellectual elite who doesn’t understand real Americans.

  4. mickeywhite says:

    Stop all Foreign Aid to Every Country and Bring Our Troops Home from Every Country. NOW !

  5. wr says:

    But the founding fathers have been working tirelessly to assure freedom for the Egyptians…

  6. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Or how about let the Egyptians figure it out for themselves and not worry about it. Once the dust settles we can decide if anything needs to be done. Personally, I really don’t give a damn one way or the other which way it goes.

  7. Jay Tea says:

    No real conundrum for this quasi-neocon. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. There has never been a successful popular uprising in the Muslim world that didn’t end in an Islamist tyranny, and the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful dissident faction in Egypt. Considering the ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah, the thought of them taking control of a nation of the military resources of Egypt, the Suez Canal, and a border with Israel, it’s a recipe for war.

    Meanwhile, Hezbollah has just assumed de facto control of the Lebanese government (the new Prime Minister isn’t one of them, but they appointed him and he owes his job (and his continued living) to their goodwill. Hezbollah is also considerably better-armed than they were before the last war they started with Israel.

    It would be great if Mubarak was replaced with a more democratic government, but as lousy as he is, there are plenty of worse alternatives. Alternatives like those we’ve seen take over in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iran…


  8. john personna says:

    So, how does quasi-neocon “nation building” work? If the popular uprisings go Islamic, is that the democratic will?

    Do you “nation build” with a century of occupation?

  9. Jay Tea says:

    Trial and error, John. Never been done, so there’s no paradigm to follow. But a couple of important elements would be things like:

    The removal of the leaders of the existing power structure in so forceful, so clear a fashion that it serves as an example to their successors of what not to do.

    Guarantees of territorial integrity by outside powers that have the ability and will to enforce it, keeping acquisitive neighbors from paring off pieces of the nation.

    Reinforcement of a national identity separate from the government, either the removed one or whatever is coming.

    Renegotiation of the state in question’s obligations incurred by the removed regime, balancing the debts owed to good-faith creditors with the burdens imposed on the newly-liberated nation (the “Treaty of Versailles” principle)

    A reconciliation, both internal and external, putting an end to grievances with the end of the prior regime (like South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” panels, where those who had committed atrocities could confess them openly and receive absolution and amnesty)

    Just a few ideas off the top of my head. Sadly, I’ve been excluded from most of the top-secret meetings of the Neocon Cabal where such things are discussed, but I’ve filched a few sets of minutes.


  10. RJ says:

    I think this post raised a very important point deserving of deliberation by Conservatives, Libertarians, Republicans, or the Tea Party. Jay Tea, thank you for treating it as you did, and your insightful comments. I’m glad you steered it away from the trajectory it was set on after the first comment.

  11. MSS says:

    “There has never been a successful popular uprising in the Muslim world that didn’t end in an Islamist tyranny”