Monday, March 06, 2006

Neo-contrition: Blame the Bystander, Bring Pizza

The press had better hope we win this war, because if we don't, a lot of people will blame the media.
-- Glen Reynolds at Instapundit

The Left and the lying left wing media helped bring this war about.
-- Marc at USS Neverdock

Iraq Civil War “Made Up By The Media?”
-- Fox News


Dad looks at Billy sternly. "Young man," he says, "what were you thinking when you pushed that little girl down in the mud?"

Billy's lip quivers. "It's not my fault. Tommy was supposed to stop me and he didn't."

Dad looks at little brother Tommy and says, "Boy, what do you have to say for yourself?"

Thus is the political landscape of today's America. Everyone's responsible for the actions of the Bush White House and its allies except the Bush White House and its allies.

The country's a mess. And whose fault is it? Up to now it's been the usual list of scapegoats. Liberal high school teachers and college professors who use the classroom to preach their pink-o philosophies. The left wing media. Obstructionist Democrats in Congress. Revisionists. The Clintons. Progressive bloggers. Environmentalists. Catholics who voted for Kerry. Fluoridation.

Now we're seeing a new wrinkle in the shame game emerge: neoconservatives are pointing fingers at each other.

The split in the neoconservative camp isn't exactly new. As far back as April of 2004, founding members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote of the Iraq war: "Serious errors have been made--and made, above all, by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon."

More recently, Kristol has said, " The president knows we have to win in Iraq…Rumsfeld doesn't," and has inferred that the administration "just isn’t as serious about the competent execution of the functions of government as it should be."

Francis Fukuyama, another founding PNAC member, has a new book about to hit the shelves that repudiates the neoconservative movement altogether--at least the part about invading Iraq. To hear Fukuyama tell it, it was all those other guys who wanted to toss Saddam Hussein out, not him.

Kristol, Kagan, and Fukuyama are trying to erase their histories. All three were key architects of the "Bush Policy." In fact, they formulated the policy before George W. Bush was ever a part of it. And the cornerstone of that policy, communicated to President Clinton in a 1998 letter, was the removal of Saddam Hussein by military force in order to protect "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states" and "a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil."

Why the Mad Scramble?

Kristol, Kagan, Fukuyama, and others like them are trying to salvage as much as they can of their failed experiment. Their political and intellectual reputations are certainly near and dear to them. The GOP is vital to them because neoconservativism needs a political party to call home, and the Democrats aren't likely to put out the welcome mat for it. They probably hope to give George W. Bush a favorable legacy. Epithets like "worst President ever" won't do much for the health of the Republican Party.

But their most prized possession--their center of gravity, if you will--is neoconservatism itself.

The controversial Wikipedia entry for "neoconservatism" is anything but flattering, but its description of the movement's basic tenets is largely accurate. Neoconservatives are more supportive of big government and social spending than are "traditional" conservatives, and take an "interventionist and hawkish" approach to foreign policy.

As Jim Lobe of Alternet noted in 2003, neoconservatism sprang from the tenets of political philosopher Leo Strauss, a German academic who came to the United States in 1938.
Not only did Strauss have few qualms about using deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity. While professing deep respect for American democracy, Strauss believed that societies should be hierarchical--divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses who should follow. But unlike fellow elitists like Plato, he was less concerned with the moral character of these leaders. According to Shadia Drury, who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior."

This dichotomy requires "perpetual deception" between the rulers and the ruled, according to Drury. Robert Locke, another Strauss analyst says,"The people are told what they need to know and no more."

Bill Kristol's father Irving, called by some the "godfather" of neoconservatism, shares Strauss's "contempt for secular democracy."
Among other neoconservatives, Irving Kristol has long argued for a much greater role for religion in the public sphere, even suggesting that the Founding Fathers of the American Republic made a major mistake by insisting on the separation of church and state. And why? Because Strauss viewed religion as absolutely essential in order to impose moral law on the masses who otherwise would be out of control.

At the same time, he stressed that religion was for the masses alone; the rulers need not be bound by it. Indeed, it would be absurd if they were, since the truths proclaimed by religion were "a pious fraud."

Strauss also believed that war was essential to maintaining political and social order.
Strauss' attitude toward foreign policy was distinctly Machiavellian. "Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat," Drury wrote in her book. "Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured."

"Perpetual war, not perpetual peace, is what Straussians believe in," says Drury. The idea easily translates into, in her words, an "aggressive, belligerent foreign policy," of the kind that has been advocated by neocon groups like PNAC and AEI scholars – not to mention [Paul Wolfowitz, former Undersecretary of Defense under George W. Bush] and other administration hawks who have called for a world order dominated by U.S. military power.

In recent articles and interviews, Francis Fukuyama has called for "new ideas for how America is to relate to the world - ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony to bring these ends about."

This is a wholly disingenuous contradiction. "Universality of human rights" has never been a tenet of neoconservativism, and without "illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony," neoconservatism doesn’t exist.

Beware of Smiling Neocons

The likes of Fukuyama, Kristol, and Kagan will reinvent their philosophy as a "kinder, gentler" neoconservativism. They'll do it in a way reminiscent of the old Chevy Chase Saturday Night Live sketch where the dreaded landshark tries to get into his victim's apartment by posing as a pizza delivery guy.

Whatever you do--don't open that door!


  1. Yea, that institutionalized religion thing has worked really well for controlling the libidos and morals of its spokesmodels. Knock knock.Who's there? Prayergram! One thing about the secular masses-they tend not to reproduce as much as the religious masses do. And what would the superior masters do without drones to do their bidding? The reproductive needs alone are ample fuel for the ideological drive toward state sponsored religion. Otherwise the masses might jump off the treadmill and start questioning that "natural right" thing.

  2. Making babies = making soldiers?

  3. Maybe I need to get Photoshopping and do "An Army of ONE" ad with a 1-year-old fully equipped, crawling onto a troop transport.

  4. Mama. Dada. Sergeant.

  5. This neocon backtracking is some sort of weird bizarro world where what is said is the opposite of reality. Of course, things are so well-documented these days that it is hard to get away with flip flopping.

    Speaking of bizarro worlds, I'm a bit of a talk radio / news junkie (Alan Colmes has the best radio show, in case anyone gets a chance to hear), and heard some strange things this past week:

    1) I'm listening to Michael Savage one night and he says that the Bush Administration is the most corrupt administration in the history of the country. Period. Quite a statement coming from an ultra-conservative guy. He also said he's tried to defend the President in the past, but the President makes that job impossible on a daily basis. Then he basically went on an hour rant on how bad the admin was; and

    2) I was listening to Limbaugh, and he basically accused the Dems of being islamophobic and xenophobic over the Dubai port deal, and also said they are guilty of racial profiling. Not what kind of mixed up Alice in Wonderland world do you have to live in before Limbaugh says those things about Democrats (instead of vice versa). I was laughing so hard (because I was so increduluos) that I almost ran off the road.

  6. Actually, the secret agenda of the Right Wing Religious Lunatics is a bit more based in economics than in religion. Once abortion is outlawed, they figure they will have created a strong enough and believable enough base in the public mind that "every sperm is sacred" and they will start in on banning contraception.

    The goal, of course, is babies. Lots of them. In a global economy, we will have a US populated by the ultra-wealthy 2% and the serf-like 98%, which will create the end economic goal for conservatism:

    Cheap Labor.

    As usual, the wingnuts have a problem connecting cause and effect. Cheap labor = poor labor = labor unable to afford to buy the shit made by cheap labor. But they can't quite make the connection. They actually expect that when the average household income in the US is $22,000 people will still be able to support a spending spree of $42,000 per household.

    One sees this same inability to comprehend cause and effect all over the place in Wingnuttia. Take Iraq, for example. Or the savage cuts in taxes and the Congressional hunger for ever-higher spending.

    One good outcome of this of course will the disappearance of trelevangelists like Falwell and Robertson and such criminals. People won't be able to afford to watch TV, let alone send in blessing pledges, and these parasites will die off.

  7. "Let the heathens spill theirs on the dusty ground; God shall make them pay for each sperm that can't be found."


    Of course, the South Dakota abortion law is going to be enjoined very quickly and I doubt the courts will let it stand.

  8. I disagree, Scott. If this gets to SCOTUS I fully expect Scalia and his appendage, Thomas, ScAlito, Roberts to eagerly support the law. Scalia and Thomas have already indicated in public statements they would welcome another look at the subject. And, of course, Roberts and Alito flat out refused to answer Congress's question on the matter.

    Rule #3: when a judge under consideration refuses to discuss his thoughts on something, you can take it to mean he's lying like a cheap Persian rug, and is hiding something.

  9. By the way, regarding the Cheap Labor narrative, our friends over at Alternate Brain recommend this little short film.

  10. Lurch:

    I disagree. Roberts shows a healthy respect for precedent, in my view. Alito has already shown he's willing to break with the conservatives, and I'm optimistic he also respects precedent.

    As for the confirmation hearings, I don't think the judges should have answered questions on how they would rule on abortion. It undermines confidence in the judicial system for a judge to do so. I think that has long been recognized during confirmation hearings.

  11. OK, Scott. Fair enough. I can disagree with you on this matter. Frankly, I hope you are correct.

    I do like the way he tied Rumsfeld v, FAIR to Grove City v. Bell. I think college level students are capable of enough independent thought that the classic macho blandishments of military recruiters will not be profitable.

    This is one of many matters in which my innate pessimism rises to the level of near-paranoia.

    And never forget, Scott. Even parnoids have enemies.

  12. I think the popular conception of judges, particularly Supreme Court judges, whether liberal or conservative, as people who are simply laying in wait to foist their ideology on the land is erroneous.

    I didn't care for the Alito nomination (I liked Roberts, by contrast), but I haven't seen anything to lead me to believe he lacks integrity or won't try to uphold his oath vigorously. It didn't get a lot of media play, but virtually all of his former law clerks, including liberal/democrat ones, came out in favor of his nomination.

    I've met Clarence Thomas; spoke to him for a while actually. I also think he tries his best to uphold his oath and render fair and impartial decisions.

    A friend of mine from law school spent a couple of years clerking for Rehnquist (and she's liberal), and got to know a lot of the justices (Scalia, Thomas, O'Connor, etc.) and reports the same sort of thing.

    People tend to "project" their own partisan philosophy on Supreme Court judges, and I think it is a mistake. Whether you agree with Scalia, for example, his judicial philosophy (and that of Rehnquist and Thomas) is entirely valid. He's not always consistent, but no judge is. The Constitution does actually say that powers not specifically enumerated are left to the states or the people, and it doesn't enumerate very many. So Scalia's general feeling that not many things are truly federal issues has quite a bit of merit from a legal standpoint.

    Likewise, the judicial philosophy of those who see the document as 'a living document' and seek to follow the enumerated powers to more broad logical conclusions are also exercising a legitimate judicial philosophy. It is unfortunate to see so many people (not here on this blog; I'm speaking generally) somehow characterize judges as dishonest or activist or what have you whenever an opinion comes down that they don't like.

    Roe v. Wade, for example, is in many ways a poor opinion. Even liberal legal scholars will tell you that. The logic at which they arrived at the conclusion is quite tenuous. That said, I'm pro choice and I think the Constitution needed to be interpreted to extend to that area of protection. But I disagree, for example, that a judge who thinks abortion should be a State issue is somehow activist, dishonest, or bad. From a purely legal perspective, he's probably got a better argument, certainly if you want to look at original intent (which is a valid theory of jurisprudence).

    I don't think Roe will be overturned. Federal rights in this area may become more limited, giving more back to the States. Hard to know for sure. But I think it is unlikely the Court will just toss it aside. The Court will address every abortion issue in as narrow a way as possible and dispose of each case in a way doing as little to change precedent as possible. That's also part of a judicial philosophy that most of the court seem to share.

    I don't think people, by and large, understand the Supreme Court, it's role, the Constitution, or theories of jurisprudence. So what they do is characterize the justices as they would a politician. That's a mistake.

  13. Interesting take, Scott. I've never met any of the sitting Justices, although I did meet Justice Marshall and had a nice 15 minute chat with him at a private gathering at Georgetown University way back when. He had a very inquiring mind and was capable of discussing a wide range of subjects with a convincing degree of interest. He knew a lot more about the business I was in at that time than I would have expected.

    What you relate about clerks' opinions of the Associate Justices is interesting, and certainly more than a trivia footnote. As for Justice Scalia, I will strongly diagree with you; the man's public pronouncements off the bench reveal an elitist arrogant mindset that is contemptuous of those he considers less than his equals. This is a very bad thought pattern for a man charged with protecting the rights of ALL Americans, and not just those with tremendous wealth who enjoy duck hunting.

    I'm quite sure some people do project their ideologies onto SCOTUS candidates, as they do with politicians. I don't see this as being a bad thing. Many if most people believe "their" philosophies are right.

    Some of us are more adamant about it than others, which, parenthetically, is why a lot of men in South Dakota are facing a either 18 years of child support payments after a drunken night out, or a lot less home fun with their partners. The point I'm making here is that zealotry in any form is dangerous to the commonweal.

    I agree Roe will probably not be overturned on a Federal level. Now that there is a clear convincing majority of harsh right wing ideologues sitting on SCOTUS we will see some pretty fancy tapdancing to avoid tearing down Roe, because for 30 years it's been the foundation stone of the Republican Party platforms. The loss of Roe as a rallying cry will make the Republicans a one-trick pony, and we've seen how ineffective and carelessly incompetent, if not maleficiently negligent, they've been in that area.

  14. I see I missed something in the above comment. Losing Roe, the Republicans will only have security to stand on, and that should have been inserted in the last sentence.

  15. I suppose the real fiscal conservative could try to regain control of the GOP and be the party of small goverment, less interference, less taxation, etc. But I wonder how likely that is given what we've seen with this admin.

  16. I think that no matter what happens in the 2008 elections, if we actually have them, we will see (if there is a new administration) a public announcement that the tax cuts went too far, and there will be some retrenching. It will be explained as necessary to provide the financing needed to re-equip the Armed Forces, due to the tremendous losses through combat, vehicle fatigue and upgrading usable equipment.

    Regardless of conservatives' lust to deprive the general public of any support mechanism at all, we will see some sort of financial jiggering through taxation to relieve the future pressures on Social Security and Medicare. We won't see those moves until around 2010.

    If I were King for 3 months I'd refigure the Corporate tax structure to require Corporations to be "good citizens" and pay their own way. I'd also create and enforce and "offshore embargo" law. Offshore corporations would be prohibited from participation in Federal programs of any kind. If you don't pay for the meal, you don't eat. It's that simple. A quick and dirty metaphor would be the rules that apply in some of the flyover country many conservatives insist is the real heart and soul of the country. If you don't pay your fire assessments, don't call us when your house is on fire. And if there's a burglar in your house, you're on your own, and good luck.

    Just "personal responsibility" carried to its logical conclusion.

  17. I think the 2008 elections will happen :)

    I don't think the tax cuts went too far. As long as there is gross waste in the government, I see no reason to pay more taxes. Better to let the government figure out (like I have to do with my own budget) how to spend its money wisely. It could do so much more with what it has.

    I wonder if there is a real way to make corporations pay their share of taxes. I tend to think that for every hit they take, they'll pass it along to the consumers in one fashion or another. Still, I do support tax reform in this area and eliminating corporate welfare and tax loopholes. I also tend to support a different tax system for individuals, though whether it would be a flat tax that everyone pays (you could vary the % or the lower-end cutoff to avoid serious regression)or a national sales tax with provisions in place to protect those of little means. Taxation is an interesting topic.

  18. Scott:

    Re passing along the cost.

    I've been mulling that one over for a while. Don't have specific ideas yet, but it seems to me that we have a situation where companies are more beholden to the share holders than the customers, and the major shareholders, the ones who have all the real wealth, have control over the political system.

    Not sure where this is taking me, but I'm sure open to discussing the idea further.

  19. Jeff:

    That's certainly true. If a board decides to take an action that hurts the company (or, I suppose, not to take an action that could benefit the company financially), they shareholders can sue. So you are right, they are quite beholden to the shareholders. Of course, they can't discount the customers entirely, because if the customers go elsewhere, then the company goes under. I think the rules in place regarding profitability and accountability to shareholders are good ones generally, but no doubt they could use some reform. I'm not sure how to prevent corporations from looking at a tax increase as just another cost of business to be factored in to their pricing structure, though.

  20. So...Rumsfeld is pissed at the media:

    From what I gather in the story, if the media doesn't report exactly the casualty and damage figures the government releases, and no other figures, then they're contributing to the problem.


    If the media relied ONLY on the government when reporting on the Iraq war I'd be very concerned about the direction things were headed. More so than now even.

  21. Scott,

    I was involved enough with military media on active duty and have enough feelers in the information ops world to be pretty sure they'd prefer it if the government was the ONLY source of information on the government.

    That's why as critical of the MSM as I tend to be, I vastly prefer them to the alternative.