I wish I had a dollar—oops, better make that a euro—for every recent obituary marking the political death of neoconservatism. I would have been able to bail out the grand financial house of Lehman Brothers and avert the tragedy of one more Wall Street fat cat being forced to lay off another maid in his mansion in the Hamptons.
Many of my colleagues in the Reality-Based Community have displayed a lot of wishful thinking in declaring that the “age of neoconservatism is over” or that “we are entering the post-neoconservative age.” You’ve probably read at least one of these commentaries overflowing with schadenfreude that, depending on the author and his or her ideological biases, predicts that this or that neocon—or all the neocons, for that matter—will be out of a job if Barack Obama ends up residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or that the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin, as opposed to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, is an indication that the neocons have been losing their hold on the Republican Party. Sure. And Obama has been reading Murray Rothbard, and McCain has a subscription to Chronicles.
It’s true that the majority of Americans seem to agree that, Surge or no Surge, the ambitious project to implant democracy in Mesopotamia and the broader Middle East known as the Iraq war—the proud child of the neoconservative “brain”—has proved to be one of the greatest strategic disasters in U.S. history and a source of humiliation for the neoconservative parents. But the parents have not disowned their child and are blaming the doctors, the nanny, the kindergarten for the fact that their son—a Free and Democratic Iraq—turned out to be a psycho. The neocon intellectual genes were good; it’s the environment that turned him into a juvenile delinquent. Deep inside him there is good, real good. The coming “liberation” of Iran will prove it.
And whether it would be a McCain administration or one led by Obama, you can bet your $700-billion rescue plan that either old-school neocons, such as the American Enterprise Institute’s Robert Kagan, or those masquerading as “liberal internationalists,” such as the Brooking Institution’s Kenneth Pollack, will be leading not only the coming confrontation with Iran (and with Pakistan and with Russia and with China) but the continuing U.S.-led March of Freedom in our Broader Galaxy.
Like the guest who came for dinner and stayed forever, the neocons will be around for a very long time, certainly as long as the ruling political elites in Washington continue to promote a geo-strategic and geo-economic agenda based on the axiom that the United States has an obligation to impose her military and economic power worldwide. Our leaders need an intellectual caste whose members help legitimize the political elite’s power at home and abroad, in the same way that the priests would divine the power of kings in the past.
The neoconservatives, through their media outlets, think tanks, and foundations, have produced a secular religion of sorts for the American Empire. They help our modern kings in creating images, manipulating symbols, and promoting historical analogies as part of an effort to convince the American people to provide their rulers with the resources to invade other countries and spread American values and markets throughout the universe. Big Business, which benefits from its political and economic status in the empire, is more than willing to use its financial resources to subsidize this intellectual caste, while the government rushes to appoint its members to powerful policy positions. And those intellectuals who dare to challenge the new universal religion and its promoters are accused of heresy (“isolationism”). After all, “We’re all Georgians today.”
And apropos Georgia, now that neoconservatism has become the dominant ideology in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, McCain and Obama, relying on their court intellectuals, accept it as a given that America has the moral obligation to protect “democratic” Georgia from “authoritarian” Russia. The only difference between the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates is that McCain is willing to go to war against Russia ASAP, while Obama is ready to give diplomacy a chance, although Obama is more ready than McCain to apply the tenets of neoconservatism to the backwaters of the globe—say, sub-Saharan Africa. In short, neoconservatism may have several faces, but its ideological heart beats to one imperial tune.
Like a vassal in the feudal system, the average American had taken it for granted that, based on the hegemonic ideology, he was obliged to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” without asking what his country can do for him, but what he can do for his country. It’s not inconceivable that the costs in lives and money involved in maintaining and expanding the American Empire will someday become so high that the average American citizen might try to remove the real chains that bind him to Washington and, by extension, to dump the neoconservative ideology into the dustbin of history, demanding that the unwelcome guest take a hike. But that is not going to happen under Obama or McCain.