The Neoconservative dream of spreading “democracy” in the Middle East, a delusion wholeheartedly embraced by President George W. Bush, is rapidly becoming a nightmare.  Pursuit of this utopian vision has already strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, propelled Hezbollah into the Lebanese government, and brought Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority.  In Iraq, it has produced a Shiite government friendly to Iran and has emboldened Islamic terrorists, whose violence has created an exodus of Iraqi Christians, exactly as Wayne Allensworth predicted in these pages before the first American soldier entered Iraq.  Recently, New York Times Baghdad-bureau chief John Burns painted a vivid picture of the violent anarchy that has engulfed Iraq, describing to NPR’s Terry Gross a situation in which 2,000 bodies end up in Baghdad’s morgue each month; lawless and unscrupulous men are everywhere seizing power; life is marked by shootings, bombings, and kidnappings; and the police entrusted with keeping order often resort to torture and summary executions.  And, as of this writing, 2,567 American servicemen have died in Iraq.

The neoconservatives who helped create this mess are unrepentant.  Indeed, according to a July 19 article by Michael Abramowitz in the Washington Post (“Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush’s Foreign Policy”), they have turned on President Bush, because, preoccupied with Iraq, he has thus far failed to follow their advice about forcibly exporting “democracy” to Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Russia.  According to Abramowitz, Newt Gingrich is denouncing Bush’s “appeasement” of North Korea and Iran, Kenneth Adelman believes that “foreign policy innovation for [the] White House ended with Bush’s second inaugural address,” and Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute doesn’t have “a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill, or any part of the foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves [sic] with fury at the administration.”

Notwithstanding the fury of Miss Pletka and her friends, Abramowitz concedes that things may no longer be going their way: “It has not helped the neoconservative case, perhaps, that the occupation of Iraq has not gone as smoothly as some had predicted.”  Abramowitz’s understatement is appropriate, since politicians and pundits aren’t often swayed by reality.  But Abramowitz presents evidence that some are, indeed, beginning to see the light.

Exhibit A is George Will, who, in his July 18 column, criticized “a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, ‘neoconservatism,’” and described the Weekly Standard’s most recent criticism of President Bush for not yet waging war on Iran as being “so untethered from reality as to defy caricature.”

Exhibit B is William F. Buckley, Jr., who told CBS News on July 22 that “There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush” and that “If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced [in Iraq] it would be expected that he would retire or resign.”  Buckley also told CBS that “Bush faces a singular problem best defined . . . as the absence of effective conservative ideology.”

Better late than never, I suppose.  But long before Will and Buckley came to the apparent realization that neoconservatives are not conservatives at all, such men as Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis, and Tom Fleming were warning that neoconservatism was just another form of leftism with origins that were social democratic, at best, and Trotskyist, at worst.  Buckley and Will were too busy ingratiating themselves to the neocons and penning or publishing denunciations of those who criticized the rush to war to take heed.  Before the Iraq war, Chronicles and Buchanan again warned that the neoconservatives’ adventure in the Middle East did not bode well for America and the West.  Buckley’s response was to allow David Frum to denounce as “unpatriotic conservatives” Buchanan, Francis, and Fleming, in a cover article for National Review.

One hopes that Will and Buckley continue to criticize the neocons, and that these criticisms help dissuade Americans from embarking on more misguided adventures to build “democracy.”  But it would also be appropriate for Will and Buckley to consider, and even acknowledge, that their own mistakes helped this form of leftism take hold on the American right.