Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Return of the Neocons

But obituaries can be premature. At the moment, in fact, the neocons seem resurrected. One of their own, Frederick Kagan of AEI (Robert's younger brother), helped turn around the war in Iraq by devising and pushing for the surge there. More recent-ly, President Obama—whose foreign--policy pronouncements (nuanced, multi-lateral, interdependent) and style (low-key, self-critical, conciliatory, collegial) were a repudiation of neoconservative assertiveness—has swung their way, or so they believe. Such persistence is not surprising. For, as historians note, the impulses the neocons represent—the Manichaean world view, the missionary zeal, the near-jingoistic view of America, the can-do spirit and impatience with nuance—are as old as the country itself, dating back to John Winthrop and running through Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy. But the one issue on which they and their harshest critics (who, it must be said, seem obsessively, even morbidly, fixated on them) agree is that they are not about to go away. Perhaps the surest measure of the neocons' continued influence is the frustration and anger they generate within the Republican Party. Many of those they've targeted—like Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft—won't talk about them. (Some neocons gloat that Kissinger has even tried to become one of them.) One prominent activist on the libertarian end of the party—who hates what he sees as their costly foreign--policy adventurism and the GOP electoral losses (i.e., the presidency and both houses of Congress) he attributes to them—calls them "parasites": with little electoral power of their own, he claims, they have had to attach themselves to others, like George W. Bush. Comfortably ensconced behind a cloak of anonymity, he bristles, but also marvels, at their endurance and effectiveness, comparing them to "an infection that keeps coming back." "They've perfected this absolutely incredible thing: they announce who they are, how powerful they are, how influential they are, and get people to write articles about them," he says. "But when their policies are perceived to have caused mass chaos, they don't exist, they didn't have anything to do with it, they weren't there, and they get really snotty. And anyone who attacks them is anti-Semitic." "Everybody in the true conservative movement talks privately about the neoconservatives, and most don't like them," says Patrick Buchanan. "They're vindictive; they're not collegial…One disagreement and you're at war to the death." more

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