2004 July 16 Friday
Neocon Movement At Stake In Bush Reelection?
William F. Buckley thinks the neoconservative movement will be deeply damaged if George W. Bush loses his reelection bid.
When you founded National Review in 1955, being a high-IQ conservative was a lonely job in America. But now that you are finally leaving the magazine, neoconservatives are running the country. What do you make of them?
I think those I know, which is most of them, are bright, informed and idealistic, but that they simply overrate the reach of U.S. power and influence.
Yes, their ambitions in Iraq seem to be leading to their self-destruction.
Neocons would suffer a great blow, conceivably mortal, if Bush were defeated because of Iraq.
I agree with Buckley about the overrating of US power. Our military can win classic set piece battles. But our ability to reshape the world politically is heavily constrained by the nature of other societies. Each human has their own desires, motivations, and mixture of beliefs. Changing minds is far harder than blowing up tanks or fortifications.
I agree with Buckley about the overrating of US power. Our military can win classic set piece battles. But our ability to reshape the world politically is heavily constrained by the nature of other societies.
Agreed. This is why I'm flummoxed and flabbergasted (flummabbergasted? flabbermoxed?) at some of these in-your-face attitudes these days that the US can go it alone and flip the bird at whatever the UN, World Court, and other countries' opinions in general suggest. I have my own objections to the way the UN goes about its business, but this doesn't mean that it or the weltanschauung of other nations should be dismissed so offhandedly. We're not nearly as powerful as too many pundits fantasize that we are. I'm irritated at the facile anti-Americanism that's too often spouted in places like France and Britain these days; US contributions in technology, human rights, and yes, nation-building (the Marshall Plan) have been substantial and too easily brushed aside. But this doesn't mean that I support all the American foreign policy decisions-- some examples (the Spanish-American War, overthrow of Mossadegh and Allende) have been exemplars of corruption and narrow self-interest, while others (Vietnam and Iraq) have been muddled by poor planning and outright blundering. And when other nations call us on something, they're not necessarily trying to humiliate us, but perhaps-- like any true friend, rather than a bootlicking sycophant who accelerates our path downward-- attempting to note where we're erring and supply a corrective.
Our share of the world economy is shrinking overall, and we can't simply ignore the opinions of the rest of the world. I went to Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan a few months ago, and the power is going to be shifting to here and South Asia pretty extensively over the coming century. To the extent that we're stuck in it, we have to escape from this bubble that the US is the center of everything worthwhile and righteous, and recognize that the cultures and perspectives of other nations are also quite significant, and heed them accordingly. We need more people studying and mastering foreign languages, truly absorbing the variety elsewhere in the world rather than dismissing it as paltry. "Pride goeth before a fall, and an haughty spirit before destruction." Indeed. "Pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins, for it blinds us to our own flaws when we are most able to correct them." We have a right to be proud of our country and its accomplishments, but this pride must be tempered and tethered by the recognition that the views and contributions of other nations are also of essential value.
But how is George W. a neo-conservative? Now I realise that neo-cons are almost as addicted to pilfered tax money as leftists, but sure a 'neo-con' is a statist who is at least somewhat less addicted to taxation that a leftist? Seeing as how Dubya is massively outspending the ghastly Clinton, how, pray tell, does he quality as a 'neo-conservative'? There seems to be very little 'neo' in his conservatism. In fact, not much conservatism either, unless he is conserving trade barriers for US lumber and steel producers at the expense of everyone else in the USA. Is an occasional reference to God all it takes to be a 'conservative' in the USA these days?