Why I Am Not a Neo-Conservative


When George Bush launched the military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein and enforce Security Council resolution 1441 and sixteen other Security Council resolutions he had defied, I was for it. I would be for it today. It was a necessary war and a just war. By toppling a monster who had defied international order and was an obvious threat, Bush did the right thing. When he named the campaign Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was also an enthusiast. It put the Democratic Party, which soon betrayed the war, and the political left, which instinctively supports America’s enemies, on the defensive. When he said he was going to establish democracy in Iraq, I almost believed him. And that seemed to put me in the camp of the neo-conservatives for whom democracy in Iraq was not only a wish but an agenda. In any case, people labeled me that not least because I am a Jew and “neo-conservative” functions for the ominously expanding anti-Semitic Left as a code for self-serving Jews who want to sacrifice American lives for Israel.

But whatever I wrote about the war in support of the democracy agenda, inside I was never a 100% believer in the idea that democracy could be so easily implanted in so hostile a soil. I wanted to see Saddam toppled and a non-terrorist supporting government in its place. I would have settled for that and a large U.S. military base as well. But I allowed myself to get swept up in the Bush-led enthusiasm for a democratic revolution in the Middle East. I remained on board until the Beirut spring began to wither and got off when election results in Gaza came in and put a Nazi party into power. That spelled the end of my neo-conservative illusions.

It looks like we are headed for the same result in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to win the September elections. The reality is that a totalitarian Islam is the vibrant and increasingly dominant movement in the Arab world. Any elections likely to take place will be on the order of one man, one vote, one time. Neo-conservatives are now cheering on the Obama administration’s reckless intervention in Libya, as though the past ten years have taught them nothing. The nation building effort in Iraq led to a squandering of American resources and a weakening of American power. Putting a man who is hostile to American power in the White House is not the least aspect of this American decline. Because of these nation-building delusions we are still mired in Afghanistan — now the longest war in American history. And now we have been plunged into the Middle Eastern maelstrom with no clear agenda or objective.

The Obama Administration, in my view, is the most dangerous administration in American history, and conservatives need to be very clear about the limits and objectives of American power so that they can lead the battle to restore our government to health. To accomplish this, neo-conservatives need to admit they were wrong, and return to the drawing board. They should give up the “neo” and become conservatives again.

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