The neoconservative moment in American politics has not passed, and it won’t for some time. It is a fundamental part of our modern American empire, and most people seem to like the idea of being in the upper echelons of a great empire, even if it is an illusion. There is also something utterly and basely human about the whole neoconservative political outlook that tells me we won’t be rid of it easily.
Neoconservatism encourages our natural reluctance to believe that other countries might be populated with mothers and daughters just like us, sons and fathers like our own, caring friends and neighbors who look out for us, and happy children filled with dreams. While advocating democracy and "freedom" for these other people for whom we "care" so much, neoconservatism demands that we simultaneously see them as subordinate to our wishes. We are happy to meet them, subject to our economic and military boot — or else we are happy to meet them in a hell of our own creation.
Neoconservatism — indeed American foreign policy — is unscathed and unthreatened by Democratic success in recent elections. We might have known that any foreign policy that celebrates our natural reluctance to deal with the mote in our own eye before we obsess about the speck in our neighbor’s eye would be secure in populism.
Our sordid tendencies toward rage and bloodlust are fed and nurtured by neoconservative prescriptions in foreign policy. Knowing this, I was still shocked to see Joshua Muravchik’s November 19th opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.
I was surprised that an essay of such ignorance, such hatred, and such embarrassing lack of credibility was published at all in a major newspaper. I was surprised that Joshua Muravchik has an audience; that he apparently does is frightening.
I get a lot of email from people who seem to enthusiastically hate other people for their ethnicities, their religions and even their politics. They often prescribe solutions for their problems that are entirely about changing or punishing those they hate. Their energies are often spent justifying their hatred and dreaming of ways to get governmental institutions to "enforce" their proud contempt.
My reaction to these emails is to delete them. After all, this type of thinking and acting is wrong, unethical, un-Christian, and evil.
So when I read Joshua explain why we must bomb Iran as soon as possible, I was surprised that the LA Times hadn’t also hit the delete button.
Sure, Muravchik hails from the American Enterprise Institute and we do expect this type of stupidity from the folks who insisted the same thing five years ago regarding Iraq. Yes, the AEI still informs key players in the White House and in Congress. And we do understand the real role of Washington think tanks these days.
But in "Bomb Iran," one wonders what it is really all about. The official neoconservative view, as produced by the AEI and AIPAC too, is that Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. That they do not have one is irrelevant. They must never ever have a nuclear weapon — under no imaginable government, under no imaginable regional or global arrangement. Islamic countries and bombs are a bad mix, according to neoconservatives.
Please forget that the nice Pakistanis have the bomb, and please forget that we have been told Pakistan nearly succeeded in giving it to the Libyans, just before the Libyans turned into nice people, too.
In "Bomb Iran," Joshua says that we cannot deter Iran’s use of a nuclear weapon — once they have one — by telling Iran that if anything in the whole wide world happens, we will nuke Iran. This, by the way, is Dick Cheney’s foreign policy — we will assume Iran is behind anything bad that happens, and first use of the great American nuclear arsenal against Iran is our present security doctrine.
Joshua worries that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, "[c]oming on top of North Korea’s nuclear test, … would spell finis to the entire nonproliferation system." Apparently, AEI’s ivory tower is an actual tower made of ivory. A tower with no windows, no internet, no television, no radio, no intelligent life. It was clear to me and a few billion other people back in the 1970s that finis for non-proliferation had already been spelt.
Joshua worries that Iran is an archenemy of the United States and Israel, and he worries that it is led by a messianic leader, and that Tehran seeks regional dominance. If only we could get at that damn mote in our own eye. But alas, we aren’t even looking.
Thus, Joshua — Alfred Prufrock style — recalls Churchill and World War I, and the Cold War, choices not made, actions not taken, the painful anonymity of timidly sitting on ones’ hands. He says if we do not bomb, we will not "forestall" Iran’s regional dominance and its global war, and Ahmadinejad the next Lenin. If we do bomb, Joshua says… well, it would be better. Trust him.
What, indeed, is it really all about?
First, it is about guys like Joshua Muravchik doing their workaday job. Advocating positive solutions to real American security challenges does not earn them a paycheck. Instead, feeding the ongoing Washington and Tel Aviv obsession with whether Israel or Iran will be the regional military and economic hegemon does. Hence, Joshua is just doing his job.
Secondly, it is about the Washington establishmentarian desire to lay the psychological-linguistic groundwork for what is going to happen soon — and for those with connections in this White House, to come out on the "right" side early and often. "Bomb Iran" becomes legitimate to say, and thus to think and do, even as the Muravchik arguments, and those of a hundred others in key media outlets, remain illegitimate, illogical, and empty.
And lastly, it is practically important, as several American carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf patiently await the 2006 rendition of a Tonkin incident, as the Air Force and Navy polishes those target lists, as the Army and Marines send more troops into the region. We hear that more troops are going to Iraq because of its complete political and security breakdown, but the Pentagon knows our troops cannot save Iraq, and if they enter into the fray, they will be killed. Instead, it seems more likely that these troops will stay on the major U.S. bases in central and southern Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, until needed for the next big thing. The news that more American troops may be required in Afghanistan also fits nicely with what must be done. As Cheney visited our men in Saudi Arabia this past weekend, and as the Secretary of State sees our man in Jordan, it’s all on track.
Telling us this is the only reason the LA Times would publish the type of racist, evil, Armageddonite hogwash as found in "Bomb Iran!" Consider yourself told.
Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. Archives of her American Forum radio program can be accessed here and here. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here. A version of this article originally appeared on MilitaryWeek.com.