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February 14, 2004

Reading Michael Lind with Scott Martens. Commenting on Lind’s excellent overview of modern neoconservatism—itself worth reading in its entirety—Scott of Pedantry is struck by the persistence of some of the Left’s more questionable genetic material in the polemics of the modern neocons. As both Lind and Martens observe, many of these calls for America to spread “global democratic revolution” at gunpoint read like manifestos of the Fourth International with a few of the proper nouns changed. Martens remarks:
To view the state as inherently ideological is certainly a defensible position. To view its primary function to be the propagation of an ideology is not. States are at their most effective when they are very conservative institutions, devoted not to the expansion of their ideologies or those of their citizens but to the perpetuation of the conditions for their existence.
There’s a lot to be said for actual conservatism. But the people Lind is writing about are as “conservative” as an anarchist’s bomb, and less responsible. [03:31 PM]
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Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Reading Michael Lind with Scott Martens.:

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 04:34 PM:

...calls for America to spread “global democratic revolution” at gunpoint...

Sounds like revolutionary Russia. We've already seen that mistake played out on the world stage; what makes these fools think it would work the second time?

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 04:47 PM:

Well, the US is in a far, far stronger position than the USSR was. The US could probably establish a large empire, and defend it for quite a while. There would be costs, of course, but one of the fundamental principles of the Bush administration and the neo-cons is that costs are for the suckers.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 04:56 PM:

The US could probably hold an empire for a while. But in order to do so it would have to go down the road BushCo wants it to go down, becoming absolutely nothing like America. Forget about freedom, justice, liberty, etc. Service to the Emporor. Doesn't sound like fun to me (but then again I probably wouldn't be in charge...).

Scott Martens ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 06:56 PM:

There's a post going up tomorrow (hopefully) on how empires have never made enough money to pay for themselves, and how everyone knew that by 1850. Of course, it will also explain that hope always seems to spring eternal for empire builders.

McDuff ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 07:36 PM:

Not just "revolutionary Russia," but in fact every empire that's ever existed. The USA believes it is somehow more inherently noble.

"Some abroad, meanwhile, have distorted U.S. intentions through an apparent exercise in mirror imaging. Using their own mottled political histories as a reference point, they have asked what they would do with the power that the United States possesses and have mistakenly projected their own Hobbesian intentions onto our rather more Lockean sensibilities."

Oh really, Colin? Let me just say that, as one of these people "projecting" the history of my own nation onto others, I shall indeed believe in your "more Lockean sensibilities" when I see them. Until that point, Imperialism is Imperialism.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 10:41 PM:

Unless Americans are a completely different species to the rest of us, then it seems entirely sensible to look at European (or East Asian or African...) history as a reference for American actions. As far as politics goes, this administration has shown as much sophistication as a child at a dinner party. A child with an M16.


Nell Lancaster ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 10:57 PM:

McDuff, thanks for the link to the Foreign Affairs article. I had no idea Colin P. was helping flack the hideous National Security Strategy. I'd been expecting him to leave the administration if the Bush admin got a second run, before the madness of the NSS takes the world apart. But this is Kool-Aid drinking of the first order.

The abstract makes me queasy, it sounds so much like Stalin-era praise of The Glorious Leader:
George W. Bush's vision -- enshrined in his 2002 National Security Strategy -- is far broader and deeper than that. The president has promoted bold and effective policies to combat terrorism, intervened decisively to prevent regional conflicts, and embraced other major powers such as Russia, China, and India.

Think I'll wait to read the whole thing until I feel a little stronger.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 11:13 PM:

So . . . how soon before some troll shows up and plays the "when you attack neoconservatives you're really indulging in anti-semitism" card?

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 12:35 AM:

Trlls rrl shw p hr, Stfn. Dnn wh.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 12:36 AM:

Actually, the "'neoconservative' is the new codeword for 'Jew'" trope is presented, and ridiculed, in the Nation article cited in PNH's original post.

I can't praise the Lind article enough. It's a one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the neoconservatives.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 01:12 AM:

"Dnn wh."

M gss: T mch snlght! Trlls ht snlght.


Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Our correspondents are developing a new on-line dialect!

'll prps w cll t "tnhspk."

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 07:21 PM:

Bill, you know, of course, that this is what troll posts look like here, after the estimable Teresa disemvowels them.

Yehudit ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 09:55 PM:

There is an ideological movement which wants to spread itself all over the world at the point of a gun - it's called Islamofascism. Our global strategies over the past 3 years have been in reaction to that. Remember, when Bush took office it was feared he was going to be an isolationist, unlike the globe-tripping Clinton.

In fact, Bush's policies toward Iraq and Al Queda are a direct continuation of Clinton's - Clinton has said so himself. Clinton couldn't or wouldn't do what Bush did, because he was already involved in the Balkans, because he would not be able to launch a war without a casus belli. But deposing Saddam was considered necessary, eventually. 9-11 made it possible to take action.

When America entered WWII, we were not trying to build an empire, but prevent an empire from being built. Unfortunately, we had to ally with another empire to get that done. The Cold War was about countering the spread of that empire. This war is about countering the spread of the Islamofacist empire. If we are such imperialists, how many territories have we acquired and how many hapless nations have come under our thumb from each successive wave of our "imperialism"?

As for spreading democracy: market economies tend to lead to prosperity and freedom of expression and governments selected by their people, and the more of those in the world, a more peaceful and prosperous world it will become, for everyone. Incidentally, societies like this also tend to be more tolerant of alternate lifestyles and accepting of empowered women. I don't understand why anyone has a problem with this. In fact, I do have a problem with people who have a problem with this, especially those who want to subject me and the rest of the planet to the oppressive rules of their society, and I support those who are fighting back.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 11:23 PM:

"I don't understand why anyone has a problem with this."

Uh . . . I don't think anybody here has a problem with the spread of democracy or even market economies.

The problem with the neocons is that they're more than just people with values . . . they're ideologues. Ideologies makes people arrogant and overconfident. They confuse means and ends. They take up with allies more dangerous and obnoxious than our enemies. The very arrogant blather they use can make things worse.

If this administration were really all bold and square jawed and steadfast in its opposition to "islamofacism," why attack a half-assed socialist kleptocracy like Iraq? Why not Pakistan, which *actually has nukes and is willing to sell the recipe*, or Saudi Arabia, the well-financed *home* of fanatical Islam? As it turns out, they've given "islamofacism" a fertile new recruiting ground and rallying cry.

Enantiodromia, I think Brian Aldiss called it.

I could go into the cover that these self-righteous jingoist crusades give to greedy scoundrels, but that would just be rubbing it in.

Mr Ripley ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 01:55 AM:

"The Cold War was about countering the spread of that empire." And the Terror War is often about fighting the people who were our allies in the Cold War . . . does that mean the next endless battle will be against Poland, England, Australia, and Uzbekistan?

"how many hapless nations have come under our thumb from each successive wave of our 'imperialism'?" In the Cold War? Pretty much any nation our thumb had to cover to save its hapless inhabitants from anything vaguely socialistic, starting with Guatemala (or, according to some arguments, Greece). The contrarian who originated the term "Islamofascism" --or at least "fascism with an Islamic face" could tell us plenty about that.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 07:36 AM:

" The contrarian who originated the term "Islamofascism" --or at least "fascism with an Islamic face" could tell us plenty about that"

He or she could also tell us how he failed PoliSci. What's going on in the Islamic world is many things, but fascism it is NOT.

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 08:53 AM:

"If we are such imperialists, how many territories have we acquired and how many hapless nations have come under our thumb from each successive wave of our "imperialism"?"

About 100. That's the number of countries where there are US military bases.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 01:54 PM:

Not for the first time (sigh), Electrolite makes me wish I had the time, stamina and patience to create a blog called "Actual Conservativism." Indeed, there is a lot to be said for it....

(I don't see one listed on Blogger anywhere anyway)

Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 02:58 PM:

Not for the first time (sigh), Electrolite makes me wish I had the time, stamina and patience to create a blog called "Actual Conservativism."

I'd read that. Real conservatives seem to be as rare as American socialists, and much quieter lately.

McDuff ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2004, 09:47 PM:

Yeah, I grow tired of conversations with conservatives where they refuse to point out in what way the Bush administration is actually conservative.

The Bush administration is nationalistic, not conservative, and the reason I, for one, oppose them is that blind nationalism is the crack cocaine of a society. It is attractive, euphoric and bitterly addictive, but its intensity can distort the perceptions of those exposed to it such that all they can see and desire is the sweet drug, no matter how destructive the course it sets them on is. And, of course, once you've had a little you have to get more...

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 07:07 PM:

In fact, Bush's policies toward Iraq and Al Queda are a direct continuation of Clinton's - Clinton has said so himself.

This is, I believe, a lie. It could, however, just be a mistake, but given your history here, I rather doubt it.

It is definitely not the case that the Bush/Cheney administration continued Clinton's policies; in fact, it's well-documented that the Clinton administration handed Bush's people a fully drafted anti-Al Qaeda program in January 2001, which included a medium-strength invasion of parts of Afghanistan to root out Al Qaeda bases there and destabilize their Taliban sponsors, as well as special forces actions against other suspected Al Qaeda fellow traveler operations worldwide.

This plan was completely ignored, largely because of the Bush administration's ABC policy (Anything But Clinton).

After September 11th, the Bush administration started its own plans, which paralleled Clinton's fairly poorly. For instance, Clinton's plan didn't include invading Iraq on trumped-up charges of possession of nuclear weapons.

If Clinton said that Bush's policies were a "direct continuation" of his own, I suspect he was just being polite. I suspect, instead, that he did not say that, but rather said something factually correct which could be misrepresented as that.