At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

The Neoconservative Ideology and the Mess in Iraq

posted by Jack Kerwick

That the vast majority of Republicans remain as committed as ever to a strong American military presence in Iraq has everything to do with the neoconservative ideology that dominates their party.

Unlike traditional conservatives, neoconservatives subordinate the contingencies of history and culture to such abstract universal “principles” as “human rights” and/or “Liberty”—principles in which they locate America’s unique, supra-historical origins.  The latter, in turn, endows America with it special, indeed, messianic, mission to protect “Liberty”—to promote what neoconservatives call, “liberal democracy”—for peoples everywhere.

It is this ideological creed of theirs that accounts for why neoconservatives have always favored an American presence in Iraq.

And it is this creed that explains why neoconservatives favor the presence of the American military, not just in those places where “liberal democracy” is absent; but even in those places—like Japan, Germany, and South Korea—where it has been present for decades but is, presumably, insufficiently stable and in dire need of American soldiers to prop it up.

Let’s see how this ideology plays out in the current discussion over the disaster that is Iraq.

When President Obama declared that the war in Iraq was “over” in 2011, his neoconservative critics blasted him.  Obama, being as much of an ideologue as anyone, had his own reasons for making this declaration: it was a pretext that gave him cover for making the politically advantageous decision to begin withdrawing American soldiers.  Neoconservatives opposed Obama’s call, contending that there wasn’t any basis for his claim.

But now, it is they who insist that the war really was over, even if neoconservatives instead choose to speak of the war as having been “won” prior to the troop withdrawal.  This semantics trickery, though, is unconvincing, for if victory had been achieved in Iraq, as we are now being told, then Obama was correct and the war was over.

However, if the war in Iraq had been won, then what would be the point in continuing to deploy more American lives and treasure to that region?  To this, the neoconservative can respond easily enough: We remain in Iraq for the same reason that we’ve remained in Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc.:  To insure that our victory is not lost.

Let’s us now spell out the implications of the neoconservative ideology.

First, the neoconservative is theoretically committed to expending American resources in blood, time, and treasure all around the globe and until the end of time.  The belief that America exists for the sake of promoting and defending, not the liberties of Americans, but the abstraction of “Liberty,” the “Liberty” of Earthlings, necessarily leads to this conclusion.

Secondly, though he routinely rails against “Big Government,” the neoconservative is just as much a friend to it as are his enemies to his left.  In fact, it is arguable that neoconservatives are actually more wedded to Big Government. The neoconservative vision, after all, requires an American military possessed of potentially limitless power.  The military is government, and big military is Big Government.

Indeed, without the military, the (national) government would be but the proverbial paper tiger.

Thirdly, insofar as neoconservatives believe that “America” ought to fight for “Liberty” wherever around the globe it happens to be threatened, they believe that the American taxpayer—you and I—have a duty to work extra hours, to part with our hard earned dollars, to say nothing of parting with the lives of our sons and daughters, to defend the “Liberty” of non-Americans throughout the Earth.

The American citizen, the neoconservative would have us think, exists to sacrifice life, limb, and treasure for the citizens of the world.

But it’s critical to grasp that neoconservatives aren’t just telling Americans that this is what they ought to do.

Since the mission to fight for “Liberty” is a government enterprise that, like all other government exploits, is subsidized by citizens, neoconservatives are saying that this is what Americans must be compelled to do.

Finally, as long as “victory” requires a perpetual American military presence in the lands of those who the United States “defeated,” then there is no victory.  Think about it: Suppose someone razes your old house and builds you a new one in its stead.  Would you consider the job completed, a success, if the only way to keep your new house from collapsing is for the builder or his team of construction workers to move in with you and indefinitely prop it up?  And wouldn’t it be that much more horrible of a deal if you knew that you would have to continue to pay them to live in and sustain your home?

This is the neoconservative ideology that underwrote the war in Iraq.

 

 

 

 

Neocons, “Isolationism,” and Martin Luther King, Jr.

posted by Jack Kerwick

As the mess in Iraq—a mess predicted by the likes of such “isolationists” as Patrick J. Buchanan and Ilana Mercer a dozen years ago—deepens, it is with renewed gusto that the Iraq War’s most impassioned neoconservative supporters argue for a robust “interventionist” American foreign policy.

At the same time, they never waver in heaping praise upon praise upon Martin Luther King, Jr.

But when rhetorical exhibitionism collides with ideological fervor, the inconsistency promises to be explosive.

King, you see, is every bit as much of an “isolationist” as are any of the so-called “isolationists” who neoconservatives have lambasted.

On April 30, 1967 King gave a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church titled, “It’s A Dark Day in Our Nation.”  He cautioned his audience against being deceived into thinking that “God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.”  Just the opposite, in fact, is the case.  King said that he “can hear God saying to America, ‘You’re too arrogant!  And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name.”

King, obviously, was no fan of “American Exceptionalism.”

He continued, referring to the war in Vietnam not just as “unjust,” but as “futile” and “evil.

Had King been alive to make these remarks today about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it goes without saying that their neoconservative supporters in the GOP, talk radio, and Fox News would have eviscerated him for both his lack of “moral clarity” as well as his disregard—and perhaps even disdain—for “the troops” and their families.

In the first place, King would be convicted of either characteristic left-wing moral idiocy or characteristic libertarian “amorality” for charging, not the “Islamists” (or communist North Vietnamese) with evil doing, but America, the only superpower ever willing to fight the globe over for “liberty.”

And for his description of the war as “evil,” King would render himself vulnerable to the allegation that he is contemptuous of “the troops,” for there would be no evil war if not for the evil-doing soldiers waging it.

Yet King would also be accused of being disrespectful of “the troops” and their families for claiming that the war(s) were “futile.”  How dare he suggest that American soldiers sacrificed life and limb “in vain?”

Of course, if the neoconservative opponents of “isolationism” were consistent, then they should be saying these things of King now for his comments then.  After all, the Red Menace of North Vietnam was much more formidable a force for evil than anything with which we’ve had to reckon in Iraq or Afghanistan, and exponentially more Americans lost their lives fighting in Vietnam than have lost their lives fighting in the Middle East.

There is the additional consideration that, to the present day, neoconservatives continue to blame “the left” for having lost Vietnam, being particularly relentless in their criticism of that emblem of left-wing “anti-Americanism,” Jane Fonda.

Yet MLK was every bit as outspoken a critic of the war in Vietnam as was Fonda.

For all of the resources invested in it, King characterized the Vietnam War as a “demonic, destructive suction tube” (emphasis mine).  The war entailed “cruel manipulation of the poor” and made America into “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” a country mired in its own “deadly arrogance,” hubris “that has poisoned the international situation for all of these years.”  America, King declared, tried “to sabotage the Geneva Accord.”

But it gets even worse, as King starts to sound like John Kerry sounded when he testified in 1971 to the evils allegedly perpetrated by American soldiers in Vietnam.  Not only are Americans guilty of placing Vietnamese in “concentration camps;” not only do Americans “poison their water” and “kill a million acres of their crops.”  The Vietnamese see their children “degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.” America, King insists, “destroyed” the “two most cherished institutions” of the Vietnamese: “the family and the village.”

The Vietnam War embodies “the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation [.]”

Whether King was correct in his analysis is neither here nor there.  The point is that if, as neoconservatives insist, “isolationism” is an intellectually and morally impoverished position, then King deserves not the reverence that they show him, but unqualified condemnation, for King was an “isolationist.” Worse, King—a Nobel Peace Prize winner and world figure—did far more, by neoconservatives’ reasoning, to undermine America’s cause during war than anything of which a Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan could be said to be guilty.  In fact, given his stature, King was even more harmful than “Hanoi Jane.”

Conclusion: Disdain for “isolationism” is radically incompatible with praise for Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

The Neocon Left: The “Deputized” Right

posted by Jack Kerwick

What is commonly referred to as “the right” by the so-called “mainstream media” is actually what I prefer to call “the Deputized Right”—a faux right-wing that takes its marching orders from the left.

More specifically, the Deputized Right is actually nothing other than the neoconservative left that the recognizable left permits to exist.

Anyone with any doubts on this score should consider that neither domestically nor internationally do the recognizable left and the Deputized Right fundamentally disagree on a single issue. Rhetorical nods to “limited government” and the like aside, its positions on immigration, the NSA’s massive surveillance apparatus, military adventurism, “gay rights,” “anti-discrimination” laws, government-run health care, government-run education, and every other conceivable topic differ—when they differ—from those of the recognizable left only in degree, never in kind.

The Deputized Right is every bit as invested in preserving and expanding the power and reach of the federal government as is the recognizable left.  The self-appointed neocon guardians of the counterfeit right are permitted to complain of government “overreach” when it comes to such government-run healthcare programs as the woefully unpopular “Obamacare,” but they wouldn’t think to even remotely suggest rolling back Medicare and Medicaid—government-run healthcare programs whose hold over the medical industry in America they’ve actually helped to strengthen.

Those on the Deputized Right can blast government-run schools when talking of “public education”—as long as they never come even close to recommending anything like a complete “separation of state and education.”  And, of course, they never do.  Instead, Deputized Rightists rattle on about “school choice”—a set of arrangements according to which government still pulls the strings.

Deputized right-wingers are as much in favor of “comprehensive immigration reform”—i.e. amnesty—as are recognizable leftists.

Deputized rightists burst apart with pride in reminding Americans that their party, the Republican Party, was instrumental in helping Lyndon Banes Johnson enact such historically unprecedented “civil rights” legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Such legislation—agitated for, mind you, by the author of the Great Society, an American president who the Deputized Right routinely decries as among the worst of “liberal” politicians to ever occupy the White House—expanded exponentially the federal government’s stranglehold over the states and its citizens.  And yet the Deputized Right not only relishes in its (alleged) role in making it all happen, but spares no occasion to remind Americans of this.

The Deputized Right excoriates President Obama for being a socialist, a hard leftist, etc., while lavishing praise upon Martin Luther King, Jr.—a man who was at least as far to the left as Obama.  At the same time, it demonizes as “anti-American” and even “treasonous” a young American soldier who enlisted in the military to fight in Afghanistan, a prisoner of war who eventually expressed disgust with America for its involvement in the Islamic, Middle Eastern world, while adoring King—even though the latter referred to America as the planet’s greatest “purveyor” of violence during the height of the Vietnam War.

The Deputized Right talks of “limited government” while simultaneously calling for an ever larger, ever more intrusive, military.  But Big Military is Big Government.

The Deputized Right insists that we are in a “War on Terror”—a war against either an abstraction or a bottomless supply of Islamic terrorists. Either way, it is a “war” without end, a war that can never be won.

The “right” is the Deputized Right, which is to say a counterfeit right, a neoconservative left that differs, if at all, only negligibly from the recognizable left.  If only those with eyes would dare to see past the rhetoric of talk radio and the cable news networks, they would realize that the conflicts on display in these media boil down to internecine conflicts between leftists of not so different stripes.

Walter Jones vs. the Neocons: Is the Tide of GOP Politics Shifting?

posted by Jack Kerwick

On Tuesday, the overwhelmingly outspent ten-term North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones defeated his neoconservative, establishment-backed opponent and former Bush II official, Taylor Griffin.

Griffin was endorsed by Sarah Palin and heavily subsidized by Sheldon Adelson—but to no avail.

This is huge news, for it signals a potential change of the tides in both the GOP and the “conservative” movement.

Jones, you see, is very much a man of the old right, a conservative, not a neoconservative. 

Though a one-time supporter of the Iraq War, he has since become not only one of its staunchest critics; Jones has become an impassioned opponent of the entire missionary foreign policy vision that informed the decision to invade Iraq and for which the GOP became known—notorious—during George W. Bush’s tenure in office.

On Jones’ website, there appears a rapidly changing ticker calculating the costs of America’s wars since 2001.  Visitors are informed that to subsidize the 1.5 trillion dollars that have been spent on our foreign adventurism over the course of the last 13 years, American taxpayers pay on an hourly basis well over 10 million dollars!

Jones makes his position on this issue clear:

“Our Constitution, a document I have sworn to protect and defend, explicitly states that our nation does not go to war without Congressional approval.  I believe in our Constitution, and I will continue the fight to prevent the president from waging war unilaterally.”

Jones has taken President Obama to court for violating “the Constitution and the War Powers Clause” in launching “war against the Libyan regime without authorization from the U.S. Congress.”  He has also proposed legislation “expressing the sense of Congress that it is an impeachable offense for any president to wage offensive war without prior Congressional approval” (italics original).

In addition to the exorbitant costs of sophistically redefining the “national interest” to justify military activism anywhere on the globe, the newly re-elected incumbent identifies another fatal objection to this utopian enterprise: it is inimical to liberty.  Jones declares his intentions to “continue the fight to reign in the executive branch and restore power [liberty] to the citizens of our nation” (emphasis added).

Jones maintains that since our policy objectives in Afghanistan—the killing of Osama bin Laden and the dismantling of Al Qaeda—have long since been accomplished, it is a fool’s errand to keep American troops there.  He also vehemently opposed intervening in Syria, calling such action “unconstitutional.”

More recently, Jones has refused to endorse any foreign aid to the Ukraine, a position in keeping with his refusal to endorse any and all foreign aid that’s been proposed over the last 16 years.  “It makes no sense,” Jones states, “to borrow money from countries like China only to then transfer that money to other foreign countries and the United Nations (UN).”

It is doubtless his stance against all foreign aid—which, obviously, includes foreign aid to Israel—that invited the slur from his opponents that Jones is “anti-Israel.” Thankfully, however, the leftist smear tactics to which establishment Republican types routinely resort when going up against those to their right failed in this case.

Of 435 members of Congress, the pro-immigration enforcement organization, NumbersUSA, locates Jones among an elite group of ten—ten!—that can be trusted to combat illegal immigration.   Jones has co-sponsored legislation designed to eliminate birthright citizenship, “chain migration,” and promote English as America’s official language.

Yet Jones isn’t just an opponent of Unlimited Government now that his party is in the minority.  He as well voted against President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, which Jones (rightly) refers to as a “federal takeover of our education system.”  Moreover, Jones would not support Bush’s “massive expansion of the entitlement system through the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill,” his “pork-filled Highway Bill that included the infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’” and the former President’s “Wall Street bank bailout also known as ‘TARP.’”

Jones is also the sole member of the House of Representatives “to have voted against every single increase in the federal debt limit over the past nine years.”

Does Walter Jones’ victory portend a reversal of fortunes for the neoconservatives that have dominated the GOP for decades?  It’s anyone’s guess at this moment.  Yet that his establishment opponent lost despite having far bigger names (like Palin) and far bigger bucks (like those of Adelson) behind him, suggests that, at the very least, the neocon halcyon days of Bush II are far behind us.

Jones’ victory also might serve as a wake-up call to the Republican Party that it is at its own peril that it refuses to recognize that a not insignificant segment of its base will no longer tolerate being ignored or mocked.

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