Well, well, well – it looks like our war-birds
over at the American
Enterprise Institute are getting kicked out of their very well-feathered
nest, as Jacob Heilbrunn,
author of a fascinating
book on the neoconservatives, reports:
"The neocon world has been rocked by recent events at AEI. Numerous
neocons told me that a vicious purge is being carried out at AEI, spearheaded
by vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka. There
can be no doubting that change is afoot at AEI. Recently, Michael Ledeen and
Reuel Marc Gerecht have departed AEI. Joshua Muravchik is on the way out as
well. Other scholars face possible eviction."
It couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch. Although Heilbrunn avers
is one of the more "reasonable" neocons, in my
book he's one of the
worst. Here, after all, is someone who openly argues that we
must start bombing Iran immediately if not sooner, and defends the tragic
history of our invasion of Iraq – the lies, the pointless deaths, the horrific
blowback. In an article
published in Commentary, he accused anyone who so much as whispered
the word "neocon" of spreading "conspiracy theories," and,
of course, anti-Semitism. Ledeen
is an outright loon, whose "faster,
please" jeremiads – published even as the grandiose
schemes of the neocons come crashing
down on our heads – have only underscored how utterly clueless he's always
been. As for Gerecht,
he's typical of these legends in their own minds, with his ex-spook persona
of world-weary intelligence "expert" and air of smug
certainty while mouthing the worst whoppers as undisputed fact. He was even
invited by the Cato Institute to palaver on one of their little-read Web sites,
giving his pro-war,
let's-invade-everyone spiel for the delectation of libertarians – as if this
jerk didn't have endless platforms from which to spread his line of guff!
It looks like Muravchik & Co. will retreat to the safety of the Hudson
Institute, where Scooter
Libby has gone to lick his wounds and write his memoirs. The Foundation
for the Defense of the Democracies, whose made-in-Israel stamp was detected
in an investigative
report published in The American Conservative, has already taken
in Gerecht, and others will certainly jump into this particular lifeboat. Whatever
their fate as individuals, however, the neocons' brand of armed fanaticism will
wind up in the same historical dustbin occupied by their intellectual progenitors
and rivals, the Marxist-Leninists.
So, can we say, with absolute certitude – and unabashed joy – that the neocons
are over, and the War Party is through?
Not by a long shot.
Because what's rising on the left-end of the political spectrum is a new brand
of neoconservatism, a "liberal" and even "enlightened" variety
of the same old hubris-in-arms that animated
the departed warmongers of AEI. You can forget AEI; it doesn't matter that much
anymore, now that the Republicans are out of power – but get ready for PPI!
What the heck is PPI? I can hear you asking that question, and the answer is
simple: it's the neocons all over again, albeit this time in "liberal"
The Progressive Policy Institute was
set up by the Democratic Leadership Council, a "centrist" Scoop Jacksonish
group that aims to keep the Democrats on the pro-war straight-and-narrow: it
is the War Party's intellectual outpost in the Democratic Party. These "national
security Democrats" are just as unabashedly
militaristic as their right-wing counterparts over at AEI, the only difference
being rhetorical. Thus, PPI's chief theoretician Will Marshall avers, in a
2005 screed hailing "national service and shared sacrifice":
"True patriotism is at odds with the selfish individualism that shapes the
Republicans' anti-government ideology. It means accepting obligations to the
community to which we all belong and must contribute if we are to enjoy the
fruits of membership. In wartime, not everyone can fight, but everyone can find
ways to sacrifice for the common cause. Bush has sent U.S. troops into battle,
but he hasn't challenged the rest of us to do our part."
Marshall's beef is that the Bush crowd wasn't warlike
enough on the home front. Along with Marshall
Wittmann, the ex-Trotskyist who went on to become chief public relations
flack for the Christian
Coalition and is now with PPI, the other Marshall spent the Iraq war years
attacking the Bushian foreign policy from
the right – it wasn't interventionist enough, and certainly not in a "smart"
Now PPI is pushing for NATO expansion, addressing an open
letter of "advice" to our new president and declaring openly the
war agenda of the left-neocons: "The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
is the most successful defense alliance in history," intones Commander
Marshall. So it's time to declare victory, throw our hats in the air, and go
home – right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong – no government program, and especially not a transnational
racket like NATO, is ever going to voluntarily dissolve the bureaucratic, financial,
and cultural bonds that bind together the job-holders,
the government contractors,
and, in this case, the war
profiteers. It's far too lucrative a business to give up, and certainly
the thought never even crosses Marshall's mind. He bemoans the fact that "the
alliance is stumbling badly," and informs President Obama that he "will
face no more important task than defining a coherent mission for NATO in the
21st century – a mission that transcends the alliance's origins as a strictly
regional pact and reinvents it as a force for global stability," i.e.,
a fresh rationale for endless meddling. You have to give Marshall credit, however.
He thinks big:
"You should seize the opportunity to lead NATO's transformation from
a North American-European pact into a global alliance of free nations. By opening
its doors to Japan, Australia, India, Chile, and a handful of other stable democracies,
NATO would augment both its human and financial resources. What is more, NATO
would enhance its political legitimacy to operate on a global stage."
Imagine – we would be pledged to go to war in order to defend Chile. Against
whom would we be defending it? Hugo
Chavez? Oh, there are plenty of new enemies in our brave new world, according
to Marshall's lights.
While Russia merits a "watchful eye," China is seen as the new rising
threat: they dare to tout their "market Maoism" as an ideological
competitor with Western-style social democracy, and they're getting
richer by the hour! While not yet "a direct threat" militarily,
China's "stunning economic growth rates, sustained over two decades,"
are clearly a source of envy and irritation on Marshall's part, as if he despises
the market part of what he calls "market Maoism" far more than the
Maoist aspect. That's what being a left-neocon is all about. With the new crew
in the White House committed to "fair trade," otherwise known as trade
it looks like we'll be confronting a new set of enemies: our economic competitors
in the world marketplace.
If you were the Chinese government, and you read Marshall's missive, realizing
that PPI is tremendously influential in Democratic Party circles, the veritable
voice of the party establishment, what would you do? I'll tell you what I would
do: launch a preemptive strike.
No, I wouldn't mount a military assault, but a much more effective and devastating
economic attack – I'd dump
my Treasury bonds, sell off my
federal agency bonds, and call in all private-sector debt.
The result would be a financial Pearl Harbor: the U.S. economy would sink
so far below sea level that we'd wind up alongside Atlantis.
What's scary about this PPI proposal is that its proponents aren't some fringe
group, but representative of what passes for the "centrist" wing of
the Democratic Party.
John McCain may have lost the election, but his dotty neoconnish agenda lingers
on in the form of this proposal, which resembles nothing so much as McCain's
idea that the U.S. should organize a "Concert
of Democracies," as a new instrument of intervention worldwide. In
a piece for The American Conservative, I predicted
that we would see this idea come up if Obama won the White House:
"If NATO as an instrument of the new Cold War isn't working as the
War Party hoped, then the Concert of Democracies is Plan B, one that will have
appeal beyond the offices of the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly
Standard. Neoconservative internationalists, such as Robert Kagan, are
reaching out to liberal internationalists, such as Ivo Daalder of the Brookings
Institution: the two recently authored an op-ed in the Washington Post
calling for the establishment of such a league to fulfill 'the responsibility
to protect.' Daalder is an influential advisor to Barack Obama's presidential
campaign, while Kagan, Newsweek noted, is 'McCain's foreign
Get ready for a new rationale for a massive military buildup. PPI calls for
at least 100,000
more troops to beef up our ability to intervene anywhere and everywhere,
and it demands more money for the "defense" budget. As the incoming
administration takes the reins of power, watch for the "national security
Democrats" to extend their talons. With the mad Keynesian professors at
the helm in Washington, looking eagerly about for "projects" to
lavish ever-depreciating dollars on, preparations for war with China, or some
newly-declared "rogue dictator" (Putin?),
will no doubt be factored into their "stimulus package."
When people are poor and getting poorer, it's fairly easy to convince them
that the evil "foreigners" are to blame – for stealing
"our" markets and selling quality consumer goods to "our"
people at prices that Americans can actually afford. Economic nationalism will
be the War Party's new battle-flag. As a great libertarian economist once put
it, "if goods don't cross border, then armies soon will."
Look for the return of the "Yellow Peril" and the revival of a half-forgotten
of left-wing anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese feeling. On the West coast, starting
in the 19th century, the labor unions agitated
against the importation of "coolie" labor, and anti-Japanese sentiment
was also rife. This anti-Asian movement found political expression in the Asiatic
Exclusion League and the Workingman's
Party. The movement had enough clout in 1906 to pressure the San Francisco-based
California state Board of Education to exclude students of Japanese descent
from public schools white children attended.
We hear echoes of this in Rachel Maddow's rants
against that Republican congressman from a southern state who has a Toyota factory
in his district, which Rachel referred to as if it were an invading army instead
of a source
of income for thousands of Americans. How dare he oppose the bailout of
our sclerotic auto industry, which long
ago deserved to go belly-up! What I want to know is where-oh-where
do these people learn economics?
In short, it's going to get increasingly ugly out there, as the Democrats take
control and this kind of talk becomes more commonplace. Call it bread-and-butter
imperialism – the War Party's appeal to the common working man. Full employment
through global interventionism – yeah,
The names change, the rhetoric undergoes a subtle shift in tone, but from AEI
to PPI is not a long road to travel. Those who are hoping for "change"
– the mindless slogan relentlessly pushed by the Obama-ites until it becomes
a mantra devoid of meaning – are in for a shock. What we'll see in the foreign
policy realm is more of the same, including a fresh crop of neocons with considerable
influence among key policymakers. As a new year dawns, it's the same old same
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I see that The American Conservative has
posted my piece
on the unfolding saga of Rod Blagojevich, in which I examine the career of this
new cultural icon as a symbol of the new bossism. Go on over and check it out.
Scheduling note: I'm taking off Christmas Day, so no Christmas column, but
I'll see you next week.