February 28, 2003

NOTES FROM THE MARGIN
Neo-Napoleonism, neoconservatism, and neo-communism: peas in a pod

Is it just a coincidence that the President's speech to the American Enterprise Institute, in which he outlined an ambitious strategy of "democratization" in the Middle East, was delivered on the anniversary of the day Napoleon escaped from Elba? On Feb 26, 1815, Bonaparte slipped past his guards on the rocky little isle and returned, in triumph, to France. One hundred days later, he faced his Waterloo.

The ideas in Bush's speech are not just wrong: they are dangerous. Democracy can no more take root in Iraq than palm trees can grow on the moon. The Enlightenment bypassed the Middle East completely, and to embark on a military crusade to impose liberty, property rights, and the rule of law is a fool's errand. No wonder this President has taken it up with such alacrity.

The little Napoleons of neoconservatism, who believe that "democracy" can be "exported" at gunpoint, will face their own Waterloo, although perhaps it will take longer than a hundred days. The tragedy is that the partisans of this nutty idea will not be the ones to physically fight and die on its behalf. It will be American GIs – who have never seen the inside of a thinktank, just an Abrams tank – who will pay the price.

Need a good laugh? Read this Jerusalem Post editorial on the "New Europe," praising the "former" Communist-turned-"social democratic" regimes of Eastern Europe, called the "Vilnius Group" who have signed on to the Bush administration's war plans:

"The emergence of a 'new Europe' resolute against terrorism and opposed to the appeasement instincts of the 'old Europe' was reinforced by what didn't happen last weekend in the former Soviet bloc. While millions of Western Europeans demonstrated against uprooting the genocidal regime of Saddam Hussein, the streets of Eastern Europe's capitals were resoundingly silent. The message of that silence was that Eastern Europe, unlike much of Western Europe, understands the difference between those who would destroy civilization and those who would defend it."

I don't think "silence" is the way to describe the 20,000 who turned out against the war in Budapest, 2,000 in Sofia, 1,500 in Minsk, 2,500 in Warsaw, not to mention the hundreds of thousands in the former "German Democratic Republic." And I have a question: if the "New" Europe understands so much about "defending civilization," then how come they have voted all those (neo-)Communist apparatchiks back into office?

What's so "new" about the "New Europe"? Nada lotta. Maureen Dowd, who correctly points to "Bush's Warsaw War Pact," is the only one who seems to have gotten this right.

A NOTE TO MY READERS

I'm on the road, on my way to the state convention of the Libertarian Party of Illinois to give the keynote address, "Libertarianism in the Age of Empire," so this column is uncharacteristically short. But I'll be back on Monday.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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