Home The Graveyard of Neo-Conservatism
Home The Graveyard of Neo-Conservatism

The Graveyard of Neo-Conservatism

While Maureen Dowd warns that the neo-conservatives are coming back, an event surely worse than the siege of American embassies and the murder of American ambassadors, she can rest her head easy on that account. The neo-conservatives died  in the siege of Benghazi, much like Mubarak they are still around, but completely irrelevant in the way that most ideas are once they lose their meaning.

Dowd would know better than to celebrate the death of neo-conservativism, if she understood what that really meant, beyond the shadowy menace that her dinner party guests tell her about before the main course is served.

In the Middle East, neo-conservatives offered a middle ground between appeasement and belligerence that blended Cold War politics and Third World democracy outreach. The ideas that made so much sense when former liberals were confronting the nightmarish repressive powers of the Soviet Union met their end in the Middle East for reasons that neither they nor their ideological enemies can explain.

Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq's ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.

The Baath Party, unlike the Bolsheviks, was not an external ideology imposed on the Iraqis. Like most regional Socialist movements, its ideology was a fig leaf for tyranny and tribal alliances. Saddam was a cheap mass murdering thug with dreams of even bigger empires and atrocities. Removing him made a certain amount of geopolitical sense, but replacing him with purple fingers and democratic elections was never going to lead to a better Iraq.

Many neo-conservatives backed Obama's own democracy experiments in the Arab Spring and his invasion of Libya because they seemed to resemble their own ideas. But Obama had actually reached back for Carter's Green Belt playbook with the goal of defusing Islamic terrorism by giving their supposedly more moderate Islamist cousins what they wanted-- their own countries to play with.

This wasn't neo-conservatism, though it looked a lot like it, enough that Maureen Dowd should have blushed before beginning a tirade about the neo-conservative threat, it was appeasement politics dressed up in the same old democracy colors. The tyrants we were overthrowing were men who had made deals with us, and who were for the most part fairly benign by the standards of the region. That is what made them easy targets for the knife in the bag and the Islamist mob in the square.

By the light of burning embassies, it is somewhat redundant to even mention that this policy failed. Turning Islamists into rulers has upgraded their "extreme" wings from terrorists to militias and the September 11 attacks were an announcement that everyone, except the idiots in Washington DC still wailing about the video, understood. When armed militias and mobs besiege your embassies and plant their flags on your walls, it's a territorial claim, not a protest rally about a dead pedophile.

The Arab Spring was the red line of democracy promotion. It pulled the trigger that Condoleezza Rice had been nervous about pulling and it did it to disastrous effect. And aside from the death toll, what all that noise really means is that neo-conservatism of the democracy intervention flavor is dead. The only people who still believe that local democracy works also believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is misunderstood and that we need to kill the Bill of Rights to appease Muslims. These are not, for the most part, neo-conservatives, they are the sort of appeasers who show up at Maureen Dowd's dinner parties and at White House press conferences.

The death of neo-conservatism, unmourned as it may be, leaves few options between belligerence and appeasement. The neo-conservatives held out hope for a more rational order that fused the classic idealism of FDR, Ike and JFK as a formula for a foreign policy that would allow American to transform its enemies, rather than bombing them to bits.

That was why so many Democrats, especially in the most conservative Senate, got on board the George W. Bush express. Much as the left's revisionist history might try to paint Bush as a wacky cowboy off on a shooting spree, his policy was an extension of what Clinton had done, and before liberal political calculation got in the way, had brought the senior leadership of the Democratic Party on board... not to mention Tony Blair.

What we are witnessing is the death of any such middle ground in the Middle East's graveyard of idealism. The future will, as it turns out, not be one of purple fingers and people cheerfully accepting elections as a means of political representation, rather than a non-violent way of seizing power and then making sure that no one else can win an election again. The same mechanisms that kept Saddam in power made Maliki's war on Sunnis and Kurds equally inevitable.

The Muslim world is not individualistic, nor is it made up of individuals seeking their own version of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a collectivist place, even more so than the United States is becoming, where tribe and religion matter because they are the only ways that individuals get ahead. We were not dealing with meritocracies, not even the damaged affirmative action kind we run now, but with tribal systems with a smattering of modern politics on top, where local nationalism is also economic survival. The family's social capital counts for much more than empty talk about freedom and old hatreds against neighbors can be pursued by men who wear army or police uniforms, but who identify with old vendettas more than with new governments.

We have already seen the left's answer to neo-conservativism, if we hadn't already seen it earlier in the Carter years. Shameless appeasement tethered to a reflexive hatred of the United States where all violence is incorporated into blowback theory. The Carter Doctrine rewards the worst enemies in the hopes that doing so will eventually make them our friends and blames all setbacks on new anger for some real or imaginary offense by us. The Carter Doctrine is now the Obama Doctrine and it's why our embassies are burning brightly in the night.

The only good thing about the Carter/Obama Doctrine is that it cannot be sustained for long, not because our boys and girls in DC and the UN can't keep it up, but because the Islamists won't let them. The Salafi raids ruined a perfectly good Arab Spring because the raiders couldn't resist rubbing the noses of the infidels in their own weakness. And those raids will only escalate because Islam, like a steroidal weightlifter, is so insecure that it constantly needs to show off its power.

But that doesn't leave much of an alternative on the conservative side. Republicans liked neo-conservativism because it was idealistic, and by the standards set by the decaying left, had become conservative. It allowed Republicans to cheer American Exceptionalism as the solution to all global problems, without understanding that its aggressive good cheer was completely misplaced.

Exceptionalism is exceptional. If American Exceptionalism can be plonked down in Iraq or Afghanistan, then it isn't exceptional anymore. And in fact, it can't be. The United States has conquered and reconstructed several countries before, and only the ones with a tradition of democracy that predated the need to conquer them, are worth mentioning today. And none of them are little Americas and have, at best, a conflicted relationship with the United States.

Romney is still echoing vaguely neo-conservative talking points, but it's doubtful that he, or anyone, besides McCain, really wants to invade Syria for the Muslim Brotherhood. Americans didn't want the Libyan War, and aside from some of senate fixtures like McCain, few Republicans really want to do it either.

The second set of September 11 attacks may have finally begun convincing Republicans that Muslims really don't want to be Americans and they aren't going to be turned into Americans any time soon. It has not quite led them to the logical conclusions to be drawn from that, but it still might. The death of the middle ground of neo-conservativism leaves few options but appeasement and belligerence, not democracy belligerence, but plain old fashioned saber rattling.

If Muslims can't be taught to be nice people and won't leave us alone, then there are two alternatives. Give them what they want or give them hell. Obama has tried the former with the expected results. The window on giving them hell is slowly starting to creak open, though I wouldn't expect many prominent Republican politicians to start talking like Patton any time soon.

The Israeli example has demonstrated that Muslims never miss an opportunity to sabotage their own appeasers. It's why the Israeli left has a death grip on unelected government positions, but is about as popular with the voters as cholera on a stick. The American left could learn from its example, but if it could learn from examples, it wouldn't be the left. Instead it banked its political capital on appeasing Muslims and if it gets a second term to do so, it will be that much closer to becoming completely unelectable-- especially when Muslims decide to celebrate another September 11 in an even flashier way and with a larger death toll.

The Israeli left did everything possible to appease Muslim terrorists and the terrorists repaid them by politically destroying them with constant violence. Now Obama is on the receiving end of the same treatment and had he been as familiar with the Muslim world as he claimed to be, then he would have known to expect that. And the same process will likely kill Eurabia in its own cradle.

The ball is in the court of the right. It can choose between fake moderation and assertive action. It can rediscover the military as a force for defending the country, rather than a means of introducing Muslims to the concept of elections, and it will be pursuing the popular course. But to do that it will have to believe in America, rather in the universal goodness of human nature and the other pablum that led us into this mess.

People are not interchangeable, apart from the governments. Governments reflect the people. No country will last for very long under a government that does not reflect its national character unless that government is backed by foreign armies. It is best to treat other governments as reflective of their peoples and to treat their peoples as reflective of their government. And it is best to keep a wary distance from any people and country that are under a system too different from our own for our own safety.

Above all else, it is important to make clear to our own people and to theirs, that we have borders and nations for a reason. That if foreign nations and peoples would like to use force to tell us what movies we can make, then we will use force to tell them what protests they can have, and that in a contest of force, we will win.

It is time for a new way, a way in which Muslims will no longer have to learn about America and Americans will no longer have to learn about Islam, where we will give up on winning each other's hearts and minds, and stick to watching each other's property lines. That is the argument that needs to be advanced in the face of Obama's catastrophic Arab Spring failures and the alternative to it is four more years of terror and appeasement.


  1. The problem, Daniel, is that the Neoconservatives supported the Arab Spring and none seem to have apologized. It is as if none of them have read or heard the statements of the Muslim Brotherhood, much less Jeanne Kirkpatrick's "Democracies and Double Standards". The conservative establishment is still dominated by them. Who amongst them have repudiated the Democracy Jihad.
    Today, I was shocked to see Andrew McCarthy on Chinese-Saudi Faux News. He was there not as a replacement for the usual neocon twits, but merely to sell his new book on the Arab Spring. Soon enough, we will return to the proof of genetic regression to mean, Bill Kristol and the other second generation neocons.
    Romney still has neocons on his staff. Bachmann et all remain dissidents in the Republican Caucus. Had the violence occurred last year, there would have been time for the Republican electorate and officials to wake up. As we are less than two weeks from an election, the natural response to rally around the idiots and hope we replace their clueless Rice with our clueless Rice.

  2. But what about all the immigrants we have and continue to allow into this country?
    I would hate to see another EO 9066.

  3. Anonymous19/9/12


    Two months, not two weeks.

  4. "what made them easy targets for the knife in the bag and the Islamist mob in the square".

    Maybe I'm just on the outside looking in, but does this sentence read the way you meant it to?

    ...or do I just not "get" "the knife in the bag"?

    If I just don't get it, sorry.

  5. I have always wondered outloud, and never got an intelligible answer, what it was that conservatives and neo-conservatives wished to "conserve." You will excuse me if I imply that the meanings of words should be taken literally, at face value. That being said, I left this comment on a Gatestone article on the Muslim movie riots:


    It is interesting to observe that the schizophrenic, bipolar nature of Islam is communicable to non-Muslims. The contradictory nature of the verses in the Koran, which are the untouchable, pristine words of Allah (so-called), even though they cancel each other out, leaving nothing, has spread to the dhimmified politicians, who on one hand, uphold freedom of speech, but on the other, call for its "regulation," which also cancels out the value of freedom of speech and leaves speech unfree. But, you can't have it both ways. I have always contended that Islam inculcates mental illness among Muslims, and fear of Islam among the dhimmified politicians and the MSM, together with a hefty dose of self-loathing. And the only people who fear Islam for the right reasons and warn the public about how evil it is, are the ones who are targeted for censorship.

    No one, for example, is proposing that Muslims cease carrying signs that read, "Islam will dominate," and "Slay insulters of Mohammad," and "To hell with freedom of speech." After all, to attempt to censor Muslims would be treated as "offensive" and "denigrating" and "disrespectful" by Muslims and our appeasing politicians, Left and Right. Left and Right regard the right of Muslims to insult the West as an act of "tolerance," as an act of redeeming, consummate virtue. Yet, the intolerance of Islam is, to them, unassailable, and woe to anyone who points out that Islam is a comprehensive ideology that asks nothing but the self-lobotomization of one's mind. (And if you don't do it yourself, there are plenty of Muslims willing to do it for you.) It's a religion, you see, and we must respect all religions, in particular Islam, because Islam is a "belief system" and never mind that it calls for forced conversion or slavery or slaughter. Left and Right don't want to hear about that. The Arab Spring, you see, was just like the American Revolution, when colonists rebelled against their own slavery and the locked room of mercantilism and being taken to the cleaners by politicians 3,000 miles away. At least, that's the fantasy world of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and both Bushes and now the president whose middle name is the Muslim patronymic of Hussein.

  6. Neither is entirely correct. The way to handle a schizophrenic maniac is to let him bash his head on the wall until he drops down senseless or dead. In another week or two the Muslim world will get back to what it does best, complete failure.

  7. @BBC - unsure about 'knife in the bag'?
    Thought this metaphorical 'stab in the back' by means of US diplomatic bag a superb 'ploy' on words!

  8. Anonymous19/9/12

    Mr. Cline

    At first glance, the love affair that the American Left (specifically including the MSM)has for Islam seems completely inexplicable, and for a long time I struggled to understand it.

    You would think that the Left would be among Islam's most vocal opponents. Remember, these are the people who called the Boy Scouts of America "Nazis" for refusing to allow openly gay scout masters. In any context other than a discussion of Islam, they adamantly support both LGBT rights and women's rights, but it seems that as soon as Islam enters the picture, all previously held opinions go right out the window.

    But there actually is a logical explanation: it's all about rebelling. One thing that all liberals have in common is that they never got over their teen angst - that is, rebelling against authority simply for the sake of rebelling makes you cool. Whether justifiably or not, in the minds of most liberals, Christianity and Judaism are associated with "The Establishment". Therefore, support for any other religion = sticking it to The Man = I'm cooler than you.

    This is why liberals will sometimes talk about Muslim violence against Christians or Jews (usually in an attempt to justify it by blaming the victims), but you will almost never hear liberals talk about Muslim violence against Buddhists or Hindus (which is also quite commonplace); if there aren't any Christians or Jews to bash, liberals don't have a dog in the fight.

  9. Shlomo ben Shmuel19/9/12

    "The second set of September 11 attacks may have finally begun convincing Republicans that Muslims really don't want to be Americans and they aren't going to be turned into Americans any time soon."

    Perhaps (???) we can learn from this that we should NOT permit indiscriminate immigration of Muslims, but rather we should keep most or all of them out of the country.

  10. Every word you write is true. But you left out what what it is that makes disengaging, military might, any solution impossible: they are our drug dealer, we their addicts. We need them. They need us less. We hate them they way addicts hate their suppliers. They are contemptuous the way dealers are about buyers. To defeat them, will take a generation -- to develop our oil and gas reserves, as well as to use our single major advantage -- our science -- to create renewables in order to render what they have less and less valuable. Because when their oil is worthless, all they have is pistachios and dates and allahu akbar.

    We should work to putting an end to oil being a world market, and become THE supplier to the world. We have the greatest natural resources of all. Every president since Nixon, Democrat and Republican, has said as much. It's a vivid literal image - having the world over a barrel. We should, and should have done it a generation ago, and can still do it.

  11. Azimua19/9/12

    Thank God for you today, Daniel. Your article says it exactly the way it is and I, for one, am sick of talking to people who demand that I only agree with the way they want it to be, in the face of all evidence.
    Evidence? It doesnt count with one iota to people dedicated to denial. I'm over it.
    I've always been leftwing but if agreeing with you makes me neocon. So be it. NEOCON I AM.

  12. cdnbn19/9/12

    While we are abandoning the futile effort to "win their hearts and minds",
    let us also stop funding the Muslim world's countries.

    Let them suffer, until they become teachable.

    But we can't do this, so long as the world is paying them for oil.
    A replacement energy is needed, NOW.

    Natural gas, and nuclear.
    And the enviros will need to accept it,
    because we are at war.

  13. Anonymous20/9/12

    Wordy, pretentious, piffle.

  14. Anonymous20/9/12

    Very good article. A self-regulation with a feed back loop is the only way to optimize any complex system in the dynamic stability state. It's much the same laws of nature, whether it's a Galaxy, biocenosis, a life form, a languafe, an economy, a society and so forth. We just call it by different names- free market in economy, self-governing in society, natural selection in biology and so forth. Road to hell is paved with good intentions. Any time "a banevolent" power interferes (a government in society or economy or in a foreign country) the general picture inevitably getting worse. The only reasonable policy is to lead by example, showin what the freedom can accomplish in America, but don't waste American manpower or resources to sustain totalitarian countries, governments and people. If someone attacks American interests- hit them hard, using the nukes, if needed, and don't try "to rebuild" the enemies country. We owe them nothing. Hit hard, remove particular nasty government and retreat. Hopefully, the next or any consequent government will learn the lessons, as did even crazy Iranian mullahs when Reagan destroyed their fleet in a matter of days. Healthy egosim is the way rather than deluting AMerican success by sustaining unsustainable competing systems. Dismantle UN, impose oil embargo on all Muslims countries that attack American embassies, and in 6 months they whether will crowl back on their knees or die from eating the camel dung (because the only things they produce and export are oil and islamic terrorism)

  15. Anonymous20/9/12

    Just a couple of examples. If someone (usually the government bureaucrats since for them the amount of parasites reciprocates with their job security and they are very generous with the taxpaers' money) give away handouts to beggers and parasites, then there will be more beggers and parasites. If more freer and, thus, more productive and effective systems/societies/ countries give away the fruits of freer=better societies, then the worse one will survive. It's an eternal struggle between short term pain with long term gain versus shor term gain with long term pain. As totalitarian North Korea is given food and humanitarian aid, then their rulers can re-allocate resources to building nukes and spreading them amongst other totalitarian regimes, from Pakistan and Syria to Iran. If South Korea and the West stop any aid then the communist regime will collapse and the "equality of misery" will sease to exist. Same way with the worst totalitarian system ever- based on genocidal shariah laws Islam. DOn't help it survive and commit even more genocide, as if hundreds of millions is not enough (just Hindu alone lost about 80 million lives to the islamic genocide). Ban sharia laws worldwide (not Islam itself, but the anti-humane genocidal foundation of it) and let the Muslims reform Islam, purging the genocidal shariah laws from it. So far islamists have no reason to reform Islam since with the help of statists and the leftists in the West they are winning. Why bother? But if the freer=more productive countries will stop indirectly subsidizing islamic totalitarianism and terrorism, then their regimes and societies will fall apart and they have only two choices: to rot in their sand dunes in 6th century or to reform Islam and join more civilized societies.
    When Europe embraced the free market and was winning globally then Turkey jopined them. As statists (proponents of ever expanding government) and the Left are gradually destroying individual freedoms and, thus, killing Europe demografically first and then rendering it suicidal and self-destructive culturally (meanwhile subsidizing totalitarian regimes all around the world)then the totalitarian systems, including Islam, have no incentives whatsoever to change.

  16. Anonymous20/9/12

    to shortfattexan:
    My take is that the divide is the degree of freedom. ANy one who want to shift the balance towards slavery, less individual freedom and free choice,more "collectivist"=elitisti decision making are in the freedom-haters camp. This includes statists, the Left, islamists, so it's only natural for them to be allies even though islamist will hang high their gay and feminist supporters under the Democrats umbrella if they win. And opposite is true- all the people who want to shift today's equilibrium point towards more freedom are natural allies . These pro-freedom groups include conservatives, objectivists, libertarians, religions except totalitarian Islam and the like.

  17. steve21/9/12

    "Wordy, pretentious, piffle" said an anonymous writer.

    Goodness, is he talking about Obama or the left of political dogma in general? I think anonymous should be more clear.

  18. Piffle is also a popular Swiss snack.

  19. The way we learn less about Islam and Mohammedans learn less about us is to stop or at least greatly reduce their immigration into our country. Immigration is the key to the spread of Islam; it can almost be called a "strategic weapon" for Mohammedans. Reduce their immigration and we will see fewer mosques being raised in Anytown, USA.

  20. @shortfattexan The Left are cowards, as is seen in their supporting Progressivism. This disproved but alive philosophy is leading, as it always has, to our complete destruction at the hands of government having grown far, far beyond our ability to ever pay off. All of this in the name of the weak, the feeble, the left out, left behind, the unfortunate, the entitled, the disenfranchised, who are now over half of the country, since over half of the country is receiving some govt. program; and we owe over 200 trillion dollars in unfunded mandates over the next few decades.


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