Category Archive 'Outside Commentary'
The following commentary is fairly punchy, and it’s definitely highly critical, and if it had come from a "left-wing" web site, I doubt I would feel inclined to post here. Long time visitors to PNAC.info are probably aware that we aim to post articles that are civil, reasoned and researched—rather than angry, partisan, and "anti-Bush". So while most of the
opinion articles here end up being, by the nature of the critical process, opposed to the policies of the Bush administration, a much smaller number of those articles are written by people who are generally cheering for the "other team"—i.e., liberals, Democrats, and the like. Many of the articles posted here are written by people who were just as critical of Bill Clinton, when he displayed any of the same tendencies, as they are of George Bush.
Which brings me to Ilana Mercer’s column, "Bush is a neoconservative", which was published on WorldNetDaily.
Most liberals probably consider WorldNetDaily to be "right-wing", and that’s at least partially true—it’s a mixture of conservatives and libertarians generally. And while I’d be among the first to argue that libertarian is not right-wing, what’s important for the sake of discussion is that WND certainly is not a left-wing site. By virtue of being an opinion author at WND, one can assume that Ilana Mercer is either a conservative or a libertarian—in her case, a libertarian, perhaps with a conservative streak.
And so the idea that she is a bleeding heart liberal, or a left-wing Bush-basher, is frankly unsupportable. A number of comments have been posted to this site and e-mailed to me to the effect of this site being composed of "typical whiny liberal crap", or the like. Those writers must have missed the Pat Buchanan articles, and Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s unimpeachable speech Neo-Conned, and the opinion piece by the leaders of the Cato Institute, and the piece by conservative icon Gary North, and the American Conservative Union’s open memo to conservatives.
Well, if they did somehow miss all that, then here’s Ilana Mercer’s "Bush is a neoconservative". ðŸ˜‰
Bush is a neoconservative
It’s a positive sign when conservative commentators rush to defend President Bush from being defiled by the neoconservative label. The tag, thankfully, is becoming a pejorative. They will, however, have to pry Mr. Bush from the loving arms of the self-proclaimed "godfather" of neocons himself.
Irving Kristol, who emerged to "sex-up" the already flashy neoconservative "persuasion" in a Weekly Standard article, gave Mr. Bush the neocon seal of approval. The author of "Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea," credits the "current president and his administration" with reviving the faith. Under Mr. Bush it "began enjoying a second life," says Kristol.
Well, the "godfather" has spoken. And you may not want to argue with Kristol. Neoconservatives have ways and means of making you see The Truth: "The historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism," he writes, is "to convert" American conservatives "against their respective wills" into statists and imperialists. As you’d expect, Kristol doesn’t quite admit to the program of statism at home and imperialism abroad, but by the time he is through counting the ways of neoconservatism, the writing is on the wall. Or as Prof. Paul Gottfried, author of "The Conservative Movement," explained: "Their belief in the welfare state has been a permanent aspect of their ideology," as has their affinity for a global democratic revolution.
Bush’s domestic and foreign policy bear the birthmarks — nay, the pockmarks — of neoconservatism. It will not do for his defenders to say that if not for the trauma of Sept. 11, Bush would not have grown so abusive. Crisis need not result in conquest. (Besides, there is evidence that Bush came to power with a plan to remove Saddam.)
Where does it say that defending the homeland must translate into bringing about "the triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond," as the president said in his latest Address to the Nation? Sep. 11 could have just as well resulted in a circling of the wagons at home. But such prudence would have contravened the handbook of neoconservatism.
The Cato Institute is one of the most respected libertarian think tanks in America.
Upholding Liberty in America
by Ed Crane and William Niskanen
Ed Crane is president of the Cato Institute and William Niskanen is its chairman.
In the aftershock of September 11, 2001, there is a heightened awareness among most Americans of how precious their freedom is. They also realise the need for better government intelligence work to fight terrorism. But they should not let the government usurp basic liberties.
This is a danger as more and more anti-terrorist laws and rules straightjacket the nation. There is a congruent danger: the rise of neoconservatism on the right. The movement is using the threat of terrorism to expand government at home and abroad. America must safeguard its freedoms in the fight against terrorism, but protect itself from pernicious policies that erode freedom in the name of liberty.
Underlying neoconservatism is a desire to reshape America and the world through the efforts of a robust federal government. For years, the Weekly Standard, the neoconservative magazine, has promoted the need for initiatives to reinforce America’s international power. Merely living in a free society appears to be insufficient for neoconservatives.
During George W. Bush’s campaign for president, the neoconservative influence was felt in domestic policy ideas such as faith-based initiatives that would involve the federal government in private local charities, often with a religious orientation. It was also seen in the call for a greater federal role in local education. These are both inconsistent with the concept of limited government and federalism.
But neocons tend to be dismissive of the idea that the federal government should be limited to the protection of an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Some in the neoconservative movement have openly called for an American empire around the globe. Max Boot, the writer, recently praised what he termed America’s “imperialism” and said it should impose its views “at gunpoint”. James Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has called for a decades-long campaign to re-order the entire Middle East along neoconservative lines. Such thinking is profoundly un-American.
All is not gloom. What is needed now is for limited government conservatives of the variety exemplified by Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater to join forces with libertarians and enlightened liberals who respect civil liberties. They should speak out in support of America’s heritage of liberty.
Republican Representative Ron Paul gave a stirring speech in Congress yesterday titled “Neo-conned”. I haven’t read it all, but I caught some of it live on C-Span. Ron Paul is well-respected by people from all across the political spectrum for his consistent adherence to principle—in his case, the principle of liberty.
From what I know of Ron Paul, I’m sure this speech stands as one of the most credible and well-stated warnings about the encroaching influence of neo-conservatism—the core philosophy driving the Project for the New American Century.
U.S. Representative Ron Paul: Neo-conned
Here is one relatively short segment in that long speech which gets to the heart of the matter:
Since the national debt is increasing at a rate greater than a half-trillion dollars per year, the debt limit was recently increased by an astounding $984 billion dollars. Total U.S. government obligations are $43 trillion, while total net worth of U.S. households is just over $40.6 trillion. The country is broke, but no one in Washington seems to notice or care. The philosophic and political commitment for both guns and butter–and especially for expanding the American empire–must be challenged. This is crucial for our survival.
In spite of the floundering economy, the Congress and the administration continue to take on new commitments in foreign aid, education, farming, medicine, multiple efforts at nation building, and preemptive wars around the world. Already we’re entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan, with plans to soon add new trophies to our conquest. War talk abounds as to when Syria, Iran and North Korea will be attacked.
How did all this transpire? Why did the government do it? Why haven’t the people objected? How long will it go on before something is done? Does anyone care?
Will the euphoria of grand military victories–against non-enemies–ever be mellowed? Someday, we as a legislative body must face the reality of the dire situation in which we have allowed ourselves to become enmeshed. Hopefully, it will be soon!
We got here because ideas do have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences, and even the best of intentions have unintended consequences. We need to know exactly what the philosophic ideas were that drove us to this point; then, hopefully, reject them and decide on another set of intellectual parameters.
There is abundant evidence exposing those who drive our foreign policy justifying preemptive war. Those who scheme are proud of the achievements in usurping control over foreign policy. These are the neoconservatives of recent fame. Granted, they are talented and achieved a political victory that all policymakers must admire. But can freedom and the Republic survive this takeover? That question should concern us.
Neoconservatives are obviously in positions of influence and are well-placed throughout our government and the media. An apathetic Congress put up little resistance and abdicated its responsibilities over foreign affairs. The electorate was easily influenced to join in the patriotic fervor supporting the military adventurism advocated by the neoconservatives.
The numbers of those who still hope for truly limited government diminished and had their concerns ignored these past 22 months, during the aftermath of 9-11. Members of Congress were easily influenced to publicly support any domestic policy or foreign military adventure that was supposed to help reduce the threat of a terrorist attack. Believers in limited government were harder to find. Political money, as usual, played a role in pressing Congress into supporting almost any proposal suggested by the neocons. This process–where campaign dollars and lobbying efforts affect policy–is hardly the domain of any single political party, and unfortunately, is the way of life in Washington.
There are many reasons why government continues to grow. It would be naive for anyone to expect otherwise. Since 9-11, protection of privacy, whether medical, personal or financial, has vanished. Free speech and the Fourth Amendment have been under constant attack. Higher welfare expenditures are endorsed by the leadership of both parties. Policing the world and nation-building issues are popular campaign targets, yet they are now standard operating procedures. There’s no sign that these programs will be slowed or reversed until either we are stopped by force overseas (which won’t be soon) or we go broke and can no longer afford these grandiose plans for a world empire (which will probably come sooner than later.)
None of this happened by accident or coincidence. Precise philosophic ideas prompted certain individuals to gain influence to implement these plans. The neoconservatives–a name they gave themselves–diligently worked their way into positions of power and influence. They documented their goals, strategy and moral justification for all they hoped to accomplish. Above all else, they were not and are not conservatives dedicated to limited, constitutional government.
Neo-conservatism has been around for decades and, strangely, has connections to past generations as far back as Machiavelli. Modern-day neo-conservatism was introduced to us in the 1960s. It entails both a detailed strategy as well as a philosophy of government. The ideas of Teddy Roosevelt, and certainly Woodrow Wilson, were quite similar to many of the views of present-day neocons. Neocon spokesman Max Boot brags that what he advocates is “hard Wilsonianism.” In many ways, there’s nothing “neo” about their views, and certainly nothing conservative. Yet they have been able to co-op the conservative movement by advertising themselves as a new or modern form of conservatism.
More recently, the modern-day neocons have come from the far left, a group historically identified as former Trotskyists. Liberal Christopher Hitchins, has recently officially joined the neocons, and it has been reported that he has already been to the White House as an ad hoc consultant. Many neocons now in positions of influence in Washington can trace their status back to Professor Leo Strauss of the University of Chicago. One of Strauss’ books was Thoughts on Machiavelli. This book was not a condemnation of Machiavelli’s philosophy. Paul Wolfowitz actually got his PhD under Strauss. Others closely associated with these views are Richard Perle, Eliot Abrams, Robert Kagan and William Kristol. All are key players in designing our new strategy of preemptive war. Others include: Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute; former CIA Director James Woolsey; Bill Bennett of Book of Virtues fame; Frank Gaffney; Dick Cheney; and Donald Rumsfeld. There are just too many to mention who are philosophically or politically connected to the neocon philosophy in some varying degree.
The godfather of modern-day neo-conservatism is considered to be Irving Kristol, father of Bill Kristol, who set the stage in 1983 with his publication Reflections of a Neoconservative. In this book, Kristol also defends the traditional liberal position on welfare.
More important than the names of people affiliated with neo-conservatism are the views they adhere to. Here is a brief summary of the general understanding of what neocons believe:
1. They agree with Trotsky on permanent revolution, violent as well as intellectual.
2. They are for redrawing the map of the Middle East and are willing to use force to do so.
3. They believe in preemptive war to achieve desired ends.
4. They accept the notion that the ends justify the means–that hard-ball politics is a moral necessity.
5. They express no opposition to the welfare state.
6. They are not bashful about an American empire; instead they strongly endorse it.
7. They believe lying is necessary for the state to survive.
8. They believe a powerful federal government is a benefit.
9. They believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and
withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it.
10. They believe neutrality in foreign affairs is ill-advised.
11. They hold Leo Strauss in high esteem.
12. They believe imperialism, if progressive in nature, is appropriate.
13. Using American might to force American ideals on others is acceptable. Force should
not be limited to the defense of our country.
14. 9-11 resulted from the lack of foreign entanglements, not from too many.
15. They dislike and despise libertarians (therefore, the same applies to all strict constitutionalists.)
16. They endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those found in the Patriot Act, as being necessary.
17. They unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party.
Various organizations and publications over the last 30 years have played a significant role in the rise to power of the neoconservatives. It took plenty of money and commitment to produce the intellectual arguments needed to convince the many participants in the movement of its respectability.
In addition to publications, multiple think tanks and projects were created to promote their agenda. A product of the Bradley Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) led the neocon charge, but the real push for war came from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) another organization helped by the Bradley Foundation. This occurred in 1998 and was chaired by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. Early on, they urged war against Iraq, but were disappointed with the Clinton administration, which never followed through with its periodic bombings. Obviously, these bombings were motivated more by Clinton’s personal and political problems than a belief in the neocon agenda.
The election of 2000 changed all that. …
Read the whole speech
This is an essay by a conservative, about the neoconservative movement, and the distinctions between the various sectors of conservatism.
Pay no attention to the neocon behind the curtain
By Timothy P. Carney
Debates among and about “Neoconservatives” and “Paleoconservatives” recently have bounced between being enlightening, mendacious, vicious, and dangerous. But easily the most bizarre aspect of the fight is the claim that neoconservatives don’t exist—that they are the hallucinations of fevered minds.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself neo-, paleo-, non- or just plain-conservative, it is worth examining whether a) there is such a thing as a neocon, and b) how, if it all, they differ from conservatism proper.
More in the series of commentary on the administration’s case for the war.
Bad Iraq Data From Start to Finish
Americans were duped: Evidence of Administration manipulation and mendacity just keeps rolling in.
Ever since the tragedy of Sept. 11, the Bush Administration has relied on selective and distorted intelligence data to make the case for invading Iraq. But the truth will out, and the White House is now scrambling to explain away its mendacity.
On Sunday, Condoleezza Rice admitted that President Bush had used a forged document in his State of the Union speech to prove Iraq represented a nuclear threat: “We did not know at the time–maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency–but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course it was information that was mistaken.”
rest of the article at
(NOTE: This is the second of a series of recent commentaries on developments in the conservative political movement– namely the “rise of the neo-conservatives”, and the concern this is causing with the more traditional conservatives and “paleo-conservatives”.)
Editor’s Note: I was hesitant at first about posting this article by Pat Buchanan, partially because he has been seen by many as an extremist on some issues, and partly because he occasionally dips below our standard of decorum in his analysis. However, he is a major voice in the conservative community. He has been the conservative commentator for many left-right political shows over the past many years, he has been a Republican candidate for president, and he is an Editor of The American Conservative. Furthermore, his article is quite extensive, he backs up his assertions with extensive quotes and references to other sources, and he provides a valuable in-depth, insider viewpoint on the growing rift in the conservative movement. It certainly provides essential background information in understanding the roots and branches of the PNAC.
It’s also worth saying that the growing level of disgust among those “in the know” about the rise of the PNAC and neoconservativism in U.S. foreign policy is making it harder to find analyses and commentaries in which the disgust doesn’t show through to at least some extent.
A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest.
by Patrick J. Buchanan
March 24, 2003 issue
Copyright © 2003 The American Conservative
The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged. In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: “Can you assure American viewers … that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?”
Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table, and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated firefight, our neoconservative friends are doing what comes naturally, seeking student deferments from political combat by claiming the status of a persecuted minority group. People who claim to be writing the foreign policy of the world superpower, one would think, would be a little more manly in the schoolyard of politics. Not so.
Former Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot kicked off the campaign. When these “Buchananites toss around ‘neoconservative’—and cite names like Wolfowitz and Cohen—it sometimes sounds as if what they really mean is ‘Jewish conservative.’” Yet Boot readily concedes that a passionate attachment to Israel is a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” He also claims that the National Security Strategy of President Bush “sounds as if it could have come straight out from the pages of Commentary magazine, the neocon bible.” (For the uninitiated, Commentary, the bible in which Boot seeks divine guidance, is the monthly of the American Jewish Committee.)
WAR WITHOUT END?
by David Remnick
The New Yorker
Issue of 2003-04-21 and 28
Saddam Hussein, who came to power in 1979 declaring his intention to combine the glory of Nebuchadnezzar with the methods of Josef Stalin, no longer rules Iraq, and not to feel relief at the prospect of a world without him is to be possessed of a grudging heart. In a region well stocked with tyrants and autocrats, Saddam was singular in his ambitions, though not in the way proposed by his cult of personality. His record of murder, torture, aggression, intimidation, and subjugation is inscribed in the documentary reports of Human Rights Watch and in the souls of the traumatized ex-subjects who have survived to hammer at his fallen monuments. And yet it would also require a constricted conscience to declare the Anglo-American invasion finished business while so much of the world remains alarmed or enraged at the level of its presumption—and while so many dead go uncounted. It is hard to put a name to what has happened (to what is happening still), not least because the Bush Administration’s intentions, both within Iraq and beyond it, are still a question of deepest concern.
Historical analogy has been a crude instrument in the service of moral and political certainty. For a while, we did without history. We were at the end of history, our circumstance novel beyond compare. Modernity was triumphant, and it would bring democracy everywhere and a Dow without limit. But an attack on an iconic center of modernity on September 11, 2001, and then a war in an ancient place, along the Tigris and the Euphrates, brought history back in a tidal rush. And so this has been a period of incessant historical reference. To the most unequivocal hawks, Saddam was Hitler; 2003 was 1938; Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac, and Colin Powell were the heirs of Neville Chamberlain. As the doves saw things, Bush and his Cabinet members were manipulating the facts the way Lyndon Johnson did at the Gulf of Tonkin, and were determined to invade and raze a foreign country in the pursuit of a new kind of domino theory. The invasion of Iraq, to its fiercest opponents, was sure to be the Athenians’ vainglorious assault on Sicily as described in “The Peloponnesian War,” the horror of 1914 depicted in “The Guns of August,” the naïve folly of “The Quiet American.” Where some saw the liberation of Paris, others envisioned a Mesopotamian Stalingrad.
Even now, as Baghdad falls after three weeks of startling military advance, one can go on choosing among images and reference points. The “jubilant” crowd described in detail late last week by the Associated Press encourages one kind of analogy, the photograph of a hideously wounded child in Time quite another. Americans will not write this history on their terms alone, and the way in which it is written, absorbed, and understood by us, by the Europeans, by the Islamic world, and, most of all, by the Iraqis themselves will depend largely upon what comes next. What are the Administration’s true ambitions?
This article by Paul Reynolds of BBC News is an insightful and refreshingly un-hysterical analysis of the PNAC’s influence on current U.S. policy, and some of the reverberations that policy shift will have throughout the world, with a focus on Europe. One passage in particular stood out for me, because it seemed to reinforce the theory discussed in this entry — that excessive (U.S.) nationalism will likely result in corresponding increases in nationalism elsewhere. Here’s the passage:
In a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, Chris Patten, former UK Government minister, Hong Kong governor and now European foreign affairs commissioner, said that “in order to be a more credible partner and in some cases to be a counterweight, Europe has to invest in its own security”.
Written in early March 2003, Reynolds’ analysis is an excellent medium-length overview of the proposed American Century in the context of (relatively) current events.
Analysis: Power Americana
This commentary by columnist Maureen Dowd is charged with cynicism, but it raises two points that I thought made it worth sharing. One is the idea that the Iraq War was a sort of test case of the American public’s tolerance for the sacrifice of war. The other is two citings of recent references to a brewing conflict with Syria, which is otherwise being officially downplayed by Colin Powell and Tony Blair.
But Mr. Wolfowitz played the diplomat on Sunday, gliding past probing on whether the neo-conservatives’ dreams of other campaigns in Syria, Iran and North Korea would come true. Pressed, he said: ‘There’s got to be change in Syria as well.’
And The New York Times reported that when a Bush aide told the President George W. Bush that the hard-boiled Mr. Rumsfeld had also been shaking a fist at Syria, he smiled and said one word: ‘Good.’
This weblog entry/article from The Nation’s Capital Games blog, by David Corn discusses former CIA Director James Woolsey’s rising profile in America’s new military expansion. (Here’s an entry about Woolsey’s “World War IV” theory which was mentioned on CNN).
The Pentagon’s (CIA) Man in Iraq
04/04/2003 @ 2:50pm
Toward the start of the second Persian Gulf War, I found myself in a room with R. James Woolsey, CIA chief during the first two years of the Clinton administration. A television was turned on, and we both watched a news report on the latest development in the North Korea nuclear drama. How much longer, I asked him, could this administration wait before dealing with North Korea and its efforts to develop nuclear-weapons material? A little while, but not too long, he said. Until after the Iraq war? Yes, Woolsey said, we can take care of things then. (That was when the prevailing assumption was the war in Iraq would take about as long as a Donald Rumsfeld press conference.) And, I wondered, is this a challenge that can be taken care of with, say, a well-planned and contained bombing raid, one that strikes the nuclear facilities in question? “Oh, no, ” he said. “This is going to be war.” War, full-out war, with a nation that might already have a few nuclear weapons and that does have 600,000 North Korean soldiers stationed 25 miles from Seoul, with 37,000 US troops in between? “Yes, war.” He didn’t flinch, didn’t bat an eye.
Woolsey is something of a prophet of war. And the Pentagon wants him to be part of its team running postwar Iraq.
Welcome to PNAC.info-- a site dedicated to drawing attention to the neoconservative foreign policy approach, and its consequences for America and the world.