By Joshua Muravchik
Neoconservatives have the president’s ear, but they also have lots of baggage. To stay relevant, they must admit mistakes, embrace public diplomacy, and start making the case for bombing Iran.
TO: My Fellow Neoconservatives
FROM: Joshua Muravchik ( a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.)
RE: How to Save the Neocons
We neoconservatives have been through a startling few years. Who could have imagined six years ago that wild stories about our influence over U.S. foreign policy would reach the far corners of the globe?
The price of this success is that we are subjected to relentless obloquy. “Neocon” is now widely synonymous with “ultraconservative” or, for some, “dirty Jew.” A young Egyptian once said to me, “‘Neoconservative’ sounds to our ears like ‘terrorist’ sounds to yours.” I am shocked to hear that some among us, wearying of these attacks, are sidling away from the neocon label. Where is the joie de combat? The essential tenets of neoconservatism—belief that world peace is indivisible, that ideas are powerful, that freedom and democracy are universally valid, and that evil exists and must be confronted—are as valid today as when we first began. That is why we must continue to fight. But we need to sharpen our game. Here are some thoughts on how to do it:
Learn from Our Mistakes. We are guilty of poorly explaining neoconservatism... To say that our core beliefs remain true is not to counsel self-satisfaction. We got lucky with Reagan. He took the path we wanted, and the policies succeeded brilliantly. He left office highly popular. Bush is a different story. He, too, took the path we wanted, but the policies are achieving uncertain success. His popularity has plummeted. It would be pigheaded not to reflect and rethink.
But we ought to do this without backbiting or abandoning Bush. All policies are perfect on paper, none in execution. All politicians are, well, politicians. Bush has embraced so much of what we believe that it would be silly to begrudge his deviations. He has recognized the terrorist campaign against the United States that had mushroomed over 30 years for what it is—a war that must be fought with the same determination, sacrifice, and perseverance that we demonstrated during the Cold War. And he has perceived that the only way to win this war in the end is to transform the political culture of the Middle East from one of absolutism and violence to one of tolerance and compromise.
The administration made its share of mistakes, and so did we. We were glib about how Iraqis would greet liberation. Did we fail to appreciate sufficiently the depth of Arab bitterness over colonial memories? Did we underestimate the human and societal damage wreaked by decades of totalitarian rule in Iraq? Could things have unfolded differently had our occupation force been large enough to provide security?
One area of neoconservative thought that needs urgent reconsideration is the revolution in military strategy that our neocon hero, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has championed. This love affair with technology has left our armed forces short on troops and resources, just as our execrable intelligence in Iraq seems traceable, at least in part, to the reliance on machines rather than humans. Our forte is political ideas, not physics or mechanics. We may have seized on a technological fix to spare ourselves the hard slog of fighting for higher defense budgets. Let’s now take up the burden of campaigning for a military force that is large enough and sufficiently well provisioned—however “redundant”—to assure that we will never again get stretched so thin. Let the wonder weapons be the icing on the cake.
Deploy More Than the Military. Recent elections in the Palestinian territories and Egypt have brought disconcerting results that suggest democratizing the Middle East may be more difficult than we imagined...
We need to give more thought to how we aid Middle Eastern moderates. They are woefully unequipped to compete with Islamists. When the U.S. government tries to help them, they stand accused of being American stooges. We can do more through private-sector groups, such as Freedom House, and partially private ones, like the National Endowment for Democracy and its affiliates.... And we should develop and fund training programs back at home that allow Middle Eastern democrats to come to the United States—free of charge—to hone their electoral, organizational, and public relations skills. James Carville and Karl Rove should be the titular heads of this program.
Fix the Public Diplomacy Mess. The Bush administration deserves criticism for its failure to repair America’s public diplomacy apparatus. No group other than neocons is likely to figure out how to do that. We are, after all, a movement whose raison d’être was combating anti-Americanism in the United States. Who better, then, to combat it abroad?
Prepare to Bomb Iran. Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office. It is all but inconceivable that Iran will accept any peaceful inducements to abandon its drive for the bomb. Its rulers are religio-ideological fanatics who will not trade what they believe is their birthright to great power status for a mess of pottage. Even if things in Iraq get better, a nuclear-armed Iran will negate any progress there. Nothing will embolden terrorists and jihadists more than a nuclear-armed Iran.
The global thunder against Bush when he pulls the trigger will be deafening, and it will have many echoes at home. It will be an injection of steroids for organizations such as MoveOn.org. We need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes. In particular, we need to help people envision what the world would look like with a nuclear-armed Iran. Apart from the dangers of a direct attack on Israel or a suitcase bomb in Washington, it would mean the end of the global nonproliferation regime and the beginning of Iranian dominance in the Middle East.
This defense should be global in scope...
Recruit Joe Lieberman for 2008. Twice in the last quarter-century we had the good fortune to see presidents elected who were sympathetic to our understanding of the world. In 2008, we will have a lot on the line. The policies that we have championed will remain unfinished. The war on terror will still have a long way to go. The Democrats have already shown that they are incurably addicted to appeasement, while the “realists” among the GOP are hoping to undo the legacy of George W. Bush. Sen. John McCain and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani both look like the kind of leaders who could prosecute the war on terror vigorously and with the kind of innovative thought that realists hate and our country needs. As for vice presidential candidates, how about Condoleezza Rice or even Joe Lieberman? Lieberman says he’s still a Democrat. But there is no place for him in that party. Like every one of us, he is a refugee. He’s already endured the rigors of running for the White House. In 2008, he deserves another chance—this time with a worthier running mate than Al Gore.
I suspect many words will be spilt on this article - clemons has started:
Kudos though to Josh Muravchik for truth in advertising.I don't really know where to start - so I'll just point out that it appears that these people really think that moveon.org, the beeb, and the french are the enemy. (oh, and that Rumsfeld is a 'neocon hero')
update: lifted from the comments, oldschool did (some of) the heavy lifting:
Oh my. Yes indeed, Jane Hamsher's head will explode with this inside-neo-con desire to recruit Lieberman. My own head is way too close to doing the same. christ, where to start with this truly terrifying screed?-------------
Where is the joie de combat?
Whose combat, carried out by whose kids, ya pasty fuck?
Did we fail to appreciate sufficiently the depth of Arab bitterness...?
In a word, hellyesyoustupidmotherfucker! (yes, that's one word)
...our neocon hero, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld...
What planet is this guy from? And how do I get there? 'Cause if Rumsfeld's a hero, just think how a competent, sane person could make out. (maybe not so well, now that I think about it)
Our forte is political ideas, not physics or mechanics.
Or logistics. So by all means, let's start another war with Iran.
We are, after all, a movement whose raison d'etre was combating anti-Americanism in the United States.
Jesus, that's scary. Warrantless spying, indefinite detention, torture, habeas corpus trashed, posse comitatus trashed, detention centers being built. Lends some context, huh? I can scarcely bear to wonder as to what passes for anti-Americanism in the mind of this sick son-of-a-bitch.
Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before leaving office....Its rulers are religio-idealogical fanatics who will not trade what they believe is their birthright to great power for a mess of pottage.
Yes, we must bomb Iran because it is entirely possible that they may be thinking evil thoughts. And they're narcissistic religious fanatics with delusions of grandeur. The One-Percent Doctrine combined with classic projection of one's own faults to a perceived enemy. How, how, how did this group of truly insane motherfuckers gain power here in the U.S.?
The global thunder against Bush when he pulls the trigger will be deafening....It will be an injection of steroids for organizations such as MoveOn.org.
Please see your admission, above, as to how you underestimated the depth of Arab response, and imagine that same shit-storm right here, carried out by anti-Americanistic Americans right fucking here, you putz. You think that bombing Iran will be met with - what - stinging editorials? I don't.
That's a whole lot of sickness being displayed within that one relatively short piece of trash. Sorry about the knee-jerk comments and lack of depth, but that article is truly disturbing to me.
Just who is Joshua Muravchik anyway? I don't recall his name from any of the PNAC documents I've read. Newcomer trying to make his bones?
heh. as i said to jane yesterday, 'it's bordering on satire'
As for our friend Mr Muravchik, his rightweb profile is here. The summary version:
American Enterprise Institute: ScholarThat's a start. He gets extra credits for:
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs: Adviser
Project for the New American Century: Signatory
Coalition for a Democratic Majority: Former director
- American Committee for Peace in Chechnya: Member
- Washington Institute on Near East Policy: Adjunct Scholar (1986-current) (1)
* update - scott too: "In Stan from Southpark’s voice: Holy Shit, Dude!"
(is he riffing off rimone?)
* update from starroute in the comments:
A little more on Muravchik:Starroute, let me count the ways....
- Described in various places as being close to Perle, Ledeen, and Bryen.
- According to this article, Muravchik, Morris Amitay, and James Woolsey were among a group of Neocons who deserted George H.W. Bush in 1992 because of his lean towards the Arab states and threw their support behind Bill Clinton, helping ensure Clinton's election.
- A co-founder in 1993 of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, along with Kenneth Timmerman and Peter Rodman.
- A member of Ledeen and Amitay's Coalition for Democracy in Iran
- A member of the latest incarnation of the Committee on the Present Danger, along with Morris Amitay, Newt Gingrich, Clifford May, Laurie Mylroie, Kenneth Timmerman, and James Woolsey. As Paleocon Paul Craig Roberts says:
...I was a member of the Committee on the Present Danger. It was a bipartisan private organization consisting largely of former presidential appointees who distrusted naiveté about Soviet intentions. ..
...The purpose of the new CPD is to foment war against Islam.
Myself and others who sought to maintain a balanced perspective will not be included in the new committee.
With its goal of wider war in the Middle East, the neocon CPD is itself the present danger.
In short, Muravchik is a Neocon's Neocon, and has been at the heart of the get-Iran movement for upwards of a dozen years.
* update - is this post the Best Evidence Eva that i should institute a 'read the rest' thingymajig?