Thursday, 15 October 2009

Iraq Replay I

An obvious topic I would have covered during the break is the lunatic war party’s ramping up of propaganda for war on Iran. It all sounds so much like the lies we were subjected to in preparation for the invasion of Iraq that a review of some key texts relating to that ongoing debacle seems due. This is the first of three posts of excerpts from books I would highly recommend detailing the identity and motives of the people responsible for selling that disastrous war to a wilfully blind Western public. This particular post also has topical relevance because of Murdoch’s switching of support to the Conservatives and Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize award merely for continuing the policies of Bush II. Kevin Macdonald’s work on the neocons is referenced in this piece, read the shorter version here, the longer version here.

From Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, Virginia: Enigma Editions: 2008)

Chapter 3: Who are the Neocons?

Although the term neoconservative is in common usage, a brief description of the group might be helpful. The term was coined by socialist Michael Harrington as a derisive term for leftists and liberals who were migrating rightward. Many of the first generation neoconservatives were originally liberal Democrats, or even socialists and Marxists, often Trotskyites. Most originated in New York, and most were Jews. They drifted to the right in the 1960s and 1970s as the Democratic Party moved to the anti-war McGovernite left. [1]

The Jewish nature of the neoconservatives was obvious. It should be pointed out that Jews in the United States have traditionally identified with the liberals and the left, and most still do. (Liberals in the American contextrepresent the moderate left.) Liberalism seemed to allow for advancement of Jews in an open, secular society; to many Jews, conservatism, in contrast, represented traditional Christian anti-Semitism. Moreover, as political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg points out in his The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, Jews were in favor of American liberalism’s creation of the welfare state in the period between Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960s, which brought many Jews into power positions in the federal government apparatus. [2]

But those individuals who became neoconservatives were perceptive enough to see that in the 1960s liberals and the left were identifying with issues that were apt to be harmful to the collective interest of Jewry. As historian Edward S. Shapiro, himself of a Jewish background, points out:

Many of the leading neoconservative intellectuals were Jewish academicians who moved to the right in the 1960s in response to campus unrest, the New Left, the counterculture, the Black Power movement, the excesses of the Great Society, the hostility of the left to Israel, and the left’s weakening opposition to Communism and the Soviet Union. They became convinced, Mark Gerson, a perceptive student of the neoconservatives, has written, that the left was “distinctively
bad for the Jews.” [3]

In response to efforts to deny the neoconservatives’ Jewishness, Gal Beckerman wrote in the Jewish newspaper Forward in January 2006: “[I]t is a fact that as a political philosophy, neoconservatism was born among the children of Jewish immigrants and is now largely the intellectual domain of those immigrants’ grandchildren.” In fact, Beckerman went so far as to maintain that “[i]f there is an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim, neoconservatism is it.” [4]

Concern for Jews abroad and Israel, in particular, loomed large in the birth of neoconservatism. Proto-neocons adopted a pronounced anti-Soviet policy as the Soviet Union aided Israel’s enemies in the Middle East and prohibited Soviet Jews from emigrating. “One major factor that drew them inexorably to the right,” writes Benjamin Ginsberg,

was their attachment to Israel and their growing frustration during the 1960s with a Democratic party that was becoming increasingly opposed to American military preparedness and increasingly enamored of Third World causes [e.g., Palestinian rights]. In the Reaganite right’s hard-line anti-communism, commitment to American military strength, and willingness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other nations to promote democratic values (and American interests), neocons found a political movement that would guarantee Israel’s security. [5]

Neoconservative Max Boot acknowledged that “support for Israel” had been and remained a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” [6]

In the United States, it is sometimes taboo to say that the neoconservatives are primarily Jewish or that they are concerned about Israel, but neocons did not conceal these connections. The original flagship of the neoconservative movement was Commentary magazine, which is put out by the American Jewish Committee and has styled itself as “America’s premier monthly journal of opinion.” The American Jewish Committee pronounces as its mission: “To safeguard the welfare and security of Jews in the United States, in Israel, and throughout the world.” [7]

It was Norman Podhoretz, editor-in-chief of Commentary for 35 years until his retirement in 1995, who transformed the magazine into a neoconservative publication, offering writing space to many who would be leading figures in the movement. Ironically, when Podhoretz first became editor, he allied himself with New Left radicals, who vociferously opposed the war in Vietnam. Murray Friedman writes in The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy that under Podhoretz’s editorship, “Commentary became perhaps the first magazine of any significance to pay serious attention to radical ideology.” However, Podhoretz started his move rightward by 1967, and by 1970, “his conversion to neoconservatism was complete.” [8] Friedman points out that Podhoretz, like most who gravitated to neoconservatism, did not dwell on Jewish interests and the fate of Israel until the latter half of the 1960s and the early 1970s, when his “sense of this own Jewishness intensified.” [9] Friedman notes that A central element in Podhoretz’s evolving views, which would soon become his and many of the neocons” governing principle was the question, “Is It Good for the Jews,” the title of a February 1972 Commentary piece. [10]

Exemplifying this greater focus on Jewish interests, Friedman observes that

Commentary articles now came to emphasize threats to Jews and the safety and security of the Jewish state. By the 1980s, nearly half of Podhoretz’s writings on international affairs centered on Israel and these dangers. [11]

Benjamin Ginsberg similarly maintains:

A number of Jews ascertained for themselves that Israeli security required a strong American commitment to internationalism and defense. Among the most prominent Jewish spokesmen for this position was Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine. Podhoretz had been a liberal and a strong opponent of the Vietnam War. But by the early 1970s he came to realize that “continued American support for Israel depended upon continued American involvement in international affairs – from which it followed that American withdrawal into [isolationism] [preceding brackets in original] represented a direct threat to the security of Israel.” [12]

Having a married daughter and grandchildren living in Israel, Podhoretz’s identification with the Jewish state transcended intellectual conviction. With the beginning of the Gulf War of 1991, Podhoretz actually went to live with his daughter in her home in Jerusalem in order to show his solidarity with Israel, which Saddam had threatened to attack by missiles, and did so to a limited extent. [13]

Podhoretz was a neoconservative of exceptional influence. As neoconservative Arnold Beichman contends, “in the ideological wars of the 1970s and 1980s, Podhoretz had become an intellectual force who by himself and through his magazine contributed mightily to the global victory against communism.” [14] Denoting Podhoretz’s significance, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on June 23, 2004. [15]

In terms of membership, neoconservatism is not exclusively Jewish. There are gentiles who identify with the neoconservative movement – some because of its ideas but probably also because membership can be career enhancing at a time when it has been difficult for scholars, especially white male scholars, to even break into academia, where supply greatly exceeds demand and where the environment has not been hospitable to individuals of a conservative bent. For one thing, the numerous neoconservative think tanks and media outlets offer numerous jobs. “One thing that the neocons have that both other factions of conservatives and liberals don’t have,” wrote Scott McConnell, editor of the American Conservative, “is they can employ a lot of people.” [16] Work in those jobs can provide credentials for important positions outside neocon-controlled domains – government, academia, media, and the literary world. Moreover, the extensive neoconservative network can facilitate personal advancement in all parts of the establishment.

It would appear that Jewish neoconservatives seek to feature their gentile members, and use their existence to deny the Jewish nature of their movement. But the fact of the matter is that the movement has been Jewish inspired, Jewish-oriented, and Jewish-dominated. As historian Paul Gottfried, himself Jewish and a close observer of the neoconservative scene, pointed out in April 2003:

[T]he term “neoconservative” is now too closely identified with the personal and ethnic concerns of its Jewish celebrities. Despite their frequent attempts to find kept gentiles, the game of speaking through proxies may be showing diminishing results. Everyone with minimal intelligence knows that Bill Bennett, Frank Gaffney, Ed Feulner, Michael Novak, George Weigel, James Nuechterlein, and Cal Thomas front for the neocons. It is increasingly useless to depend on out-group surrogates to repackage a movement so clearly rooted in a particular ethnicity – and even subethnicity (Eastern European Jews). [17]

Similarly, John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy point out in their reference to the existence of non-Jewish neoconservatives that “Jews nonetheless comprise the core of the neoconservative movement.” [18]

Neoconservatives are distinguished by more than just their ideology and ethnicity; they are not simply conservative Jews. They have formed and sustained close personal connections between themselves over a long period of time. As will be discussed later, this network has been perpetuated by becoming institutionalized in a number of influential think tanks and organizations. These close ties help to explain the neocons’ great power, which far exceeds their rather limited numbers. [19]

Social anthropologist Janine R. Wedel describes the successful neocon network as a “flex group,” which she defines as an informal faction adept at “playing multiple and overlapping roles and conflating state and private interests. These players keep appearing in different incarnations, ensuring continuity even as their operating environments change.”

Wedel continues:

As flex players, the neocons have had myriad roles over time. They quietly promoted one another for influential positions and coordinated their multipronged efforts inside and outside government in pursuit of agendas that were always in their own interest, but not necessarily the public’s.

The neocon flex players

always help each other out in furthering their careers, livelihoods and mutual aims. Even when some players are “in power” within an administration, they are flanked by people outside of formal government. Flex groups have a culture of circumventing authorities and creating alternative ones. They operate through semi-closed networks and penetrate key institutions, revamping them to marginalize other potential players and replacing them with initiatives under their control. [20]

But while personal advancement is involved, the flex players pursue much more than this, being “continually working to further the shared agenda of the group.” [21] What Wedel fails to bring out, however, is that the “shared agenda of the group” involves the advancement of the interests of Israel, as the neocons perceive Israel’s interests.

The neocon network is especially solidified by the existence of relationships by blood and marriage. Norman Podhoretz is married to Midge Decter, a neoconservative writer in her own right. Their son, John Podhoretz, was a columnist for the neoconservative New York Post and Weekly Standard before being announced as the new editor of Commentary in October 2007. And their son-in-law is Elliott Abrams, who worked for Senator Robert Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D.-Wash.) and later served in the State Department during the Reagan administration, where he was involved in the Iran/Contra scandal. Abrams was director of Near Eastern Affairs in the National Security Council during George W. Bush’s first term and was promoted to Deputy National Security Adviser in the second term. [22]

Irving Kristol, who is regarded as the “godfather” of neoconservatism (though his focus tended more to domestic matters in contrast to Podhoretz’s concern for foreign policy), is married to Gertrude Himmelfarb, also a major neoconservative writer. The Kristols’ son, William (Bill) Kristol, is currently a leading figure in the neoconservative movement as editor of the Weekly Standard, which surpassed Commentary to become the major neoconservative publication. [23]

Meyrav and David Wurmser are another neoconservative couple. Israeli-born Meyrav Wurmser was Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute. In 2005, she became head of the Hudson Institute’s Zionism Project, which involves a two-year study to look at “the identity crisis of Israel and Zionism,” and to come up with recommendations “that can aid” in resolving it. [24] She also wrote for the Jerusalem Post and was co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute. Her husband, David Wurmser, is a leading neoconservative writer who was director of the Middle East program at the American Enterprise Institute prior to entering the Bush II administration, where he held a various positions, becoming in 2003 an adviser on Middle Eastern affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Neoconservatives Richard Perle, R. James Woolsey Jr., and Paul Wolfowitz were all acolytes of the late Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago and the University of California at Berkeley and a nuclear strategist at the RAND corporation, who now has a conference center named for him at the influential neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (sometimes referred to as Neocon Central”) in Washington, D.C. Gary Dorrien in Imperial Designs describes Wohlstetter as the “godfather of the nuclear hawks.” [25] Throughout the Cold War, Wohlstetter denigrated America’s nuclear strategy of deterrence, and instead advocated a war-fighting stance, which he held could actually best serve to deter war. He contended that other American experts grossly underestimated the military power of the U.S.S.R. and that it was essential for the United States to build up its military strength. [26]

In 1969, Wohlstetter landed Wolfowitz and Perle [27] their first Washington jobs as interns for Senator “Scoop” Jackson. Jackson was a hard-line Cold Warrior, champion of Israel’s interests, and neoconservative icon. [28] It was likely through Wohlstetter that Perle met the now-notorious Ahmed Chalabi, who would head the Iraqi exiles and play a significant role in inducing the United States to make war on Iraq in 2003. [29]

While Wolfowitz would stay only briefly with Jackson, Perle would remain for over a decade. During this time, Jackson’s office became an incubator for the incipient neoconservatives. Staff would include Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Frank Gaffney, R. James Woolsey, and Michael A. Ledeen. [30]

Many significant neoconservatives were followers of political philosopher Leo Strauss. These included Paul Wolfowitz; William Kristol; Stephen Cambone, under secretary of defense for intelligence in the Bush II administration; and Robert Kagan, who teamed with William Kristol at the Weekly Standard. Kagan is the son of leading Yale University Straussian Donald Kagan and brother of Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. [31]

This list of connections is far from complete (and will be developed more in other chapters) but it helps to reveal an important fact about the neoconservative movement. As political writer Jim Lobe explains it:

Contrary to appearances, the neocons do not constitute a powerful mass political movement. They are instead a small, tightly-knit clan whose incestuous familial and personal connections, both within and outside the Bush administration, have allowed them to grab control of the future of American foreign policy. [32]

It should also be emphasized that the neoconservatives are far from being an isolated group; to the contrary, they work closely with others, where common interests serve as the attraction. For example, neoconservatives have received broad support from the Christian evangelical right for most of their activities. To attract support on their particular issues, neoconservatives often have created ad hoc citizen groups, such as the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Moreover, their advocacy of a strong military attracts defense intellectuals, some mainstream conservatives, and representatives from defense interests. On the other hand, the neocons find allies among various Jewish Americans, who may not support all of their hard-line militaristic positions or their more conservative domestic positions, but agree on the issue of staunchly supporting Israel and its foreign policy objectives. In this latter category are such liberal pro-Zionists as Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Congressman Stephen Solarz, Congressman Tom Lantos, the New Republic’s Martin Peretz, and representatives from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). A few more traditional conservative Jews such as columnist William Safire, who pre-existed the neocons on the right, closely identify with the neoconservatives regarding Israel and American policies in the Middle East. As commentator Bill Christison, a former CIA analyst, observes: “It suffices to know . . . that the neocons and the [Israel] lobby together form a very powerful mutual support society, and their relationship is symbiotic in the extreme.” [33]

When they first emerged in the early 1970s, the neoconservatives worked primarily through the Democratic party – they sought to combat the leftist orientation that had enabled George McGovern to become the Democratic presidential standard bearer in 1972. “The 1972 campaign proved to be a watershed for the neoconservatives,” Gary Dorrien notes, “For them, the McGovern candidacy epitomized the degeneration of American liberalism. McGovern’s world view, like his slogan – ‘Come Home, America’ – was defeatist, isolationist, and guilt-driven.” [34]

McGovernites were not simply opposed to American military involvement in Vietnam, they were opposed also to the continuation of the Cold War with its global opposition to Communism and its concomitant massive military spending. The military retrenchment they sought, however, would have had negative repercussions for Israel, dependent as it was on American military assistance, and especially since it was targeted as an ideological enemy by the Communist countries and the world left. As Benjamin Ginsberg writes of that era:

Many liberal Democrats . . . espoused cutbacks in the development and procurement of weapons systems, a curtailment of American military capabilities and commitments, and what amounted to a semireturn to isolationism. These policies all appeared to represent a mortal threat to Israel and, hence, were opposed by many Jews who supported Israel. [35]

“Increasingly,” Murray Friedman maintains, neocons came to believe that the Jewish state’s ability to survive – indeed, the Jewish community’s will to survive – was dependent on American military strength and its challenge to the Soviet Union, the primary backer of Arab countries in the Middle East. [36]

Neoconservatism’s first political manifestation was as the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, which was formed in 1972, when most neoconservatives entertained hopes of reclaiming the Democratic Party and American liberalism. As James Nuechterlein, himself something of a neocon, notes:

Most of the leading neoconservatives were Jewish . . . and Jews found it extraordinarily difficult to think of themselves as conservatives, much less Republicans. In the American context, to be a Jew – even more a Jewish intellectual – was to be a person of the left. [37]

Murray Friedman similarly writes in The Neoconservative Revolution that at that time

neocons still associated conservatism with golf, country clubs, the Republican Party, big business – a sort of “goyishe” fraternity – and with the ideological posturing of right-wing fanatics. They viewed traditional conservatives as having little empathy for the underdog and the excluded in society. They thought of themselves as dissenting liberals, “children of the depression,” as Midge Decter declared, who “retained a measure of loyalty to the spirit of the New Deal.” [38]

In the 1970s, the neoconservatives’ political standard bearers were Senator “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Neoconservatives basically wanted to return to the anti-Communist Cold War position exemplified by President Harry Truman (1945–1953), which had held sway through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969). Anti-Communist foreign policy, however, had been widely discredited among mainstream liberal Democrats by the Vietnam imbroglio. While neoconservatives were opposed to the McGovern liberals in the Democratic Party, whom they viewed as too sympathetic to Communism and radical left causes, they did not identify with the foreign policy of mainstream Republicans. Rather, neoconservatives opposed Henry Kissinger’s policy of détente with the Soviet Union, with its emphasis on peace through negotiations, arms control, and trade, which was being pushed by the Nixon and Ford administrations. They viewed the détente policy as defeatist and too callous toward human rights violations in Communist countries.

For the neoconservatives, the human rights issue centered on the right of Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union. That right was embodied in the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was especially the work of Jackson’s staffer Richard Perle. By requiring that American trade favors to the Soviet Union be based on the latter’s allowance of freer emigration, this amendment undercut the Nixon-Kissinger policy of détente, which sought to establish better relations with the Soviets through trade. While neoconservatives were only a small minority among Jews, on this issue they were joined by the Jewish mainstream. [39]

The Jackson-Vanik amendment was a major achievement for American Jewry. “Congress had rolled over administration resistance and passed a proactive law that changed the structure of U.S.-Soviet relations,” writes J. J. Goldberg. “Whether or not the legislation helped its intended beneficiaries, the Jews of Russia, it sent an unmistakable message around the world that the Jews of America were not to be trifled with.” [40]

The neoconservatives remained loyal Democrats in 1976 and looked with hope toward the presidency of Jimmy Carter. But the neoconservatives soon came to realize that Carter did not seem to perceive a dire Soviet expansionist threat. From the neocon viewpoint, the Soviet Union was advancing around the globe while Carter appeared to lack the will to resist. Norman Podhoretz would maintain that under Carter, the United States “continued and even accelerated the strategic retreat begun under the Republicans.” [41]

Moreover, Carter pursued policies that went directly against what the neoconservatives considered to be Jewish interests, especially in his failure to provide sufficient support for Israel. The neoconservatives were alarmed by the Carter administration’s attempt to pursue what it styled an evenhanded approach in the Middle East, fearing that Israel would be pressured to withdraw from the occupied territories, with only minor border modifications, in return for Arab promises of peace. What especially caused neoconservative outrage was the media revelation that UN Ambassador Andrew Young had a secret meeting in New York with the United Nation’s Palestinian Liberation Organization observer. Reports surfaced that Israeli intelligence had recorded the diplomats’ conversation and leaked it to the American press. Negotiating with the PLO was a violation of American policy. Young was one of the pre-eminent black leaders in America and blacks made up a key part of Carter’s constituency. Faced with strong Jewish protests, Carter replaced Young at the UN. However, his successor, Donald McHenry, supported a Security Council resolution declaring Jerusalem to be occupied territory and charging Israel with extraordinary human rights violations, which led to further Jewish outrage. As a result of these activities, Friedman writes, “Carter . . . was seen by neocons as fundamentally hostile to Israel.” [42]

By the beginning of 1980, the neoconservatives had given up on the Democratic Party. According to John Ehrman, a historian of neoconservatism:

In the neoconservatives’ view, its foreign policies were firmly in the hands of the left and the party no longer opposed anti-Semitism or totalitarian thinking – indeed, they believed that these tendencies were now in the party’s mainstream. [43]

The neoconservatives gravitated to the Republicans where they found kindred spirits among that party’s staunchly anti-Communist conservative wing, which was also disenchanted with the détente policy of the Nixon and Ford administrations. It was only among the right-wing Republicans where there still remained firm support for the idea that Soviet Communism was an evil and implacable ideological enemy – an attitude that the conventional wisdom of the times looked upon as outdated and gauche. [44]

Welcomed in as valuable intellectual allies by the conservative Republicans, the neoconservatives had made their momentous shift just as the most successful right-wing Republican of the modern era, Ronald Reagan, won the presidential election of 1980.

Despite being newcomers to the conservative camp, neoconservatives were able to find places in the Reagan administration in national security and foreign policy areas, although at less than Cabinet-level status. “Reagan’s triumph in the election,” Friedman contends, “provided the neocons with their version of John F. Kennedy’s Camelot.” [45]

A fundamental reason for their success was that the neoconservatives had the academic and literary standing and public reputations, which traditional conservatives lacked. The neoconservatives had published widely in prestigious establishment intellectual journals. Some had impressive academic backgrounds and influential contacts in political and media circles. This is not to say that neoconservatives necessarily exhibited superior intellectual skills or academic scholarship compared to many traditional conservative intellectuals, but rather that they possessed establishment credentials and respectability. The fact that they had recently espoused liberal positions bolstered their credibility in the establishment. None had ever expressed rightist views that might be considered taboo from the liberal perspective. Consequently, they could not be easily ignored, ridiculed or smeared, as could many marginalized traditional conservatives. Reagan political strategists believed that neocons could serve as effective public exponents of administration policy.46 It should also be added that the more illustrious neoconservatives tended to bring in other, usually younger, neocons with negligible scholarly or public achievements. [47]

Significant neoconservatives in the Reagan administration included Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy; Paul Wolfowitz, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and later ambassador to Indonesia; Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state for human rights and later as assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, where he played a central role in aiding the Contras in the Iran-Contra affair, for which he was indicted; Jeane Kirkpatrick, ambassador to the United Nations (who had on her staff such neocons as Joshua Muravchik and Carl Gershman);48 Kenneth Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1983–1987; Richard Pipes, member of the National Security Council on Soviet and East European affairs; and Max Kampelman, ambassador and head of the United States delegation to the negotiations with the Soviet Union on nuclear and space arms, 1985–89. Michael Ledeen was a special advisor to Secretary of State Alexander Haig in 1981–1982, consultant for the Department of Defense (1982–1986), and a national security advisor to the president, who was intimately involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. Frank Gaffney and Douglas Feith served under Perle in the Defense Department. Feith also served as a member of the National Security Staff under Richard Allen in Reagan’s first term.

In the Reagan administration, the neoconservatives allied with the militant right-wing anti-Communists and combated Republican establishment elements in order to fashion a hard-line anti-Soviet foreign policy. Neoconservatives were in the forefront of pressing for Reagan’s military build-up and de-emphasizing arms control agreements, which had been a foreign policy centerpiece of previous administrations, both Republican and Democrat. [49]

In contrast to the longstanding American defensive Cold War strategy of containing Soviet communism, the neoconservatives pushed for destabilizing the Soviet empire and its allies. They did not invent this strategic doctrine, which originated with such seminal conservative thinkers as James Burnham and Robert Strausz-Hupe. The goal behind this offensive strategy was to actually bring about the defeat of the Soviet Union, instead of just achieving stalemate, which would be the best that could be obtained by defensive containment. But while not the originators of an offensive Cold War strategy, the neocons were the first to successfully promote its implementation. [50]

In their effort to implement the offensive Cold War strategy, the neocons especially supported the provision of extensive military aid to the militant Islamic Afghan “freedom fighters” in their resistance struggle against the Soviet occupation. The military aid, which had begun in the Carter administration, had been very limited. Richard Perle played a pivotal role in equipping the “freedom fighters” with the all-important shoulder-borne Stinger missiles, which proved to be lethal to the previously invincible Soviet helicopter gunships. [51] Ironically, the neoconservatives now portray these very same Muslims that they helped to militarize as a deadly terrorist threat to America and the world.

The neocons played a significant role in the success of Reagan’s policies. Steven Hayward, an AEI fellow and the author of The Age of Reagan, maintains that “Ronald Reagan would not have been elected and would have been able to govern us effectively without some of the prominent neoconservatives who joined the Republican side.” [52] Murray Friedman writes, “The neocons reinforced Reagan’s hard-line beliefs on international communism and provided much of the administration’s ideological energy, giving the Reagan revolution ‘its final sophistication.’” [53]

In essence, the neocons did not invent a new strategy for international relations, but lent an air of establishment respectability to doctrines that had been in the repertoire of the American right from the early days of the Cold War. The related elements of sophistication and respectability contributed by the neocons were very important because the hard-line policies implemented by Reagan had traditionally been ridiculed and reviled by the liberal establishment as being completely beyond the pale. [54] The liberal establishment pedigrees of the neocon Reaganites and the power in the media exerted by such neocon instruments as Commentary magazine were able to partially deflect the liberal media criticism, preventing Reagan from being successfully caricatured as a zany right-wing warmonger, as had often been the case with previous conservative leaders. [55]

Admirers credit the neoconservatives with playing a major role in bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union. [56] “History has proved the neoconservatives largely right on the Cold War,” writes Gal Beckerman in the Forward.

Among the many factors that brought an end to the Soviet Union – already a dying animal by the 1980s – was the shove given to it by this rhetoric. By challenging the Soviet Union head on, rhetorically, in covert action and through an expensively renewed arms race, the United States managed to call the Soviet bluff. Neoconservatives provided language that depicted the Cold War as an urgent zero-sum game in which America the Good had to assert itself so that Evil Communism could be obliterated. And indeed, the Soviet Union collapsed. [57]

However, critics of the neocons point out that Reagan, during his second term, moved toward rapprochement with Gorbachev’s Soviet Union – a move that was strongly resisted by the hard-line neoconservatives – and that it was that softer approach that allowed Gorbachev to enact his reforms, bringing about the unraveling of the Soviet empire. Historian John Patrick Diggins observes that the difference between the neoconservatives and Reagan was that

he believed in negotiation and they in escalation. They wanted to win the cold war; he sought to end it. To do so, it was necessary not to strike fear in the Soviet Union but to win the confidence of its leaders. Once the Soviet Union could count on Mr. Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev not only was free to embark on his domestic reforms, to convince his military to go along with budget cuts, to reassure his people that they no longer needed to worry about the old bogey of “capitalist encirclement,” but, most important, he was also ready to announce to the Soviet Union’s satellite countries that henceforth they were on their own, that no longer would tanks of the Red Army be sent to put down uprisings. The cold war ended in an act of faith and trust, not fear and trembling. [58]

Even if Reagan’s moderation of the neoconservative hard-line anti-Soviet policy ultimately induced the voluntary unraveling of the Soviet empire, nonetheless, it seems reasonable to believe that the hard-line policies espoused and implemented by neocon Reaganites helped move the Soviet Union to that position. During the 1970s, expert opinion considered the Soviet regime quite sturdy, notwithstanding the country’s economic difficulties; no one envisioned, at the time, the regime’s inevitable collapse within the decades that followed. And this was the vision that guided American policy in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. Nor was any Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev included, seeking the downfall of the Soviet system and its military machine. With all this in mind, it would seem to be a mistake to discount or deny the neoconservative contribution to the downfall of the seemingly invulnerable Soviet empire at the end of the 1980s – a downfall that, most incredibly, did not involve a major military confrontation. From the American perspective, it can be seen as a major victory.

The role of the neoconservatives in the Reagan administration is highly relevant to the thesis of this book. For if it is appropriate to perceive the neocons as influential regarding Reagan administration foreign policy, one should be able to connect them to Bush II’s war on Iraq and his overall Middle East policy. In fact, as the following pages illustrate, the neocons were far more powerful during the Bush II administration than they had been during Reagan’s time, both inside and outside of government. In the Reagan era, they were relative newcomers; by the time of the Bush II era, they had become an established, institutionalized force. Moreover, in the Reagan administration the neocons were basically implementing an anti-Soviet policy, which had long been the staple position of the traditional right and, consequently, they had extensive support from numerous administration figures of a traditional conservative bent and from President Ronald Reagan himself; in the Bush II administration, in contrast, the neocons single-handedly converted the administration to their Middle East war agenda, overcoming significant internal opposition in the process.

A fundamental point about neoconservatives, which is not always noted, is that they did not become traditional conservatives. Instead of adopting traditional American conservative positions, they actually altered the content of conservatism to their liking. Neoconservatives have been anything but the hard right-wingers that their leftist critics sometimes make them out to be. Neoconservatives supported the modern welfare state, in contrast to the traditional conservatives, who emphasized small government, states’ rights, and relatively unfettered capitalism. Neoconservatives identified with the liberal policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and even Lyndon Johnson, the bête noires of traditional conservatives, though rejecting much of the multiculturalism and group entitlements of more recent liberalism. “The neoconservative impulse,” Murray Friedman maintains, “was the spontaneous response of a group of liberal intellectuals, mainly Jewish, who sought to shape a perspective of their own while standing apart from more traditional forms of conservatism.” [59]

Gary Dorrien in The Neoconservative Mind points out that the neoconservatives “did not convert to existing conservatism, but rather created an alternative to it.” [60]

What especially characterizes neoconservatives is their focus on foreign policy. This is underscored by the fact that some who have espoused leftist views on domestic matters, such as Carl Gershman and Joshua Muravchik (who have been members of the Social Democrats USA), can be full-fledged members of the neoconservative network by virtue of their identification with neocon foreign policy positions. [61]

Although the American conservatives of the Cold War era were anti-Communist and pro-military, they did not identify with the strong globalist foreign policy, which is the sine qua non of neoconservatism, but actually harbored a strain of isolationism. Conservatives’ interventionism was limited to fighting Communism, even rolling back Communism, but not nation-building and the export of democracy, which is the expressed goal of the neocons. Conservatives were perfectly comfortable with regimes that were far from democratic. Nor did traditional conservatives view the United States as the policeman of the world. Most significantly, traditional conservatives had never championed Israel, which had largely been the position of the liberal Democrats. [62]

While traditional conservatives welcomed neoconservatives as allies in their fight against Soviet Communism and domestic liberalism, the neocons in effect acted as a Trojan Horse within conservatism: they managed to secure dominant positions in the conservative political and intellectual movement, and as soon as they gained power they purged those traditional conservatives who opposed their agenda. “The old conservatives of the eighties were being swallowed up by the alliance that they initiated and sustained,” notes historian Paul Gottfried. [63]

Neoconservatives were especially active in setting up or co-opting various right-of-center think tanks and corralling the money that funded them. “Neoconservative activists,” Gottfried observes, “have largely succeeded in centralizing both the collection and distribution of funding for right-of-center philanthropies.” [64]

The neocons would even take over that great intellectual citadel of the conservative movement, the National Review, founded by the icon of the Cold War right, Bill Buckley. As Gary Dorrien writes in Imperial Designs, “By the late 1990s even the venerable National Review belonged to the neocons, who boasted that they had created or taken over nearly all of the main ideological institutions of the American right.” [65]

The ultimate result of the neoconservatives’ maneuvering was to effectively transform American conservatism and, to a lesser extent, the Republican Party. Jacob Heilbrunn, senior editor at the liberal New Republic, would write in 2004 that neoconservatives “formed, by and large, the intellectual brain trust for the GOP over the past two decades.” [66]

Some intellectual conservatives, who eventually took on the name paleoconservatives, tried to resist this takeover from the days of the Reagan administration. [67] “Long before French protesters and liberal bloggers had even heard of the neoconservatives, the paleoconservatives were locked in mortal combat with them,” wrote Franklin Foer in the New York Times.

Paleocons fought neocons over whom Ronald Reagan should appoint to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, angrily denouncing them as closet liberals – or worse, crypto-Trotskyists. Even their self-selected name, paleocon, suggests disdain for the neocons and their muscular interventionism. [68]

In essence, the neoconservatives are not like the traditional American conservatives, whom they have effectively supplanted and marginalized. As Paul Gottfried observes, the transformation of American conservatism involved

personnel no less than value orientation . . . as urban, Jewish, erstwhile Democratic proponents of the welfare state took over a conservative movement that had been largely in the hands of Catholic, pro-[Joe] McCarthy and (more or less) anti-New Deal Republicans. That the older movement collapsed into the newer one is a demonstrable fact. [69]

The neoconservatives have done nearly the same thing in the Republican party, at least in regard to its national security policy; there they have replaced not only the traditional conservative figures, but also the more moderate establishment wing that was identified with the elder George H. W. Bush. The upshot of all this is to say the neocon influence is very substantial. As Murray Friedman writes in his The Neoconservative Revolution: “The most enduring legacy of neoconservatism . . . has been the creation of a new generation of highly influential younger conservative Jewish intellectuals, social activists, and allies.” When neoconservatism began in the early 1970s,

the movement consisted of perhaps two dozen individuals. Their numbers today [2005] have increased to hundreds of individuals threaded throughout the news media, think tanks, political life, government, and the universities . . . Their influence has been felt everywhere. [70]

None of this is to say that neoconservatism is anything like a mass movement. It has, however, ascended to the heights of power. While the grass roots conservatives and Republicans do not know, much less subscribe to, the full neoconservative agenda, the trauma of 9/11 and the “war on terror” made them largely unwitting followers of the neocon leadership. The post-9/11 success of the neoconservatives and their war agenda will be discussed at length in the following chapters.

Neoconservatives have not been unaware of their successful takeover of the conservative movement. Irving Kristol, who has championed “a conservative welfare state,” writes that

one can say that the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy. [71]

In his 1996 book, The Essential Neoconservative Reader, editor Mark Gerson, a neocon himself who served on the board of directors of the Project for the New American Century, jubilantly observes:

The neoconservatives have so changed conservatism that what we now identify as conservatism is largely what was once neoconservatism. And in so doing, they have defined the way that vast numbers of Americans view their economy, their polity, and their society. [72]

Friedman, in The Neoconservative Revolution, sums up the major impact that neocons have had on conservatism, and, in so doing, is not averse to emphasizing their Jewish orientation: “This book suggests that Jews and non-Jews alike are becoming more conservative, in part because of their neoconservative guides, who have made it more respectable to think in these terms.” He suggests that the motivation of the neoconservatives derives from the beneficent impulse inherent in Judaism: “The idea that Jews have been put on earth to make it a better, perhaps even a holy, place continues to shape their worldview and that of many of their co-religionists.” [73]

A more negative result of neoconservative takeover has been presented by the rightist evolutionary biologist Kevin MacDonald, who likewise focuses on the issue of Jewishness. MacDonald contends that

the intellectual and cumulative effect of neoconservatism and its current hegemony over the conservative political movement in the United States (achieved partly by its large influence on the media and among foundations) has been to shift the conservative movement toward the center and, in effect, to define the limits of conservative legitimacy. Clearly, these limits of conservative legitimacy are defined by whether they conflict with specifically Jewish group interests in a minimally restrictive immigration policy, support for Israel, global democracy, opposition to quotas and affirmative action, and so on.

Significantly, MacDonald holds that

[t]he ethnic agenda of neoconservatism can also be seen in their promotion of the idea that the United States should pursue a highly interventionist foreign policy aimed at global democracy and the interests of Israel rather than aimed at the specific national interests of the United States. [74]

Although neoconservatives of the Reagan era were adamantly pro-Israel, the issue of Israel versus the Arab states of the Middle East did not loom large then. Israel did have a favored place in American foreign policy. Neoconservative Reaganites identified Israel as America’s “strategic asset” in the Cold War, and Israel actually helped the United States fight communism in Latin America and elsewhere. [75] J. J. Goldberg maintains that

the Reagan administration set about making itself into the most pro-Israel administration in history. In the fall of 1981, Israel was permitted for the first time to sign a formal military pact with Washington, becoming a partner, not a stepchild, of American policy. Israel and American embarked on a series of joint adventures, both overt and covert: aiding the Nicaraguan contras, training security forces in Zaire, sending arms secretly to Iran. Cooperation in weapons development, sharing of technology, and information and intelligence reached unprecedented proportions. Israel’s annual U. S. aid package, already higher than any other country’s, was edged even higher. Loans were made into grants. Supplemental grants were added. [76]

Despite its support for Israel, the United States under Reagan also relied heavily on Arab and Islamic governments to counter Soviet influence, sometimes to the consternation of neoconservatives and other proponents of Israel, as when the Reagan administration successfully pushed for the sale of early warning radar aircraft (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia in 1981. [77] On the whole, however, the issue of Israel versus other Middle Eastern countries would not move to the forefront until the end of the Cold War during the administration of President George H. W. Bush (1989–1993). But before we continue with this history of the American neoconservatives, it is appropriate to examine developments in Israel.

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