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Published: 2009/01/13 17:18:23 GMT
The end of the neo-cons?
Jonathan Clarke, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairslooks back at the rise and fall of the neo-cons, who encouraged George Bush to invade Iraq.
Jonathan ClarkeWith the Bush administration about to recede into history, a widely asked question is whether the neo-conservative philosophythat underpinned its major foreign policy decisions will likewise vanish from the scene.The answer seems likely to be yes.But the epitaph of neo-conservatism has been written before - prematurely, as it turned out, in the 1980s.Having been apparently headed for extinction at the end of the Reagan administration a second generation emerged in themid-1990s.This was period of post-Cold War overwhelming US military dominance which the neo-cons anointed as the "unipolarmoment". It acted as the incubator for the ideas of modern neo-conservatism.
The main characteristics of neo-conservatism are:
a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
low tolerance for diplomacy
readiness to use military force
emphasis on US unilateral action
disdain for multilateral organisations
focus on the Middle EastProminent neo-cons destined to play a major role in the Bush Administration included Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, ElliottAbrams, David Addington and Richard Perle.Neo-con advocates in the media included Bill Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, while in academia, Bernard Lewis and Victor DavisHanson were among those who provided intellectual heft.Many neo-cons are Jews, but it is wrong to suggest that neo-conservatism is an exclusively Jewish phenomenon.In Washington DC, the favourite neo-con think tank was the American Enterprise Institute.Here they authored a series of papers arguing for a more forceful US foreign policy, the centre-point of which was a rejection of conventional negotiations on the Palestine/Israel peace process.Instead, they harboured the much bolder ambition of a US-instigated region-wide democratic transformation.The first phase was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein - which, they believed, would have a sort of "demonstrator effect" on theregion.At the beginning of the Bush administration, the neo-cons' prospects looked dim.True, several - like Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle - obtained senior appointments, but Bush himself had promised a "humble"foreign policy, the diametric opposite of the neo-con approach.Neither Secretary of State Colin Powell nor Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was a neo-con.The neo-cons did, however, find a crucial ally in Vice-President Dick Cheney.Although not one himself, Mr Cheney was a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century, which became thepreferred forum for neo-con thinking.A critical crossover point with the neo-cons was Mr Cheney's commitment to the bold deployment of US military power.His alliance with the neo-cons proved critical for them.