I don’t think it’s that clear cut. There are some who supported the neocons on the basis that people in the Middle East wanted to be like them and they should help them. They also think Islamists are a threat to humanity. This would be the Harry’s Place crew. In themselves, those are not bad motives.
The problem is that the neocons and their supporters completely ignore local dynamics and believe, foolishly, that military action can solve everything. This went all the way from Afghanistan to Iraq and most recently Gaza. They don’t learn, they only live in their own world where everyone else is denounced as a ’stopper’ as soon as they betray party line. Sullivan also points out that their commitment to democracy is dependent on results they want.
He washes his hands off it:
I took neoconservatism seriously for a long time, because it offered an interesting critique of what’s wrong with the Middle East, and seemed to have the only coherent strategic answer to the savagery of 9/11. I now realize that the answer - the permanent occupation of Iraq - was absurdly utopian and only made feasible by exploiting the psychic trauma of that dreadful day. The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right. That’s the conclusion I’ve been forced to these last few years. And to insist that America adopt exactly the same constant-war-as-survival that Israelis have been slowly forced into. Cheney saw America as Netanyahu sees Israel: a country built for permanent war and the “tough, mean, dirty, nasty business” of waging it (with a few war crimes to keep the enemy on their toes).
That, possibly, is the best summation I’ve read of all that is wrong with neoconservatism at its heart.
The Israeli right has managed to make its narrative, in Israel, USA and the UK, dominant to the point that even some “lefties” (Harry’s Place) think a permanent state of war is the only option (otherwise they’d make more noise about the illegal settlements and blockades). This makes international solidarity all the more difficult since the Israeli agenda has shifted to preparing for continuous war than moving towards peace. In Palestine, in contrast, the overwhelming majority want peace.
But the main elephant in the room is that while pretty much everyone, apart from the hardcore neoconservatives, have recognised their folly in following Bush into Iraq - the Harry’s Place crew keep beating that drum.
I think The Encyclopedia Of Decency says it best:
Muscular Liberalism, If It Means Anything, Is Never Having To Say You’re Sorry
The Gaza invasion was justified with essentially the same rhetoric as Iraq:
a) these people have weapons; they are out to hurt us (or hurting us)
b) we will potentially save lots of innocent lives
c) they will greet us as liberators! Military action will solve everything!
Of course, I simplify, but that is what it boiled down to. Diplomacy doesn’t work, apparently, even if applied very badly in the first place.
Now, rather than reflecting on what went wrong with their approach, there’s only more of the ‘look how nasty these Muslims are!!‘, and ‘these evil lefties stopped us from going all the way‘.
When the next war comes they will be ready to denounce anyone who opposes military action as a terrorist sympathiser. Oh, sorry, they won’t do that explicitly: they’ll just hunt for nutbags to imply they represent the entire peace movement.
So why am I pointing this out?
Two reasons. Firstly, because neoconservative thinking, despite its complete failure, remains loud and shrill in the UK - it needs some level of discrediting. Unless they accept their mistakes and reflect on what went wrong, we’ll be back here again.
Secondly, since this line of thinking is dead in most normal circles, it’s important to figure out what’s next. What next for Iraq? What do we do about Afghanistan? How to support an independent Palestinian state best, without giving in to Hamas’ agenda?
A lot of the discussion on these issues still feels like its reacting to the pro-war left despite the fact they’re dead and buried. They just don’t know it. It’s time we moved on, but give them an occasional kick when required.