Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Neoconservative Love Affair With War Continues

Joshua Muravchik, a neoconservative who works at the American Enterprise Institute, has an article in the current issue of Foreign Policy declaring, among other things, that the U.S. must start a war with 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 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. There is a crying need in today's ideological wars for something akin to the Congress for Cultural Freedom of the Cold War, a global circle of intellectuals and public figures who share a devotion to democracy. The leaders of this movement might include Tony Blair, Vaclav Havel, and Anwar Ibrahim.

Adjectives are spinning inside my brain -- tumbling against each other as they fight to make their way along my neural pathways and reach my fingers on the keyboard. Ironic, cold-blooded, reckless, irresponsible, hypocritical, ignorant, criminal, thick-headed, blind, just plain stupid. We wouldn't be facing the threat of an enormously empowered and emboldened, nuclear-armed Iran if not for the Iraq war -- it was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that put Iran in that catbird seat! And now Muravchik is recommending that we invite yet more opportunities for terrorism and religious fundamentalism by bombing Iran?

One can only gasp at the brazenness of the patronizing "... we need to help people envision what the world would look like with a nuclear-armed Iran." It's only necessary to substitute "q" for "n" in the last word of that quote to come up with the "vision" neocons like Muravchik evoked to justify the current war, which created the conditions that are now being used to justify the next war.

Read the rest of the article, and the sensation of having fallen down the rabbit hole only deepens.

Muravchik encourages neocons to get better at "public diplomacy" -- by which he means finding more effective propaganda tools to counter the anti-American feeling that keeps rising as a result of the foreign policies he advocates:

No group other than neocons is likely to figure out how to ["fix the public diplomacy mess"]. We are, after all, a movement whose raison d'etre was combating anti-Americanism in the United States. Who better, then, to combat it abroad?

Yes, indeed; who better to combat anti-Americanism abroad than the very folks who created it and built it up into the formidable adversary it is today?

Muravchik urges that neocons continue to support George W. Bush, despite the mistakes he's made, for "...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."

I guess this falls under the "fight fire with fire" strategy -- fighting absolutism and violence with absolutism and violence.

In the real world, of course, absolutism and violence do not get transformed into tolerance and compromise with bombs and inflammatory language. Transformation only becomes possible when people on each side can begin to see "objective reality" from the perspective of an Other whose "objective reality" is different -- sometimes radically so. That kind of insight happens in quick and fleeting moments that life offers us, almost as a gift. It's not everyone who is able to recognize such moments for what they truly are, though. Joshua Muravchik apparently is one of those who cannot:

"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. ...

It's clear enough that a rare and precious moment of uncomplicated honesty utterly escaped Muravchik's notice. Clearly, he missed a valuable opportunity to use the gift of a wholly human connection to reexamine his own biases. Indeed, he allowed his biases to rule the moment, since he plainly implies that he thought the Egyptian's remark was anti-Semitic. But why did he think that? It only makes sense if Muravchik equates "neoconservative" with "Jewish" and "terrorist" with "Middle Eastern" or "Arab" or "Muslim." Which is simply astonishing utterly mad. And if this highly educated "resident scholar" at a prestigious Washington think tank does not or cannot understand that "world peace" begins with one individual person's ability to hear another individual person's truth, when it comes from the heart and is presented to him right in his face, then he certainly cannot understand anything more complicated than that.

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