Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Neocon Schism, Reportedly

An article by one Danny Postel on a claimed schism in the neoconservative school of policy has appeared. It was published on a few days before the election and it smells like a contrived wedge issue or tool intended for the Democrat effort to unseat President Bush. Parenthetically, the “wedge issue” is what the left was so quick to label concerns expressed by the right on current social mores and values. Postel’s article demonstrates that there are those who picked up the grenade and hurled it back over the line. In spite of my cynicism there are a few interesting quotes and I am taking the opportunity to repeat them here. I do not express an opinion about which side is right or whether I think either is right. I believe I will leave that ambiguity be. My tendency sometimes is to absorb arguments without an interest in being drawn into the debate and when interest has been lost, to move on to other things without wasting energy debating who won. Alas I probably could not make a living as a columnist or controversialist.

The public spat is in the form of dueling essays between two prominent neo-conservatives, Francis Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer. Part of my skepticism about the article arises from my skepticism about whether Charles Krauthammer should be considered an intellectual instead of just another syndicated columnist. Krauthammer is often interesting to read in the morning paper but he strikes me as more than a little smug and can be tiresome, especially now that the heat of the just concluded election is dissipating. He makes his living as an influential columnist and influence can be had by being a controversialist as well. Climbing into the ring of foreign policy journals is good for business because it generates attention from the class of published Washington writers over a protracted period of time.

“[Fukuyama says that] of all the different views that have now come to be associated with neoconservatives, the strangest one to me was the confidence that the United States could transform Iraq into a Western-style democracy … [If the US can’t eradicate poverty at home or improve its own education system] how does it expect to bring democracy to a part of the world that has stubbornly resisted it and is virulently anti-American to boot? … [America] needs to be more realistic about its nation-building abilities, and cautious in taking on large social-engineering projects in parts of the world it does not understand very well … [he sees it as inevitable that the US will get] sucked into similar projects in the future [and America must be] much better prepared [for a scenario such as the] sudden collapse of the North Korean regime.”

(Emphasis added.) The article frankly provides little description of Krauthammer’s counter arguments, which is the reason that I am suspicious whether the intent of Postel’s article is to incite rather than to inform.

“Krauthammer once quipped in a radio interview that the only way to earn respect in the Arab world is to reach down and squeeze between the legs. (His exact wording was slightly less delicate.)”

See what I mean?

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