How the neocons went along with Bush’s Iraq disaster and with his pushing Israel toward surrender

Two years ago, a bunch of leading neoconservatives, including Richard Perle and David Frum, publicly turned against President Bush, arguing that while the neocon ideas about democracy were correct, Bush’s execution of them had been wrong, namely, he had not used sufficient force to subdue our enemies and bring about order, but instead allowed violence and chaos to spread, and therefore they, the neocons, were not responsible for Bush’s disasters. Writing at VFR in November 2006, I tore apart their fatuous claims of innocence. Here is the main part of my article:

Of course it’s true, as Frum says, that Bush’s actions have often seemed to contradict his soaring rhetoric. But that was already the case as early as June 2003 when Bush, in pushing the absurd “road map for peace,” committed a shocking betrayal of his historic, inspiring West Point speech of a year earlier in which he said that he would not deal with the Palestinians or do anything to help them acquire a state until they had given up terror and dismantled their terrorist infrastructure. Far from complaining—loudly—as soon as that staggering gap between Bush rhetoric and Bush action appeared, the neocons lapsed into acquiescent silence. As the president pushed Israel into further and further surrenders over the next couple of years, the neocon pope, Norman Podhoretz, declared that all doubts about Bush must be put aside, because he, Podhoretz, “trusted” Bush. And so the neocons went on backing the president.

But one didn’t need to wait until 2004 or 2005 or 2006 to see that something had gone terribly wrong with Bush’s neocon ideals of freedom and democracy. It has already gone terribly wrong in April 2003 when we allowed Iraq to descend into anarchic looting, which among other things destroyed the infrastructure of every university in Iraq. Yet when we had our victorious troops stand back and do nothing to prevent the massive destruction of Iraqi government offices and other institutions, and when Secretary Rumsfeld said, to his everlasting disgrace, “Stuff happens, freedom is untidy,” did any of the neocons say: “This is not what we meant by freedom, not what we meant at all?” No. Similarly, when over-enthused pro-Bush journalists claimed that a single election (which could only be held by locking down the entire country under martial law) meant that Iraq was now a “democracy,” did any of the neocons say, “This is not what we meant by democracy, not what we meant at all?” No. Nor did the neocons back away from the god of democratic elections when that god belched forth (in Lebanon) Hezbollah, (in the Palestinian territories) Hamas, (in Egypt) the Muslim Brotherhood, and (in Iraq) a sharia Constitution and an agreement that it was ok for Sunnis to kill American troops. By that point, the fact that democratic procedures in the Muslim world would not lead to liberal pro-Western governments but to the empowerment of jihadists, was being remarked on by more and more people. Not by the neocons. No siree. Not a peep from them.

If giving free reign to looters was a departure from the neocons’ rhetoric and ideology, why didn’t they say so at the time? If the holding of democratic elections to transform Muslim countries, including a country in the midst of an unresolved terror war, was a departure from the neocons’ rhetoric and ideology, why didn’t they say so at the time? They didn’t say so, because those things were not a departure from their ideology. Six months before the invasion of Iraq, Midge Decter, the wife of Norman Podhoretz, wrote that a democratic transformation of Arab society was entirely achievable, because “the world is everywhere full of ordinary people who want exactly what we want…” Bush’s policy was consistent with these utopian expectations: Since people just naturally gravitate toward democracy, all we need to do is facilitate an election or two in Iraq, and the war will be “won.” The imposition of order is not necessary, because people are naturally good. This was the core of the neocons’ ideology, and Bush carried it out.

Richard Perle tells Vanity Fair that the main problem with the Iraq policy was not neocon ideals but dysfunctional leadership within the administration leading to chaos in Iraq. But Perle in 2004 co-wrote with David Frum a book called An End to Evil. There can of course be no end of evil in the sublunary realm in which history takes place. The belief that there can be an end of evil causes men to disregard the indispensable requirements of civil order, which, let us remember, is exactly what the administration did in Iraq. Perle promotes a liberal utopian idea of reality, while blaming our failure to enact this utopian idea on administration dysfunction. The question arises, what sort of “non-dysfunctional” action by Bush could have brought Perle’s utopian idea into effect and not led to disaster?

A man who says there can be an end of evil has disqualified himself from participation in politics, pending his renunciation of such dangerous nonsense. Perle has not renounced it. Therefore he has no right to talk about the dysfunction in the Bush administration. The dysfunction was and is in Richard Perle’s understanding of the world.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 04, 2009 10:15 AM | Send

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