Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Future Perfect?

In separate speeches delivered an ocean apart, the two standard bearers of the Republican Party last Thursday offered rosy visions of a future designed to gladden the hearts...

In separate speeches delivered an ocean apart, the two standard bearers of the Republican Party last Thursday offered rosy visions of a future designed to gladden the hearts of Israel-centered neoconservatives without offering any details about how their dreams will be achieved.

In an address marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding before the Knesset in Jerusalem, President George W. Bush predicted that 60 years from now the Jewish state will coexist with a Palestinian homeland in a democratic Middle East where "al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated" and "Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today’s oppression a distant memory."

"From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade," he said.

Such a "bold vision" will not "arrive easily overnight," he said. But it will be possible "so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values."

Just a few hours later and some 11,000 km away, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told a partisan audience in Columbus, Ohio, that if he becomes president, he will have "won" the Iraq war by 2013 and brought home "most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom." By the end of his first term, he went on, the threat from the Taliban in Afghanistan will have been greatly reduced, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants captured or killed, and Iran "persuaded [by] a reluctant Russia and China to cooperate in pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and North Korea to discontinue its own."

In contrast to Bush, however, McCain failed to mention any progress on settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict, suggesting that such an effort will not rate particularly high on his foreign policy agenda.

That should be just fine with pro-Likud neoconservatives who, despite their appreciation for Bush’s staunch support for former hardline Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (whom the president Thursday praised as "warrior for the ages, a man of peace" in his speech), have been uneasy about his thus far feeble efforts to prod the two sides toward a framework peace agreement by the time he leaves office next January.

Indeed, last Thursday’s speeches served to underline how powerful and durable the neoconservative vision of the world, particularly for the Middle East, remains, at least for the Republican Party, and how likely it will be that a President McCain would "stay the course" set by Bush.

Bush’s speech was pure neoconservatism, beginning with his assurance that Washington was "Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world" and featuring a familiar depiction of the world as a struggle between the forces of "good and evil", the latter embodied by the most immediate threats to Israel’s security — Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria.

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," he declared in a slap at those who have called for engagement with Tehran and Damascus, which includes most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," he said, referring to the failure of Western powers to challenge the Nazis in the 1930s, a core neoconservative leitmotif. "We have an obligation to call this what it is—the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history," he continued, implicitly comparing the threats faced by Israel with Nazi Germany and explicitly assuring his audience that "the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

But, apart from confronting "evil," presumably through military force, if necessary, and steadfastly promoting basic freedoms and democracy in the region—a policy that even some of his neoconservative backers believe Bush has largely abandoned as he has sought to rally Sunni Arab leaders against Iran and its allies—Bush offered no ideas as to how his hopeful vision of the Middle East, particularly that of a "homeland [Palestinians] have long dreamed of and deserved," in 2068 will be achieved.

McCain similarly failed to explain how he would achieve his own vision of victory in Iraq, substantial progress in Afghanistan, a defeated al Qaeda, and Iran’s abandonment of its alleged nuclear ambitions by 2013. His comments led Rand Beers, a top counterterrorism official under both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton who resigned from the National Security Council to protest the younger Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, to compare the speech to Richard Nixon’s "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War as a gimmick to win the 1968 presidential election.

McCain’s vision for 2013 was more modest than Bush’s for 2068—in addition to omitting any mention of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he made no predictions about "transforming" the Middle East as a whole—but the basic trajectory was consistent.

He described an Iraq at the end of his first term in office as "a functioning democracy" in which violence would be "spasmodic [but] much reduced," militias would be disbanded, al Qaeda in Iraq defeated, the central government able to impose its authority "in every province of Iraq," and the U.S. military presence "much smaller" and no longer engaged in combat.

And not only would the threat from the Taliban be "greatly reduced" and the al Qaeda leadership captured or killed, he said, but a newly formed "League of Democracies"—another neoconservative chestnut—would "apply stiff diplomatic and economic pressure" on Sudan to stop genocide in Darfur and use similar tools to end gross human rights abuses, such as human trafficking, in other parts of the world.

The absence of detail regarding how these goals will be accomplished drew mainly scorn from both Democrats and independent observers, with the former president of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb, describing McCain’s vision as "kind of a wild-eyed, unsupported prediction."

"I think John McCain has been one of the most important voices on national security policy for many years now, so it really surprises me to see him giving speeches like the one today that are almost in la-la land," Gelb told reporters in a teleconference sponsored by the National Security Network.

McCain himself suggested that his worldview was not so different from Bush’s. Asked later on May 15 about the president’s assertion that negotiating with "terrorists and radicals" today was similar to appeasing Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, McCain said he agreed with the analogy.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to PRA’s Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org). He blogs at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/.

Citations

Jim Lobe, "Future Perfect?," Right Web, with permission from Inter Press Service (Somerville, MA: PRA, 2008). Web location:
/rw/4916.html Production Information:
Author(s): Right Web
Editor(s): Right Web
Production: Political Research Associates   Latest Comments & Conversation Area
Editor's Note: IRC editors read and approve eachcomment. Comments are checked for content and to a lesser degree forspelling and grammatical errors. Comments that include vulgar language andlibelous content are rejected, as are comments that do not directlyrespond to the published IRC article.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Update was slow, but still no lag in the editor window, and footnotes are intact.     This has been updated – Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May 2018, was a renowned British-American historian of Islam and the Middle East. A former British intelligence officer, Foreign Office staffer, and Princeton University professor, Lewis was…


Bernard Lewis was a renowned historian of Islam and the Middle East who stirred controversy with his often chauvinistic attitude towards the Muslim world and his associations with high-profile neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks.


John Bolton, the controversial former U.S. ambassador to the UN and dyed-in the-wool foreign policy hawk, is President Trump’s National Security Adviser McMaster, reflecting a sharp move to the hawkish extreme by the administration.


Michael Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once described by neoconservative guru Irving Kristol as the “godfather of modern philanthropy.”


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Michael Flynn is a former Trump administration National Security Advisor who was forced to step down only weeks on the job because of his controversial contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Trump is not the problem. Think of him instead as a summons to address the real problem, which in a nation ostensibly of, by, and for the people is the collective responsibility of the people themselves. For Americans to shirk that responsibility further will almost surely pave the way for more Trumps — or someone worse — to come.


The United Nations has once again turn into a battleground between the United States and Iran, which are experiencing one of the darkest moments in their bilateral relations.


In many ways, Donald Trump’s bellicosity, his militarism, his hectoring cant about American exceptionalism and national greatness, his bullying of allies—all of it makes him not an opponent of neoconservatism but its apotheosis. Trump is a logical culmination of the Bush era as consolidated by Obama.


For the past few decades the vast majority of private security companies like Blackwater and DynCorp operating internationally have come from a relatively small number of countries: the United States, Great Britain and other European countries, and Russia. But that seeming monopoly is opening up to new players, like DeWe Group, China Security and Protection Group, and Huaxin Zhongan Group. What they all have in common is that they are from China.


The Trump administration’s massive sales of tanks, helicopters, and fighter aircraft are indeed a grim wonder of the modern world and never receive the attention they truly deserve. However, a potentially deadlier aspect of the U.S. weapons trade receives even less attention than the sale of big-ticket items: the export of firearms, ammunition, and related equipment.


Soon after a Saudi-led coalition strike on a bus killed 40 children on August 9, a CENTCOM spokesperson stated to Vox, “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the U.S. sold to them.”


The West has dominated the post-war narrative with its doctrine of liberal values, arguing that not only were they right in themselves but that economic success itself depended on their application. Two developments have challenged those claims. The first was the West’s own betrayal of its principles: on too many occasions the self interest of the powerful, and disdain for the victims of collateral damage, has showed through. The second dates from more recently: the growth of Chinese capitalism owes nothing to a democratic system of government, let alone liberal values.


RightWeb
share