May 08, 2008

A post-neocon?

Lawrence Kaplan, a neocon of the New Republic deviation, has some rather intriguing things to say to say about what the Iraq war will ultimately mean: 

I also think that the Iraq experience has set back the cause of idealism in American foreign policy and the willingness of Western countries to intervene for humanitarian reasons. Take Darfur: I think it’s because of Iraq that nobody wants to intervene there. So on the whole the effects have been huge and overwhelmingly negative. I don’t see anything good that’s come from this war, I’m afraid.

If it?s true that the interventionist class has been chastened?and I?m not positive that this is the case?than this would be the single good thing that I can see coming out of the Iraq debacle. 

To give Kaplan some credit, he does make an attempt at self-criticism:

Before the war, Iraq was an abstraction, an idea. Once you have seen the place you can’t help but be much more cautious with the ideas that you put on the table.

Later on:

So being less ?neo? and more conservative today makes me much less idealistic and much less optimistic about man’s capacity to change and to improve the world. I am more inclined now to a Hobbesian view of the world and to the view that this condition cannot be changed.

A Neo-culpa? Perhaps. But then what Kaplan?s words really reveal is just how much is at stake for many neocons, how the Iraq disaster threatens to explode their most cherished beliefs:

If one says that you can’t democratize Iraq because they are Iraqis or Arabs, one is really taking a step into outer space in the sense that you then have to embrace arguments about culture and pursue a certain relativism that I am not ready to embrace. We have to remember that there were also those who said that the Japanese and the Germans and the Catholics of South America could not be democrats. I still believe that all cultures are capable of democracy and liberalism. Everybody wants to be free. But obviously, in Iraq this assumption ran into a wall. Now why is that?

Yes, for the sake proving that American ?democracy? (whatever this is?) is the One True Way and that all cultures want it, Kaplan is prepared to keep going in Iraq and spend at least another 1.6 Trillion and maybe throw in a few more thousand reservists. Indeed, a willingness to make other people bear any burden and meet any hardship so that he does not have to face reality is probably what Kaplan means by his becoming more ?Hobbesian? or ?conservative.? 

(Also, BTW, the wicked proto-Nazi German Empire was a Constitutional Monarchy with a full-functioning parliament., and the proto-Hitler Prime Minister Bismarck actually installed the first social welfare system (a dubious honor.) Hitler actually seized power democratically. Also, when I traveled through the evil German parts of the world, and the doubly evil German and Catholic lands, I noticed that towns featured lots of large buildings all going by the name Rathaus. I don?t know what that that means, but I think it has something to do with representative government. As for South America, isn?t their problem not a little too much ?democracy.?)

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