Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Here to Stay

John Lloyd of the Financial Times does a great job in his review of two new books that put neo-con foreign policy into its proper perspective.

The reaction to 9/11 and to the Iraqi threat was not a one-off response: it was and is a political practice which had matured over some decades, and which allowed the neo-con view of the world to become the dominant one in the post-9/11 White House, in spite of the anti-interventionist instincts of President George W Bush and his national security adviser (now secretary of state) Condoleezza Rice. This was not because the neo-con cabal had taken over America, as has been a trope ever since, not always untainted with anti-Semitism (Mark Steyn wrote once that Paul Wolfowitz was regarded as particularly threatening because "his name begins with a scary animal and ends in something Jewish"). It is because the neo-con outlook made the most sense, and still does.

What is neoconservative foreign policy? The best thumbnail definition is the one given by Paul Berman in his hugely influential Terror and Liberalism (2003) and quoted by Oliver Kamm: "Freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for freedom for others." It is that coupling, of national security with the promotion of freedom, that has given neoconservative foreign policy its potency, and why it is likely to last through a change of power in the United States after George W Bush - certainly if the Republican victor is John McCain, probably if the Democratic victor is Hillary Clinton.

All of which is true to my own converted neo-con worldview, and why I have to pause and remember that when most of the people who surround me at work and at home use the word "neo-con" they mean it as a sneering insult. If someone called me that, I'd be tempted to answer, "why, thank you." They usually don't, though. Nuances are lost. Around the newsroom, I'm only dismissed as a "Bush apologist." There's really only one person in the world, you see, and everything is defined as it relates to him.