November 03, 2006

Plotting the Neo-Con Comeback!

This little piece makes for riveting reading, in a deliciously sublime kind of way. What makes it particularly entertaining is that, as far as I can tell, the author is not being ironic in the least, but rather is being drop-dead serious. Do go read. Special props to the commenter who best persuades his peers what statement in the piece is most jaw-dropping in its total remove from reality. I'll open the bidding with this one:

"The Bush administration deserves criticism for its failure to repair America’s public diplomacy apparatus. No group other than neocons is likely to figure out how to do that. We are, after all, a movement whose raison d’être was combating anti-Americanism in the United States. Who better, then, to combat it abroad?...Some Foreign Service officers should be offered specialized training in the war of ideas, and a bunch of us neocons ought to volunteer to help teach it."

What else?

UPDATE: As if on cue, Michael Rubin comes to the rescue on the public diplomacy front!

Unfortunately, our public diplomacy is failing. MEMRI had just issued a report showing how many Turks perceive the US Ambassador, Ross Wilson, to support the Islamists. It’s been almost a year since Wilson arrived in Ankara. Diplomacy is not about doing the ostrich-head-burying routine.

Per Joshua Muravchik, let's quickly round up some Foggy Bottom tutees so Michael can lecture about the ostrich-head-burying thingamajigy, yes?


Posted by Gregory at November 3, 2006 01:28 AM
Comments

You're right: the entire piece is - well, I imagine it's probably a lot like being at the Union Carbide stockholder's meeting after the Bhopal disaster, and hearing the company executives try to put a positive spin on killing and poisoning a couple hundred thousand people so that the execs still get their bonuses.

I guess my favorite bit was this:

"The administration made its share of mistakes, and so did we. We were glib about how Iraqis would greet liberation. Did we fail to appreciate sufficiently the depth of Arab bitterness over colonial memories? Did we underestimate the human and societal damage wreaked by decades of totalitarian rule in Iraq? Could things have unfolded differently had our occupation force been large enough to provide security?"

Not only does he reduce the Iraqi FUBAR to being "glib," he channels his hero (!!) Rumsfeld by asking questions in a blithe, dismissive rhetorical fashion.

By doing so, he treats the questions as though they were minor mistakes anyone might have made, rather than what the errors were: fundamental intellectual and policy failures which could only be made by a stern resolve to ignore the obvious. (And, when the obvious was pointed out by military officers with years of expertise, to sternly ignore them as well.)

What makes that exercise in Rumsfeld-manque even more delicious is, having dismissed as trivia these fundamental failures, he goes on as if he and his merry band still have credibility.

Considering how much damage the neocons have wrecked, at home and abroad, while still insisting they should be the go-tos on American foreign policy, we might have to update the classic definition of "chutzpah." Because the neocons sins far, far outweigh those of the apocryphal young man who kills his parents and then demands mercy because he's an orphan.

Posted by: CaseyL at November 3, 2006 02:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And we should develop and fund training programs back at home that allow Middle Eastern democrats to come to the United States--free of charge--to hone their electoral, organizational, and public relations skills. James Carville and Karl Rove should be the titular heads of this program."

Snort.

Posted by: AP at November 3, 2006 03:16 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Prepare to Bomb Iran. Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office."

Speaks for itself.....

Posted by: The Cunning Realist at November 3, 2006 03:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

An interesting combination of the traditional American vice of self-congratulation with the more contemporary failing of self-pity.

Neoconservatives, feminists, evangelicals, trial lawyers, and politicians under investgation....everyone's a hero and everyone's a victim. Everyone has great triumphs, and is persecuted by relentless enemies. Mistakes can be made, to be sure, but in the end when things go wrong it's always someone else's fault.

Posted by: Zathras at November 3, 2006 03:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I nominate "...but the policies are achieving uncertain success..." That masterpiece of obfuscation and misdirection can also surely prove useful for performance appraisals--and exit interviews.

Posted by: dell at November 3, 2006 04:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Recruit Joe Lieberman for 2008.

while the rest of the piece was a snort-fest, this line was definitely "spit-take" material...

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 3, 2006 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Come on, guys. What can possibly top this:

“Neocon” is now widely synonymous with “ultraconservative” or, for some, “dirty Jew.”

It sets the tone for the whole piece, and plays the emotionally deterrent "martyr card" right off the bat.

Posted by: HankP at November 3, 2006 06:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In his Aug 13th article he bemoaned the powerlessness of presidents to execute policy recommendations by saying,
"The results never match the elegance of the policies formulated by people like me..."

At that point, I think I saw an apparition of John Cleese lean toward his photograph and say, "You stupid twit."

Alas, the elegance of these policies (and anything else written by this twit) would have remained unread by me until you pointed out their comedic value. So thanks for the "heads-up" on this latest Colbert script.

Best regards,

Posted by: George Lazovsky at November 3, 2006 07:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Recent elections in the Palestinian territories and Egypt have brought disconcerting results that suggest democratizing the Middle East may be more difficult than we imagined. That parties unappealing to us have done well should not in itself be a surprise. (After all, it happens in France no matter who wins.)"

Oh, so that is what the war on terror is all about! protecting the world and muslim countries from these well known equivalents of french gaullists and socio-democrats that are the Hamas and muslim brotherhood...

Jokes aside, this piece is a caricature. there are, after all, lots of people who can agree with some of the neocon basic ideas, like the fact that democracy is good for everyone, even if they don't like the neoconservative aggressive and constructivist means. What will these people think when they read this kind of crap? who, except a lunatic, can agree with what is written here?

Posted by: alexandre delaigue at November 3, 2006 09:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Neocon to me means dumb, and this piece makes the case very well. The term AEI scholar seems more and more like a synonym for stupidity as well.

So dumb that Mr. Muravchik doesn't even realize that quite soon he is likely to be looking for work at a real job. The glib dismissal of neocon mistakes as so much spilled milk or akin in importance a missed bunt sign in Little League game as the very foundations of American governance and our international standing lie in tatters suggests an isolation from critical thought that is total.

I hope more Americans again come to understand that it is ideology itself which begets stupidty, or is it the other way around? Ideology attracts the stupid, the lazy of mind, the shill and the conman. Which brings to mind a term for this group, neoconmen.

Posted by: rapier at November 3, 2006 11:51 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When I looked at the various quotes from this paper I was sure it was a fake. But the website claims to be AEI, and this guy is known with them, right? It isn't just a spoof site, the best case is somebody hacked them and added this, which would be a real criminal charge if they could be caught.

Far more likely it's for real.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 3, 2006 01:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

AEI is what I call a propaganda brothel; an 'AEI Scholar' is a scholar in the same sense that a 'lady of the evening' is a lady.

Posted by: Barry at November 3, 2006 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
"One area of neoconservative thought that needs urgent reconsideration is the revolution in military strategy that our neocon hero, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has championed. This love affair with technology has left our armed forces short on troops and resources, just as our execrable intelligence in Iraq seems traceable, at least in part, to the reliance on machines rather than humans. Our forte is political ideas, not physics or mechanics. We may have seized on a technological fix to spare ourselves the hard slog of fighting for higher defense budgets. Let’s now take up the burden of campaigning for a military force that is large enough and sufficiently well provisioned--however “redundant”--to assure that we will never again get stretched so thin. Let the wonder weapons be the icing on the cake."

The whole idea behind their RMA is high tech. Also, don't we spend as much as the rest of the world combined on military forces. I wonder who will fill all those new spots in the military, GW Bush's children, nah I doubt it.

Posted by: jon at November 3, 2006 03:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You mean there are people left who self-identify as "neocon"? I thought they had all long-since run screaming from the label. Rebranded as "adapt-to-winnacons", or something.

If not before, maybe now.

Posted by: lewp at November 3, 2006 03:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Recruit Joe Lieberman for 2008.

Twice in the last quarter-century we had the good fortune to see presidents elected who were sympathetic to our understanding of the world. In 2008, we will have a lot on the line. The policies that we have championed will remain unfinished. The war on terror will still have a long way to go. The Democrats have already shown that they are incurably addicted to appeasement, while the “realists” among the GOP are hoping to undo the legacy of George W. Bush. Sen. John McCain and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani both look like the kind of leaders who could prosecute the war on terror vigorously and with the kind of innovative thought that realists hate and our country needs. As for vice presidential candidates, how about Condoleezza Rice or even Joe Lieberman? Lieberman says he’s still a Democrat. But there is no place for him in that party. Like every one of us, he is a refugee. He’s already endured the rigors of running for the White House. In 2008, he deserves another chance--this time with a worthier running mate than Al Gore."

This is amazing for its prima facie content but more importantly for what it does not say. There simply is no one left in the Republican Party to run for these positions. McCain is highly qualified and electable, although starting to crack in my opinion. However who in the hell will the repubs run as VP? The party is candidate bankrupt. Bush could not tolarate anyone in the Republican party having any power or position, hence the "maverick" term placed on McCain who simply had the gall to disagree every once in a while. As a consequence, the party has all but been nuetered. Lieberman for VP..... incredible. How about Wolfowitz or Kristol or CHENEY?

Posted by: tregen at November 3, 2006 03:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And why, given the CF that has been made of Iraq, should anyone trust anything a neocon says ever again?

Aside from the fact that their connection to reality seems to be, um, nebulous.

Yet another case of proving Reality Trumps Ideology (or is that Idiotology?)

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 3, 2006 04:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

By doing so, he treats the questions as though they were minor mistakes anyone might have made, rather than what the errors were: fundamental intellectual and policy failures which could only be made by a stern resolve to ignore the obvious.

CaseyL is my god.

Posted by: Jim Henley at November 3, 2006 05:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I nominate the following paragraph:

Joshua Muravchik is a resident scholar at AEI.

I suggest that reality would read:

Joshua Muravchik is insane.

Posted by: milo at November 3, 2006 06:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Barry, I think you owe the nation's prostitutes an apology.

Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus at November 3, 2006 06:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How about this:

"Our intellectual contributions helped to defeat communism in the last century and, God willing, they will help to defeat jihadism in this one. It also feels good to see that a number of young people and older converts are swelling our ranks."

Sorry, what intellectual contributions would those be?

And I think he misspeaks in the second sentence. I think he meant to say:

"... a number of young people and older PERVERTS are swelling our ranks."

Seems to me that if you're an old, closeted gay, there's no better place for you now than the Neocon Party.

Posted by: LL at November 3, 2006 08:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Recent elections in the Palestinian territories and Egypt have brought disconcerting results that suggest democratizing the Middle East may be more difficult than we imagined. That parties unappealing to us have done well should not in itself be a surprise. (After all, it happens in France no matter who wins.)"

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

It must be tough for the man, going through life with one hand firmly planted on the top of his head, lest it be lifted up by an unexpected gust or breeze and become lost to the tender mercies of a nearby tree branch or the crevice of one of our nation's beloved granite monuments.

Posted by: Muddy Mo at November 4, 2006 12:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Some Foreign Service officers should be offered specialized training in the war of ideas, and a bunch of us neocons ought to volunteer to help teach it."

Ok timeout. Let's put a stop to this nonsense right here and right now. None of these neocons, anybody appointed to anything by Bush, or working either for the Heritage Foundation or AEI ever gets to work in government or have any influence over government again. Kill. These. Zombies. Now.

Posted by: demkat620 at November 4, 2006 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And [Bush] has perceived that the only way to win this war in the end is to transform the political culture of the Middle East from one of absolutism and violence to one of tolerance and compromise.

Tolerance and compromise - trademarks of the Bush administration and the current state of Iraq. But my vote is with AP and Muravchik's nomination of Carville and Rove to educate Middle East democrats. Free of charge no less, or, at least a 20% discount with the purchase of a subscription to the Weekly Standard.

Posted by: Tim at November 4, 2006 12:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I note, meanwhile, that Richard Perle says that neo-cons had nothing to do with post-war planning, and graciously fobs off responsibility elsewhere. O RLY, as I believe they say...

Posted by: Ned R. at November 4, 2006 01:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I nominate a new title for AEI Scholar: Maximus Retardus

Posted by: srv at November 4, 2006 04:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I note, meanwhile, that Richard Perle says that neo-cons had nothing to do with post-war planning, and graciously fobs off responsibility elsewhere. O RLY, as I believe they say...

I can easily believe it. They didn't believe we needed any postwar planning, why would they do any?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 4, 2006 02:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Barry, I think you owe the nation's prostitutes an apology.

Good one.

Ok timeout. Let's put a stop to this nonsense right here and right now.

This reminds me of the Monty Python sketch, where a guy in uniform (I forget if he's a cop or a soldier) barges on stage and announces that he's breaking up the sketch because it's gotten too silly.

Richard Perle says that neo-cons had nothing to do with post-war planning . . .

What I've read suggests that disbanding the Iraqi military and expanding de-Baathification reflected neocon influence. It seems they were overruled on the matter of installing a provisional government headed by Chalabi.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 4, 2006 03:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

yeah, and putting in a prov govt under Chalabi would have been just the ticket, eh?

Posted by: greg djerejian at November 4, 2006 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Was anyone really asking these clowns to get the band back together?

This piece can't really be reconciled with the recent Vanity Fair piece, in which the hardest of the hard-core (Perle, Adelman) pretty much throw in the towel.

This guy must be a huge embarrassment for AEI.

Who says "We neocons" with a straight face? I've gotten into arguments with right-wingers who assert (like the mafia) "there ain't no such thing. . . ."

Posted by: Barry E. at November 4, 2006 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


There used to be a neocon website.

Then, one strange week, the site featured several articles by neocons explaining that there's no such thing as a neocon, and then the site disappeared.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 4, 2006 05:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


yeah, and putting in a prov govt under Chalabi would have been just the ticket, eh?

It would have been entertaining, while it lasted.

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 4, 2006 05:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Project Managers build schedules for projects, and those schedules include resource allocation analysis. The schedules are supposed to be built in collaboration with department managers, so the numbers and dates used have some factual basis rather than being pulled out of thin air.

PMs also hold weekly or monthly planning meetings to review progress-so-far, including what bottlenecks have arisen, the impact bottlenecks will have on the overall schedule, and what must be done to fix the bottlenecks. At the end of each project, there's supposed to be a Lessons Learned meeting, to go over what went right and what went wrong, and to decide what changes to make in the future.

I wish someone, somewhere, could get their hands on whatever WHIG used for its project planning and analysis. As a former Project Manager, I'd be very interested to see it - particularly the collaborative data, the resource allocation, the interim progress reports, and the Lessons Learned minutes.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the entire Project Planning for Iraq consisted of a single MS Project sheet that had been created without any input from "department managers" (i.e., military commanders, procurement officers, quartermasters, recruitment officers), and without any resource allocation analysis at all. Nor would I be surprised if there were no interim progress meetings - at least, none that anyone outside the WHIG circle could participate in - and no Lessons Learned analysis at all.

It's been a never failing source of amazement to me that the Bush Administration embarked on a war with less planning, less interim analysis, and less accountability than Kleenex Co. uses to launch a new tissue product.

Posted by: CaseyL at November 4, 2006 05:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

CaseyL, bravo.

Maybe this result of all this mess (if we in fact do make it out the other side) will bring back respect for planning, pragmatism, and realism.

Story I was told by a friend (apocryphal):

Back in the days of the Big Bad Soviet Empire, everything was being governed by Revealed Truth, as revealed in the writings of Lenin and Marx. This included deciding what the critical masses of uranium and plutonium were....

All the nuclear physicists screamed bloody murder, and the administration came back with: "Nonsense! We know exactly what it should be, as revealed in the writings of Lenin and Marx."

Shortly after that a part of the Urals went radioactive due to a meltdown in a nuclear waste dump.

The Soviet government quickly decided that physicists would be exempt from the Doctrine of Revealed Truth.

Posted by: grumpy realist at November 4, 2006 10:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


yeah, and putting in a prov govt under Chalabi would have been just the ticket, eh?

That turns out to be Chalabi's opinion, to no one's surprise.


http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003350110

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 5, 2006 01:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"barry, I think you owe the nation's prostitutes an apology."
Posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus

You're right; I spoke hastily. But I can't find any comparison group bad enough.

Posted by: Barry at November 5, 2006 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Muravchik is for real.

I was in high school and college with him, and he was the leader of SDS. Go figure.

Just another apostate radical leftie who "saw the light" and went over to the dark side.

Posted by: StevetheWeave at November 5, 2006 08:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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