Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bring Back the Neocons?

A fascinating editorial titled "Bring Back the Neocons" appeared in today's New York Sun:
So look where President Bush's decision to sideline the neoconservatives has gotten him. Instead of worrying about America, Iran now holds the upper hand, choosing which U.N. officials will inspect it as America begs Tehran to accept an offer of negotiations and "incentives" that include civilian airline parts. North Korea is as belligerent as ever, test-firing medium range missiles. Iraq's capital is a bloodbath of sectarian violence. Israel is under fire from a Hamas state in Gaza. Russia and Communist China are blocking American action at the U.N. Security Council.

Well, if this is what four months of a "softer line" has gained us, we say bring back the neoconservatives, particularly because Mr. Bush himself hasn't totally abandoned their — and his — freedom agenda....

The neoconservatives said success in Iraq depended on pressing on to neighboring Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The administration stopped short, and Mr. Bush strolled through the Texas bluebonnets holding hands with Prince Abdullah of the House of Saud. Neoconservative calls for American support for Iranian democrats were met with a belated administration proposal of a paltry $75 million.

Neoconservatives want to liberate North Korea by opening the door to refugees seeking to escape its oppression, the same way that the breach in the Berlin Wall took down the Soviet empire. Mr. Bush did sign into the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 and did meet on April 28, 2006, with North Korean refugees. But the Bush administration, in a variation on President Clinton's approach, has been devoting energy to negotiating with Pyongyang in six-party talks that the neoconservatives think are a waste of time.
(Hat tip to The Reform Party of Syria for the editorial, which I received through their email list)

The editorial goes on to say that while the Bush Administration put a lot of faith in Mahmoud Abbas, the neocons warned that he would not be much better than Arafat. The Bush Administration also spends a lot of time trying to work with the United Nations on problems such as Iranian nuclear weapons, an institutions most neocons despise.

Who Are the Neocons?

It's always a good idea to define your terms. This definition from Answers.com seems as good as any to me:
Neoconservatism (or neocon) refers to the political movement, ideology, and public policy goals of "new conservatives" in the United States, that are relatively unopposed to "big government" principles and restrictions on social spending, when compared with other American conservatives such as traditional or paleoconservatives.

In the context of United States foreign policy, neoconservative has another, narrower definition. Critics define it as interventionist with hawkish views on foreign policy. Supporters define it as advocating the use of military force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with democratic ones. This view competes with liberal internationalism, realism, and non-interventionism.
Is the Editorial Right?

I think it's largely on track. We all know that the insurgency is being fueled by Iran and Syria (not that if we sealed the borders it would totally disappear, but it would help the situation). Failure to strike known terrorist centers is due to the understandable fear of a larger war, but it may have been a risk worth taking.

Although I'm sure we're covertly supporting Iranian democrats, I have to wonder if we're really doing all that we can.

North Korea is a tough nut to crack, and I don't really blame Clinton as much as some do for his virtual appeasement. But while it may have been worth a try once, we should have learned and moved on. And I have to admit that the "Six Party Talks" never seem to really achieve anything.

Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, or whatever name he calls himself these days, hasn't done anything more than Arafat to resolve the crisis on the West Bank, and never had any intention of risking anything for peace. The long-term way to resolve the issue there it to promote democracy, but this requires democrats, and Abbas isn't one.

So we've tried the soft line with the Palestinians, North Korea, and Iran, and it hasn't gotten us anywhere. It's time to go back to a freedom agenda.