Whither Next, Neocons?
Submitted by Steve Brown…
Subsequent to decades of failed foreign policy, from continuous wars to the “Arab spring” (read: nightmare) Washington has arrived at a crossroads. Designed to make money for its military contractors and upset just about everyone else, the DC establishment is not only at a crossroads, but faces a serious quandary too in its predilection for the use of force.
Whether by accident or by design, Washington’s “foreign policy” has now pivoted aggressively to attempt to undermine the world’s greatest powers — formerly its partners — who now stand in opposition to that US aggression: namely Russia and China.
We see Washington’s attempts to destabilize China via its support for Hong Kong protests and the trade war. The trade war is all Washington’s play, designed when the US ascended to its number one position in oil exports, being the only real feather in the US cap. And while Wall Street is ‘convinced’ that the Treasury’s trade war with China will soon be resolved, that is a complete fantasy, as fantastic as the proposition that the US can maintain its hegemonic position forever.
Why trade war chief Steve “IndyMAC” Mnuchin was promoted to ultimate power in the US Treasury is somewhat cloudy, but likely originated with hedge fund forces underlying the regime, perhaps Paul Singer or Bob Mercer, or both together, along with speculative others. The point being, with “Mr IndyMAC” Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer in charge of talks, there is no hope that the United States can correct the self-inflicted damage it has done to itself, by its confrontation with China.
Likewise, Washington and US State have taken on their Russian counterparts for slights whether real or imagined, from Snowden to the Ukraine to Syria, to Russia’s bulk sale of US Treasury instruments on the open market. Recent US Embassy meddling to promote protests in Moscow highlights the latest manifestation of US State’s malfeasance, building upon its history in the Ukraine. In all wisdom, Washington’s failed State has jettisoned the INF treaty with Russia too, sparking a new global arms race that will allow all major powers to leverage their lethality to an alarming new extent.
Remarkable too, Trump has made great concessions to the Israeli’s, with his brinkmanship on Iran, pushing the envelope to the limits of war, while tacitly endorsing Israeli oppression of Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian land. Trump has illegally recognized the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and implicitly endorsed Jerusalem as the ‘capitol’ of Israel, while stripping the Palestinian authority and its people of much-needed funds and resources. Furthermore, the stillborn Kushner “peace deal” for Palestinians was so laughable and outrageous that the existence of such a “deal” is not even whispered today.
Now, the US has proposed Mike Pompeo as the only hope to revive talks with Iran, while Iran categorically stated that it will not negotiate with terrorists — especially American ones. Likewise, communication with Russia and China is relatively non-existent, while the US only rattles its rather impotent and rusty saber, since diplomatic language is nowhere to be heard.
Taken together, all of the above represent important historic Neoconservative goals: the attempt to marginalize Russia and China globally; confronting any and all in violation of the Wolfowitz Doctrine; allowing Israel to dictate US policy; brutality to Palestinians; free reign to the Saudi Royals… etc.* As such, if the ideological and practical goals of Neoconservatism have been met and achieved we must ask:
Whither next, Neocons?
If history may be our guide, the Neocon stock in trade is to foment a new war on false pretenses with the arrival of every new US administration, arguably beginning with Ronald Reagan (El Salvador and Iran Contra). But the US has not engaged in a new war (other than trade) since Trump’s election, while division and anger have continued to grow within the United States.
Neocons believe that a new war will divert public anger to a positive outcome, ie to focus public anger on a new common enemy, rather than focus public anger on the Neocons themselves for their failed foreign policy. Neocons believe too that a new war will kick the hegemonic can down the road — while concentrating public anger on their version of the bad guys! — thus diverting attention away from everything else.
In conjunction, Israel and Saudi Arabia and the aforementioned US State apparatus are piling the pressure on Donald Trump, to force him into war, while LMT and GD and the Academi militarist-contractors gleefully wait in the wings. (While those are not Neocon elements per se, Neocons likely wish to leverage the foregoing via their favorite perceived game-changer: Iran.) That is, to push ‘The Decider’ in Washington hard enough to declare war, somewhere. But that “somewhere” must have a relatively benign impact if things go wrong, which is the challenge Neocons face.
War on Iran is a risky business. If Neocons have learned nothing else since their 2003 aggression in Iraq, it’s that a war on Iran will be far from a pushover. Regardless, the Neocon-Neoliberal push for war with Iran will continue unabashed and unabated, as we see with Washington’s attempt to setup an international “patrol force” for the Strait of Hormuz – so far unsuccessful.
Complicating the issue is Russia’s proclamation that any US attack on Iran will be considered an attack on Russia, and while that may be a head fake or bluff, it will be one foolhardy State Dept employee indeed who decides to call it.
Venezuela is another Neocon target to divert and redirect US public anger, where much noise is being made by Washington about a Naval blockade versus the country. Such a blockade will be impractical so long as Russia and China maintain their significant interests in Venezuela. Thus it appears that the real point being made is that Trump wants to appear tough and show US strength, not that he is reticent to take military action.
Then we have North Korea, a Neocon staple for years, and an annoyance that US State has been entirely unable to gauge or appreciate since North Korea’s inception, where North Korea itself was created by US hubris. However North Korea’s leadership has cleverly and carefully played its hand to date, to a point where US efforts to bring North Korea within Washington’s grasp have not only failed, but even made the US regime look silly.
Another gauge is to consider classic Neocon thinkers and hardliners like George Will, Bill Kristol, and Max Boot, and what they are thinking and writing about today. Ironically, Will, Kristol, and Boot only wax lyrical about their disdain for Donald Trump, even more obsessively than dems do while pursuing their Russophobic mania. In his latest hit piece, Boot even takes on Tucker Carlson just as Karl Marx might have taken on Lenin, had he been around to do so. Professional jealousy comes to mind.
At one time this author compiled a list of names in excess of two hundred Neoconservative intellectuals, with Washington think tanks from the AEI to the Heritage Foundation and Brookings Institute, CFR, Rand, and many more… all influential in public life. Most of those formerly well-known Neoconservative names have disappeared from public service and of those that remain – for example Elliott Abrams – when they do re-appear in public service, the general outrage and alarm is extant and instant.
In that light, can Washington’s remaining Neoconservative elements push Trump to war? Classic Neocons whether in public service or not, seem to be focused solely on their rejection of the Trump presidency, so their ability to influence the US president is muted. In fact, we are almost to the point where the Neocon ideology of the wicked inheriting the earth rings like a forgotten bad dream. Krauthammer is of course, dead… apparently in more ways than one, and militant Neoconservatism is no longer what it once was. It is without direction, it is flailing.
Yes, the remaining cadre of decadent Neoconservatism in Washington lacks direction and leadership. As a result, Washington’s Neocons – or what remains of them – are only engaged in a bizarre Kabuki dance. Their strange movements on the stage presently lead nowhere, an eventuality that is somewhat uncharacteristic of their former coherence. They don’t even have Bolton and Pompeo to call assets, since they cannot be considered intellectuals or effective leaders.**
Rather than attribute Trump with the qualities of a great chess master for denying the Neocons their previous ability to force war on the public at will (to distract from a decaying US Empire) it appears that Neocons are simply engaged in pointless debate, with no real substance or future prospect.
In the end, the minions of the defunct PNAC and AEI consumed themselves in an orgy of pointless war and state-sponsored violence, where the only Neocon legacy is the staying-power of ISIS and its many variants. Even Fred Kagan mourns the Neocon passing in the last piece I have seen from him in some time.
What we all must truly fear however is whether or when their meaningless Kabuki dance may turn violent and ugly, when Neocons find themselves in their final death throes, finally understanding that their time has truly passed. And they want to take us all with them – to the grave… just as they always have done.
* The entire Neocon gambit is well laid out by the IASPS in “Beyond 2000, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”
** Bolton and Pompeo are more properly described as Statists, rather than Neocons.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as guest contributor to theDuran, Fort Russ News, and Strategika51.