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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hillary Clinton, last of the neocons

I can hear it from here: What is this guy smoking? But it's true: Hillary Clinton was a neocon in disguise.

W e tend to view politics as left vs right. But left and right are only artifacts of our electoral system. In reality, there are multiple ideologies competing within each party. But Hillary Clinton a neocon? I can hear it from here: What is this guy smoking?

The neocons were Democrats who switched to the Republican party in the 1950s and 60s. Their goal was to maintain our foreign commitments in the Cold War, and their flag was democracy.

Francis Fukuyama expressed the neocon point of view most eloquently in his book Political Order and Political Decay (reviewed here). He believed that what we now call deep government—the professional bureaucrats of the permanent ruling class—was essential to a healthy democracy. The neocons believed that democracy was the ideal form of government and that it was destined to sweep the globe.

That belief experienced setbacks in the Middle East. Almost everywhere democracy was tried, Muslim voters voted for other Muslims, the more extreme the better. It took a coup in Egypt to get rid of them. Other countries, like Tunisia and Libya, were not so lucky. Neocon ideology also suffered from the slow path taken by Bush in the Iraq war, which led to disaster when his successor stupidly pulled out.

Hillary Clinton's beliefs were certainly closer to the neocons than to the leftist Democrats now rioting over Trump's victory. While it is true she valued and practiced identity politics, it was only for her own political benefit. Hence the often-repeated joke made by conservatives after hearing feminist women intending to vote with their vagina was that those in line behind them needed to bring rubber gloves with them.

Hillary's fiasco in Benghazi was pure neocon interventionism, as was her saber-rattling in the Syrian civil war. Then there's Russia. The neocons, whose raison d'être was fighting communism, deeply mistrusted Russia, and so we had the bizarre scene of a liberal posturing to the right of Trump and claiming, with the connivance of the Obama administration, that the Ruskies were behind the hacking of her illegal server.

While the Never-Trumpers were not terribly enthusiastic about her personality, they sensed an ideological affinity from the beginning. They were, as they claimed, true to their principles.

Paleocons like Pat Buchanan, who advocated a more noninterventionist policy, still see the old static division of Republicans as the “war party”. Buchanan writes:

Yet the War Party has not had enough of war, not nearly. They want to confront Vladimir Putin, somewhere, anywhere. They want to send U.S. troops to the eastern Baltic. They want to send weapons to Kiev to fight Russia in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. They want to establish a no-fly zone and shoot down Syrian and Russian planes that violate it, acts of war Congress never authorized.

What is this war party of which he speaks? If we had a parliamentary democracy, it would be the Neocon party, and they'd have an organization and candidates of their own. But we're stuck with a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, which automatically creates a two-party system. So the neocons are wanderers. They're a faction in both our major parties, bouncing from D to R and back again as the voters elect them or throw them out.

A few years ago I talked to a fellow scientist from Ukraine. He was incensed about a great many things, not all of them political. He was outraged that Americans were feeding antibiotics to our chickens. But what annoyed him most was Beslan and the American attitude that the Russians brought Beslan on themselves.

This was before his country got invaded and maybe his thinking has changed. But Russians see Beslan as their 9/11. Despite our differences, Russia and the USA are natural allies. We have a common enemy and both countries have strayed from their real mission.

It is often said that Trump won because the Americans were fed up with political correctness, and this is true. But PC is much more than dopey euphemisms. It is an elevation of trying over doing. What you are is more important than what you do. Actually doing things, like, say, solving problems, is not a goal at all, because that would take away the chance to show off one's virtue. All that matters is being seen to try.

As Yoda would put it, try or try not, there is no do.

This describes many of our interventions, including our actions in Bosnia, Somalia, Syria, Egypt, and most especially Libya. So our use of force has been anything but decisive, which is one reason there are still Taliban in Afghanistan. We find ourselves fighting wars we don't intend to win with enemies who are not (or shouldn't be) a serious threat.

Denial of reality is the basis of PC, and Hillary was a master of it. She may have been a power-mad corrupt machine Democrat with an unpleasant personality and an overweening sense of entitlement, but in foreign policy she was also, at heart, a neocon, and perhaps in some ways many neocons and pundits in both parties saw in her a kindred spirit. Trump's appeal was as much a rejection of them as of Hillary.

Last edited nov 16 2016, 7:30 am

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