Blogs > Liberty and Power > Are the Neocons Souring on Democracy?

Jan 28, 2006 12:57 pm

Are the Neocons Souring on Democracy?

Since the end of the Cold War, the neocons, through such entities as The Weekly Standard, the American Enterprise Institute, and Fox News, have hammered the view that the spread of democracy should be central to American foreign policy. After 9-11, this idea has won over most mainstream conservatives and all too many libertarians. It also formed the basis of the Bush Doctrine.

Few have pushed the pro-democracy solution harder than Charles Krauthammer of the Weekly Standard. His article for Time in March 2005, "Three Cheers for the Bush Doctrine," is something of a neocon classic in this regard. Please note his optimistic predications about"Free Palestinian elections:"

Jon Stewart, the sage of Comedy Central, is one of the few to be honest about it."What if Bush ... has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may ... implode." Daniel Schorr, another critic of the Bush foreign policy, ventured, a bit more grudgingly, that Bush"may have had it right."

Right on what? That America, using power harnessed to democratic ideals, could begin a transformation of the Arab world from endless tyranny and intolerance to decent governance and democratization. Two years ago, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, I argued in these pages that forcefully deposing Saddam Hussein was, more than anything, about America" coming ashore" to effect a"pan-Arab reformation"--a dangerous,"risky and, yes, arrogant" but necessary attempt to change the very culture of the Middle East, to open its doors to democracy and modernity.

The Administration went ahead with this great project knowing it would be hostage to history. History has begun to speak. Elections in Afghanistan, a historic first. Elections in Iraq, a historic first. Free Palestinian elections producing a moderate leadership [emphasis mine], two historic firsts. Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, men only, but still a first. In Egypt, demonstrations for democracy--unheard of in decades--prompting the dictator to announce free contested presidential elections, a historic first.

Yesterday, however, Krauthamer seemed to be a man in transition. Appearing on a Fox News panel with Fred Barnes, Krauthammer depicted the Hamas electoral victory in the darkest terms. He dismissed any hopes that Hamas, once in power, would moderate its views. Barnes chimed in to agree. Based on Krauthammer's performance, viewers could have never guessed that this was the same man who penned the article in March 2005. He even self-assuredly pronounced that"nobody should be surprised" by the Hamas victory.

Perhaps we are witnessing a return to the old Cold War mentality. During that period, neocons and conservatives generally looked the other way when"authoritarian" allies undermined liberty, that is as long as they were pro-U.S. Hopefully this means, in the coming months we can expect fewer examples of flowery Wilsonian prose.

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David T. Beito - 1/29/2006


Sudha Shenoy - 1/28/2006

For neocons, it seems that a pre-requisite for commenting on areas, is a complete ignorance about them.