Sunday, October 19, 2003

NeoCons and PaleoCons

Hadrian Wise with a thoughtful piece in RightNow on the neocons and Iraq - throwing light on the strange inversions which have 'righties' saying 'democracy for all' and 'lefties' saying 'hang on, these aren't people like us at all', previously documented so elegantly by Ian Buruma and more clunkily by yours truly.

But Wise doesn't mention the 'lefties' at all. It's all about the difference between neocons and true Tories (in the US 'paleocons'). But what is remarkable, to me at any rate, is how closely the 'left' arguments against intervention in Iraq match the paleocon argument. 'Not in our national interest' has in fact been the chief argument of the Stop The War campaign - especially in the days when it was getting a million on the streets.

"His (Fukayama's) theory that capitalistic liberal democracy is so much better at promoting peace and prosperity than any other socio-economic order that it will and should conquer the world and last for ever, is the core belief of neoconservatism. Once we recognize this, it is easy to see why so many former Marxists have adopted it, for it has much in common with Marxism: historical inevitability, the fusion of prediction and prescription, the primacy of economics, permanent victory to the best socio-economic system, and, most fundamentally, the idea that there is a ‘best’ socioeconomic system, best for everybody everywhere, an idea that generates the somewhat sinister excuse that those who fail to recognize what is best for them are suffering from ‘false consciousness’. The difference is simply the socio-economic system chosen: for the Marxist, it is communism, enforced by a totalitarian state, for the neoconservative, Western capitalism, nurtured by a liberal democracy."

"In America, virtually every neoconservative supported the war on Iraq, and virtually every paleoconservative opposed it. The paleoconservatives had one reason for opposing the war – that it was against American interests; the neocons had many reasons for supporting it, but most of these – Saddam’s apparent weapons programme, his defiance of the UN, his alleged dealings with terrorists, his oppression of his people, even his oil - were incidental. Their real aim was the establishment of a capitalistic liberal democracy in Iraq, an apparently insane project that makes sense when you remember that the neocons, as befits their Marxist heritage, believe human nature to be infinitely malleable. Rather than happy outgrowths of Western civilisation and tradition, capitalism and liberal democracy are the blueprint for the good society everywhere. Everybody should have them; it is the job of the United States to give it them."

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