Neoconservatism is Stupid
Last week I wrote: “Barack Obama deserves to lose this election, but Mitt Romney does not deserve to win it.”
This week, Romney proved further why he does not deserve to win.
In a speech titled “Mantle of Leadership,” Romney blasted President Obama for not being more like George W. Bush in his foreign policy. Never mind that Obama has continued virtually every foreign and “national security” policy as his predecessor—undeclared wars, Executive orders, indefinite detention, drone strikes—you name it. Business Insider noted: “Romney offered few details of his own approach and… echoed several policies already being pursued by Obama…” Said Charles Kupchan, a U.S. foreign policy specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations: “The problem for Romney is when you take out the neocon rhetoric, he starts looking a lot like Obama.”
“Neocon rhetoric” indeed. The only thing dumber than a Democrat who thinks Obama’s foreign policy is different from Bush’s is a Republican who thinks this. And perhaps the only thing dumber, still, is a Republican presidential candidate who—at this late date, in 2012—believes Bush-era neoconservatism is the way to win over voters. It might be a way for Romney to win over his foreign policy advisers, but not voters.
Let us first remember what neoconservatism is: The notion that American greatness is measured by our willingness to be a great power through vast and virtually unlimited global military involvement. Neocon doctrine preaches that other nations’ problems invariably become our own because history and fate have designated America the world’s top authority. Neocons believe it is our job to “make the world safe for democracy” as Democrat Woodrow Wilson once put it, or to pursue a “freedom agenda” as Bush described his foreign policy. You will rarely find a war neocons don’t support, of which they will give every reason why we must engage and also every reason why we must never disengage once we intervene.
Now let us remember what neoconservatism is not: Conservative. George Will and William F. Buckley explained this in a 2005 interview, when Will asked Buckley: “Today, we have a very different kind of foreign policy. It’s called Wilsonian. And the premise of the Bush Doctrine is that America must spread democracy, because our national security depends upon it. And America can spread democracy. It knows how. It can engage in nation-building. This is conservative or not?” Buckley replied: “It’s not at all conservative. It’s anything but conservative.”
What Will described and Buckley denounced is exactly what Romney promoted this week.
Romney believes America should be involved in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan—just for starters—championing a vague “freedom” through our endless military intervention. Bush thought this about Iraq. The results were not so rosy. Obama thinks this about Afghanistan. No one sees any good coming from that 12-year-old debacle. The “rebels” in Libya and Egypt who Romney says we must aid are often the same people who attack our embassies and kill our diplomats. Before aiding these “rebels” we aided the dictators they rebelled against. We’ve spent trillions of dollars we don’t have to fund these efforts. We ask our soldiers to make the ultimate sacrifice for missions that are murky at best and with exit strategies that are virtually non-existent.
When conservatives complain that government welfare only subsidizes the problem of poverty, liberals immediately say that we must do more of the same. Liberals believe that poverty might end if the government would only spend more money.
Neoconservatives view foreign policy like liberals view welfare. Despite decades of disastrous and costly results—neocons insist we must do more of the same. Maintaining and expanding the status quo in our foreign policy was essentially the gist of Romney’s speech.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were many intelligent people who had great hope in socialism. They believed that Marx’s collectivist ideas could benefit humanity. After the fall of the Soviet Union and countless nations’ experiments with socialism, very few hold out any hope for socialism today. It was tried, and from those experiments most learned their lesson.
Neoconservatism is something that has been tried in earnest throughout the last decade and then some. In Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere it has failed. Miserably. If applying cost-benefit analyses to these wars—as any traditional conservative should—you can find few if any benefits to contrast with the monstrous and tragic costs. American foreign policy is a bipartisan embarrassment. Obama only reluctantly mentions Afghanistan. Romney never mentions Iraq.
The definition of insanity or stupidity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. Pat Buchanan noted of Romney’s speech “We ought to have learned from these last two wars… You cannot be isolationist. The question is, do you want to endlessly intervene in these struggles to sort these affairs out? To put in power governments that are not only friendly to you, but are going to have values like yours? That is an impossibility in that part of the world.”
It is impossible. It is naïve. And it is stupid.