Neoconservativism’s Future – Its Still The Only Game In Town

By William Narvey

Joshua Muravchik, one of the leading intellectual voices of neo-conservatism, wrote on The Past, Present, and Future of Neoconservatism in the October issue of Commentary Magazine.

Muravchik’s defence and promotion of neoconservative thinking in this piece is flawed in a number of respects and raises many questions in others. He is selective in his analysis and thus does not go nearly far enough to explain more clearly just what neoconservativism stands for and what it counsels America to do in terms of domestic and foreign thinking and policies.

In his summation, he more clearly states the tenets of neoconservativism which he claims to be “the most cogent approach to the challenge that faces our country.”


The following deals first with the points relative to his 4 tenets of neoconservativism.

    (1) Our struggle is moral, against an evil enemy who revels in the destruction of innocents. Knowing this can help us assess our adversaries correctly and make appropriate strategic choices. Saying it convincingly will strengthen our side and weaken theirs.

This sounds good, but what does it mean in practice?

Muravchik cites at length various issues and facts involving Iraq that negatively impact on America and speaks of radical Islam as the enemy by referencing in the main, Iran and Al Qaeda. He fails however to cite other nations and groups that have contributed to the growth and strength of radical Islam.

Further, Muravchik fails to note and offer practical solutions bound up in actions both pro-active and defensive to those aspects of radical Islamic ideology that permeates so much of the Muslim Middle East and which has also influenced and shaped the anti-Western and anti-American views of Muslims living in the West and America and in some cases, has radicalized those Western Muslims.

At most, Muravchik touches ever so briefly on the underlying influence of radical Islam, from a religious, political and cultural perspective, but he offers only generalizations as opposed to specific neoconservative fashioned solutions.

    (2) The conflict is global, and outcomes in one theater will affect those in others.

True, but Muravchik fails to note that neither America nor other Western nations in recognizing the conflict as such, have carried the fight vigorously into the entire global theatre and at home in America.

Further Muravchik is silent on whether neoconservative thinking will lead America to all out defend and win against the radical Islamist enemy of every stripe and degree, including their entire supporting infrastructure, on both the ground level battlefield and in the battle for hearts and minds, both at home and globally.

    (3) While we should always prefer nonviolent methods, the use of force will continue to be part of the struggle.

Again Muravchik fails to explain just what further use of force neoconservativism advocates, in what circumstances neoconservativism would conclude that diplomacy must end and war must ensue and in such case, just how and how far America will need to go at home and abroad to win that war.

    (4) The spread of democracy offers an important, peaceful way to weaken our foe and reduce the need for force.

This is a highly doubtful proposition, rife with assumptions, arrogance and naiveté.

First, Muravchik’s assumes that an Islamic democracy would function as a Western democracy and that it would be pro-Western. That assumption does not necessarily flow from how Western democracies function and interact.

In the belief that democracy is the best form of government, the West assumes that democracy would be the best form of government for the Muslim Middle Eastern nations in spite of the vast and numerous differences between Western and Islamic cultures. Accordingly, the Bush administration has taken the Western lead to tailor American thinking, policies and actions, including foreign aid towards the Muslim Middle East in furtherance of that core belief.

Many have with fair minded justification, labeled these Western policies and actions as being policies and acts of submission and appeasement, all intended to bribe Middle Eastern nations to be more tolerant and accepting of Western values and cultural attitudes.

At this point that effort is not working all that well and it is at best uncertain, if not doubtful whether these policies will eventually bring democracy to the Middle East and even if so, whether those democracies would be pro-Western and like Western democracies.

While neoconservativism supports the Bush administration’s thinking and policies to democratize the Middle East, that almost certainly will demand a long term effort. Neoconservatives have no answer as to what to do in the meantime about Islamic Jihadists, supported by their world wide infrastructure which continues to take its deadly toll amongst Westerners and Muslims and continues to cause the scale of human suffering to painfully weigh all the more.

It is conceivable of course that a Muslim nation in the Middle East could transform into a democratic political system, but more freedoms and electing a government is not all what Western style democracy is about.

In the West, parties vying to be elected to office, regardless of the differences in their platforms all base their positions within the context of and in conformity with Western Judeo-Christian culture. The same could well be for the Muslim Middle East which would base their democracy within the context of and in conformity with Islamic culture. If that is how democracy were to come about in the Muslim Middle East, that does not auger well for the hope that a Muslim democracy would be pro-Western.

Unless, with such Muslim Middle East democratic transformation comes an acceptance and incorporation of Western cultural perspectives and values into Islamic cultural perspectives, the same frictions would continue to rub, the same antithetical values would continue to collide and all of this would continue to heighten tensions and stoke the fires of conflict as has thus far been the case. Looming still on the horizon would be the threat that all these tensions and conflicts could explode into an all out global war.

Therein lies the potential for continued and even worsened conflict even if the Middle East is ultimately democratized and the general rule that democracies do not make war on other democracies, conceivably would not apply between Western and Islamic culturally based democracies.

It is therefore naïve to believe that the spread of democracy to the Muslim Middle East will be the panacea Muravchik hopes for.

The most glaring weakness in Muravchik’s essay however, is not what he deals with, but with what he does not.

Muravchik has utterly failed to address the dual influences on American thinking and policies, both in the Middle East and at home of the power of oil and fear of angering Muslims even more then America already has for more reasons then their misadventures in the Middle East.

America’s far less then stellar involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised Middle Eastern tensions, suspicions and anger that has cost America a loss of prestige and influence in the entire region, has ratcheted up radical Islamic rhetoric and actions and America’s ability to purse her interests there has been made all the more difficult.

The Bush administration’s mishandling of the Iraq war thus far, quite apart from angering the American people, has also angered many in the American Muslim community. Knowing the penchant for violence in some Muslims, Americans have reason to fear that they are vulnerable to attack from radical Islamic terrorists, both abroad and at home from radical Muslims already in the U.S. and some, otherwise peaceful Muslims who are vulnerable to become radicalized.

A good example of how the Bush administration’s policies are twisted by oil, fear or both, is with respect to its policies and positions with regarding to the Israel – Palestinian conflict.

In that regard, most in the Muslim Middle East use that unresolved conflict to excuse away their failure to modernize and democratize politically and socially, their failure to contain and reverse the growing wave of Islamic radicalism and for growing suspicions and anger with the West and America in particular. These Middle Eastern nations claim that all impediments to moving forward as regards these issues will be removed, if peace can be achieved between Israel and Palestinians and the Palestinians having their own independent state.

It is doubtful that the Bush administration puts much stock in these Middle Eastern excuses and promises, however it is acting on it as if it were true.

In that regard there has been no secret made by the Bush administration that they see the best way to advance American interests in the Middle East, to extricate themselves from Iraq with some face saved and to gain some Middle Eastern allies to contain and control Iran, is to ensure that America gets the Israel – Palestinian conflict resolved.

The Bush administration has made solving the Israel – Palestinian conflict and bringing an independent Palestinian state into being is its highest priority. To that end the American pressure on Israel to make more concessions in order to gain Palestinian agreement for such peace, is enormous and unrelenting.

Does neoconservativism concur with the Bush administration’s view in this regard or does it counsel a different strategic approach that seeks to advance American interests in the Middle East by becoming less vulnerable to the power of oil and fear of consequences and instead advance American interests by relying on America’s own power and by asserting her own good judgment in defining her interests based on Western values, principles and reason.

If it is the latter that Muravchik advocates neoconservativism has to offer, he has not provided any indication as to just how being guided by neoconservatism will allow America to become stronger and more assertive then it is.

Two recent events, amongst a great many past instances, evidence the efforts by American leaders to make a very overt and public show of respect and deference to Muslim sensibilities that many fairly categorize as submissive acts of appeasement.

The first is an October 2nd, 2007 resolution put forth and adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in a vote of 376-0, recognizing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that expresses the “deepest respect to Muslims in the United States and throughout the world” . (See the October 3, 2007 report at USINFO.STATE.GOV),

The other event was President Bush on October 4th, 2007 hosting the 7th iftaar dinner for Muslims in honor of Ramadan and to again declare in essence that Islam is a religion of peace for the vast majority of Muslims. See the full text of President Bush’s address here.

Does neoconservativism endorse these kinds of actions by the House of Representatives and the White House or not?

Is it relevant to neoconservativism that America’s policies and actions have not yet brought America the benefits expected and if so what path does neoconservativism counsel America should take to improve the chance that benefits sought will be reaped?

Does neoconservative thinking take a very long range view and believe that the Bush policy and efforts to democratize the Middle East are achievable and worth pursuing regardless that such transformation could take a generation or more as many have suggested?

Does neoconservativism take such long term view regardless of how much strife and suffering is endured by both Muslims and the West until democracy finally comes, if it ever comes to the Middle East?

Muravchik does not clearly answer any of these questions.

Muravchik, has further failed to identify all the Arab nations that have contributed so greatly, directly and indirectly to global Islamic Jihad. Notably absent in Muravchik’s article, is reference to the OPEC nations and Saudis Arabia in particular.

To be sure the Saudis and the OPEC nations work with America as regards world oil market stability and to some limited extent, co-operate with American efforts against Islamic radicalism.

Balance that with the OPEC nations as well as OPEC nationals and in particular Saudi nationals that have been found to have participated in, supported and encouraged Muslim terrorism, including providing financing and logistics.

People ought not ignore or dismiss the fact that 15 of the 19 radical Islamists responsible for 9/11 were Saudi nationals living in America and hiding their true natures and purpose for being in the U.S. and neither should neoconservatives.

These nations and in particular the Saudis, have invested fortunes in America to establish mosques and institutions to teach and preach their radical leaning Wahabbi version of Islam.

They have also invested fortunes in lobby groups in America to influence American foreign policy in the Middle East and more fortunes yet, in American universities to teach American students Middle Eastern history and politics from a Muslim Middle Eastern anti-Western and anti-Israel perspective, which amounts to revisionist history and politics by Western standards.

In balancing the aforementioned friendly acts of co-operation of the Saudis and the OPEC nations with all that those nations and their nationals have done in the cause of Islamic Jihad against America and the West, it sure looks like the OPEC nations and the Saudis in particular, are far more enemy then friend of America.

So in the final analysis, does neoconservatisim characterize and declare Saudi Arabia and the OPEC nations as America’s friend as the Bush administration is wont to do or as America’s enemy which is probably far closer to the truth?

Finally Muravchik has failed to explain how neoconservativism addresses the issue of just how and when one can conclude that peaceful diplomacy and appeasement policies vis a vis Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East have not and cannot work and with that, call for a new approach. Many credible people have already concluded that it is beyond doubt that peaceful diplomacy has not worked and that America must move to the next level of at least gun boat diplomacy.

Does neoconservativism even contemplate ever abandoning the apparent futility of peaceful diplomacy for more aggressive gun boat diplomacy, if not war?

If so, what does neoconservativism tell us about America going to war, at home and abroad against radical Islamists of all stripes and degrees? Is it to be a war with victory as the only goal and the utter defeat of the enemy or is it to battle to a draw with a reduction in hostilities thereafter?

Alternatively, does neoconservativism speak to America hunkering down and not warring with Islamic radicals, but rather seeking to just try as best as she can to protect her citizens and interests at home and abroad?

If Muravchik is right that neoconservativism is the only game in town, that is nothing for Muravchik and Americans to be proud of or to take heart in.

In this only game in town, the odds are stacked against America and the West and what is worse, Americans have contributed to stacking the odds against themselves and continue to do so.

The kind of neoconservativism that Muravchik promotes as America’s and the West’s salvation, has a very long way to go before it earns the amount of faith, credibility and respect Muravchik tries to give it.

October 26, 2007 | 7 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

7 Comments / 7 Comments

  1. Shalom Tov,

    I didn’t read any legalistic type material in Bill’s post. Note he refered to “gun boat diplomacy” and war.

    The post had the format and style sans the industry-specific terms and expressions found in non jurisprudence articles such as the international business trades or military writings.

    Kol tuv,

  2. Tov, I am mystified as to what you are referring to in my article that you say I argued with an attorney’s precision. Please explain.

  3. It took Rome almost 700 year to disintegrate , mostly from within, the west led by the US will last much less as they have lost any sense of National Purpose, and lack the stomach and stamina to defeat their enemies.

    A committed enemy willing to pursue a generational war with min. assets and a willingness to become living bullets and spears to attain their ends. Cannot be defeated but conventional logic and conventional weapons.

    Challenges and responses: so far I can see the Challenges but the response to them are very deficient , till now!

  4. Bill Islam IS RELIGION OF HATE!~ pLAIN AND SIMPLE! yOU CAN ARGUE all you want with attorney precision! However they are wrong! I never started this bullshit neither did you! Why give the ANY credence whatsoever??????

  5. Neoconservatives believe “that democracy is the best form of government”. Why so? By what criteria?

    Democracy is a recent experiment. Throughout the millinium a different form of government existed consisting of an elite ruling the masses. Religion was often used to facilitate this. Eric Fromm even goes farther in his book Escape from Freedom arguing that man rejects freedom for slavery preferring to be taken care of rather than to be responsible for one’s self.

    Would you prefer we revert back to that?

    Why should we impose our flawed order to replace theirs. Thus in both our societies the leaders rule with the consent of the masses do they not.

    But ruling by the consent of the masses in muslim countries is a far different outcome then it is here. You are acting as though there is a moral equivelance, that is, we are both equally flawed. The difference is that the masses in the west have a far superior culture which believes in freedom and human rights. I agree it won’t work to simply impose democracy, we must also forcibly remove islam from their society’s and impose our Christian-Judeo culture. The other alternative is to wipe out the world’s muslim population. As long as islam exists there will never be peace, we will be perpetually at war.

  6. Shalom Bill,

    Yesterday, I held off on commenting on his “we should always prefer nonviolent methods,..”.

    If even a hint that the barbarians are going to throw me overboard a cruise ship (Leon Klinghoffer,Z”L,Achille Lauro, 1985), I hope the majesty and might of our government does not delve into Miranda rights, let’s hear his side of the story, use the minimum amount of…

    Like Oswald Spengler said: “Optimists are cowards”.

    What are the neocons?

    Remove the varnish, such as the camouflauge names like (Ambassador) Jean Kirkpatrick (and John Bolton [although not in the J.M. article])and we are really looking at a contemporary US version of Hofjude.

    Joshua Muravchik wrote a 5 page article addressing democracy in the Middle East but did not discuss the area’s oil pools and their vital need to the US.

    Kol tuv,

  7. Bill makes some telling points in his excellent critique of this very important article.

    Neoconservatives believe “that democracy is the best form of government”. Why so? By what criteria?

    Democracy is a recent experiment. Throughout the millinium a different form of government existed consisting of an elite ruling the masses. Religion was often used to facilitate this. Eric Fromm even goes farther in his book Escape from Freedom arguing that man rejects freedom for slavery preferring to be taken care of rather than to be responsible for one’s self.

    Churchill once said that “democracy is the best form of government except for all the rest.”

    Do we really have democracy in the west or are we really ruled by an elite who control all the big decisions. Is the purpose of government to exercise control over the masses with the power of the state or is it to give power to the people.

    Can the people make the trains run on time.

    The Arabs have developed a culture formed by Islam that is well established. In it the people look to and depend upon their leaders to run their lives. For them, this is the natural order of things. Why should we impose our flawed order to replace theirs. Thus in both our societies the leaders rule with the consent of the masses do they not.

    Gil-White views the crux of history as the left against the right or vice versa. The left representing the many and the right representing the few. So we must ask, is it natural for the left to prevail or for the right.

Comments are closed.