A Tragedy of Errors | The Nation


A Tragedy of Errors

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size

The new American armed forces will be busy, if Perle and Frum get their way. In the course of An End to Evil they call for deposing the governments of Iran and Syria, treating Saudi Arabia as an enemy, blockading North Korea--oh, and let's not forget, France is an adversary, along with "France's pilot fish, Belgium."Down with Belgium, France's Pilot Fish!--this is a new addition to the litany of neoconservatism.

About the Author

Michael Lind
Michael Lind, the Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of The American Way of Strategy...

Also by the Author

Now that neoconservative policies have led us into disaster, it's time to give liberal internationalism a chance.

During the early years of the civil rights revolution, Theodore Bilbo,
the ferocious segregationist senator from Mississippi, published a book
titled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongreli

If Frum and Perle are to be believed, a great number of US invasions and US-supported revolutions will be necessary to bring democracy to countries that now lack it: "Kofi Annan complained in July 2003 that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Really?" Annan is a better historian than Perle and Frum. The record is clear--most of the democratic transitions that have taken place in the world in the past two centuries have had nothing to do with foreign military intervention or military pressure, while most US military interventions abroad have left dictatorship, not democracy, in their wake. The two cases that neocons constantly return to, Germany and Japan, are among the few cases where democracy has been restored (not created ex nihilo) as the result of a US invasion. The Soviet bloc democratized itself from within in the 1990s, even though the United States did not bomb Moscow, impose a martial-law governor on the Poles or imprison former Hungarian Communist officials without charges in barbed-wire camps. In Latin America, Mexico became a multiparty democracy instead of a one-party dictatorship without US Marines posing for photos in the presidential mansion in Mexico City, and it was not necessary for American soldiers to kill tens of thousands of Argentines, Chileans and Brazilians for democracy to take root in those countries.

One must hope that American soldiers leave behind a functioning democracy in Iraq--rather than the dysfunctional autocracies and kleptocracies that were the legacy of US military occupations in the Philippines, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Mexico. But it is likely that, if and when liberal democracy comes to the Muslim world in general and to the Arab world in particular, the gradual, largely bloodless transition will resemble those in Soviet Europe and Latin America and will not be the result of US military action or intimidation. The neocons--and the humanitarian hawks on the left--are simply wrong about how best to spread democracy.

The global strategy of the neocons, then, is not ethnic but ideological, a crusade in the name of democracy. But the neoconservatives who support Israel's illiberal Likud Party, and Likud's American allies, the Protestant Christian Zionists of the Southern religious right, contradict their own professed principles.

In theory, neoconservative ideology is more compatible with Israeli post-Zionism than with either the Labour Zionist or Revisionist Zionist forms of Israeli ethnic nationalism. The neocons are always denouncing American "paleoconservatives" for claiming that US nationality must be founded on race (Caucasian) or religion (Christianity)--and yet they defend Israeli politicians and thinkers whose blood-and-soil nationalism is even less liberal than the "Buchananism" the neocons denounce in the US context.

In the pages of The Weekly Standard, David Brooks made the astonishing argument that the United States, a Lockean liberal democracy, must defend Israel, another Lockean liberal democracy, against illiberal Palestinian nationalism. The idea that Israeli identity has nothing to do with blood-and-soil nationalism might hearten post-Zionist proponents of Israel as "a state of all its citizens" (not to mention Israel's 1 million Palestinian citizens) but will come as news to Labour Zionists as well as to the Likud, National Religious and Shas parties in Sharon's governing coalition.

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.