freedom and neoconservatism
“Iran’s green awakening may end awfully. But if it succeeds, it will be everything the neocons had hoped to achieve in Iraq – and also a demonstration of neoconservatism’s core fallacy, which is that freedom can be forced on anyone; or somehow force-fed into maturity. It thus vindicates and refutes neoconservatism at the same time.” ~ Andrew Sullivan on the vindication and refutation of neoconservatism
A lot of things jump to mind after reading this post. First of all, I fail to see how any of neoconservatism’s tenets are actually vindicated by a successful Iranian revolution. None of the neoconservative strategy would have entered into the overthrow of Ahmadenijad, and perhaps just as importantly, none of the neocons’ goals would have been achieved by such a revolution. A somewhat more moderate Moussavi in charge of a still theocratic republic still intent on nuclear armament hardly qualifies as a victory for the hawks.
And even if actual reforms did take place and a freer and more democratic and less hostile Iran did emerge, all of it would have happened without U.S. intervention or use of force, further undercutting the neoconservative claim to the necessity of hard power to overthrow dictatorial and anti-democratic regimes. The fact that Iran could “promote” its own democracy should be enough of a refutation in and of itself to the neoconservative agenda.
But, of course, they will spin it to their advantage no matter how the chips fall. If the revolution succeeds, then surely they will claim it was thanks to the hard stance of Bush and the Iraq war “trickling down.” Only later will we learn how insufficient even that success is – and how much more needs to be done to deter the still undemocratic, nuclear ambitious regime in Tehran. Moussavi will make a less powerful nemesis than his predecessor, of course, but with enough spin-doctoring anyone can be an enemy – even our own President.
If the whole enterprise fails, the lack of a forceful U.S. response will be the culprit, and Obama the culprit in chief. A more despotic Ahmadenijad will play an even greater villain on the world stage. Saber rattling of all sorts will ensue.
In other words, this whole Iranian revolt won’t matter at all in the long run, at least to the larger neoconservative vision. It will be just flawed enough no matter how it turns out to provide a leaping point for further talks of war or sanctions or meddling of one variety or another. If any silver lining exists it is that a successful “green revolution” would provide diplomatic realists on both sides with a good excuse for reopening diplomatic relations, but I hold very little hope at this point that the revolution will succeed. And in any case, we should strive toward opening diplomatic relations with Iran no matter who is in power.
I also find myself confused when Andrew writes, “this democratic flowering follows the best version of the neoconservative inheritance, if not its recent descent into a bitter ideology of naked power.” Does he mean to say that any movement across the globe toward democracy or a free society is in some way a vindication of the philosophy of neoconservatism? So from this point forward any time a people decide to rise up and fight for something better they are somehow representing a vision loyal to the origins and supposedly uncorrupted version of neoconservatism?
I think this is giving far too much credit even to the best of the neocons. It seems to me that people of all ideological frameworks would like to see people the world over become freer, more democratic. This inclination is hardly unique to neoconservatism. What separates the neocons from the rest is the belief that American power can be used to get to these results, that through force we can spread democracy and peace and Western values to the world. Thus Iraq, and not Iran, best exemplifies neoconservatism in action, and it is there that the real vindication or refutation will occur.