A Bush "post-mortem" – Part Two
By Mark Wegierski
Although the events of September 11, 2001, have clearly opened up a new world-struggle, which some neoconservatives are calling "World War IV" -- it is possible that the now-increasing saliency of the American "moralizing" and "democratizing" impulses are likely to lead to enormous misunderstandings and miscalculations in U.S. foreign policy, even where there are real concerns to be had. Indeed, they may have done so already.
The first war against Iraq, the continuing crusade against it for virtually the entire period since its end, and the second war against Iraq in 2003, could be seen as a rather insalubrious example of the operation of some of the worst aspects of the U.S. "liberationist" mindset – ironically now supplemented by the open claim to imperial destiny. It is hardly esoteric wisdom to point to a combination of factors that have made America's crusade against Saddam Hussein rather ambiguous. For example, during most of the 1980s, Iraq was fighting a savage war against Shi'ite Iran, the earlier "devil" of U.S. Mideast perceptions. Had it not been for Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the Iranians would have probably overrun Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan in the 1980s. The irony is that the removal of Saddam Hussein in the 1990s would have probably meant that most of Iraq would effectively fall to Iran. So it could be argued that, in most of the 1990s, the U.S., while publicly vilifying Saddam, and maintaining a tight economic blockade, really did not want Saddam to fall. The weapons-inspections were clearly a form of humiliation and harassment, and something no sovereign power would ever countenance, unless it were extremely weakened. Now the U.S. has gone into Iraq with all guns blazing as it were, and is quickly learning the price of empire.
It could be argued that America is accumulating enormous amounts of real, deeply-ingrained hatred and resentment toward itself amongst very many Arabs, Iranians, and Muslims in the world. Of course, the smoldering conflict with Islam had clearly been taken to new levels by the terror-attacks by Islamic extremists on September 11, 2001. While American foreign policy makers have strenuously tried t
o demonstrate that the response to the terror-attacks (for example, in Afghanistan) was not a "crusade" against Islam, it has been argued that the launching of the second war against Iraq – rather than continuing a salutary focus on co-operation with the intelligence services of virtually every country in the world to root out Al-Qaeda -- has been highly inflammatory. George W. Bush's call for a "global democratic revolution" – especially in regard to Islamic societies – is fundamentally anti-conservative and anti-traditionalist. It also fails to distinguish between the matter of bringing about some kind of respect for classical liberal freedoms – as opposed to the exercise of mass democracy – the latter which will almost certainly bring radical Islamists to power in most of the countries of the Middle East. It may be a harsh insight, but the authoritarian Arab regimes – maybe even the former regime of Saddam Hussein – are probably less of a threat to America than the radical Islamist governments that "democracy" is likely to bring about.
What is even more troubling, however, is yet another reformulation of the basic American paradigm domestically -- and the ease with which it is being accomplished. Former Oxford professor John Gray (now at the London School of Economics) has argued that today, for all intents and purposes, America is "the Left's last utopia." What is increasingly happening is that ideas based around the then absolutely necessary struggle against Nazi Germany of seventy years ago, are being curiously recycled and transposed into the 1990s and the twenty-first century. During the 1990s, "the rightwing" (supposedly typified by "the militias", neo-Nazis, Klansmen, "abortion-clinic bombers" and/or "murderers of doctors who provide abortion services", as well as "Christian fundamentalist zealots") -- was seen as America's "enemy number-one." Although one no longer hears very much about the "angry white male" phenomenon (one may indeed wonder what has socially happened in regard to that societal grouping), any substantive opposition to left-liberalism and its massive projects of social reconstruction continues to often be pejoritized as "bigotry", "racism", or some other kind of horrific, illiberal evil. Indeed, it is rather typical, that the most recent prominent mention of the "angry white male" in the media was when various FBI and freelance "profilers" suggested that such a person was responsible for the sniper killings in the Washington, D.C. area. Indeed, some traditionalist conservatives are terrified that the anti-terrorist legislation put into place by George W. Bush may at some point in the future be deployed against them.
President George W. Bush was caught in a curious web of ambiguity – he was demonized by the American and global left as a social ultra-reactionary; he presided over massive U.S. military interventions around the globe; and many of his domestic social policies were those of left-liberals – massive government spending; an education bill originally sponsored by Ted Kennedy; a program of pharmacare whose costs are hundreds of billions of dollars; and the continuation of massive legal and illegal immigration in deference to "Hispanic outreach."
One supposes that, in the case of America, much will depend on the ability of American traditionalist conservatives to re-formulate the basic American paradigm in another direction, to be able to communicate to a large section of the American populace the vision of the Right as an embattled band of idealistic rebels, and the prevailing "managerial-therapeutic regime" as "the real tyranny." In such a context, the "establishmentarianism" and military adventurism of neoconservatives is highly counterproductive, rather than a political asset. In order to advance their hopes of various U.S. military interventions in the Middle East, most neoconservatives have to a very large extent acquiesced in virtually the entire agenda of social liberalism, as well as playing a role in what was hitherto arguably the biggest and most reckless federal government spending in U.S. history. What traditionalist conservatives have been calling "the culture wars" appear to be almost invariably being resolved in the direction of social liberalism.
The question remains how the neoconservatives can continue to expect America's soldiers – most of whom come from the so-called "Red" heartland that voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 – to continue to fight and die in remote wars that appear rather tangentially connected to real U.S. interests – while at the same time the assault on the social conservatism of the heartland "base" continues unabated. Many neoconservatives have opted for the stirring up of a jingoistic "patriotism" combined with an accentuation of the apocalyptic accents of fundamentalist evangelical Protestants to maintain the war-effort. This is one of the reasons for which there has arisen the paleoconservative accusation of "neo-Jacobinism" against the neoconservatives -- i.e., an America in which the tradition of small and local government and the upholding of most social conservative tenets has been thoroughly repudiated is now being railroaded into massive imperial projects on the basis of an appeal to an ersatz "patriotism." It is somewhat reminiscent of the fanatical Jacobin drive to make war upon and annihilate the traditional monarchies of Europe – while claiming to truly represent the peoples of France and Europe in doing so.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.