Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why the neocons are wrong, again

The Plank has a good rundown of the track record of U.S. involvement in foreign coups (excluding our activities in Iran, for some reason). The gist: it doesn't help. It gives repressive regimes propaganda tools that help them stay in longer. I think this list shows, orthogonally, how little understanding of human nature that the neocons possess: people generally tend to be angry when other people meddle in their politics, even if they don't like the politician in question. I suspect that the neocons wouldn't be too thrilled if Canada started throwing their weight around in U.S. politics. I know that the neocon objections to this are that a) America is a special nation destined by God to bring liberty to all, so therefore we need not worry about double standards and b) that we'll be used as a propaganda tool anyway. Option (a) is essentially unanswerable--you either buy the proposition or you don't--while option (b) makes little sense, as it is basically saying that our reputation of meddling in other countries' business proves the need to meddle in other countries' business. It's the same sort of logic that says that we can't give Palestinians their land back from settlements because they would use it to launch strikes against Israel: it's an admission of guilt used as a justification for further guilt. And if one believes in (a), and that there's nothing America can do to earn the disapprobation of God, it all washes out. How dare you question America's motives, sir! I am beginning to wonder what side you're on...

Every once in a while, one hears someone saying that they personally aren't neocons, but they feel that neocons have some valuable insights to contribute to the debate. I find this baffling. Democracy promotion and human rights aren't original neocon concepts (I think they're rather tangential to neoconnery in general) and conducting a foreign policy that takes moral considerations into account is good old foreign policy liberalism, see Wilson, W. I suppose the insight that war brings people together to do great things is something that is true, but that doesn't justify the deaths and property damage unless one feels that foreigners' lives are essentially worthless, as are the lives of the soldiers fighting these wars. The whole "we should never look weak to other countries" bit is just old-fashioned machismo, adapted to the global stage.

All in all, saying that neoconservatism has valuable insights to the state of foreign policy in this day and age seems, to me, to be the equivalent of saying that alchemy has vast import to the present state of natural science. It's not like there aren't things about both that bear some resemblance to the real world, but both are essentially wrong from the bottom up.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.