Friday, March 24, 2006

NeoConservatism and Appeasement

Commentary by Martin Kelly
January 14, 2005

The Iraq Survey Group’s announcement that there were no weapons of mass destruction in that country should sound the death-knell for neoconservatism.

It won’t. However, the announcement does have one significant consequence for the ongoing foreign military presence there.

It makes it illegal.

The invasion of Iraq could be justified at the time on the thin basis that it was necessary in order to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1441. However, 1441 was passed on the assumption that Saddam had or was developing WMD. If there were no WMD, there was no justification for enforcement. If there was no justification for enforcement, there was no legal basis for war. If there was no legal basis for war, there is none for occupation.

Accordingly, the belated recognition that the invasion of Iraq was legally motiveless could make Blair, Bush, their cabinets, their staffers and their aides all liable for prosecution for crimes against peace. The Sons Of The Desert Go Up The River? Not likely, although careless GI’s and squaddies remain indictable for war crimes allegedly committed in the heat of battle.

Last October, I wrote an article for ‘The Washington Dispatch’ called
'How the Neocons Will Kill the GOP'. The scandal surrounding Armstrong Williams provides proof for this hypothesis, if any more were necessary. However, Williamsgate is also proof of the depth to which neoconservatism has embedded its ideology within the Republicans. It is like any other ideology, a series of abstracts that need power in order to become reality. Without power, the ideologue is a cipher - he is personally unfulfilled, and in turn this inner emptiness leads to the development of the ideologue’s defining behavioural characteristics; rage, violence and bad judgment.

All ideologies are doomed to fail. They proceed on the assumption that everything, human behaviour, economics, their own flaws and failings, can be explained away in terms of their ideology. This inevitably leads to the infliction of human suffering. German National Socialism preached that the Germans were a master race and that the Jews were inferior - so the Jews had to go. Soviet Communism preached that the Soviet state was perfect; any who dissented from that view must be mad; therefore dissidents should be institutionalised. Neoconservatism speaks of ‘benevolent American hegemony’, which should be funded by the world’s most powerful economy, now being bankrupted in the process.

No ideology has ever benefited anyone other than its promoters. Williams was an ideologue for ‘No Child Left Behind’. One of the odder aspects of the scandal is not that he took the money, but that all the criticism from conservative commentators is being directed at him - not a word against the Bush Administration, a Republican administration, for offering it to him! Williams is the keeper of his own conscience, but that it should be offered in the first place sheds much welcome light on the ideological ethics of a White House led by George W. Bush. Somebody and their superior thought that the ideological agenda was so important that it justified an act of deceit on the American public.

Given the ISG’s announcement and Williamsgate, one wonders if this is going to be a very difficult second term for Bush, and whether more of these deceptions will come to light. And all for a series of abstracts which, once made real, are inevitably doomed to failure.

But ideologues can’t see that. They can only see the advancement of the agenda. They will do or say anything to justify its advancement, and when all else fails, will seek to undermine and slur those who aren’t with the program. One of their favourite slurs is to describe those who refuse the Kristol meth as ‘appeasers’. This tactic raised its head in the wake of the 2004 Spanish general election, to the shame of David Limbaugh, Bill Murchison, George Will, Tony Blankley, Debra Saunders and Chuck Colson.

However, neoconservatism’s last weapon of choice for the destruction of credibility is to call its opponents anti-Semitic. One very much doubts that my editor would permit such sentiment on his pages, but should some readers have any doubts about me or my beliefs, 18 months ago I wrote a column for ‘The Washington Dispatch’ called 'A Policy of Contradictions', which made the point that the White House was wrong to criticise the Israelis for launching rocket attacks against Hamas when it did precisely the same thing against Saddam on the first night of the war.

The cry of ‘appeasement’ could be heard again on January 12, in an article by Israeli journalist P. David Hornik in ‘The American Spectator on the Web’ called ‘The Wages of Appeasement’. According to Mr. Hornik, in March 1938, Germany was the ‘beneficiary…of British appeasement’.

Neville Chamberlain sure gets a bad press from the neos. The name of the other Prime Minister who followed the same policy, the Conservative Stanley Baldwin, seems absent from the curriculum of Neoconservatism 101. All those neos who slur the name of Chamberlain forget several critical facts.

Firstly, with the exception of Gibraltar, the United Kingdom has had no direct territorial interest in any part of continental Europe since the 17th Century; more bluntly, we had no direct domestic interest in German affairs.

Secondly, at the time of Munich, the memory of the carnage of World War One was still very fresh in the minds of the British and French people, and that memory had bred a deep horror of war. This was completely understandable in towns like Accrington, Lancashire, which lost 800 men in one day on the Western Front.

Thirdly, the conditions in Germany that gave rise to Hitler included the financial chaos of the ‘20’s and early ‘30’s, for which Woodrow Wilson’s Versailles Treaty, with its demands for impossible reparations, had been partly responsible.

Fourthly, Chamberlain did not flinch from leading the UK into war to honour its alliance with Poland and all her people.

But the neos don’t see any of that. They do not see and are not interested in any of the other factors working on Chamberlain at Munich, and do not judge him accordingly; instead, like the propagandists they are, all they see was a perceived victory for Hitler.

They are unforgiving historians.

After recounting his parents’ flight fromVienna to New York City after the Anschluss and the genocide of other relations in the Shoah, Mr. Hornik proceeds on to the Oslo Accords. His statement that Yasser Arafat was ‘a thuggish individual with a history of murderous brutality’ gets full agreement from this quarter. However, he says

‘The reason I’m still alive is that this time the Jewish community under attack is armed and has some ability to defend itself’.

Equating the Jewish community with an Israeli state that has internationally recognised borders and jurisdiction over its own affairs is hyperbole; likening one of the world’s largest, best-equipped, most sophisticated and most experienced militaries with a raggedy band of partisans does them a great disservice; but even with the human resources that our common enemy, Islamism, is able to summon it’s hard to divine which countries or organisations possess the strength that would be required to undermine the Israeli state.

The weakness of Israel’s opponents is not enough for Mr. Hornik. He asks the question,

‘Why are some democratic leaders prone to appeasement? Some – like Chamberlain, Carter or Peres – are appeasers at heart’

The very fact that Shimon Peres has, in the past, been democratically elected by other Israelis to represent their best interests in both peace and war, and is now part of the government again, means nothing to Mr. Hornik.

He then makes the observation,

‘If democracy is incorrigibly prone to appeasement, a dysfunctional act that results again and again in war and mass bloodshed, then democracy’s ultimate value as a way of life has to be questioned’.

Many hundreds of thousands of his fellow Israelis would recoil in horror from that sentence, since their democracy is so precious to them and so successful that it has never been subverted in their country’s history, even under the most difficult circumstances. He does a great disservice to all his fellow citizens who have died to preserve Israeli sovereignty and democracy and who have held opinions diametrically opposed to his own.

It would also be interesting to know whether Mr. Hornik considers such Israelis ‘unpatriotic’, another favourite neoconservative slur.

Like the inability of Saddam to build a delivery system that would have enabled an attack on the USA, no country or organisation in the Middle East has the ability to launch a substantial attack on Israel or seriously undermine its security.

Israel, therefore, has no opponents worth appeasing.

The Internet age has broken down the ability of governments and persons to control the supply of information forever. The one piece of information about the neoconservatives which every citizen everywhere should know is the existence of a 1996 policy document called ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm’.

‘A Clean Break’ was written in 1996 by three American arch-neoconservatives, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, for the Likud Party of Israel, then led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, no dove himself, rejected it. It suggested that the security of Israel could only be guaranteed by the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam. When Bush came to power, Perle was appointed Chairman of the Pentagon Defence Policy Board, Feith to the Pentagon and Wurmser to the staff of the Vice-President. The tragedy of 9/11 gave these men and their ideological fellow travellers the opportunity to prove that they were more Likudnik than Likud.

There would be no appeasing them. Ask the Iraqis about appeasement. As far as they are concerned, who was it that could not be appeased? Who have unleashed horrors just as bad as those of Saddam? The Iraqis had no WMD; they posed no serious threat.

It is possible that historians of the future will look back on the summer and autumn of 2002 and equate the actions of the neoconservatives with those of Hitler in the run-up to Munich and after.

They will say that it was the neoconservatives, who have now been proven to be the unjustified aggressors in this bloody and unjustified Iraq war, who could not be appeased. Their unappeasable determination to go to war was the proof of neoconservatism’s true nature.

That it is fascism.