The Congressional earthquake a few days ago will soon bring new faces to the Senate and House. With the shift to Democratic leadership and an agenda not driven by the White House, US foreign policy is about to get a shot of adrenaline. Bipartisan efforts will be a natural outcome of this realignment; no one party rules completely with a Senate nearly tied. Democrats are also setting up an agenda with a strong moderate tone, one aimed at strengthening US leadership while enabling both new conservative Democrats and frustrated liberals to unite coming out of the gate. Moderate Republicans will have a strong voice, including the remaining New England GOP members. And Iraq is job #1.
So with this in mind I flipped open this month’s Foreign Policy magazine, drawn to a memo by Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute on “Operation Comeback” addressed to “my fellow neoconservatives,” presented as a critical analysis for the way forward.
Given the upcoming Vanity Fair interviews with Richard Perle and Ken Adelman, who is quoted as saying that neoconservatism “is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq…’it’s not going to sell,’” this could be part of an interesting dialogue.
But that’s not exactly what is offered – its more chilling. Written before the elections, Muravchik argues that neocons must learn from their mistakes – perhaps they underestimated how large a force was needed in Iraq – but then suggests that much of the problem is the neocon reliance on politicians to carry out their ideas. President Bush “took the path we wanted, but the policies are achieving uncertain success. His popularity has plummeted.” The ideas are sound, its just the messenger that’s flopped.
Next “neocon hero” Rumsfeld is criticized gently for an over-fixation on high tech, not human capacities. Instead, add more military forces, put Karl Rove and James Carville in charge of US support for Middle East moderates, and train US Foreign Service officers in the war of ideas, like those in the 1940s & 1950s who “learned their political skills…fighting commies in the labor unions.”
Now, having cleared up the critiques of neocon ideas (i.e., it’s the messenger!) Muravchik aims squarely at the future: Bomb Iran before the end of Bush’s term. “Even if things in Iraq get better, a nuclear-armed Iran will negate any progress there. Nothing will embolden terrorists and jihadists more than a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Wait — he doesn’t explain any more about how to do this. The biggest worry? Expect an outcry from MoveOn.org, he counsels.
Hold on, there is a way forward for bipartisan foreign policy. Draft Joe Lieberman as the Republican VP since the “Democrats have already shown that they are incurably addicted to appeasement, while the ‘realists’ among the GOP are hoping to undo the legacy of George W. Bush.”
Yikes. I’m not sure who this memo is really aimed at, since neo-cons should be in step already and the rest of us will be excused for being confused. Commies and appeasement? Bomb Iran? The lack of offering more on this topic in the context of Iraq is surprising. While the piece is short, no options for addressing North Korea, China or Sudan is odd. When smart writers at AEI offers ideas like these, they can garner attention from policymakers and Congress. The debate over intervention, and the new Congress, both deserve better.
PS Worth reading: Doug Farah and Stephen Braun on the systems of smuggling and arms trade that keeps so many conflicts humming along, thanks to international arms merchants like Viktor Bout, a subject worthy of future discussion.