With Iran’s recent threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, and America’s rebuff of this move as a mere tactic to draw attention away from its nuclear program, the never-ending dilemma posed by neoconservatives about the enduring threats of a nuclear powered Axis of Evil reemerges for American foreign policy.
Neo-conservatism has left a deep mark in American policymaking after George W. Bush’s administration used this ideology as the framework from which they argued for regime change and war in Iraq. Is the Iranian paranoia of the same nature? Have neoconservatives shaped American idiosyncrasy so deeply?
Unfortunately, yes. Neo-conservatism is rooted in a set of beliefs about the human condition that are nothing but fallacious generalizations; i.e. an ideological mechanism for the purpose of creating an easier-to-grasp world outlook, falsifying the unintelligible complexity of human societies and contrasting civilizations. The result is a neurotic foreign policy that promotes a warmonger agenda that is morally questionable (if not absurd) and financially catastrophic. But to rebuff neo-cons, we have to understand where they are coming from.
There are two assumptions that seem to be the main assumptions of neo-conservatism: (1) that the conjunction of liberal democracy and free market economy is the morally superior social order for any human being irrespective of historical and cultural context, and (2) that it is a natural desire of human beings to live under such social order irrespective of the historical and cultural context in which they came to be raised.
It follows that if the conditions are set for (1) to become possible, human beings at large will choose of their own accord such social order. The conditions can be reached by long historical development to what seems to be the end of human history (or so the neo-conservatives believe), or by consciously shaping the conditions by the use of force.
This has led some neoconservative thinkers to believe that the U.S., by virtue of its overwhelming military and economic predominance, is the country with the moral and material strength to enforce this social order at a global scale, and what the U.S. did in Germany and Japan in World War II can be done elsewhere.
Big stick diplomacy and bandwagoning logic are the two main elements of neo-conservatism foreign policy, which has the final goal of massive social engineering in countries foreign and hostile to the U.S. and the West at large.
The threat of Iraq’s nuclear program was, in the end, nothing but a false belief to justify this foreign policy. The same seems to be happening with Iran today.
Neo-conservatives do not accept the structure of reasoning of realism, which has a modest tone. Even acknowledging that the U.S. has, by far, the biggest military strength in the world, realists understand that the world of human affairs is highly unpredictable and resists our will to control it. Neoconservatives are not willing to yield to the Machiavellian axiom of Fortuna in politics, and are deeply inspired by modern ideas of progress, in which the world is carved by human will in the development of its self-consciousness. Their interpretation of the end of history tells them that the U.S. constitutional system and free market economy is the peak of the Enlightenment; and as good inheritors of enlightened ideals, the U.S. military strength is the best tool for expanding it worldwide.
For neoconservatives, there is a clear division between good and evil, and the U.S. is always Superman, the hero. The simplicity of this structure of reasoning makes neo-conservatism appealing to people that do not spend much time thinking about international relations.
Propaganda is more important for neo-conservatism than realism, because the former attempts to instill conviction of a Manichean world outlook in common people’s minds. By appealing to our sense of judgment in what is the best interest for our own country, realism is better at persuading with reasonable arguments, whereas neo-conservatism works through a “War on Terror” and “Mission Accomplished” style of slogans.
The Iraq War was the inevitable consequence of this world outlook. Today, the U.S. is following the same path with Iran. What we know is that, after all, Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and that democracy did not spread in the Arab world after the war. Both Republicans and Democrats use neoconservative rhetoric. But with the debt problem and the cost of modern warfare, can America still rely on neo-conservatism to protect its true interests? I think not.
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