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Neoconservatives May Have the Last Laugh

Neoconservatives
John McCain may have his issues with Mrs. Clinton, mainly over Benghazi, but on foreign policy, they are quite similar.

A victory for Hillary Clinton will be a victory for neoconservatives, according to Richard Wagner

Early last year I analyzed the decline of the war-hawks within the conservative movement.  I actually began this process in late 2013, but the peer review process for my article took a surprisingly long time.  But I could plainly see then, that the failures of the Bush administration, combined with small government sentiment from the tea party movement, could no longer allow the paradoxical relationship between small government at home and big government abroad that made up the conservative movement of the 1990s and early 2000s.  

I did not, however, predict that the neoconservatives (the most hawkish in the former conservative movement) would migrate to the left.  This still waits to be seen, but there are some signs that this may come to pass.  In my article, I’d briefly referenced Heilbrunn with The American Conservative, who didn’t hesitate to make such a prediction.  

Many forget that the neoconservatives were New Deal Liberals, socialists, and some even Trotsky-ite communists; long before they became “conservatives”.  

Neoconservatism has been running on fumes since the mid-90s.  The terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 gave them some fuel, but now bin Laden is dead.  

So what about ISIS?

One of my peer reviewers also suggested that ISIS may bring about a resurgence of neoconservative foreign policy among grassroots conservatives.  Many others have also made this claim.  This, however, rests on a false dichotomy: we either don’t go to war with anyone, or we get back to policing the world.  

In truth, the rise of ISIS has not brought about a resurgence of neoconservatism.  The GOP nominee, Donald Trump, wants only to go directly after ISIS.  He’s opposed the Iraq War and interventions in Syria and Libya.

 The second place GOP pick, Ted Cruz, is only a little more hawkish than Trump, but also sees that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.  Wanting to attack people who attack us, is hardly a hawkish foreign policy.  It just means we aren’t pacifists.  

The neocons in the GOP primary, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and to a lesser extent Jeb Bush, fared poorly.  Kasich was the only establishment candidate who was even noteworthy in the end, and as Michelle Malkin said, “Fourth place is a two man race!”  But that Kasich was the only establishment pick who had a prayer of a chance only further proves how weak the neocons have become within the conservative “big tent”.  Kasich is rather moderate on both trade and foreign policy.

When did the “liberals” become the warmongers?

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the base of the Democratic Party has been rightly denouncing the Bush administration and other interventionists for getting us stuck in these quagmire wars.

Yet when Obama became president and did very little to scale back our military engagements, the silence from the left was deafening.  Where were the anti-war protestors?  Where were the self-righteous Hollywood stars with their peace signs?  Susan Sarandon?  Martin Sheen?  Anybody?  

But now the hypocrisy is about to go full swing.  It’s one thing to give Obama a free pass.  You can say, Well, he didn’t start the war in Iraq.  He opposed it initially.  But now that we’re stuck in it, Obama is just trying to end it responsibly.  So, their excuses are at least plausible for Obama.  But now the Dem. Party has nominated the most hawkish candidate they could find – Hillary Clinton.  They denounce Trump as an “isolationist”, in much the same way as neoconservatives have denounced anyone in the Republican Party who deviates from their warmongering agenda.  But Hillary Clinton?  “First woman president” – right?

Hillary Clinton – a Neocon’s Democrat

John McCain may have his issues with Mrs. Clinton, mainly over Benghazi, but on foreign policy, they are quite similar.  Both supported the invasion of Iraq.  Both supported the invasion of Libya .  Both supported arming the rebels in Syria.  Both are more concerned about the former superpower Russia than the emerging superpower China.

For decades, the neocons thrived on red-baiting.  John McCain loves to call Putin a “KGB agent”, and he doesn’t say it in the past tense.  Now, Clinton’s allies in mainstream media play the red card on Trump, as they denounce him for being friendly to Putin.  Yet these same media sources have nothing to say about Bill Clinton selling military technology to the Chinese Communist Party.  The Russians don’t even call themselves “communist” anymore!  The Berlin wall is gone!  Cold War is over!  We won!

Based on what I’ve seen from the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, the hacks at the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Norman Podhoretz, etc. the neoconservatives seem to have an agenda of getting us into lengthy conflicts in the Middle East where our military goes after everyone except for the actual terrorists.

They don’t seem that worried about the rise of China, or the rise of their industrial sector at America’s expense.  Obama got no support from the neocons when he slapped a 35% tariff on Chinese tires, for example.  But the neocons are so worried about Putin.  Why?  Because Putin doesn’t want to be part of the globalist agenda, as Peter Hitchens brilliantly explained.  

Hillary Clinton is about 90% neocon.  Their one foreign policy disagreement with her would be over the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  They might not care much for her more internationalist approach to military intervention either, as they’ve made it clear that they want to Americanize the world.  But nonetheless, based on Hillary Clinton’s record, if she becomes President and thereby Commander-in-Chief of the military, the neocons will get most of their foreign policy agenda accomplished through her.  They won’t publicly praise her, but don’t expect them to be too critical either.  

The Last Laugh

My generation was supposed to finish off the neocons. The Cold War is over, and we millennials haven’t had our minds warped by 40 years of fear.  Certainly the popularity of Bernie Sanders and the Paul’s (Ron and Rand) is indicative of this.

When millennials do vote, they are more likely to vote Democratic.  Neoconservatism may yet live on through Hillary Clinton, and wouldn’t it be ironic if millennial voter turnout fueled that neocon comeback?  I won’t even begin to make predictions about millennials.  I will point out, however, that they are fickle about turning out to vote, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to excite them as did Obama.  

But however it happens, a victory for Hillary Clinton is a victory for neoconservatism.  Not only will they get most of their foreign policy agenda for 4-8 years, but Trump will be discredited.  Trump is so disdained by the political and media establishment that they would try to discredit him if he cured cancer (much like Trump’s voting base and FOX news would with Obama.)  

Neoconservatives thrive on a combination of aggression and incompetence in foreign policy.  It keeps the war going!  If Bush had been competent, had he focused on going after bin Laden rather than getting side-tracked in Iraq, it’s likely that bin Laden would have been dead long before 2011, and there would be no ISIS.  

I can’t imagine the horrors that await the Middle East if Hillary Clinton continues the kinds of policies she’s supported in the past.  Will she go after Assad instead of ISIS?  Will she get sidetracked trying to deal with Russia in Crimea?  Will she intervene in Yemen, or Somalia, attacking forces that are actually fighting against ISIS, because they broke some international law?  ISIS was able to emerge from Al Qaeda because of Bush’s incompetence.  What greater horror might emerge out of ISIS from Hillary Clinton’s incompetence?  

The comeback of neoconseervatives

If the above takes place, it will leave the neocons in an excellent position.  If the above takes place, it will leave the neocons in an excellent position.  Like I said, they will not officially support Hillary Clinton.  But they will denounce her if the Middle East becomes even more dangerous, and if something even more dangerous to US than ISIS emerges.  They’ll then come as the saviors of the Republican Party and the country.  Sure, their policies, implemented by Clinton, will have been the cause, but don’t expect the media to hold them accountable.  The media didn’t hold Clinton or her neocon allies accountable for the arms sent to Syria’s “rebels”, that ended up in the hands of ISIS.  (National Review is about the most mainstream of media sources that will even touch this story).  The Trump voters of this year, 2016, will fail to make the connection, and will vote for whatever establishment candidate the GOP puts forth (will not be Kasich).  The Trump voters of today just know they’re pissed off, and they hate Her Royal Clintonness.  They also know that they hate those darned Muslims.  Today’s Trump voters could be 2024’s new neoconservative base in the Republican Party.  

Hillary Clinton, therefore, could set the stage for a neocon comeback that will cost our descendants greatly in lives, security, and national debt.

All the while, nothing will be done to contain China.  Japan, S. Korea, and Vietnam will be in peril, and India will be marginalized in SE Asia.  And with continued trade pacifism, our economy will be too weak to provide a strong tax base to finance this debt, much less maintain the US as a superpower.  And who will get the blame?  Why those darned welfare people of course!  And public school teachers and their fat five figure salaries!  Don’t forget them!

I hope I’m wrong about this.  This is a worst case scenario, but it is plausible.

 

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About the author

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is not talking politics, Richard is an aspiring novelist, and culinary hobbyist. Richard holds MSc from London School of Economics in Political Science.

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