Critiquing Foreign Policy; When Neoconservatism Goes Awry

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 27, 2004 | Go to article overview

Critiquing Foreign Policy; When Neoconservatism Goes Awry


Byline: Doug Bandow, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sour grapes and conspiracy-mongering characterize the left's response to President George W. Bush. Far more profound is the growing disquiet of conservatives. Their case is ably expressed in measured tones and backed with voluminous research by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke in their new book, "America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order."

Mr. Halper served in the Defense and State Departments under Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mr. Clarke is a former British diplomat. Both men see America's "moral authority at risk."

What frustrates them is neither a vigorous response "to the catastrophic horror of September 11, 2001" nor a willingness to act alone when necessary. Rather, they write, "the post-9/11 policy was in fact grounded in an ideology that existed well before the terror attacks and that in a stroke of opportunistic daring by its progenitors, has emerged as the new orthodoxy." The result has left us less rather than more secure.

It is a damning indictment. Mr. Halper and Mr. Clarke eschew the emotion, hysteria and cant of the left. "When we rallied to Ronald Reagan's clarion cry of the 'Evil Empire'," they allow, "We never anticipated the day when Americans, as a result of their interventions around the world, would be held in lower esteem than if they had simply stayed home."

Ultimately, "America Alone" centers on how the neoconservatives have turned their policy prescriptions into America's national security strategy. The problem, in the view of the authors, is that:

"[T]he neo-conservatives have taken American international relations on an unfortunate detour, veering away from the balanced, consensus-building, and resource-husbanding approach that has characterized traditional Republican internationalism ... and acted more as a special interest focused on its particular agenda.

"We reach this conclusion reluctantly inasmuch as it implies that the American global role, to which we attach great value as a force for good, has not been as effective as it should have been."

Mr. Halper and Mr. Clarke first review what neoconservatives believe. In general, the latter make absolutist moral claims, emphasize the unilateral use of military power for multiple foreign policy ends and focus on the Middle East and Islam. A chapter in "America Alone" reviews the fascinating growth of neoconservatism from an obscure academic movement in the 1960s to a governing elite in the 2000s. …

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