The World According to Neocons

The outcome of Hagel’s nomination is not in doubt so why does his neocon opposition still insist on fighting their feeble rearguard action? They probably recognize their efforts are a forlorn hope at this point but that’s no reason for them not to carry on and take this opportunity to corral some cash. Though they’ll fail in scotching his confirmation, their delusional crusade (which they only half-heartedly belive in) will succeed handsomely in scaring up funding for their various groups. Money may be their primary goal here but that’s not to say there isn’t a kernel of conviction in the neocons combating Hagel. Their plaint with Hagel has to do with how he’ll affect their particular vision of the American empire—one centered on the Middle East–which not coincidentally ensures their job security. The neocons fear for their political lives and are striving to avoid again becoming the “crazies in the basement” as they were under Reagan or booted out of Washington altogether.

That Hagel is secondary to neocon concerns of staying afloat was noticed by Joseph Nye, a former top Defense Department official. “This battle has not as much to do with Chuck Hagel or any comments he made on Israel. This is about re-litigating major changes in foreign policy.” So what is the foreign policy status quo so important to neocons that they must keep tilting their lances at windmills? In short, the U.S.’s military presence in the Middle East is the lynchpin of the American Empire and Israel is the lynchpin of our military presence there. That explains why neocons are so solicitous towards Israel that many believe that they put Israel’s interests above U.S. interests. This isn’t true but Israel is so essential to the U.S.’s regional position that the neocons are simply willing to give Israel carte blanche to keep it that way. At bottom the neocons don’t give a fig for Israel which explains why the Israelis themselves ignore neocon policy prescriptions.

My thesis that neocons and other assorted ‘Israel-Firsters’ are actually ‘American Empire Firsters’ has been echoed by Emily Hauser. Here is her take on the subject:

“The facts-optional anti-Hagel campaign was never about Israel—and no matter how often “Israel” is uttered, neocon fear-mongering never is, in fact, about Israel. Neocon attacks on Obama are about American power… The neocon movement is predicated on wanting to see American muscle used everywhere, at all times, for reasons that pretty much boil down to looking tough and profiting from same. And by “profiting,” I mean literal profiting, in the form of America’s corporate interests gaining hegemony over the world’s resources, which doesn’t always translate to defending our shores, no matter how the Right tries to spin it… neocons (just like every political subset everywhere) are also heavily invested in wanting to be in charge.”

Now that it has been well established that the empire is the neocon’s true priority, why do they view the Middle East as so crucial to it? Hauser has her finger on the pulse when she mentions the craving for “gaining hegemony over the world’s resources” and linked to an article entitled “The Costs of War for Oil”. Yes, oil plays a great role but not for the commonly accepted reason. Iraq was not invaded so the U.S. could guarantee access to that nation’s oil supply—we could have used the trillions we’ve spent occupying Iraq and Afghanistan to secure decades-worth of fuel—but to be in a position to deny access to others. This doesn’t mean that Washington wants to outright debar China, for example, from purchasing Middle Eastern oil but they do want to be able to shut off the faucet should China ever become a peer competitor. And, with that, we’ve come upon the heart of the neocon’s foreign policy—the Wolfowitz Doctrine.

Formulated in 1992 as part of the draft (authored by Paul Wolfowitz) of the Defense Policy Guidance 1992-94, this post-Cold War grand strategy that, as the New York Times phrased it, “makes the case for a world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.” The initial document—which advocated “convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests”–was leaked to the press causing such a public ruckus that Bush administration officials stepped in to dilute its contents. Yet its recommendations lived on, forming the basis for the later neocon policy paper, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, and its notion of the U.S. as a paramount imperial power explains today’s new cold wars against Iran and China.

So even if the neocons are relegated to the basement they can revel in a victory of sorts, for the spirit of the Wolfowitz doctrine survives. Neocons and realists, insofar as they both uphold the empire, differ over means rather than ends but the empire rolls ever onward despite Washington having to take an alternative approach from specific neocon prescriptions. Of course, in accordance with our nation’s founding principles, there shouldn’t be an American empire at all but, since anti-imperialist and non-interventionist voices scarcely get a fair hearing, the debate over how best to manage the empire will continue—and might even flare up—during the upcoming Hagel confirmation.

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