Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the neocons are dead! long live the neocons!

Jonathan Clarke at the Carnegie Council posits the end of neoconservativism, but spells out the possibilities that they might return to prominence:

Two things may change this. First, the flipside of neoconservatism is what might be called neo-humanitarianism. This is the idea that US military power should be used to intervene on the ground in crises like the Rwandan genocide or in Darfur.

Some Obama officials, for example Susan Rice at the UN, will be making this case. All indications are that the Obama administration will be cautious but, if not, US unilateral military deployment may be back on the global agenda.

Secondly, the Obama administration faces unsettled business on Iran.

The neocons are arguing that Iran is the defining issue for US foreign policy and that, short of an abandonment by Tehran of its apparent nuclear weapons program, the US must use force.

Like I say, beware the humanitarian hawks. Just because you want to be "strong" on an issue doesn't mean you'll actually fix that issue. The use of unilateral military force usually doesn't solve humanitarian catastrophes, but it's been known to create them. (Iraq comes to mind.) If we're going to go to war, it should be in spite of humanitarian concerns, not because of them.

As for Iran, the real crime of US foreign policy on this issue is that for the past 5 years we've spurned all possibilities to negotiate with Iran to try to find a diplomatic way out of the nuclear issue. Hopefully the President-elect will be able to make up for lost time, but if he can't, a nuclear-armed Iran or an unnecessary war with Iran will be a further legacy of neoconservative foreign policy.

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