Monday, April 6, 2015


While the reign of neocons controlling US foreign policy during the Bush-Cheney Administration was thoroughly discredited in the last decade, when the failure of their endeavor to attack Iraq, install a pro-western government, defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and further spread "democracy" throughout the Middle East became painfully evident, in recent years they have been quietly resurrecting themselves to have an influential voice exerting power within and upon our government.  Congressional Republicans consider ways to torpedo the efforts of Obama, together with five major European allies, to work with Iran on a treaty limiting their development of a nuclear energy program and preventing military weapons-grade applications. Neocon spokesmen like John Bolton suggest that a preemptive bombing strike on possible nuclear sites is a feasible option, and a vast majority of Republican senators and congressmen apparently agree with Netanyahu that diplomacy should not even be attempted, just let tensions build until military action is the only option. That the Iranian people elected a more moderate leader, Rouhani, in their last election, and that he seems more willing to negotiate on  some issues than previous leadership, and is even showing  signs of cooperating with us in fighting ISIS in Iraq, means nothing to those who are fixated on having it their way, so why bother to talk, just let the fighting begin. The neocon mantra has loud voices in the Senate, in John McCain and Lindsey Graham, in frequent rants on needing more forces in Afghanistan, more advisors on the ground in Iraq, reintroducing our own combat troops again undoubtedly necessary, more must be done in Syria, Yemen, Africa, etc.

 With our unrivaled sheer military power, neocons apparently feel that the entire region, if not the world, is ours to influence and control as we wish, if we only had the nerve to exercise our military might, and our manpower, to the fullest. An arrogant fantasy, to be sure, and disproven by the history of our 21st century efforts in the Middle East thus far, but still powerfully expressed in the halls of Congress, the op-ed pages throughout the US, and the think tanks housed with right-wing academicians. A recent op-ed piece coming out of the Koch-funded Cato Institute, for example, criticized some of our Middle Eastern  allies for meddling in our endeavors in the region, faulting them for not single-mindedly assisting us in achieving our objectives.  Quite an assumption, our agenda should be their agenda! And who is doing the meddling?  Our regional allies are the full-time residents. Neocons have little recognition of the fact that other independent nations may have their own agendas, differing perhaps markedly from ours, with the differences preferably being grist for the diplomatic mill, not initial grounds for war.  But the Neocon movement, kick-started as a governmental influence by the Project for a New American Century, founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in 1997, felt that the US has not only the right but also the responsibility to impose its own will, its sense of what is best, elsewhere throughout the world. Cheney, as vice president, was a fervent advocate, manipulated the attack on Iraq and  overthrow of Hussein, and virtually controlled the nation's foreign policy during the first 5 years of George W Bush's presidency.  With the failure of the neocons assault on our nation's Middle East endeavors, Cheney's influence diminished, and the Project for a New American Century closed its doors in 2007.  Neocons, however, are still sadly very much on the scene, having come out of the closet they retreated to temporarily, and are again exerting their dangerous influence.

In addition to the Middle East, where Obama has been trying to negotiate a difficult path between holding to his initial commitment, to gradually withdraw from full military engagement in that troubled region, and managing the political pressure from war hawks, the defense establishment, and residual neocons to maintain and even increase our military investment, the Ukraine last year developed into another area beset with major power conflict in which neocons in our government  played a leading role. The Eastern European Affairs region of the State Department has been led by Victoria Nuland, with wife of Robert Kagan and one with neocon instincts close to her heart. Any reset with Russia that Obama may have contemplated never really got off the ground, NATO was closed to Russian involvement, even when they were open to cooperation on some issues, missile placements remained near Russian borders, and the creep of NATO-joining nations continued to encroach towards Russia's borders. Nuland played a significant role in encouraging the Maidan revolution in Kiev last year, which overthrew a democratically-elected Russian-leaning leader of Ukraine, and with the new leaders considering cementing closer ties to the EU and to NATO than had been conceived when the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine became an independent, neutrally-aligned nation, a Russian reaction was assured and conflict involving Crimea and the eastern, Russian-speaking regions ensued.  Ukraine was known to be an unstable nation, involvement by our neocons insured that the sectional conflict would turn into a potentially dangerous major power conflict.  Our European allies are trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the warfare, while our government, interestingly, is not involved in the discussions. What a neocon is doing in our State Department handling that key Eastern European region perhaps only Obama can answer.  Nuland has, however, closely worked with Hillary Clinton on foreign policy issues when she was Secretary of State, and of course advises John Kerry.  So the voices of neocons seem to be ever present, in spite of their checkered past. Time to raise the warning flag, unless we are prepared to continue the New American Century of Conflict.