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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Neoconversation

In the waning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 12, Buck B. and I shared an interesting instant messenger back-and-forth regarding the validity of Neoconservatism as a rational ideology. It began as all great political and philosophical debates do: by dissecting the beliefs of our fathers.


Buck B.: Does your dad really like Bush?

Gordon the Gnome: He's not wild about the guy personally; he just feels that something needs to be done in the form of America projecting its strength in the face of rising Islamic radicalism.

Buck: Ok, that's reasonable. Kind of.

Gordon: He's really more of a "speak softly and carry a big stick" guy, but believes that if speaking softly is necessary to keep order, you need to occasionally use the stick. Otherwise you lose the big stick, and you get chaos. He often half-jokingly uses the phrase "when raw force doesn't work, use more raw force."

Buck: That's the opposite of realpolitiks.

Gordon: He's a Neocon. Not quite the opposite of a Realist... I'd say the opposite of a Neocon is an Isolationist.

Buck: Crazy motherfuckers. "Empiricism? What's that?" I just don't get it.

Gordon: I get it. I just don't agree.

Buck: The Neocons had their way, and it's had exactly the opposite effect. It's made Iran and North Korea more willing to oppose the West, and made Iran stronger. But instead of saying "Ok, maybe this doesn't work, let's try something else," they decide we just need to kill MORE people and use MORE force.

Gordon: Yeah, but here's the rub: according to Fukuyama, the Neocons feel they were proved right against all odds when the USSR collapsed after Reagan's "take no shit" approach.

Buck: That's bullshit...the Neocons wanted open confrontation! Containment is the opposite of Neocon policy. Not to mention that they were opposed to Glasnost, too. The Cold War and our victory COMPLETELY disproved them.

Buck: Every single theory of theirs has been proven wrong, and yet they insist they're right. That's why it's not a rational ideology.

Gordon: Well, what Reagan did wasn't entirely containment. His escalation of the arms race was more confrontation than it was containment.

Buck: Yeah, but that's not what the Neocons wanted. They were more into Iran-Contra type stuff and proxy wars.

Gordon: Not true. That's exactly what they wanted. Arms escalation and proxy wars go hand in hand. They're not mutually exclusive strategies...in fact, they're quite complementary.

Buck: Are you reading accounts written after the fact, or before? Because those guys lie like they breathe.

Gordon: Reading both. Again, Fukuyama...who was a hardcore Neocon until around 2004, when he said "I had an idea of how the world works, and I saw it in practice, and it DIDN'T work, and now I can admit that, and my fellow Neocons need to get with the program."

Buck: Yes. Exactly. Those that haven't are delusional.

Buck: Do you consider Communism a rational viewpoint?

Gordon: Eh... yes and no. By the way, the founding fathers of Neoconservatism were former Communists.

Gordon: Communism is irrational purely because it suggests that the selfish nature of man is an aberration that can be "cured" through suppression, which is bullshit.

Buck: So is the idea that nations and people can be cowed into doing as we wish. These guys just made up some stuff because they thought it sounded good and fit their preconceived notions about how the world should work. It's no more rational than me deciding that war would disappear if we bought every single person on Earth a puppy.

Gordon: Well, the core of their belief is that America is a shining light that everyone wants to have as their friend and everyone wants to be like, so we only need to use force against the rebellious few. Doesn't work when 90 percent of the world opposes your actions.

Buck: There's the rub.

Gordon: Yeah. And then when that happens, they say "it's not a popularity contest," and undoubtedly recite a historical anecdote that includes three words: Hitler, Chamberlain and appeasement.

Buck: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Buck: You don't need to go back to World War II to understand that sometimes the weak will try to appease the evil. That happens every day all around the world.

Gordon: World War II was more than just that. It was a Great Power war, the kind that affects more lives and changes the balance of the world more than 100 million deaths in Africa ever could. That, my friend, is realpolitiks.

Gordon: Churchill is the Neocon God. Hitler is the Neocon necessity.

Buck: That confluence of people and politics will not be coming 'round again.

Gordon: I'm sure it will in some form or another. History always repeats itself.

Buck: People always say that.

Gordon: Because it's true.

Buck: Eh. I don't agree.

Gordon: The only way history won't repeat itself is if people learn. And not nearly enough people learn.

Buck: I just think every situation is different enough that the repetition is only superficial, caused by the fact that human beings are fairly predictable. It's the people that are repeating, not the history.

Gordon: Sure, the cast changes, and the exact order of events changes, but the basics are the same. You call the basics superficial...I call them fundamental.

Buck: Yes, but Neocons don't stick to the basics. They insist that the whole package is the same, not just human nature. And that's simply not true.

Buck: The fundamental motivations may be the same, but the specifics, and the solutions, are completely different.

Gordon: I agree halfway. I think the motivations are the same, and the solutions end up the same about half the time.

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