One thing that is striking in the Vanity Fair piece on the neocons (who apparently still exist–who knew?) is that, as usual, they have ungratefully and bitterly turned on their patron and begun sticking knives in him now that he is of no more use to them. When The Economist cover had the title, “The vultures are gathering,” they probably had a different crowd in mind, but it is equally appropriate to apply this to the neocons. The piece is called “Neo Culpa,” but there are, not surprisingly, few examples of neocons taking responsibility for policies they advocated and pushed for years. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to call the complaints against the Bush administration that make up the bulk of the article admissions of responsibility of any kind. They are all poor victims! Their trust in the great man was misplaced! Oh, pity the poor neocon–the mean man broke his ideology!
Yes, it’s true that the responsibility comes back to Mr. Bush and his Cabinet in the end, since they make the final decisions, but does anyone who is not heavily medicated believe that a more heavily neoconservative-dominated administration would have done better? These are the people, let us remember, who thought pushing on to Iran and Syria in the early days of the the war in Iraq was a fine idea. These are the kind of people who thought that Israel’s war in Lebanon was “our” war. These are people who still believe it is absolutely necessary to attack Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. Every policy proposal they make is a disaster waiting to happen, or indeed has been a disaster when carried out. They have been disasters not because the ideas were good and the execution was poor, but because no amount of expertise could take their preposterous notions of man and society and make them work in even favourable conditions.
Now they have turned on the President because Mr. Bush has so woefully disappointed them–not with his incompetence, though they may be disappointed with that–when it comes to expanding and escalating the conflict. They are angry at his incompetence not so much because it is bungling the Iraq intervention (though they are angry about that) but because bungling the Iraq intervention (the easy, “doable” one) has hampered all future efforts to throw other “crappy, little countries against the wall” (Ledeen Doctrine). Worse yet, it may have done something far worse than hurt America–it has hurt neoconservatism! (Gasp!)
Quoth Mr. Cakewalk:
I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.
All the more reason why the people who encouraged, defended and justified their invasion every step of the way are culpable for pushing such a crew of people to undertake a policy that was never in the national interest (even if most of the government’s claims were true).
Perle does offer an interesting insight into the administration of “the Decider”:
[Bush] did not make decisions, in part because the machinery of government that he nominally ran was actually running him. The National Security Council was not serving [Bush] properly. He regarded [then National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] as part of the family.
One does sometimes get the impression of Bush-as-Theodosios II, surrounded by powerful, influential women and eunuchs (the latter would presumably be played by Karl Rove today) who push him this way and that, while he amiably bumbles along and tries to put a good face on the utter dependence he has on such people. This isn’t really fair to Theodosios II, who on the whole did not bungle things too terribly (though he did have a rather less-than-successful war in the Near East!), nor is it really appropriate to think of Condi or Laura Bush playing the role of the Augusta Pulcheria, since the latter was politically savvy and clever and the others are, well, not. These are the consequences of an imperial presidency–the household interferes and meddles with the proper functioning of government.
Frum offers a quaint take on his expectations of Bush:
I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.
But of course he didn’t absorb the ideas! The man has the intellectual curiosity of a newt (with all due apologies to precociously curious newts), and grasps the substance of ideas as poorly as anyone who has ever sat in the office. All those people who laughed off the observations that the man was intellectually vapid now discover that having an old frat boy who has never thought seriously about anything in his life isn’t the great, folksy boon everyone said that it was! Good grief, it’s almost enough to make you long for boring, disingenuous policy wonks. But not boring, disingenuous neocon policy wonks. They have done enough damage. May we be spared from any more of their “help.”